Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages
Italians were bred - and still are today - to go into winter with large colonies. This does not necessarily correlate with consuming more stores over winter. They generally start brooding earlier in the spring and therefore are much more susceptible to starving out during inclement spring conditions. I've never had a Buckfast or Carniolan colony brood to the extent the Italians do when no nectar or pollen is coming in.
There are several interactions taking place in a wintering colony of bees. Here are the variables to consider:
1. How large is the colony going into winter?
2. How healthy are the bees, particularly mite status?
3. How much stores do they have to winter on?
4. What genetics do they represent in terms of tendency to raise brood?
5. What kind of hive are they in? (single wall wood, poly, or anything else)
6. What weather conditions do they have to survive?
7. What is the status of the queen's egg laying ability?
A very large healthy colony going into winter in a poly hive may come out of winter nearly dead due to not being able to forage for water. The cluster needs to consume a minimum amount of honey not just to stay warm, but to produce the water they need to live. A small cluster in the same hive and conditions might come out of winter in superb condition because they were able to consume enough honey keeping warm to maintain their water levels. Put the large cluster in a single wall wooden hive and it would come out of winter in superb condition where the small cluster might die due to being too small to maintain cluster temperatures. Give the large cluster in a single wall wooden hive a prolific Italian queen and they might starve to death due to brooding so much they consume all their honey before nectar is available. The small cluster in a single wall wooden hive with a prolific Italian queen might come through winter in outstanding condition due to having plenty of stores to convert into bees before nectar flows start. Put that Italian queen in Juhani's conditions with a wooden single wall hive and the results would be very different compared to my climate in North Alabama. Juhani and I might both be very satisfied with the results of wintering Buckfast queens where neither of us is happy with Italians. Give me a 2 1/2 year old queen to overwinter and I would likely lose the colony. Give Juhani the same queen and he would probably consider her an excellent 2 year old queen. The point is simple. Beekeeping is as much an art as it is a practical business. The latest "fad" that comes along clamoring for your money is not nearly as valuable as the years of experience we have available by studying beekeeping literature of the last 150 years.
NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest