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  1. #1
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    May 2014
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    Default Saving very small winter survivor colony

    I have several 2-3 frame colonies and at least one so far that's barely a frame. I wondered today standing next to a hive over flowing with bees right next to one with a patch of brood the size of a peach, if I should even try or if it's just a natural thing? Those who are in this for a business, do you try? Correct me if iam wrong but a colony like this is most likely due to the queen? So is giving it some brood going to help or just postpone death? Brood frames and a queen I suppose too might help but I obviously dunno lol! Hate seeing them struggle so bad. So add a frame or 2 of capped brood and check back. If nothing else it's swarm prevention for the big hives. Bummer

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
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    California
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    12

    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    I had a colony just like this before. I swapped its position with my strongest colony and within 2 weeks it was doing just as good as my other colonies. As long as they have a queen, they can be saved! The strong colony was able to lose the forager force without getting hit too hard by the loss.

  3. #3
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    Feb 2016
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    lyons
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    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    I did this a week ago, haven't looked to see results yet.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Fenton, MI
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    338

    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    Quote Originally Posted by Pinchecharlie View Post
    So is giving it some brood going to help or just postpone death? Brood frames and a queen I suppose too might help but I obviously dunno lol! Hate seeing them struggle so bad. So add a frame or 2 of capped brood and check back.
    You and I have kinda the same weather right now.

    I'm in the same boat with a couple of hives. I was talking with a big time beekeeper and brought it up. Asked about the queen and maybe replacing her. He told me that the queen will only lay enough eggs that the hive has bees to keep the brood warm. Made sense to me. I added a frame of capped brood (will be 2000-3000 bees in about 11 days.)
    I am waiting for the explosion.
    Last edited by Jackam; 04-19-2017 at 10:01 PM.
    The question is what to do, and the answer, as always, is complicated by a muddle of reason, emotion, and doubt.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
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    Washington
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    258

    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    I've heard it say to equalize all hives so you can manage all hives with the same steps. Made sense to me.

  6. #6
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    Jan 2017
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    California
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    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    If the amount of bees in the weak hive can't cover the brood you give them, it is pointless. That is why swapping the positions works better. They get a lot more bees that can cover combs, and the queen can then lay up a storm. In 3 weeks they will hatch and then the hive should be able to sustain itself.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Fenton, MI
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    338

    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    Quote Originally Posted by NicoleV View Post
    If the amount of bees in the weak hive can't cover the brood you give them, it is pointless.
    The trouble with that theory is you are assuming that the frame of brood is bare. It's not. It's covered with nurse bees.

    I'm not saying your swap won't work. Maybe it would. Maybe adding a frame of brood and bees will work too.

    We shall see.
    The question is what to do, and the answer, as always, is complicated by a muddle of reason, emotion, and doubt.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    If you don't save this hive it will surely die. Taking a chance to save it I would give 4-5 frame of cap broods along with
    the attaching bees from your strongest hive. Then feed them patty subs and syrup. During early Spring or close to it they
    will not murder the queen. She will die along with the rest if you don't try to save it.
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2014
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    Bozeman Montana
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    457

    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    [QUOTE=beepro;1537734]If you don't save this hive it will surely die. Taking a chance to save it I would give 4-5 frame of cap broods along with
    the attaching bees from your strongest hive. Then feed them patty subs and syrup. During early Spring or close to it they
    will not murder the queen. She will die along with the rest if you don't try to save
    Yeah my thoughts also. I will give them several frames and honey and see. Thanks

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
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    San Mateo, CA
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    659

    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    The first question should be WHY are they weak?

    Lack of honey, pollen, bad queen, disease, getting robbed, overrun with ants, problems with the brood nest, beekeeper error, did they swarm?

    Obviously you can add more bees or brood or food or whatever and that may work but you should try to figure out the underlying problem first.
    The bees are good at fixing my mistakes

  11. #11
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    Dec 2012
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    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    It is the cold winter weather along with a small cluster of bees that did not have enough winter bees build up. So barely they have
    survived the winter coming out of Spring time. If these are the carnis then it will justify for being in a smaller cluster. If they build up
    later on then it is not a queen issue. Don't forget to give them some patty subs and syrup too. Without supplement feeding they will not
    build up that easily.
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Almond, NY, USA
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    72

    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    I would like to try a springtime hive boost method too, but after talking with another new Beek about different ways ...and when to do... it we have some questions:

    After a hive location swap will the sudden overwhelming quantity of the new foraging force entering the small hive fight with the existing low population and maybe kill them or their queen?

    Should the swap wait until there is a nectar source and flow, such as dandelions and fruit tree blossoms?

    Will the few workers in the small hive be able to keep up with the increased handing off of pollen & nectar to them from the foragers (to store it)...or will some of the new foragers revert back to hive duty and help them?

    Is there a suggested minimum and maximum time frame to have the hives swapped before returning them to their original locations, such as one week minimum to 3 weeks maximum?

    Instead, if adding frames of capped brood and their covering bees to the small hive we know you have to be sure you don't accidentally transfer their queen with the brood, but I've heard you need to shake one additional frame of covering bees (with no queen on it) into the small hive for every brood frame transferred, to be sure of adequate brood coverage, as some will probably leave the small hive. Is this the method to use?

    Donating frames of brood and bees from several different hives is OK?

    Should (or must) a frame or two of pollen & honey from the strong hive be included with the capped brood transfer?

    Should the donated brood and bees be sprayed lightly with 1:1 sugar water at transfer time?

    Should the donated capped brood frames should be placed next to (on each side) of the existing small hive's eggs and brood frames (centered in the box), with empty built comb frames or undrawn foundation next, and then the frames of pollen and honey against the outside of the box?

    Must the springtime weather be above 60 F, sunny and with little wind to prevent brood chilling while the hives are open during frames transfer?

    Is the best method to add the donated frames of brood and bees (and maybe some stores) AND swap hive locations?

    Thanks for any answers you can provide!
    Zone 5A 2,200 ft.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2014
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    Bozeman Montana
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    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    Take your brood frames and put an empty box over an excluder (on top of donor hive lol). Shake the bees into the top box and smoke em down. Making sure no quees in there right. Put the brood frames in the box and close it up. Come back next day and pull the frames to be used for whatever you are doing, for nucs or like we are talking about. Now the bees on the frames are all the ones you want and will take to any hive usually. Dont need sugar water but i suppose it doesn't hurt but it's just one more thing really. Yes it should be warm enough for the bees to be " actively flying" (someone else said that lol)
    Depending on weather is if you shake extra bees into a nuc. Cold , may need them, warm may be not? I won't in this case. I have never had problems switching hives position , weak and strong, I think there's a small amount of speculation involved with all these things lol. And just because I have no time or weather, I will be donating frames as I do it . So I'll pull one and I'll let the bees that want to fly fly and I'll stick it in the weak hive, thats it and i have done frames from diffrrent hives sll at once with no issue. Must not add queens!!!You should however search the pros posts on here because taking advice from a guy who kills bees like i do , might be a bad business plan! Michel Palmer is one of the well respected. Shew lots of stuff to do! Hope this helps. Feel free to ask more questions , one of us iam sure will help.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    I will try to answer some of your questions if it makes any sense to you. To get the real bee experience you have to try it for once. Regarding the sudden overwhelming of foragers into the low population hive, the trick is to allow the foragers to beg into the weak hive since their original hive is now gone. To have this effect, put the low population hive within 2 feet from the forager's path. Don't put the weak hive directly on the strong hive's original location. Do this within 2 hours before the sunset. When the flow is on or they are busy foraging, this is the best time to make the hive swap. This is because their main focus is on building up the hive with resources and will not fight that much. Some bees will die in this process but should not be that many.
    Some foragers that are still young will revert back to being the house bees or taking care of the larvae. The older foragers will continue to collect whatever is out there. You have to provide plenty of space for the extra pollen and nectar coming in otherwise they might swarm if the hive is overcrowded. They like to make queen cells if too crowded inside that the queen ran out of space to lay.
    In a hive swap, the moved strong hive must have sufficient bees to issue their own foragers within 2-3 days at the new location. You should not swap a weak hive with a weak hive. Usually it is a weak hive with a strong hive. The whole purpose is to make the weak hive stronger by absorbing all the foragers. So there isn't a time frame to swap back the strong hive to its original location since the new foragers will orient to the new hive's location already. If you do this then many foragers from the strong hive will be lost too unless you put another weak hive there. It is better to leave the hives at their permanent location. That is why it is so important to select a good hive location for their permanent spot after the swap. I don't see a benefit of swapping back the hives. Wonder why this question came up?
    Transferring frame of broods and attaching bees is another different method use to make the weak hive stronger. This method has a higher chance of killing the queen in the weak hive. And also putting 2 queens into the same weak hive. You have to make sure that the strong hive's queen does not transfer over. And the older guard bees not on the attaching bee frames on the transfer. This method is very different from the absorbing all the foragers method. Sometimes they will kill the weak hive's queen or make their own QCs too. I prefer to use the foragers fly back method to boost the weak hive's population and incoming resources.
    Because of how I had killed so many queens in the past, I came up with a signature line. It is from mixing either 2 or several different hives' bees together into the weaker hive. By doing so they will certainly balled the queen. This is a hard lesson learned that I finally got it this season to not do it again.
    With the flow on, the cap brood transfer does not require the extra pollen and honey frames into it. If no flow on then put some extra resources in with the transfer will not hurt either. On a drought you have to supplement feed them too. So the extra resources are not needed unless they are really low.
    Do not use sugar water at transfer time. Doing so will disrupt the bees on the frame. They don't like it that much. It is better to do it quietly and swiftly as you can without disturbing them that much. Imagine from one bed rolling over to another all peace and quiet. Better not to use it.
    When we make the transfer the warmer it is the better. Though I have transferred frames and attaching bees into a weak hive as low as 50F before. As long as there are bees attached and not just the bare cap broods then all will be fine. Make sure that there are enough bees to cover the cap or open broods after the transfer.
    If you are only swapping 2 hives then you don't need to donate additional broods or stores when swapping the hive location. The foragers, after the swap, will bring back more hive resources into the weak hive. Leave all the resources for the moved hive to issue their own foragers faster. You don't want to overly thin the strong hive's resources--either bees or food. So no additional donated resources are needed.
    Since the weak hive is still weak after absorbing all the foragers, it is advisable not to put the empty comb or foundation frames into it yet. Doing so will create a big gap that they cannot reach the food source efficiently. Put in more frames once the hive reached 70-80% bees and resources capacity. These new frames will be on either side next to the pollen and honey frame on the outer edge of the hive box. Don't put the attaching bees frame into the center of the brood nest.
    For the cap brood frames only, if there are attaching bees then this would be on the out side of the brood nest. Then the pollen and honey frame next to either side of the hive box. If they don't have the attaching bees just the cap broods then placing it at the center of the brood nest is sufficient. This way the cap broods will be warm up by the caring bees. Then as usual the pollen and honey frames will be on the outer edge of the hive box. i.e. HPBBBBPH --Honey, Pollen, and Broods. Let me know if you are still not clear on these method.
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
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    Almond, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    Thanks for your help! Your responses & experiences brought up some things we didn't originally consider and it's really helpful to us.

    The swapping of hive locations in the same bee yard was planned to last for only a few days. The intent of the short term swap (two adjacent hives on the same stand, one being strong & the other being weak) was to boost the weak hive's pollen and nectar stores, which are very low due to their small population & foraging force. Hive population equalization wasn't intended.

    Both of our weak hives have a laying queen and they each have a small area of tightly patterned new eggs and uncapped brood on one frame only. They each have empty comb, very little pollen and a few frames of honey or stored syrup.

    I've heard of a method of boosting a hive's population by removing a frame or two of capped brood (and maybe a frames of stores) with their attached bees from a strong hive and placing them in an open hive or nuc box 50 feet away from the hives for about an hour or so. The foragers (and guard bees?) will abandon the frames and fly back to their hives, leaving only the capped brood & their caretakers to be installed in the weak hive, so no fighting will occur. It requires sunny, warm spring weather to prevent chilling the brood. It may be repeated weekly, as desired. Is this an acceptable method to try?

    I know If I do any frame transfers I have to make sure the queen is not included...my biggest fear in all of this is transferring the queen. Mine aren't marked and finding them has always been a failure for me.

    I did find my weak hive's queen this week as soon as I lifted the first brood frame out for inspection. It's easy when there's not hundreds of bees on a frame. She's not a runner, which helped me. She's the color of an old, dark, copper penny with mostly black bands, but 2 bands were a very dark orange-brown color...something I've never seen before. I thought of marking her at that moment but decided not to because of the cool air temperature and the risk of me damaging her during the capture or marking process. Maybe next time I see her I will. She was as slim as the other bees, but just longer in length. At her current size I'm sure she would fit through the queen excluder, so using that as a screening method to separate her out from the others wouldn't work.
    Zone 5A 2,200 ft.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
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    Ottawa, ON
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    141

    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    The link is to Ontario Tech Team's recommendations for spring management.
    http://www.ontariobee.com/sites/onta...ment%20web.pdf

    They have a second option which is to put the weak hive over the strong hive to make a double queen hive. This can be kept or split or merged at a latter date when conditions change.

    Regards Peter
    PS NY14804 if the queen is scrawny enough to fit through a QE she may be the problem.
    Ottawa. ON

  17. #17
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    May 2014
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    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    Quote Originally Posted by PeterP View Post
    The link is to Ontario Tech Team's recommendations for spring management.
    http://www.ontariobee.com/sites/onta...ment%20web.pdf

    They have a second option which is to put the weak hive over the strong hive to make a double queen hive. This can be kept or split or merged at a latter date when conditions change.

    Regards Peter
    PS NY14804 if the queen is scrawny enough to fit through a QE she may be the problem.
    I actually think this is a good idea and wanted to try it but chickened out. Glad to see it here thanks Peter

  18. #18
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    Mar 2015
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    Kamloops, BC, Canada
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    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    I've helped some hives along by putting brood frames sans bees over an excluder on a strong hive, then shaking nurse bees into weaker ones after a day and every couple of days after that. They didn't have enough bees to cover a full frame of brood. I tend to do this even when transferring brood as I don't want to transfer the queen.

  19. #19
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    May 2014
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    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    Well dang it which is it? I just put frames with bees in that poor hive yesterday and now feel like I sentenced that queen to death! So "wit or witout ?" You Philly boys should appreciate that right? Lol!

  20. #20
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    Dec 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Saving very small winter survivor colony

    It is a 50/50 gamble now. Today I broke my signature rules again and put 2 frame of attaching bees into a weak 2 frame nuc hive. They have
    a handicap queen on the left hind leg. Even then she is a very good laying queen so they have not supersede her yet. It is an experiment to see if they will make some new QCs or not. I also put in another frame of bees with a swarm cell in development into it. So a total of 2 frame of attaching bees. What is the correct method to use? During the Spring time when the flow is on they are more eager to accept the new queen. In the summer time they will likely to kill the poor queen.
    Leaving the frame of bees for an hour outside will not work because the foragers will not be there only the guard bees are on the frame protecting the bees. The guard bees will not leave this frame. So I tried dislodging these bees by walking all over the bee yard while
    brushing off these bees. Then you have to recognize which are the guard bees and which are the nurse bees as they look very similar. All it takes is one guard bee to get the balling process going. Final conclusion was that removing the frame of bees does not work that well. If you only want to give them the pollen and nectar frame for a temporary boost then brush off the bees before giving it to the weak hive. This should work in a short term basis. The long term solution is to keep these foragers while the queen build up the hive population over time. You have to give them 2 brood cycle in order to have enough bees to be self sufficient. For this to work choose a hive that do not have that many guard bees only the foragers when the flow is on.
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

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