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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
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    Suffolk, VA
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    Default Package cold weather install - Results

    We planned a big increase this year to help support a queen rearing program. Part of this was to install packages to help supplement our build-up. We got 36 packages delivered on March 20th. The weather that week was very cold for us, with temps below freezing several nights in row. I've installed lots of packages, but never in freezing temps. I went to beesource for guidance on how to handle these packages. The results of this search seemed to indicate that the majority opinion was to get the bees installed and not wait. This post is to recount what I did and discuss the results.

    Group 1: On March 21st I installed 10 packages near the end of the day. Temps were about 45 during installation. Night temps were about 30. All 10 packages were given 10-frame deep hive with 9 frames of foundation and 1 frame of drawn comb.

    Group 2: On March 22nd I installed 10 packages near the end of the day. Temps were about 37 during installation. Night temps were about 28. All 10 packages were given 10-frame deep hive with 9 frames of foundation and 1 frame of drawn comb.

    Group 3: On March 23rd I installed 10 packages near the end of the day. Temps were about 39 during installation. Night temps were about 26. All 10 packages were given 10-frame deep hive with 9 frames of foundation and 1 frame of drawn comb.

    On March 24th, I peaked into Group 1 and found bees tightly clustered around feeder and a good number of dead bees on the solid bottom board. At this point I saved the remaining 6 packages in my attached garage (about 55 degrees).

    Group 4: On March 29th (yes, 9 days later!!) I installed the remaining 6 packages.Temps were about 48 during installation. Night temps were about 35.

    Groups 1, 2, and 3 were given jar feeders directly above the cluster and a small pollen patty (about 1/4 lb) placed right next to feeder jar. Feeder jars were changed out nightly with warm syrup (about 105 degrees).

    Temp data:
    March 21 low: 31 high: 57
    March 22 low: 29 high: 45
    March 23 low: 27 high: 51
    March 24 low: 27 high: 56
    March 25 low: 33 high: 42
    March 26 low: 33 high: 39
    March 27 low: 31 high: 51
    March 28 low: 35 high: 53
    March 29 low: 35 high: 55

    Substantial warm up occurred after March 29.

    Results:

    Groups 1, 2, and 3 suffered large population losses. All colonies survived and are queenright and will likely continue to build-up well. Amount of lost population seemed directly correlated to the amount of exposure to the cold, i.e., Group 1 lost more than Group 3.

    Group 4. Nearly zero population loss and are drawing comb very well and laying much more brood. I suspect that these colonies will dramatically outperform Groups 1, 2, and 3. I plan to use resources from Group 4 to supplement those in Groups 1, 2, and 3.

    Based upon this experience, if given a redo, I would have held all packages until the weather improved (like Group 4). I suspect that the difference would have been dramatic.

    BTW, Group 4 still had plenty of syrup left in the internal can when they were installed.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Cedar Rapids, Iowa
    Posts
    41

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    Did you do anything special to group four while they were waiting.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Larimer County, CO
    Posts
    480

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    Quote Originally Posted by xroads View Post
    Did you do anything special to group four while they were waiting.
    yes please elaborate. i have a package coming next week, and i will be out of town when they arrive and won't be able to hive them until 4 days after arrival.
    I'm the dude, so that's what you call me.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Flora,IL
    Posts
    2,644

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    Great detail astro! I had to do some cold installs also (not as cold as yours) Found out this weekend I have a 25% queen loss.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Suffolk, VA
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    2,558

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    Quote Originally Posted by xroads View Post
    Did you do anything special to group four while they were waiting.
    I certainly didn't plan to hold them 9 days, so after about day 6 I started to get pretty nervous and started to give each of the 6 packages some sugar syrup through the screen. I was really surprised to find the cans still had plenty of syrup left upon install. These packages were very fresh when I received them, so your situation may be very different, so I'm very hesitant to provide general guidelines. Different package suppliers make up their packages differently and use different quantities of syrup, and transit times can be a big unknown. I was carefully monitoring these 6 packages for any changes (dead bees mostly).

    Hope this helps.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    5,913

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    Useful data, well presented.

    One interesting thing better results holding a package even for 9 days, rather than install in the cold. What were your losses over the holding period?
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Suffolk, VA
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    2,558

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    What were your losses over the holding period?
    Losses were basically very small. A few packages had some dead bees when I picked them up on March 20th, and that number of dead remained pretty constant for the duration. Again, I was watching them VERY closely - several times per day. Of course there were a few new dead ones, but nothing that shocked me. Nothing like the losses in Groups 1, 2 and 3. Some of these had 3/4 inch of dead bees on the bottom board - a pitiful sight for sure.

    I want to be perfectly clear. I am NOT recommending that beekeepers stick their package in a garage and check back 7-9 days later. In this limited trial, six packages survived extremely well, far better than those installed in the cold. Your mileage may vary!
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    5,913

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    syracuse n.y.
    Posts
    1,880

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    do you intend on also tracking the queens from those packages to see if the extended time in the queen cage has any affect?
    mike syracuse ny
    I went to bed mean, and woke up meaner. Marshal Dillon

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    West Bath, Maine, United States
    Posts
    1,123

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    Nice work. Without your detail the cold installs would have been observed to be a success.

    It appears as you note, duration of cold is a bigger factor than temp at install. Comb was drawn but empty?
    I wonder how much more drawn comb would have helped. Many bees were left on foundation.
    Were your hives in the wind? My (bad) experience says that the wind is worst than the cold.
    It would have been more informative for us, probably harder on the bees, if there had been a more dramatic variation in low temps.
    Great stuff to ponder.
    4 yrs, Peak 14, back to zip, T lite; godfather to brother's 3.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Suffolk, VA
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    2,558

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    Quote Originally Posted by wildbranch2007 View Post
    do you intend on also tracking the queens from those packages to see if the extended time in the queen cage has any affect?
    Well, all queens are laying very well. Of course the Group 4 colonies are laying down more brood simply because they have much greater populations. As I mentioned in the first post, these packages were to give a big boost to our queen rearing program, and were never intended to be in residence for a long time. In baseball terms, these are relief pitchers, and not going to play the whole game. I may keep any that are exceptional, but most will be gifted to needy local beekeepers.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
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    Suffolk, VA
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    2,558

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    Quote Originally Posted by Saltybee View Post
    Comb was drawn but empty?
    Group 1 was given drawn comb partially filled with sugar syrup (clustering space was still available). Groups 2 and 3 were given empty comb.

    All colonies have some limited protection from wind, but not great. All were installed with solid bottoms and very small (slightly more than a single bee width) entrances.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Glenmoore, PA
    Posts
    97

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    Any chance that the feeders dripped onto the clusters in groups 1-3? That would do them in fast.

  14. #14
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    Jan 2003
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    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    Quote Originally Posted by hfrysinger View Post
    Any chance that the feeders dripped onto the clusters in groups 1-3? That would do them in fast.
    I very much doubt it. All the dead bees were "dry" and not soaked. I saw no excess syrup anywhere. I was using small volume containers (minimal air space) which were replaced each night with warm syrup. A friend got 4 at the same time as me and he hived them the same time as my Group 1. His losses were actually worse than mine and actually lost one of his packages.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Haymarket, Virginia
    Posts
    197

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    Astro, How did those early packages perform? I also received my packages on 3/20, and held off on installing them until Saturday (4 days). I was pleased with mine, but have no previous experience to compare against.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
    Posts
    9,306

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    Quote Originally Posted by AstroBee View Post
    Based upon this experience, if given a redo, I would have held all packages until the weather improved (like Group 4). I suspect that the difference would have been dramatic.

    BTW, Group 4 still had plenty of syrup left in the internal can when they were installed.
    I assume this is your conclusion. One piece of data I think is missing, package size. I don't know what the critical mass size is for a honeybee colony in cold temps but I think the 3 pound package is under the critical mass. In your case #4 keeping them warmer paid off so they didn't kill themselves trying to keep warm.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    5,965

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    > I assume this is your conclusion.
    > ... I think the 3 pound package is under the critical mass.


    Speaking of conclusions ...
    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    I have never bought a package or released a queen but I don't see why you can't place the queen cage on the third frame in. Why would the bees care if the queen was not released in the center? If you got squirrely comb just work it to the outside and remove it.
    After three years of beekeeping or beehaving what ever you want to call me I thing beekeeping is nothing but timing.


    It is not so much what you do that matter as it is when you do it.


    .
    Last edited by Rader Sidetrack; 11-20-2013 at 08:33 AM.
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
    Posts
    5,847

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    I'm just commenting on the sidelines here, so please take my comments as cordial feedback. When reading your original post I cringed when you mentioned they were hived in the cold on foundation on one frame if empty comb. A few frames of comb would if helped them pick themselves up and cluster over honey stores. I suspect starvation may well of played a significant factor in your losses during the cold periods after hiving.

    Last year I hived 200 packages in the rain and terrible wind at temps hovering around 5 degrees C. It felt like I was hiving the bees in an ice block and they were very slow.
    #1 -I kept the bees dry
    #2-I hived them on comb and accessible honey
    The bees faired very well and I actually figured it was ideal as my drifting problems was zero

    Your situation sounded as if it was a bit cooler but one question, why wait til the end if the day to hive the packages if the temps were on the Coolish side. I love hiving during coolish weather as it allows for work throughout the entire day as opposed to working in the evening and throughout the night

    Bees handle cold very well especially without brood to care for, but they need food

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Roy, Wa
    Posts
    1,600

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    No one mentions here the option of providing temporaty internal heat. I've used the large disposable hand warmers many times in a pinch to keep newborn bunnies from freezing in the nest box during a cold snap or even keeping my incubator warm during a power outage. I also use them to keep capped queen cells warm for transport. They get to about 120 degrees, but that is with thermometer sitting directly on the heat with a cloth cover over it. When exposed, they supply about 80 degree warm consistant heat source for abotu 12 hours that if placed in a hive would have allowed bees to adjust and to possibly access feed. I buy these by the case:
    http://www.amazon.com/Grabber-Warmer...r+mega+warmers

    Yeah, they cost just over a buck, but how much are your packages worth? You would only have to use them a few days at most. So add $5.00 to the cost of each package. It could work in a pinch. If I was in the position where I had to install packages in cold weather, I'd install them in a five frame nuc, add heat pad on the top bard, cover with good insulation and reduce all drafts and entrances to the very minimum size. If it was dry out, I'd even throw a horse blanekt or anything handy over the hive to also cut wind and retain heat.

    I've never done this, so I have no details besides the idea of it. And on the scale of your OP, it would suck. But is an option that might be wise to keep in mind....What would McGuyver do?

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
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    9,306

    Default Re: Package cold weather install - Results

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    Bees handle cold very well especially without brood to care for, but they need food
    Like you said in item #2 they need to be able to get it also. I can see the advantage of comb and honey over syrup but that may not be an option for newbies getting packages. That is why I tell newbies don't start with packages the first year start with a nuc or an established hive. I think it is money well spent.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

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