squarepeg 2015-2019 treatment free experience - Page 4
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  1. #61
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    Default Re: squarepeg 2015

    it got just warm enough for cleansing flights today and i was able to get home in time to catch a little bit of it. #3 has lost cluster roar and a few bees from #9 were robbing honey from it. #3 was the only colony from 2014 that i would have described as a 'dink'. it was a caught swarm that never really took off. it's supposed to get warm enough tomorrow that i'll be able to inspect it. it's looking like a good candidate for my first loss this winter.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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  3. #62
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    Default our season began today,

    and pretty much nominally on time by the calander.

    historically for my location the daily average highs and lows start gaining a degree or so per day coming out of winter and heading into spring starting tomorrow. i.e. spring is waning faster than winter is waxing. we've turned the corner and nature is paying attention.

    as luck would have it today first foraging day after the solstice and i happen to be home for the day. and as luck would better have it walt wright was in town and was willing to mentor as we assessed cluster volumes and cluster locations within the stacks at the homeyard.

    it was one of those day that you know in your heart you will alway be thankful for.
    Last edited by squarepeg; 01-17-2015 at 04:25 PM. Reason: grammer police
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  4. #63
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    Default shook out #3

    my hunch about #3 (loss of cluster roar and getting robbed yesterday) was verified. upon inspection we discovered a very small cluster (not even a good handful of of live bees) with a queen. there was a small handful dead on the bottom board, and a few dead in cells. they were clustered at the top of a frame in the first super. they were utilizing open stores from a frame directly overhead in the second super.

    the queen was tiny and you almost couldn't even tell she was a queen. there were a few capped cells that i haven't looked into yet, and plenty of capped and uncapped honey, and beautiful frames of beebread. some of the brood frames from the deep were completely free of mite frass, and a couple of frames had a few cells with frass. frankly i'm surprised it wasn't full of frass. i'll quantify that in a future post after i've had a chance to examine the comb more carefully and pull those few brood out to examine them.

    the queen was pinched and the remaining bees were allowed to join neigbouring hives. the good news is that i have ten nice deep brood frames, a couple of which are foundationless, and two supers of honey 70% full.

    this poor ol' hive has been troubled from the start. it started as a small secondary swarm from one of my good hives. the virgin never got mated and was laying drones after three weeks so i pinched her and combined another swarm that i caught that had a pretty darn good laying queen. but the good laying pattern did not result in a good colony in the end. they never got ambitious and only drew what comb they had too and didn't really act like they wanted to become a nice big strong colony like their cousins in the yard. i actually had planned to dequeen it anyway and make splits, but truth is having those resources left over to boost my champions is more valuable to the overall operation.

    this post is getting long so i'll save the metrics for the eight strong survivors for the next one.

    cheers.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  5. #64
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    Default Re: shook out #3

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    another swarm that i caught that had a pretty darn good laying queen. but the good laying pattern did not result in a good colony in the end
    Sorry to hear that squarepeg. From your description it seems to me that this queen was a primary swarm (out with the old queen) and she had no power to take the hive further.

    It happened to me a very similar situation with a swarm I caught at one apiary this year. At the beginning everything went well, almost filled the bee nest box, but then began to weaken. In September the bees try to make supersedure, but without success.

  6. #65
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    Default Re: shook out #3

    Quote Originally Posted by Eduardo Gomes View Post
    Sorry to hear that squarepeg. From your description it seems to me that this queen was a primary swarm (out with the old queen) and she had no power to take the hive further.

    It happened to me a very similar situation with a swarm I caught at one apiary this year. At the beginning everything went well, almost filled the bee nest box, but then began to weaken. In September the bees try to make supersedure, but without success.
    exactly correct eduardo. this is my most common reason for overwintering loss - queen failure after the mating season.

    this hive had three solid frames of brood in early august, but these were not overwintering bees. a small swarm issued from that hive after i saw all that brood. her replacement did not get mated, and there were no overwintering bees reared. in fact, there was no fall brooding at all and that explains why the hive was so heavy with stores when this weak hive should have been light like the rest of the hives this year. it may also explain why not much frass - no brood, no mites.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  7. #66
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    Default cluster sizes and locations in stack

    on the remaining 8 hives that appear to be doing well at this point, the cluster size was pretty uniform at two and a half to three frames of bees. the two exceptions were #7 and #8 that had about five frames of bees each.

    the other thing different about #7 and #8 is that the clusters were completey in the deep. the clusters in the other six were all over the place with most of them straddling the deep and the first super. one was a narrow chimney going up from the deep through the first super and part way into the second super.

    they looked good and entrance activity was strong on all of them. no pollen was seen coming in at the home yard, but i saw a little henbit coming in at the outyard. we had a wind chill of about 46 today so no frames were pulled. it's possible that some of them are not queenright but they are otherwise poised to do well if the weather cooperates.

    i'm going to pick up a camera tomorrow, and i'll try to post some photos from deadout #3.
    Last edited by squarepeg; 01-17-2015 at 08:22 PM. Reason: outyard
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  8. #67
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    Default Re: cluster sizes and locations in stack

    Square, do your bees usually overwinter with 3 frames of bees or so?

  9. #68
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    Default Re: cluster sizes and locations in stack

    Quote Originally Posted by JRG13 View Post
    Square, do your bees usually overwinter with 3 frames of bees or so?
    yep, surprisingly consistent in that regard. there are usually a few that are slightly smaller or slightly larger. last year i had one that was less than one frame coming out of winter. it built up slowly and superceded the queen when drones first appeared. it didn't swarm and i harvested 85 lbs of honey from it this year. this is hive #7 which now has five frames and is leading the pack, which just goes to show that each individual queen (along with the colony she produces) has the possibility of being dinky or phenomenal.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  10. #69
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    Default Re: cluster sizes and locations in stack

    we had the first decent flying weather here since the solstice these past two days. i saw no pollen coming in yesterday, but today a couple of the colonies managed to locate a little tree pollen and were bringing it in. i wouldn't call it a 'flow' yet, more like a 'trickle'. the pollen was pale dirty yellow, and i'm not sure what it comes from. i am seeing dark capping crumbs being hauled out of all the hives suggesting the first little rounds of brood have hatched. we also had some orientation flying today.

    the countdown is over, we have ignition, and all systems are go!
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  11. #70
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    Default Re: cluster sizes and locations in stack

    First, thank you for all the great info in this thread. I was surprised about the comment about winter clusters only being three frames to five frames. I thought the cluster would be larger. Checked a couple of my hives during the warm spell we've been having and the clusters were about three frames. I was almost in a panic until I read your post about cluster size. Learned something very important that day! Thank you again.

  12. #71
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    Default Re: cluster sizes and locations in stack

    you bet gary.

    one of the great things about the forum is being able to compare observations with others in your area. are you seeing pollen coming in yet, and dark capping crumbs being hauled out at the entrances?
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  13. #72
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    Default Re: cluster sizes and locations in stack

    2-3 frames is a small cluster but viable, but it's getting close to that cusp. Their saving grace is that 2-3 frames of bees can raise 1-2 frames of brood and quickly double in size. I only ask because I know some other TF keeps talk about grapefruit sized clusters for their bees for winter but they quickly take off come spring. I tend to get nervous when I see 2-3 deeps of bees shrink down to 3-5 frames of bees, I see that as a failure for me but colonies differ a lot in that regard but I think it also depends on how much pollen is available and how much the colony was able to store and where it's located within the cluster. I was checking a few yesterday, my unmanaged colony that swarmed last year and I put in a nuc which built up to 5x5 eventually, had about 9 frames of bees and 6-7 frames of brood and they're always the busiest bees in the yard.

  14. #73
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    Default Re: cluster sizes and locations in stack

    Quote Originally Posted by JRG13 View Post
    I tend to get nervous when I see 2-3 deeps of bees shrink down to 3-5 frames of bees, I see that as a failure for me but colonies differ a lot in that regard ...
    I see it as one of the honey bees' best tricks! Blow up a big population in spring and summer for breeding and energy-gatheing, let it down but not too fast to protect the stores, drop it to minimum to preserve as much energy as possible to build up next year. Time it nicely and go again.

    Mike (UK)
    The race isn't always to the swift, nor the fight to the strong, but that's the way to bet

  15. #74
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    Default Re: cluster sizes and locations in stack

    yes, this frugality may be part of the overwintering strategy adapted by these local hybrids. also our winter temps here probably average around 40 degrees which is said to be optimal for the least amount of stores consumed while maintaining cluster warmth.

    it is now the third day in a row of good flying weather and i am seeing a bit of an uptick in pollen coming in all but one or two hives. these may be queenless, or may they have more bees committed to the brood nest and less foraging at the moment.

    looking to do the first full bore inspections in the next few weeks. many thanks for the replies.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  16. #75
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    Default Re: cluster sizes and locations in stack

    Quote Originally Posted by mike bispham View Post
    I see it as one of the honey bees' best tricks!
    I have the same opinion Mike.
    In the first and second winter I had hives, this phenomenon (shrinking population) made ​​me very worried. Would they get through the winter and grow back quickly to take full in spring?! In the following years I have learned to accept this reality and understand that this is what is good.

    This year in early January, in some of my apiaries that are in the coldest region of my country, the cluster occupy 7 to 8 frames. I was a bit worried but the by the opposite reason. There will be a little too big? Let's see there for the beginning of March as if things will go.

    Squarepeg what do you think that "dark capping crumbs being hauled out at the entrances" are?

  17. #76
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    Default Re: cluster sizes and locations in stack

    If it fits your management style there's nothing wrong with it, but it's not ideal during dearth's or where there's a lot of other bees around (like here). Honestly, it fits better with a hobbyist system, as you don't need to worry about swarming too quickly, but if you want to pollinate almonds, make splits, or raise queens early on, it doesn't fit those models very well.

  18. #77
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    Default Re: cluster sizes and locations in stack

    eduardo, i think the dark crubs are from the cappings first round of brood emerging. there are some lighter crumbs and white crystals too that suggest the uncapping of stored honey.

    jrg, agreed. so far i've just let mine build up and ramp down on the natural flows with no artificial feeds and this is how they have responded. populations peak at about mid-april which coincides with swarm season and just precedes our main flow. i've considered protein supplements to get them bigger faster to have stronger splits by late march.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  19. #78
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    Default Re: squarepeg 2015

    Feeding the nucs patty is the key to get them build up early just before the
    Spring flow here. One pound of patty will give 2-3 frames of extra broods.
    They're really good for building 4 or 5 frame nuc hives to replace the older
    bees. The newly hatch winter bees will be fatter and build up faster too.
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  20. #79
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    Default Re: squarepeg 2015

    it sure was nice to get those several warm days and see the first pollen coming in, but last night brought a little snow and the bees are hunkered down again.

    i discovered this afternoon that b9 has gone quiet. i'm not surprised as the activity at the entrance a couple of days ago looked like passive robbing, i.e. skinny bees going in and fat bees coming out. i'll bring it in tomorrow and see what's what.

    that makes 2/18 lost to winter so far. all of the remaining hives have loud cluster roar except for one whose roar is decent but somewhat quieter. all were foraging pollen during the warm spell, which gives me a little hope that most are queenright.

    the forecast is for another warm up toward the end of next week. i'll be taking inventory of the honey gleaned from the deadouts and plan to donate it to the lighter hives then.

    i'm still debating whether or not to provide pollen sub this spring. on the one hand i haven't fed anything for a few years and i kinda like the idea of letting nature provide everything. on the other hand i would like to have as many bees in the boxes come splitting time. on a third hand there's not as much honey in the hives as usual for this time of year and my concern is an accelerated brood up could result in a more rapid depletion of those stores. the problem being if the weather turns sour that could lead to the need for emergency feeding, which i would prefer to avoid. we'll see how the honey reserves look after a brood cycle or two.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  21. #80
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    Default Re: squarepeg 2015

    we got up to the low 50's today but had a pretty brisk wind so there was minimal foraging.

    b9 was devoid of live or dead bees and a quick look revealed some capped drone brood in worker cells. i salvaged the honey frames from its supers and put the rest in the freezer for now. i'll look closely for mite frass ect. after a week or so of chilling.

    i took the handful of honey frames i saved from last fall's harvest along with what was taken off of the two dead outs and made up supers with checkerboarded honey and empty comb. i ended up with just enough to give all seven of my story and a half hives their second super, and those were placed today. the location of the clusters in those was mixed with about half being primarily in the deeps, and the other half being split between the deep and the first super. cluster sizes were consistent with the others i reported in a previous post at 2.5 to 3 deep frames of bees.

    i appreciate your feedback dar and from those of you who sent pm's regarding the use of pollen supplements. i'm really more pragmatic than philosophical when it comes to feeding. my belief is that the bees will do better overall if they are allowed to adjust their colony operations to the availability or lack of field forage, and that a natural diet promotes better immunity to pathogens. but production is important to me and my intention is to get the most out of my 'sweat equity' while balancing the desire to stay as natural as possible.

    i'm still undecided about supplementing protein. my plan is to play that one by ear depending on the weather and what i see the colonies doing as we transition out of winter into spring. if the weather cooperates protein supplements may not be necessary. if i see however that the hives are heavy enough with honey and we are in for a stretch of weather not conducive for foraging i'll likely put some patties on.

    i'll continue to avoid using syrup for stimulating spring build up and for replacing harvested honey, even though i realize i could take a bigger honey crop if i did. i might use syrup for a late caught swarm or to help get nucs through a dearth. but since i am planning on splitting early i want lots of bees for those nucs as well as leaving the parent colonies strong enough to produce a decent honey crop. so i'm ok with protein supplementation if needed to get my average colony strength up a little earlier in the season than it would be otherwise.

    the pragmatist in me doesn't see feeding as necessarily good or bad and the truth is it has the potential to be either depending on how and when it is applied. the reasons for doing so or not are pretty much the perogative of each individual beekeeper. with this there's just not a one size fits all.

    thanks again everyone for your feedback and interest in my project.
    Last edited by squarepeg; 01-25-2015 at 03:33 PM. Reason: grammer police
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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