Over-wintered Queens
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  1. #1
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    Default Over-wintered Queens

    In Beekeeping at Buckfast Abby Br Adam states they requeened approx 2/3 of their hives every spring with queens over-wintered in mating nucs. The mating nucs were left in "severe" conditions to help select only the strongest queens.

    Does anyone do anything similar in the US, or anywhere else?

    Tom

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    I just finished Brother Adams book a few weeks ago, and moved on to his second book "In search of the best strain of bee." The first one was so good I decided to read all three of his. I'm happy to see a question about his methods, as I think we can all learn something from his books.

    As far as re-queening from overwintered nucs, that is in part what the MDA Splitter technique of re-queening, or OTS (On The Spot) Queen Rearing, emphasizes. However, the MDA technique emphasizes the importance of using FALL bred queens. The author believes that queens produced after the "Change of Days" in the summer produces queens that create more brood. Thus, to the MDA you overwinter all your nucs (or as many as possible) from queens you made in the fall. In a sense, you re-queen the fall before. Not exactly the same, but a similar method.

    I'm planning on trying a similar method as Brother Adam, although I don't think I'll be shooting for a requeen rate of 2/3. I was shooting for between 1/4 and 1/3 to start with, and see how it goes.

    I'm not familiar with anyone (commercially) that uses the strict Brother Adam approach, but look forward to finding someone who does.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    Brother Adam wintered his nucs and used the queens in his requeening...leaving the nuc.

    I do similarly, but use the nuc. If you look at wintering nucs as wintering queens instead of future production colonies...

    ...from p.20, The Sustainable Apiary

    Nucleus colonies are the building blocks of your apiary. These honey bee colonies in miniature, that wintered in your apiary, are the foundation upon which a successful management plan can be built and should be looked at in a number of ways.
    Primarily, they will be used to replace your winter losses. They make wonderful new colonies come spring, healthy and productive. With your own nukes, you donít have to buy replacement bees, as you raised your own bees last summer in your own apiary.
    You know, weíve always been told that we can't raise queens in the north, early in the season. We have to buy our queens from southern breeders in states like Texas, California, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, because we canít raise queens early enough in the season to make up our new colonies. True enough.

    If you were to look at your overwintering nucleus colonies as overwintering queens, and not think of them as future production colonies, guess what? You can have your own queens in the north, in April. You can have young queens; young mated laying queens here in April, because you raised them last summer when the conditions were ideal, and over wintered them in your apiary.

    Suppose you have a colony in your apiary that's not building up well. It only has a couple frames of brood. The dandelions are coming on and it's not nearly as strong as the other colonies that have seven and eight and ten frames of brood. Maybe you should give them just one more chance? Might they not come around?

    Get rid of that crummy old queen and unite the colony with one of your nukes. By giving it one of your nucleus colonies, you not only give it a young queen you raised last summer, you also add the additional frames of bees and brood from the nuke. You didnít have to rob frames of brood from a stronger colony. You didnít have to buy a queen. You had your new queen all along. She was already there, laying in your nuke.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    I'm not familiar with "The Sustainable Apiary." An Amazon and Abebooks search came up with nothing. Can you give us a little more information on this book?

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    Mike,

    The parts that were new to me were the small size of the overwintering nuc and the intent to requeen more than half of his colonies annually.

    Have you ever overwintered queens in a nuc smaller than 4 deep frames? I'm guessing your winters are a little harsher than on the moor!

    I'm also wondering how many commercial beekeepers plan on requeening annually?

    Tom

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    Yes, I've wintered in mini-nucs, 4 to the box...similar to Bro Adam's mating nuc boxes. So does Kirk W. I've gone to expanding my mating nucs onto 8 mini combs when I catch the last round of queens. They winter better with more volume up north here.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post
    I'm not familiar with "The Sustainable Apiary." An Amazon and Abebooks search came up with nothing. Can you give us a little more information on this book?
    You won't find it anywhere except on my computer. I'm still writing it. When finished it will be in two parts. First the setting up and wintering of nucleus colonies, and second raising the queens to go in those nucs.

    I work every day on it and am making progress.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    I also over winter queens in mini nucs,next moor up from dartmoor, called exmoor.

    Nuc's like in the link below.....

    http://www.modernbeekeeping.co.uk/it...thout-top-bars

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    Mike,

    I was unaware that you were in the process of writing a book. Suddenly I'm very interested. Do you have a planned completion date? Are you planning on going to print with it?

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    Mike-
    What's your survival rate in the double nucs? Or perhaps I should ask what should one expect? I've just come back from the beeyard having found 4 out of 6 nucs dead. It seems like two got too big for their britches with lots of bees and no honey, one was a really small cluster that got too far away from its stores, and one died surrounded by honey. I wouldn't have been surprised in March, but losing that many by mid-January was disappointing.
    -John McNeil

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    For wintering nucs could you make divided deeps or mediums, than place a #8 hardware cloth excluded over that and place another divided box on top? It would seem to me if you didn't have major issues (could they fight through the wires?) you would retain a lot of heat and have a better survival rate.

    I was thinking of doing this next year. Any thoughts?

    Thanks,
    Dan
    "...fascists divide themselves into two categories: fascists and antifascists" Ennio Flaiano

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    You won't find it anywhere except on my computer. I'm still writing it. When finished it will be in two parts. First the setting up and wintering of nucleus colonies, and second raising the queens to go in those nucs.

    I work every day on it and am making progress.
    Do you mean you are writing a book? Please let me know when you publsh it. Thanks.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    For wintering nucs could you make divided deeps or mediums, than place a #8 hardware cloth excluded over that and place another divided box on top?

    I was thinking of doing this next year. Any thoughts?


    The experience folks usually have is that the moisture from the bottom cluster tends to stress the upper cluster. If you look at Michael Palmer's inner covers, he duct tapes the hole closed to prevent moisture from the bottom colony affecting the nuc on top - but it still allows heat transfer.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    You won't find it anywhere except on my computer. I'm still writing it. When finished it will be in two parts. First the setting up and wintering of nucleus colonies, and second raising the queens to go in those nucs.

    I work every day on it and am making progress.
    So glad to hear this, these days I was about to ask if you are going to write a book
    Beeing a northerner beekeeper myself I am very interested in learning as much as I can from your experience. Please let us know when book is available.
    ==Northumberland County Beekeeper, Trent Hills, Ontario==

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    [QUOTE=Specialkayme;609129 Are you planning on going to print with it?[/QUOTE]

    Eventually. I'd love to have it finished by spring, but wheels of progress grind exceedingly slow. I'll be back to work with the bees soon enough, and back into zombie mode where I have about as much extra energy as a Three Toed Sloth.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    Quote Originally Posted by bot View Post
    Mike-
    What's your survival rate in the double nucs? Or perhaps I should ask what should one expect? I've just come back from the beeyard having found 4 out of 6 nucs dead. It seems like two got too big for their britches with lots of bees and no honey, one was a really small cluster that got too far away from its stores, and one died surrounded by honey. I wouldn't have been surprised in March, but losing that many by mid-January was disappointing.
    Yes, very disappointing. It happens. I would say my usual loss is 25%, but I've suffered 50% before. Those losses were when I still fed HFCS, and was using some I had stored in the shop for a couple years...bad move.

    From your six...two are OK? Two starved? Two dead with small clusters? Did you feed? Were the two starved nucs operator error? If so, and you had fed enough, your loss would have been the two weak ones or 30%.

    About the weak two. Lots of reasons why the nucs would have lost their bees. Disease, PMS, etc will cause that. Being honey bound might too...the queen not able to raise enough brood because combs were filled with honey. Late swarming or absconding comes to mind. Were the queens marked? I had a bunch abscond this August in that heat we experienced. I looked in shortly after the event. Most of the cluster and the queen were gone. They left no cells. Mostly young bees and emerging left...and they started emergency cells. Once the old brood emerged, the population looked good, so if I didn't know what had happened I would have thought everything OK...but of course there was no laying queen so population declined eventually, and the nuc never raised enough young bees for the winter cluster.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    Quote Originally Posted by Countryboy View Post
    [I] If you look at Michael Palmer's inner covers, he duct tapes the hole closed to prevent moisture from the bottom colony affecting the nuc on top - but it still allows heat transfer.
    And I wonder now just how important that heat transfer is. I've seen many times where the production colony below dies during the winter and the nucs above survive. It may be about getting them up and out of the snow pack so they can take a winter cleansing flight should the right conditions occur.

    For two years now I have been experimenting with two story double nuc boxes. A double nuc box with two 4 frame nuc boxes on top. Wintered on a hive stand instead of on top of a production colony, and an upper entrance above snow line, they seem to do just fine.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    I had similar experience as MP with one of my double nucs. In late August when we had the heat wave, one of my nucs swarmed, leaving a couple of queen cells and a decent cluster of bees. The problem is they swarmed at the end of August, around the 29th based on my records.

    That nuc went into winter with a VQ. As an experiment, I left them alone to see what will become of them by spring. To date, they are still alive, but I suspect they will need to be combined by March if they are still alive.

    I am exprimenting with my nucs this winter, trying four different setups.

    Nucs:
    5 frame single deep (5 frames total)

    5 frame double deep (10 frames total)

    4 frame split deep (4 frames total, two nucs on either side of divider)

    4 frame double split deep (8 frames total, two nucs on either side of divider)

    Other then the nuc that swarmed in late August, all of the nucs went into winter with mated queens. Some of the queens I produced and four are MP's queens. Some of the nucs required feeding in late fall, but all went into winter with plenty of young bees and stores.

    My goal is to monitor the nucs throughout the winter and in the spring to determine if there is a distinct differnece between 4 and 5 frames vs. 4 and 5 frame double nucs.

    Last winter I overwintered nucs in four frame double split deeps (8 frames, two nucs on either side of divider). They overwintered beautifully, so I'm trying to see how successful I can be to overwinter on just 4 and 5 frames.

    Time will tell how this experiment will flushes out.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    Quote Originally Posted by TWall View Post
    Mike,
    I'm also wondering how many commercial beekeepers plan on requeening annually?
    I certian will be.

    Through the 90's we had no requeening program in our bees. I could maybe point out some hives that had young queens for sure because i knew they had either superceded the queen or swarmed. But I could never count on all the colonies being at optimal production because who's knows how many 1, 2 or 3 year old queens we had. we had a saying that "this years dog is next years star" more or less because the queen was old and at some point was superceded causeing low productivity for that hive. the other saying was "this years dog is next years star" more or less because they had superceced the year before and were led into the season with a young and vigoreous queen.

    From texts, I knew the benefits from replacing queens either annually or bi-annually but it was until I saw the benefits of it in an operation that I had been working for that made me wonder why I had been doing this within my own hives. Since then I've been requeening my hives on a annual basis with good results.

    This year I was going to overwinter 25 hives with queens going into the second year. Most of those hives ended up with failing queens at the end of the season. Out of the 25 there are 7 left. I will be requeening annually henceforth.
    Will Gruenwald Chilliwack BC

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Over-wintered Queens

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    From your six...two are OK? Two starved? Two dead with small clusters? Did you feed? Were the two starved nucs operator error? If so, and you had fed enough, your loss would have been the two weak ones or 30%.
    I definitely wouldn't discount operator error, I'm basically racking up any losses I have now to mistakes I made in August and September. My goldenrod flow wasn't so hot, I fed sugar syrup with an internal feeder starting mid Sept. but they didn't take it well, or were being robbed. I lost one double nuc to robbing from my regular hives then also. I know I was concerned about stores, but I didn't write down what I did. I always wish I had taken more notes.

    Anyway, the ones that didn't starve did have marked queens, although I saw no sign of brood. I took a baggie full of bees from one to check for mites.

    On the plus side, I still have a double nuc left alive and another year's worth of experience.
    -John McNeil

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