Optimal wintering cluster size [Archive] - Beesource Beekeeping Forums

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GregV
11-04-2019, 04:11 PM
(This is not a particular Midwest feature; I only put it here because of where I live.)

So I took some numbers from this book (non-English) - the Table 5 to be exact:
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And here (a single number):

A deep frame fully covered holds 0.5 pounds of bees
http://www.uncledavesenterprise.com/file/bees/By%20The%20Numbers.pdf

And compiled few graphs:
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It looks as if ~1Kg of bees has about the optimal honey consumption numbers (the sweet spot).
Also some derived ideas come out of these numbers.

Considering the mid-winter population attrition, it seems starting the winter with ~2Kg cluster is a very good place to be at the winter setup.
As the cluster is slowly loosing bees and reduces down to ~1Kg weight, the parameters seem still favorable.
It only once you cross 1Kg mark and keep going down, the things start turning for the worse but snowball rather quickly.

The caloric output is out of scale - not significant.
What is sufficient is that is shows the trend well enough - small cluster bees have to work harder to maintain viability.

In short - clusters below 1Kg have to work dis-proportionally hard to just stay alive.
They can only do it for so long before wearing out.

- computations of how many frames/1Kg bees are really custom numbers (per particular equipment) - I did plug some estimates as FYI (good to know the ballpark).

- so really, 5-frame nuc (e.g. fully packed Lang deep frames) does not look bad at all as a wintering unit (for as long as the cluster stays about the same);
this 5-frame nuc can be setup in a 10-frame box to accommodate any extra bees at the beginning of the winter (2Kg of bees take just about a single Lang deep box).

- for me this means 4-frame nuc (well packed jumbo frames) also should be a viable wintering unit (for as long as the cluster remains about the same)

Also, running oversized clusters > 2kg is really wasteful and doesn't bring much more value with the extra weight (they do consume more stores in absolute numbers - not great either).