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  1. #1
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    Jan 2009
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    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    Default what % of colonies are productive?

    As I learn it is always clear that there is room for improvement. But the law of diminishing returns says that at some point you are wasting effort to try to squeeze out the last penny of returns.

    90% of my overwintered hives were strong enough to contribute to early splits which I sold as nucs - which might correspond to pollination work. Only 65% produced harvestable honey - mostly because the others swarmed or had a queen issue at a bad time. Interestingly some hives that were weak early made good honey crops.

    If I only count productive hives then my honey crop far surpassed the TN average, but the apiary average only beat it by a little.

    I'm wondering what kind of numbers are a reasonable goal to work toward - I'm betting you guys will know.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Lee,AL,USA
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    83

    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    I had only about a 50% production rate this year. One of the things I would like to learn is how to greatly improve this percentage.

  3. #3
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    Dec 2008
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    Solano, California, USA
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    1,506

    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    Quote Originally Posted by pndwind View Post
    One of the things I would like to learn is how to greatly improve this percentage.

    Good luck. There are always the smokers.... The duds. and the so-so's. The best way to get it up is better pasture and conditions. As long as the genetics is there the only thing that is usually hell bent on holding them back is to much competition or the lack of good forage ( did I partially repeat myself there? ) The bees can take care of the rest when well they have a chance to munch and suck on a plenteous supply.

  4. #4
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    Jan 2009
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    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    Quote Originally Posted by pndwind View Post
    I had only about a 50% production rate this year. One of the things I would like to learn is how to greatly improve this percentage.
    What was your standard? I use all 8 frame mediums, and only took honey above the third box. If i stopped at the fourth box - eq to a double deep more or less - i probably would have called it less than 30%.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
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    Lee,AL,USA
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    83

    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    I began the spring with two hives which over wintered from last year. Of these two hives only one has produced ANY honey at all. These hives are located in an area with lots of pines, pasture, and a small amount of hardwoods. I am beginning to think the foraging is not very good in this area. I will be starting 10 hives there next spring and 5-10 in another location to help with comparison.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    moravia,ny
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    1,263

    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    If you exceed 15-20% non-productive hives you need to look at your management skills. this is from a commercial view. during the summer we have 1-2 drone layers per yard. these are used as supers and will be made back with spring nucs. good luck

  7. #7

    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    My general rules of thumb. I can split a hive in the spring. Some more than once. It depends on how quickly they are building up. The important thing is to have a good laying queen, plenty of brood and healthy bees by nectar flow.
    All other things equal....and they usually are...and a decent nectar flow. If I can keep a hive from swarming it will produce a significant surplus. If I can limit it to a single swarm it will likely produce a surplus...but noticeably smaller. And if it swarms more than once....it'll probably have to be fed to survive the upcoming winter.
    In my opinion, the most significant thing I can do to keep production up is swarm management. Everything else is pretty much out of my control.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  8. #8
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    Jan 2009
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    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    Quote Originally Posted by beeware10 View Post
    If you exceed 15-20% non-productive hives you need to look at your management skills...
    I certainly need better management skills - no surprise there.

    So you are saying that at least 80% of hives which make it through the winter should produce at least some harvestable honey? Or that many should actually produce a profitable honey crop?
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  9. #9
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    Jan 2009
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    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    In my opinion, the most significant thing I can do to keep production up is swarm management. Everything else is pretty much out of my control.
    Splitting out nucs for sale in April seemed to really reduce swarminess, and didn't hurt my honey production as much as I thought it might. It worked well enough I plan to do it again next year.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  10. #10
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    Jul 2010
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    moravia,ny
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    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    next summers crop starts this fall. make sure they have plenty of honey for the winter. too many losses means ya start out with a handicap to overcome. beekeeping used to be easy until mites.

  11. #11

    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    For me, I find that even relatively aggressive splitting doesn't always suppress the impulse to swarm. When I'm on my game, I go through each and every hive...top to bottom....beginning in March and cycle through them every two weeks until the supers make that impractical. At the first sign of swarm cells, I remove the old queen and all but a few swarm cells...choosing those adjacent to one another. This effectively ends the impulse to swarm. Unfortunately over the past few years my swarm queen/mating/survival has dropped to about 80%. Which means that 20% of those hives will go queenless if I don't stay on top of them.

    I can't even begin to imagine how the big guys do it.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    Amador County, Calif
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    3,288

    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    Quote Originally Posted by beeware10 View Post
    next summers crop starts this fall. make sure they have plenty of honey for the winter. too many losses means ya start out with a handicap to overcome.
    Well said, BW
    NUTRA-BEE feed supplements

  13. #13
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    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    28,286

    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    Quote Originally Posted by beeware10 View Post
    next summers crop starts this fall. make sure they have plenty of honey for the winter. too many losses means ya start out with a handicap to overcome. beekeeping used to be easy until mites.
    Amen to that. That's probably why I don't have all that much honey on my hives. Not like some I know.

    Now if I had some of that Nutra-Bee.
    Mark Berninghausen
    The answers are the end. The questions are the journey. Journey on.



  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Algoma dr. Ontario, Canada
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    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    Since I split most everything last season and had a poor fall flow, I had to feed a lot of sugar. The hives had lots of capped sugar/honey come spring but were very likely low on pollen and that probably slowed buildup this spring and peak numbers were not there when the main flow started. One benefit of that is I did not have a lot of swarm pressure. One did swarm which I caught and rehived but that hive will only contribute about a third of what the others appear to be headed for. It and the swarm hive are making bees and comb for a few insurance nucs. In a short season location like mine you have to make honey or make bees; dont do too much manipulating toward queen raising with your production hives.

    Our experience is that about half the hives make three quarters of the honey.

  15. #15
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    Jan 2003
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    Manitoba Canada
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    6,618

    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    As I learn it is always clear that there is room for improvement.
    I'm wondering what kind of numbers are a reasonable goal to work toward
    Well, your asking the right questions! I actually think you know the answer to it already.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  16. #16
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    Jan 2009
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    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    Not really. The intuitive thing would be to think that they could almost all be productive if i did all the right moves, but You could spend half your time chasing that last little bit. Whereas you would probably be better off to be satisfied with 80% (or whatever) and just run a few more hives.

    Learning the "whatever" percentage from your experience is just me trying to avoid rediscovering the wheel.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  17. #17
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    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    4,625

    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    If the definition of "productive" means did they produce some surplus then I would say 95% of our hives will produce at least some surplus. I feel the definition of good beekeeping in honey production is how high the percentage of hives is within a location that have roughly the same maximum production (on a good year that should be about 2/3rds) If one hive is far out producing the rest I assume there were some problems.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  18. #18
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    Jan 2003
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    Manitoba Canada
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    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    Whereas you would probably be better off to be satisfied with 80% (or whatever) and just run a few more hives.

    Learning the "whatever" percentage from your experience is just me trying to avoid rediscovering the wheel.
    the answer to that question pretty much shapes completely around you... nobody can answer that question for you.
    the thing is, how long do you want to chase your tail? I quit chasing a long time ago. Set up your hives as you can, make sure all the bases are covered, get your work done on time, make sure your hives have a good laying pattern, disease control, food stores... adequate foraging area, and leave the rest up to fate.
    And ya, shake out your dinks... salvage everything else to build up for next year. Focus on your production colonies.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  19. #19
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    chilliwack, bc
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    659

    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    It is possible to run your production hives at 100% effecincy but you'll have to supply the factors to see it through. What you produce from your bees to market will determine in some regards to how you will manage them. Pollination, nucs, honey production, ect will interact with each other and out of the management of these hives to capitalize on these markets is how you develope a system of 'running' your bees.

    I've always siad the 3 factors that you need to produce a large crop of honey is Good weather, good flora, and good bees. Weather is a crap shoot at best and the best you can hope for is that you get yards with best micro climate (southern exposure, northern wind break, air drainage) and this brings us to the next one of good flora which is a little bit easier to control by setting up yards in those areas known to have good forage for bees and even moving them from one flow to the next. Making sure you have good bees is the easy part yet not so easy to do, but it is the controlable factor in the equation.

    In 'The hive and the honeybee' it was written that with out a regular requeening program, 20% of the hives will not not be at peek potential And after running bees close for a decade with out a regular requeening program, I would say its a lot more like 30-40%. Couple that with the on going problems due to mites, viruses, and chemicals and it can put any beek into a downer mood. So, if you cover all your bases by requeening your hives anually and with good hardy stock, keeping your hives in good areas away from chems yet near to florage, and treating for mites, well then, vyou should have 100% effeciant bees, Right? No. Because there's always the odd one out although running the bees in the fashion afore mentioned will greatly reduce the number of unproductive colonies.

    I loose 5-10% of the hives overwintering and then maybe 5-10% are not 100% as they should be. For this, I have the support colonies and nucs. A lot of what that is based on is from presentations that Micheal Palmer has done. I have in my yards 24 hives but count on 20 to be my honey producers. I replace any dead outs with nucs or overwintered singles and equalize taking from the best to give to the weakest to boister them up but only if the weak hive looks to have potential, other then that it would be replaced with a strong overwintered nuc. At some point the material for boistering can come from the support hives them selves. The support hives and nucs will, apart from keeping your producers up to par, will maintain them selves too. there is unbelievable potential with hives run this way. How this works with 2000+ hives, hard to say but for my 120 hive operation and hopefully soon to be 240 hive, It seems to bee the cream of the crop.
    Will Gruenwald Chilliwack BC

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Louisburg, NC
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    58

    Default Re: what % of colonies are productive?

    I am near you in NC and our problem is we have an early honey flow, just like Georgia. I run Russians and like them but they can scare you coming out of winter with small clusters (rules them out for almonds I guess). I have been feeding aggressively in the spring to encourage build-up but am beginning to think that is a mistake. My best honey makers are the hives that look average coming out of winter. They seem to hit their stride just as the flow starts in late April where I am. The boomers need to be split or they will swarm and require a lot of work and attention. I am going to feed for stimulation less and try to avoid the big swarm-prone colonies. No way I am going to go through them every 2 weeks. If they have adequate room and a young queen that cuts swarming tremendously.

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