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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Missoula, Montana
    Posts
    101

    Default Question about winter "clustering"

    I noticed my bees are not really clustered that much...but, rather, all sandwiched in between the combs in groups.....

    is this a good sign? a sign of things to come for a poor winter?

    am i just a paranoid first year beekeeper?

    also, i want to make fondant to feed them...i suspect their supplies might be getting low....i did leave in 18 combs...but some had larvae and eggs...

    how do i get the fondant to them? or sugar water?

    thanks so much for any help!!!!
    Zone4A
    “We can love completely what we cannot completely understand.” -Maclean

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    McClure, OH
    Posts
    1,017

    Default Re: Question about winter "clustering"

    A cluster from the top should look like a basketball that is separated by the frames. However, there shouldn't be empty spaces between the cluster - then it is a split cluster (not good). This usually happens when bees are caught trying to cover brood that is either in random patches or just too much for them.

    Bees start clustering when the temperature drops below 50F. They will loosen the cluster if the daytime temperature is higher.

    The bees will also stop taking syrup if its temperature falls below 50F.

    I have a recipe for bee fondant | candy board here: Fall Inspections: Bee candy boards and upper entrances. The pictures show the boards for a lang, so you'll have to come up with something that fits in you hive.

    Another option is the dra camp method in which you lay a newspaper across the top bar, put dry sugar on top and lightly moisten it.

    I hope this helps

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Missoula, Montana
    Posts
    101

    Default Re: Question about winter "clustering"

    thank you merince!!!
    Zone4A
    “We can love completely what we cannot completely understand.” -Maclean

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Isle of Wight, VA
    Posts
    604

    Default Re: Question about winter "clustering"

    first year beek with not enough stores. I've been feeding the syrup with a division board feeder until last, week even though they were still taking it. (local club said it was time to stop). I had one topbar comb that must have been brood comb. They refused to use it for anything, so I cooked up a batch of sugar, water and vinegar and layered it over the comb and pressing it into the cells. Let it all dry really good (turned upside down on the wooded bar for about a week). And have just put it in the hive so it hangs down like a regular comb. The bees seem to like it just fine. (ants too, but I'm working on that problem). I also put a piece of unfaced wall insulation between the top bars and the aluminum gabled roof to help keep in some of the heat. We haven't been too cold yet in VA yet.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Missoula, Montana
    Posts
    101

    Default Re: Question about winter "clustering"

    Quote Originally Posted by merince View Post
    A cluster from the top should look like a basketball that is separated by the frames. However, there shouldn't be empty spaces between the cluster - then it is a split cluster (not good). This usually happens when bees are caught trying to cover brood that is either in random patches or just too much for them.

    so, what are my options to prevent this...if this is indeed the case? is there a way i go about fixing this?

    thanks again!!!!

    rod
    Zone4A
    “We can love completely what we cannot completely understand.” -Maclean

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Isle of Wight, VA
    Posts
    604

    Default Re: Question about winter "clustering"

    Quote Originally Posted by thebalvenie View Post
    so, what are my options to prevent this...if this is indeed the case? is there a way i go about fixing this?

    thanks again!!!!

    rod
    if the cluster is split because there are full combs of honey, you can always move all those to one side. I have read that in the last fall inspection, you should move all the honey combs together so by the end of winter, the bees have all moved to that one side. If you have the brood nest in the middle and honey on either side of them, they may never find the other side of the box. Also if you have extra, unused space, you should use a division board to tighten things up.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Isle of Wight, VA
    Posts
    604

    Default Re: Question about winter "clustering"

    I had a problem with my bees backfilling the original brood nest with the syrup I was feeding them in Sept/Oct. Since my bars were not fully drawn out, I ended up giving both 1:1 and 2:1 syrup and I got them to extend their comb for more brood at the bottom of the combs. So all my combs have a lopsided bubble on the bottom where they were raising brood. My bees tend to cluster on the opposite side of my observation window, and I do have bees in between each of the combs each morning, but I can also see a large ball size where they built the newest comb and presumably have the brood. My queen can run all over the place, so if she has been laying in the older comb, which is not near the nest, I can't do anything about that.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    McClure, OH
    Posts
    1,017

    Default Re: Question about winter "clustering"

    I would leave them alone (bees know best) UNLESS the beekeeper somehow caused the split by adding honey frames in the middle of the broodnest. Usually bees try to keep a continuous broodnest.

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