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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    1,246

    Default Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    The beginning beekeeper wants to sample his honey in the first year. In his second year, he wants to avoid swarming and get good honey production from his overwintered hive. Lofty objectives. In some areas of the country, it can be done without much effort or cost, but in most areas Mother Nature does not provide enough forage to make it easy. The honeybee colony has limits on their capabilities, and those limits are intensely affected by forage availability.

    Having empty, drawn comb simplifies swarm prevention and adds motivation for increased honey production. Both objectives are more easily met by simply having sufficient drawn comb inventory.

    The intent of this experiment is to get some extra comb drawn in the first year. The concept adds some costs to the first year, but pays dividends in the second year. Be aware that this approach is a drastic shift away from conventional thinking. We will be combining two strong starter colonies in mid summer. In other words, forfeiting a strong colony. Radical! Hear me out, please.

    Two packages were purchased towards the end of our normal "main flow." The purchase of 2 starters is normally recommended for the beginning beekeeper for the benefits of comparison and support of weaker of the two. As it turned out, one colony was much slower developing than the other.

    A late start was deliberate. We wanted to worst-case this demonstration so that it would be repeatable almost anywhere in the country. And worst case it was. We spent the price of another package on sugar to feed the two through the summer doldrums and through the combined colony fall preps. In the early going, we fed just enough to keep them going - a quart of 1 to 1 on average, every 3 days. As they grew, the amount increased steadily to a gallon, each, per week. Changed feeding methods three times.

    Target date for combining the two was Sept. 1. Other priorities delayed that for two weeks. Sept.1 was selected because fall brood nest reduction starts about the end of Sept. and the delay of 2 weeks was not significant.

    Now, for the radical stuff:
    One package was hived in 3 shallow supers of foundation and the other in a shallow and a deep of foundation - deep at the bottom. Both colonies started drawing comb in the shallow at the top of both configurations, as expected. The colony in 3 shallows expanded laterally across the top shallow, filling that box, before expanding downward into the next lower shallow. They did the same thing at the next lower level. Meanwhile, the colony with a single shallow only drew a few frames in their shallow at the top before starting drawing frames below in the deep.

    Both colonies superseded their queen early in their growth. The deep unit opted to SS first and did not have much brood. The all-shallow unit waited until thay had substantial capped brood for replacement bees. So, the all-shallow unit got ahead of the deep unit and the deep unit never caught up in strength. When they were combined, the deep unit still had mostly frames of foundation in their top shallow outside of those used initially when hived. A few frames of honey where they started. Fortunately, the deep was mostly drawn, with good brood.

    The combine was assembled with the deep of brood on the bottom, a shallow and a half of brood from the all-shallow unit (other half - capped Domino honey), The unfinished super from the top of the deep unit, and two full shallows of capped Domino at the top. Oops, neglected to mention that a fourth super had been added to the all-shallow unit in late summer. At the time of combining, that unit had four shallows - 2 brood and 2 drawn and capped. The stack combined was a deep and 5 shallows, filled on a work day with bees.

    Too many bees and too much brood for mid Sept. in this area. Upped the syrup feeding to a gallon every 3 days to encourage backfilling of the broodnest through early Oct. The foragers were bringing both nectar and pollen on a small scale. If they were interested in protein supplement, it was replaced. Periodic checks through Oct. showed that they were indeed backing the broodnest down to the deep. And foraging continued through Nov. and early Dec. (unusual season) We slacked off on feeding in mid Oct to about a gallon a week into early Nov. when it was stopped completely.

    The weekend before Christmas, we finally had a couple of nights below freezing. Early in the morning, three supers of capped Domino was removed from the top gently to be extracted between now and Feb. The cluster is a little oversized, but is located below two full supers and we expect them to winter well. All the answers will not be available until April, but we should have enough drawn comb to get real production in 2013.

    Worst-casing this demonstration created a lot of feed jockying that the beginner would not be prepared to cope with or implement. Most of that extra cost and effort would be offset by starting two colonies early enough to have them grow on the full spring flow. At combine time he could pilfer a few frames of honey for his own use.

    It also would not be necessary to sacrifice a colony at combining time. We pinched a queen that we considered less than desirable. If two normally developed colonies were to be combined, a nuc could be generated in the process for overwintering.

    All in all, a fun project to keep me out of the pubs. Do with it what you will.

    Walt

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Herrick, SD USA
    Posts
    4,035

    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    What date did you hive them and how many lbs. of bees?
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    1,246

    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    Jim,
    3 lb packages hived May 9. Our season was almost exactly 3 weeks early. That would be equivalent to about June 1st. It's sometimes over here by that time.
    Walt

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Reno, NV
    Posts
    2,606

    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    Walt, I don't think it is at all out of line to first focus on building a colony capable of doing what we ask a colony to do. in some respect this is exactly what happens when a queen rearer makes a cell builder colony. Why not put some attention to this issue in regard to asking a colony to make honey as well. I have already looked at a few related management methods where more attention is given to preparing the colony to work rather than just setting back and seeing what a colony can produce.

    One colony with a harvest is better than two with no harvest.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    KC, MO, USA
    Posts
    919

    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    Interesting, good way to get comb built fast.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    South Jordan, Utah, USA
    Posts
    122

    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    I started off with one hive earlier this year, and acquired 2 swarms (mid-June) and made a split about the same time. Because I was told I probably wouldn't get much honey the first year, I concentrated more on trying to acquire additional drawn comb. The swarms helped, as building comb is what they like to do, and the split turned out to be mostly just a bad idea (yet, a learning experience)...I'll make sure I don't spread out what I have too thin this year. I am overwintering just 2 hives after combining.

    This year I have been bitten by the bait hive bug, so my intentions for 2013 are to use swarms and splits to help build up 1 or 2 strong honey hives at my house, expand to put 1 or 2 more starter hives out at another site, and try to overwinter a couple 5-frame nucs this year that I'll make up around July to be used for backup. With that being said, I hope to be able to come away with a good amount of comb in preparation for 2014, where I don't plan on any more expansion.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts
    1,972

    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    I wonder how this approach would compare with the comb production of the two colonies kept in smaller spaces as nucs, fed, and having resources removed to keep them from swarming...

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    1,246

    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    This thread had a half-life of about 5 hours. Am retrieving it from page 5 of the running list.
    Roland went off line to comment. He need not to have done that to present his position. His northern perspective is known to me. His comment was to the effect that he can get production from less than a 3 pound package in the first year.

    Regionality at work. In northerly areas, where production is gained in the summer, it's a different ball game from the southeast. Should I mention that there is much more area in the southeast than the area of the northeast that endures long, cold winters?

    In tough winter areas, the forage season is compressed into much less time. The spring flow and the fall flow almost meet in the middle. If we go far enough north, the flows can overlap in mid summer. The colony motivated by space to fill just chugs along through mid summer. There is little colony incentive to reduce brood volume until fall.

    In my area, the brood volume starts decreasing in May, and by July is down to the replacement bee level of less than a deep of brood. Field nectar falls to a point of not encouraging further overhead storage of honey in the first half of June. They stay in this standby mode until the fall flow stars in late August. Because it takes about a month to build strength to the point of adding honey, we seldom get much fall honey. Most seasons - none. It is significant to note that our production season is about 6 weeks, starting May 1. (In a good year)

    So a starter colony, started in early April, doing well, barely gets established before the spring flow trails off. Typically, they must be fed to get them through the mid summer doldrums. Any honey production is very unlikely.

    Flow timing accounts for the difference between the northern and southern perspective.

    Walt

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
    Posts
    8,451

    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    Quote Originally Posted by wcubed View Post
    All the answers will not be available until April, but we should have enough drawn comb to get real production in 2013.
    Why do you assume that wouldn't happen if you just let two normal starts go through winter? How many more drawn frames did you expect to get doing this experiment?
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

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