winter checks
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Thread: winter checks

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2016
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    Parrottsville TN
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    252

    Default winter checks

    Through winter, how often should the hives be checked for remaining stores and/ or need to feed? I plan on feeding sugar bricks as needed. Winters here are variable but generally mild with intermittent deep freezes and snow. During the last inspection each hive had roughly a full deep and a half. I'd rather do a quick check once in a while instead of assuming that they have enough to last.

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  3. #2

    Default Re: winter checks

    Quote Originally Posted by tnmtn View Post
    Through winter, how often should the hives be checked for remaining stores and/ or need to feed? I plan on feeding sugar bricks as needed. Winters here are variable but generally mild with intermittent deep freezes and snow. During the last inspection each hive had roughly a full deep and a half. I'd rather do a quick check once in a while instead of assuming that they have enough to last.
    Since you are using Sugar Bricks, I assume that you are using some sort of rim to place the food in? I use a rim with a ventilation notch cut out and flip my inner covers over so that the notch matches up with the one in the rim. Since I use foam insulation on my inner covers, the telescopic or migratory covers are elevated enough that I can see in through the vent to see how much of the candy they have consumed without disturbing the colony.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Geneva, Illinois, USA
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    90

    Default Re: winter checks

    Quote Originally Posted by Cuttingedgelandinc View Post
    Since you are using Sugar Bricks, I assume that you are using some sort of rim to place the food in? I use a rim with a ventilation notch cut out and flip my inner covers over so that the notch matches up with the one in the rim. Since I use foam insulation on my inner covers, the telescopic or migratory covers are elevated enough that I can see in through the vent to see how much of the candy they have consumed without disturbing the colony.
    Could you attach a picture?

  5. #4

    Default Re: winter checks


  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Campbell River, BC, CA
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    1,637

    Default Re: winter checks

    I take a different view. We check winter stores and top up if necessary in September. Our bees will propolize all the seals by early October and I won’t break those seals till it’s time to put in spring patties in late February in our climate.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
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    Red Bud, IL, USA
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    1,802

    Default Re: winter checks

    I'd rather do a quick check once in a while instead of assuming that they have enough to last.
    Exactly, when we have a nice day in the mid to upper forties with little wind I pop the tops and check the sugar bricks on the top bars. For a quick look at the cluster I've found the new small LED mag lights, while not cheap ($20-25), allows you to see deeper in-between the frames and are great for seeing into the cell bottoms during summer.
    “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

  8. #7

    Default Re: winter checks

    Quote Originally Posted by grozzie2 View Post
    I take a different view. We check winter stores and top up if necessary in September. Our bees will propolize all the seals by early October and I won’t break those seals till it’s time to put in spring patties in late February in our climate.
    +1 except i will put in stored honey comb. Food check in my climate is march.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Louisville, KY
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    3,291

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by grozzie2 View Post
    I take a different view. We check winter stores and top up if necessary in September.
    September is the month I get hives ready via feeding.

    In late october or november ill add entrance reducers and foam ontop of innder cover.

    I dont open hives over winter. Dont really do much, except maybe lift the outer cover or check weight.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Parrottsville TN
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    252

    Default Re: winter checks

    Dont really do much, except maybe lift the outer cover or check weight.



    That's pretty much what I am asking. How often do you check? Every 2 weeks? Once a month? We are doing final checks this week with reducers etc. It's not unusual to have days in the 60's during winter. Depending on the weather I probably won't bother them until around winter solstice.

    I'm using a shim under the inner cover. I just need to lift it quickly to see if they need a new brick. I'm not talking about an inspection.

  11. #10

    Default Re: winter checks

    First you have to estimate how much food they need in your climate and how strong the colony will be in winter.
    Some are small clusters, some are strong like italians, these need more food.

    I have only what you may call strong nucs, one deep dadant box 12 frames. If 4-5 combs are covered with bees in my climate ( 8a) in september I need 40-50 pounds of honey comb to give them a start in spring.

    If the weight is ok in late september they will be left alone until the first warm day in march. We mostly have a fall flow and they do not use stores until later.

    If the bees are disturbed often in winter ( by weighing or treatments) they need much more food.

    Early spring I check the domes and decide wet sugar or honey comb. If there is pollen available and they fly I would feed wet sugar.
    So far I never had to feed, they were content. I only fed once to make myself feel better, the bees used it but did not need it.

    2016 all hives survived and were strong in march, still they had provisions from winter stores.
    Those that survived 2017 were weak after a very long wet winter but they all had some full honey combs left.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Rosebud Missouri
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    4,012

    Default Re: winter checks

    tnmtn
    I am very new. In my small experiance, they don't use much when it is cold. I did have sugar blocks. I closed them around the beginning of oct and last year did not check anything except on warm days watch the entrance. When we got a warm spell in feb and I saw they were bringing in pollen. On the second 70 degree day in a row, I tipped all the hives to check stores. Mine still had quite a bit of brick on top and the combs were full and so I closed it up till april. I should have started late march right around fruit bloom to control swarming better. Still the period between oct to when they bring the first pollen, not much is going on. When they bring pollen it means they will be really starting to brood up and then they can go through a lot (or at least mine did). My bet is the period of first pollen is when starvation is the biggest risk if you start with a fair amount of stores in oct.

    I am in zone 5b which is probly close to what you are. I am new though.
    Cheers
    gww
    zone 5b

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Vancouver, B.C., Canada
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    91

    Default Re: winter checks

    You have been given good advice. If planned properly as you seem to have done you won't need to feed your bees. You need to know your winter poundage need of honey. I don't know but I suspect it is less than 60 lbs or a deep of capped honey. Check the weight by lifting (comes with experience). You can use a cheap baggage weight lift scale (cheap on ebay) which will tell you the food left. You can't treat your bees in winter except for oxalic acid which won't help a hive with problems in mid winter (little or no brood - few mites) so don't open the hive unless you are doing emergency winter feeding in late winter (check weight). For entertainment you can buy a cheap stethoscope on ebay to listen to the girls. Good luck.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    Drayton Valley, Alberta, Canada
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    218

    Default Re: winter checks

    "You can't treat your bees in winter except for oxalic acid which won't help a hive with problems in mid winter (little or no brood - few mites)"
    Not sure I agree, Baja.
    Looking at Randy Oliver's 'Colony Demography' chart, pinned up above my laptop, for bees in cold climates, Feb.15 and Nov.1 are about the lowest brood points in the year. That is the OPTIMAL time to treat with OAV, if you get a +4C day. Dicey where I live, but do-able. Possible. Did it last February. In Alberta!
    Low to no brood means most mites are phoretic and killable.
    Not suggesting that it will fix problems that a hive has already, but it sure gives a jump on the situation for the coming season.
    Brian

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Seattle WA
    Posts
    1,151

    Default Re: winter checks

    A lot depends on how close the hives are to your home. If they are in your back yard, feel free to check them every few weeks. It takes no time at all to do so. If they are at an out yard, it is a different story. Provided they have enough food now, you should not need to check them again until January. The race of bee also makes a difference. I have two kinds of bees in my yard, two hives with Italian queens that are as piggy as it gets, and the rest are Russian hybrids that are so frugal you would think they went to Miami for the winter and came back in February or March. I never need sugar blocks for the frugal bees but sometimes do for the Italians come February or March. Knowing the wintering traits of your bees really helps. If you are going to do a treatment with OAV or OAD in December, it is a good time to lift one end of the hive and see how you are doing on food stores.

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Liberty Hill, Texas
    Posts
    696

    Default Re: winter checks

    To everyone.......... A vital tip about bee hives and woodenware. Use painters caulk to seal up end grain, joints, cracks, knots and the sorts. Paint it after that's done and you'll have a hive that lasts a lot longer and also hive beetle entry point sealed up. Winter time it the time that most do woodenware builds, so keep in mind painters caulk is your friend.

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Vancouver, B.C., Canada
    Posts
    91

    Default Re: winter checks

    I agree. Maybe I didn't phrase it well. I agree winter is the best time for oxalic acid but my point was that it won't solve any problems you have in the hive (ie. viruses...) at that point in time in the winter. In Britain where oxalic acid has been used for many years Christmas was considered a good time for treatment.

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