S. Cal - can I still expand
I am in Ojai, have 13 hives.
Second year for me and first year for most queens. I split them in february an now they are filling up supers, at least 2 or 3. I only use supers.
They are in an avocado and citrus orchard with lots of residential around.
Checked them and most have 6-7 frames/box full of capped honey and the rest is brood. Did not see much pollen. I have a feeling that most of the nectar from the main flow was used up to expand and the honey is from the residential sources.
Should I start checker boarding them into other supers - I usually place the new box on the on the bottom. Will there be enough time and resources for them to draw the comb out or should I start taking some honey and give her more room to lay? I did not want to take the honey away from them for the first 2 years. The frames are foundation-less.
Please let me know what your experience is in S. Cal this time of the year.
Thank you for your time.
Re: S. Cal - can I still expand
Very little nectar flow is anticipated in the next couple of months. If I understand your system you have 2 or 3 mediums in stacks with a chimney of 3-4 brood frames per box and 6 or 7 honey frames surrounding this chimney
You have 48 to 80 lbs honey per colony. This should carry you into the Eucalyptus bloom coming on in December.
At this time of year, the instinct of the colonies is to shrink and backfill the broodnest with honey, not commit to drawing new comb.
Brood that is in a chimney in So Cal has a tendency to "move up" in the fall, and leave the bottom box completely empty. You'll want to check for that behavior before raising the stack, there may be substantial unused comb underneath.
Swarms natural or artificial will draw comb this time of year, but colonies "maturing" for winter are going to be loath to commit resources to that task (and the number of young, wax capable bees is dropping daily). Nurse bees festoon and excrete wax, forager bees forage. A late summer hive has a higher percentage of foragers than nurses.
You can safely experiment by interleaving a single new frame into the brood portion of the nest in each box (pushing the already drawn honey frames outward). Doing this to each of your colonies will generate say 26 to 35 frames, enough to add a super to your strongest 3 or 4 colonies.
In general "checkerboarding" honey storage is not recommended, especially with foundationless, the result is very, over wide old frames and the interleaved frames are ignored.
In the brood nest, the new frame will be drawn to tolerance, and the brood area is drawn first regardless. Just don't overdo it, because your are past the brood peak, and the nest oval is shrinking by the day.
Moving frames from hive to hive does introduce a certain risk of disease spread, but for a single sanitary apiary I would not be concerned.
Last edited by JWChesnut; 08-05-2014 at 08:24 PM.