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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
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    Charlotte, NC
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    Default Sustainability in a small yard

    I am fascinated at Michael Palmer's talk on the sustainable apiary, and my eyes have been opened to sustainability. It just makes sense. I have only two hives that are starting (well) from packages and mated queens. What is the best way to create 2 nucs and raise queens to overwinter without putting my two new colonies at great risk, so I can break the cycle of having to buy bees to replace losses, or is this something I should only do with XX number of hives in later years?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    Fort Gay, WV, USA
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    990

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    Creating nuc's can be done nearly anytime once a hive is up and brooding well. Most beeks will tell you not to do it unless there is a flow in your area, however it can also be done if you feed the bees while you are allowing them to make the new queens. Just keep in mind that it requires a frame of brood, fame with larva or eggs, and plenty of adhering bees. Some people will actually remove the existing queen and let the original hive make the queen. There are many ways that splits, nucs can be made. Just read up on each method and go from there.
    Thomas Bartram - Since 2013, 43 - 8 F langs, 22 Italian & 21 Russian

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
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    Charlotte, NC
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    191

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    Will do, Dr. I am quite fascinated with the technique of elevating brood in order to get queens raised. Listening to Michael I understand that you do not deplete the resources you have but maximize them in order to create more bees and queens. I'm going to see if, when my colonies are strong enough, to buy a couple frames of brood from a local beekeeper and go from there. There are so many different ways. Why we don't raise our own bees is mind boggling, almost as much as the information out there about how to do it (my head is actually hurting). Brother Adam's book, "Bee-Keeping At Buckfast Abbey", is definitely on my must-read list.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
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    Suffolk, VA
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    2,671

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    Seems like you're just starting out, but I think if you're serious about beekeeping, then you should by all means start moving towards MP's model. However, given you only have two colonies from packages, you're at a bit of a disadvantage. I'd recommend the following:
    1. Split your colonies as soon as conditions within the colonies permit and feed splits
    2. Purchase some additional queens for these splits from a producer that has already achieved some level of varroa resistance
    3. Forget about honey this first year (possibly two). Your primary mission will be to get these colonies built up as quickly as possible
    4. Study how to make you own queens.
    5. Work with a few local beekeepers to more quickly gain experience.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Fort Walton Beach, Florida
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    1,256

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    Excellent advice. I don't understand why new beekeepers aren't thinking about sustainability from the beginning. Last year was my first year, and I had to buy bees, of course. Not this year. I'm about to take two strong nucs north to NY that came from my own bees. I hope to avoid buying any more nucs or packages, but I do have a couple more Beeweaver queens coming next month. It can be interesting and instructive to try new genetics, but once you have a few good hives, you should be able to avoid having to buy more bees.

    On the other hand, my wife says I have too many bees in the backyard.

    She's right.
    Ray--1 year, 7 hives, TF

  6. #6
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    Mar 2012
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    Charlotte, NC
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    191

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    Quote Originally Posted by AstroBee View Post
    1. Split your colonies as soon as conditions within the colonies permit and feed splits
    2. Purchase some additional queens for these splits from a producer that has already achieved some level of varroa resistance
    ...
    Wonderful. I most certainly will. I'm lucky and have two local queen producers, one a half hour away another a couple hours away. One breeds Russians, which I keep (my preference due to Varroa). I will make sure to give my local producers my business until I can make some myself in later years. Thanks, AstroBee!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    Otero County, New Mexico, USA
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    1,388

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    I haven't bought bees in almost 5 years now. I think about 20 hives is the magic number for easy sustainment, at least for me.
    NM desert/mountain beekeeper - Black Mesa Honeybees.

  8. #8
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    Mar 2012
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    Charlotte, NC
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    191

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    Excellent advice. I don't understand why new beekeepers aren't thinking about sustainability from the beginning.
    I wish I'd thought about it when I started 4 years ago. But last year I lost all of my hives due to extremely poor judgment, bad weather and too many small hive beetles. So this year I'm starting over again and want to improve everything across the board. So far so good. It pays to plan ahead, that's for sure.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Fort Walton Beach, Florida
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    1,256

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    I've been thinking about why so many folks don't seem to think about replenishing their bees when they first start out, and it occurred to me that maybe folks are just expecting to set a hive down in the yard, watch them prosper, and take off a hundred pounds of honey in the fall. I sort of remember thinking that way when I first decided that last year was going to be the year I finally got some bees, and continued the family tradition (which has been dormant for 50 years.)

    Then I spent the winter studying up on beekeeping, and got over that foolishness. But I'm pretty sure most folks aren't as crazily obsessive about learning new stuff as I am. So there must be a learning curve for the casually interested that doesn't much resemble the learning curve for the lunatics like me.
    Ray--1 year, 7 hives, TF

  10. #10
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    Mar 2011
    Location
    Otero County, New Mexico, USA
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    1,388

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    I have NEVER liked buying stuff from people - in particular bees.
    NM desert/mountain beekeeper - Black Mesa Honeybees.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Knox Co, Ohio, USA
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    863

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Davidson View Post
    One breeds Russians, which I keep (my preference due to Varroa).
    Please don't assume you won't have varroa just because you have Russians.

    Don't splits will help to mimic one of their mechanisms to overcome mites, more broodless periods. Once you have queens/genetics you like walk-away splits (letting the bees raise their own queen) is something else you might want to try.

    Tom

  12. #12
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    Mar 2012
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    Charlotte, NC
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    191

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    Quote Originally Posted by TWall View Post
    Please don't assume you won't have varroa just because you have Russians.
    Tom
    Well said (and no, I do not ... Russian bees have plenty of varroa, they just deal very well with them).

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Marysville, WA
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    477

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    Excellent advice. I don't understand why new beekeepers aren't thinking about sustainability from the beginning.
    I agree with this statement. I wish I had given more thought to that when I started but I'm a little slow. One thing to remember though, is that not all beekeepers are as intense about beekeeping as others. Some are happy being "bee buyers" rather than beekeepers and there is nothing wrong with that. It's just another way of doing things. I watch fellow beeks from our club go through the process of losing bees every winter and starting with new packages in the spring and never changing anything to improve. Again, nothing wrong with that if they are happy with it. Since I started paying attention to what M. Palmer had to say I've made huge improvements to my wintering success and have the nucs in spring with proven queens to replace those colonies that don't make it through winter. This is my 3rd year of not purchasing bees and still increasing hive counts in my operation.

    My dad always told me to keep my ears open and my mouth shut. On the rare occasion that I pay attention to this advice I find that I actually learn new and interesting things........who woulda thunk?
    Beekeeper? Shoot, my bees keep me!
    100 hives in Western Wa State

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,384

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    It seems to me no matter how few or how many hives you have, if you go into winter with a lot more than you need you will need to buy less in the spring and maybe even none and maybe even sell some hives. In other words, if your goal is to have two hives, then you probably want to go into winter with four or five. You can always combine two weeks before the flow if you didn't need them or didn't sell them and get a bigger honey crop. You can do some splits after the flow and get back up to four or five again. Sustainability does not require hundreds of hives. I ran between about 2 and 7 for many years and hardly ever bought any bees or queens. When I did buy queens it was more from curiosity than need.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    1,143

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    Quote Originally Posted by drlonzo View Post
    Creating nuc's can be done nearly anytime once a hive is up and brooding well. Most beeks will tell you not to do it unless there is a flow in your area, however it can also be done if you feed the bees while you are allowing them to make the new queens. Just keep in mind that it requires a frame of brood, fame with larva or eggs, and plenty of adhering bees. Some people will actually remove the existing queen and let the original hive make the queen. There are many ways that splits, nucs can be made. Just read up on each method and go from there.
    The lowest impact method of making a split I see, I am calling a stretch split. It is based on MB's observations and turns MP's double nucs on it's side. Ray Marler and I'm sure others have prior experience with it.

    Rather than physically separating the split brood is placed above and below an excluder in the same stack. There is no drifting and limited impact on the organization of the hive. From what I have seen so far,(not nearly as many trys as I would like) fewer, better QCs are started than true emergency cells. Closer to superceder cells. Adding a super with empty drawn combs as an additional spacer will get cells started if the bees are slow to start them. The main point is the work force remains relatively intact

    Think of it as MP's double nucs in a vertical set up. Very different in that you cannot leave them stacked vertically after the 2nd queen gets going. That is the time to replace the excluder with a bottom board and separate them.
    4 yrs, Peak 14, back to zip, T lite; godfather to brother's 3.

  16. #16
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    Mar 2012
    Location
    Charlotte, NC
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    191

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    I'm currently enjoying the heck out of my first read of "The ABC's and XYZ of Bee Culture" (1950 edition, thank you public library). I'm collecting as much data as possible and reviewing/updating it each week. I took off the feeders last night after 2 weeks on for these packages. They've drawn out the deep chamber to about 65-70% and backfilled all combs with the syrup. Queens are laying well, but in order to free up space and with brood emerging in the next week and the nectar flow on it made sense. One colony had little to no pollen whatsoever in it, so I gave it a pollen supplement patty, which it devoured so I gave it another one last night. Reading "The ABC's ..." and the forums it seems to me that sustainability and a happy apiary is all about achieving balance, not too much or too little of any one necessary component. I want to have at least 2 production colonies and 2 nucleus colonies at all times. So I'll be following the "more" advice but will try and keep the balance right when I make those splits. But first things first, I suppose: nutrition, enough space and tight brood on these 2 upstarts. Is inspecting every 7 days a good schedule, so I don't interfere with their work too much?

  17. #17
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    Mar 2012
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    Charlotte, NC
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    191

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    Quote Originally Posted by Saltybee View Post
    The lowest impact method of making a split I see, I am calling a stretch split. Think of it as MP's double nucs in a vertical set up.
    I am very interested in this (love the term!). How many shallow supers should separate the bottom queen with excluder on and the top brood chamber with open brood/eggs/larvae (is 1 enough, or are 2 required)?

  18. #18
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    Feb 2012
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    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    I think usually none is required. Had one that did not start cells in 10 days, one super and fresh larva did it. I do not think MB added any when he observed the resulting queens from the excluder. Ray has done this method much more often and more formally than I have.

    7 days too often? Some hives do not seem to care at all if you inspect , others do. If you have a reason to go in, do; if not, do not.
    4 yrs, Peak 14, back to zip, T lite; godfather to brother's 3.

  19. #19
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    Mar 2012
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    Charlotte, NC
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    191

    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    Quote Originally Posted by Saltybee View Post
    I think usually none is required. ... If you have a reason to go in, do; if not, do not.
    Thanks, Saltybee!

  20. #20
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    Mar 2011
    Location
    Otero County, New Mexico, USA
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    Default Re: Sustainability in a small yard

    I overwintered a few of the vertical double 5 frame nucs as described by Mr. Bush earlier. They worked out very well, and I split them 4 ways.

    Making splits is one of the areas I part ways with the other NM beeks. They have a saying that you should not split after mid-summer. I say hogwash! That is when I make my winter nucs - to keep the others from throwing overcrowding swarms. Then if they survive winter, I have extras.
    NM desert/mountain beekeeper - Black Mesa Honeybees.

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