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  1. #1
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    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
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    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    4,329

    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
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    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
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    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
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    Sep 2011
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    Reno, NV
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    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
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    KC, MO, USA
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    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
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    127

    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
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    Nov 2009
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    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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    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
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    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
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    Feb 2011
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    Belpre,Ohio, USA
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    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    Interesting thread Walt, I enjoyed reading about the different stages of development, I started five hives this year using the resources of one hive which swarmed on me. To begin, from the mother hive I removed two frames, one of which had a swarm cell and I started a two frame nuc, then due to lack of good judgement on my part the mother hive issued four swarms, one of which I lost. I caught three of them and hived these little one pound swarms. Having an extra queen from a 1/4 pound cutout I pulled two more frames from the mother hive and started yet another hive. replacing the four frames in the mother hive with foundation I was now ready to grow these six hives. I fed them with 2 EA. 1 quart frame top home built Collens type feeders beginning in May and ending mid October, a lot of Domino honey and a lot of money lol.

    Well to make a long story short they all did well and each of them went into winter with two fully drawn deeps and the top deep filled and capped with Domino/wildflower honey blend. This took a lot of frame manipulation to ensure they were all being drawn correctly and not lop sided, checkerboarding and comb trimming helped a great deal with this, balancing hive strengths by moving brood from one hive to another was important as well. These hives will be ready for the spring flow if they survive the winter ok.

    I will be watching to see how your hive does this spring, thanks for allowing us to be a part of your ongoing efforts to try something a little different.
    Bill...in Southeast Ohio

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    Why is the southeast so poor in nectar source when their growing season is much longer? Rainfall?
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  11. #11
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    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
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    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    walt, I am getting a better understanding of your conditions.

    When is your ussual dandelion bloom?

    Can you provide an estimate of the average honey crop in your area?

    Did I ever reply with the results of replacing all of the brood chamber(10 frames) with foundation?

    Crazy Roland

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
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    Kingston, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    Why is the southeast so poor in nectar source when their growing season is much longer? Rainfall?
    In eastern Tn, my honey flow of stored extractable honey starts with the Tulip Poplar (mid-April) and runs through June with Sumac/Clover. I extract over July 4 weekend. If I wanted to move my bees up on the Cumberland Plateau which is a short 20 mile drive, I could get another month of honey production with sourwood if the weather is right with good rainfall through out July. It's all dependent on rainfall for mid to late summer honey flow.

  13. #13
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    Victoria, Australia
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    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    Walt, thanks for sharing that info.

    If your season is that short, I suppose feeding is your only option to build comb unless you have stores to give them. I'd prefer not to feed unless they are starving or won't survive the winter with the stores they have.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roland View Post
    Did I ever reply with the results of replacing all of the brood chamber(10 frames) with foundation?
    Roland, I would love to know what happened.

    Matthew Davey

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    Roland,
    First off, dandelion is an almost inconsequantial source here. It peaks about early apple bloom. Our bees have already committed to swarming by starting swarm cells by that time. Our bees work tree sources in the swarm prep period. Redbud is normally used for backfilling. Note that redbud can tolerate light freezes.

    Glad you gave me a reason to mention our average honey crop. Dr. John Skinner of U. of Tenn reports that TN is a 50 to 70 lb area. Early in my efforts, when taking no steps to avoid swarming, that's about what my yeild was. Good reason for that. If you let the colony decrease the brood volume by backfilling in swarm preps, You don't get that brood volume back for the rest of the season. In fact, the brood volume continues to decrease through the summer. But backfilling starts in March. So, you have the whole season with reduced brood/population. The honey you get in the supers is limited to the safety margin between what the colony CAN do and what they MUST do for colony survival.

    The loss of honey production of the swarmed colony is normally attributed to the loss of bees to the swarm. That's not the real reason. They could easily make up the loss of population in a single brood cycle. The real reason is the permenent loss of brood volume to swarm prep backfilling and subsequent reduction through the spring flow.

    With checkerboarding, our production is roughly doubled. The side effects of CB are possibly more importent that swarm prevention alone. Not only does the broodnest not contract with backfilling in swarm preps but the brood volume continues to expand for another month. Brood volumes increasing up to the equivalent of 2 to 3 deeps of brood. Some pacesetters make 200 lbs.
    More bees make more honey.

    Don't remember a word picture of a full box of foundation below the excluder. Queen down there by herself?

    Reminds me: Perhaps the question was poorly worded, but didn't get exactly the answer that I wanted. I wanted to know if they would draw foundation in the broodnest before the all-over waxmaking of main flow. If your system causes early wax making in the broodnest, you might not see the main flow as a sudden and general all-over wax making capability.

    Walt

  15. #15
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    Why is the southeast so poor in nectar source when their growing season is much longer? Rainfall?
    ace, i think what walt was describing is that in our area, the flow is bimodal, i.e. a strong spring flow, followed by a summer dearth, followed by a fall flow.

    this is in contrast to areas that have more of an overlapping and consistent flow.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    ace, i think what walt was describing is that in our area, the flow is bimodal, i.e. a strong spring flow, followed by a summer dearth, followed by a fall flow.
    Yes it sounds dire. If you are going to harvest honey it can only happen in the spring and then you are forced to feed until almost spring again.
    If that is the case Mark's plan makes a lot more sense to me now. If you are forced to feed you might as well move the hives to the south where it can be done easily. And then bring them back in the spring to cash in on the honey flows.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    interestingly, i haven't fed through the summer dearths so far, and still had honey to harvest in the fall. i was surprised how little of their stores they had to use to make it through the dearth.

    i had mentioned not wanting to feed for dietary reasons, but also to let the bees respond more naturally by brooding up and down in response to upcoming increases and decreases in forage availibility.

    my first three falls, i fed after harvesting. but this fall, i decided not to feed. i weighed my hives on november 11th, and again on december 31st. i'm amazed at how little weight was lost between those dates. (although we have had a few warm spells and they got to forage some).
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    if i am understanding the purpose of walt's experiment, it is to see if he can get enough comb built in the first year by feeding to have enough for checkerboarding and supering with comb in the second year.

    i think the goal is to have a hive that looks like this:

    WaltWright04-Production.jpg
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    Clackamas Oregon
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    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    Very nice documentation Walt, so bottom line was: 2 packages started on foundation, 5 shallows, 1 deep of drawn.
    WWW looks like 1 hive (assume double deep, overwintered?) to 5 double deeps. Assuming two deeps drawn initially and all foundation (or was it drawn?) For 8 deeps of foundation.
    My plum flow starts first at mid-March (about a full month ahead of crab apples and early Gravenstien apples), ending in blackberry (end of June / beginning July for my elevation). Little or nothing after that.
    I am looking to build and draw shallows so good thread.
    “Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up” Alfred Pennyworth Batman Begins (2005)

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Experiment 2012/13 - Acquiring drawn comb

    I believe that our main flows are of similar lengths, and the average poundage, although higher, reasonably similar. The first serious pollen is dandelion mid April, which must hold them until the Sweet clovers start in late June. First extraction averages July fourth, with most of the flow over by mid August. That is NORMAL, which has not occurred in a while. The target to hit is peak populations by the last week in June. How much different are we(other than timing)?

    As to the foundation, before the main flow, two hives (single deep, excluder, and deep supers) each had the queen "walked in the front door" after the brood chamber was "hung up". With similar populations, one hive started to draw the foundation as needed for the queen, only slowing them down slightly(compared to other hives in the yard). The other hive totally ignored the foundation, nearly abandoned the queen, and only drew it out when supers filled and left them no other place to work, and caught up in the end. Conclusions??? Don't try to guess what the bees do, they will ALL make a fool of you.

    I guess my point is that there is more that can be done besides swarm prevention. Some how in the last 70 years, the focus has shifted away from what you can do on a routine basis to help the bees beyond not swarming. The question still remains, is our added effort financially viable.

    Crazy Roland
    Linden Apiary, est. 1852

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