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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,079

    Default Long Term Honey Storage

    I just had a thought. In feral hives, bees build up their store of honey and pollen, and swarm, generally speaking. I'm not saying it's in that order or anything, just what they do. In the winter of course, they eat the honey and in the spring they use the pollen to build up again.

    But what about long term honey storage? Suppose the cavity the bees are living in is a little large. They build up, store a lot of honey, more than they consume during any given winter. What is done with this long term honey? What do beekeepers do that interfere with the bees' honey storage characteristics? Few surviving hives use all their stores down to the last cell. There should be some left over in the spring and in a colony with certain characteristics, there might be a substantial amount.

    So there's a couple of things that I see that interfere. First, we confiscate what we consider the 'surplus.' I doubt if a bee had an opinion, they would consider their hard earned bank account a 'surplus.'

    Then there is a lot of feeding going on because for the most part, beekeepers don't take the 'surplus,' they take the honey, and the bees often then don't have enough to overwinter. Some beekeepers are more conscientious about this, yes, but there is a whole lot of feeding going on.

    Enter another aspect of beekeeping, changing the hive size, or as it's known more colloquially, 'supering.' Like migration to almonds, this doesn't happen in the wild. This almost certainly affects hive dynamics, and we see examples of it all the time. Sometimes bees won't 'move up.' They swarm without the hive being full. And you gotta worry about wax moths getting into the stored comb.

    All these things work against a natural longer term storage of honey, honey that might be available in a drought year, or an extended cold wet spring, or an especially harsh winter. But there are also beekeepers who by practice simply don't feed, expecting the bees to compensate for the above actions on the part of the beekeeper.

    I suggest a more conscientious approach to beekeeping. I suggest leaving comb on the hive year 'round, leaving enough honey (plus a factor of safety) for the bees to survive the winter unfed, and very limited supplementation only when necessary to prevent starvation of colonies which through the sole responsibility of the beekeeper (or perhaps of abnormal weather) do not have enough stores to last the winter. I also would like to get away from the idea of 'feed.' It is nectar substitute just like pollen substitute. And there's nothing like the real thing. Bees ought to collect nectar and pollen on their own, it's what they do.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    5,991

    Default Re: Long Term Honey Storage

    re the first part of your post, bees who winter with more honey, swarm more. It's almost like there is some kind of hive calculator. The hive quite early in the season, becomes aware of the amount of honey they have, and behave accordingly, if they have a stupidly large amount of honey they will breed like crazy so they can swarm like crazy. (Assuming there are no health issues).
    I sell bees so I use this characteristic, I overwinter the hives with quite a bit more honey than is absolutely necessary. That causes big build up in spring, providing me with plenty of bees for splitting and nuc making. Just have to be careful to catch it before they swarm though, because that is their intent.

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    I suggest a more conscientious approach to beekeeping. I suggest leaving comb on the hive year 'round, leaving enough honey (plus a factor of safety) for the bees to survive the winter unfed.
    More conscientious than what? What you suggest is what I've already been doing from 40 years back. Also, I never fed a supplement in my life.

    However, in the US with big areas of monocultures and other issues, which are not like the natural environment bees come from, feeding and supplementation may be necessary, to make up the environmental deficiencies caused by humans.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Jefferson County, WA, USA
    Posts
    132

    Default Re: Long Term Honey Storage

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post

    I suggest leaving comb on the hive year 'round
    I'm curious. "Leaving comb". I assume that you are talking about empty super comb? Do you ever have problems with wax moths getting into it during the winter? And then in the spring the bees start to move up, do you rotate the bottom brood boxes from the previous year to the top? Seems like storing the empty comb on the hive would be nice. I like to know how you manage that?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,079

    Default Re: Long Term Honey Storage

    Quote Originally Posted by monrovi View Post
    I'm curious. "Leaving comb". I assume that you are talking about empty super comb?
    That is correct. I return empty 'supers' to the hives after extraction is complete.



    Quote Originally Posted by monrovi View Post
    Do you ever have problems with wax moths getting into it during the winter?
    No. I do have problems when a hive dies in the summer, but that includes all the comb in the hive anyway. Wax moths move quickly after about June here.


    Quote Originally Posted by monrovi View Post
    And then in the spring the bees start to move up, do you rotate the bottom brood boxes from the previous year to the top?
    Sometimes. No hard and fast rule. It depends where they are brooding. They don't always move up. Some hives restart brooding in the bottom, some in the top. It has more to do with entrance location and stores location than anything else. My management in that sense is probably closer to what Dee Lusby called Pyramiding Up. I try to add foundation to most hives every year and the poorly drawn frames or ones with excessive brood comb get rotated up to serve as honey comb. Darker comb is better for extracting because it's stronger and doesn't blow out as much.


    Quote Originally Posted by monrovi View Post
    I like to know how you manage that?
    Well, I don't know how much more I can explain. Boxes full of empty comb go back on the hives. The only time I store comb off of a hive is in the winter when a colony has died, I'll take the comb back to the shop to sort out what should be melted down and what should be used for nucs in the spring. But that's only after freezing has started and wax moths aren't an issue any more. I do use upper entrances on most hives.

    If you have any more questions about this method, I'd be happy to answer them.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

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