First Year Plan
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Thread: First Year Plan

  1. #1
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    Default First Year Plan

    Because of this wonderful "spring" we're having, the acquisition of my first nuc of bees has been delayed...which has given me a bit too much time to think about my plans for my first summer keeping bees. I've though-out a plan for the summer, with the obvious caveat that I'll likely have to alter it as I go to deal with curveballs from the bees and weather. Regardless, I was hoping that you'd be willing to critique it, and let me know if anything obvious is missing or out-and-out wrong.

    A bit of context - I only purchased one 4-frame nuc (a dumb choice, I now know, should have bought at least 2) and have built one hive. My goal for this year is to split the new hive, and with luck, catch a swarm - and to then get those 2-3 hives to a healthy point where they can make it through winter. I'm not expecting to collect any honey this year, and I am managing my hives as single-deep broods. Our summer nectar dearth is normally July-August, fall nectar run typically ends in early October. Anyhow, the "plan":

    1. Pickup nuc, install the same day.
    2. Immediatly after nuc install, start feeding 1:1 syrup.
    3. Check feeder every day, perform first hive inspection 1 week after instillation
      -First inspection goal: check for eggs & larva, try to find queen
    4. Continue feeding until bees stop consuming syrup, perform inspections every 5-7 days looking for laying/brood patterns, filling of frames and evidence of swarming preparation
    5. Split the hive if frames in hive are mostly full and hive starts forming swarm cells before summer nectar dearth:
      -Cage queen
      -To new hive, transfer 3 frames of brood, a frame of honey and a frame of pollen, plus empty foundation frames. Add purchased queen (using cage with sugar plug). Check after ~4 days for release of queen.
      -To the old hive, replace removed frames with empty foundation and release queen.
    6. If, through some miracle, hives fill up before fall: add queen excluder and honey super.
    7. After fall nectar run:
      -Remove honey supers & queen excluders (if used)
      -Treat hives with apavar strips
      -Feed 2:1 syrup until frames are full and no longer taking syrup
    8. Wrap & insulate hives, providing fondant as an additional winter store


    Is that at all reasonable, and something that I may be able to pull off over this year? Should I treat with OA during the broodless period, or is apavar earlier in the fall sufficient?

    Thanks

    Bryan

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  3. #2
    Join Date
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    Default

    From my limited experience...

    Constant feeding 1:1 is not a good idea. You will cause them to be honey/nectar bound. Give them syrup the first 2 weeks or so to get them started, there is debate if that is even necessary but it helps me feel more confident.

    Your limiting factor for splits will be drawn comb. I found out last year that getting splitz to draw comb after mid July is near impossible. Even with syrup some late splits last year had no interest. They would have been too weak for winter so I did newspaper combines to get enough bees and comb.

    This year, I will be done splitting by mid-June so they have all of July to build comb. I plan my 1st round this coming weekend or the next as a few of my hives came roaring out of winter with 2017 honey left.

    Good luck!

  4. #3
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    Default Re: First Year Plan

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve in PA View Post
    Constant feeding 1:1 is not a good idea. You will cause them to be honey/nectar bound. Give them syrup the first 2 weeks or so to get them started, there is debate if that is even necessary but it helps me feel more confident.
    I would disagree. When hiving a 4 frame nuc into a 10 frame box and filling with 6 frames of foundation, you need to feed to get them to draw out the foundation. I have never had an installed nuc become "honey/nectar" bound as a result of feeding.

    I say: Feed Feed Feed until they won't take it any more. If they keep taking it, keep putting boxes on for them to draw. You want drawn comb.

    Other than that, my three concerns are:
    1. When you first install the nuc, check to see if you have eggs (and preferably a queen). Sometimes she is harmed in transit. Sometimes (rarely) a nuc that is sold to you won't have a queen. You want to know when you put the nuc in, so you can tell the person you bought it from that they need to replace the queen. If you check a week later it's too late.

    2. I'm not a big fan of opening up a hive every 5 to 7 days to check for progress and swarm cells. Others are, which is fine. To me, open every 2 weeks, unless you have a specific reason to believe you need to open sooner.

    3. You don't really have a mite management plan. THIS IS A BIG ISSUE. You should test for mites monthly using either an alcohol wash or sugar shake method. Decide what your economic treatment threshold is (as a % of bees infested), and once you hit it you treat. Don't treat based on a calendar, or based on management techniques. Treat when they need it. You should also have at least 2 different treatment types you use that you rotate between. Don't ever rely on one treatment type. Test before you treat, test after you treat. Test often. Get used to it. I'm also not a fan of Apivar. It can be hit or miss, and the miss to a beginner can often be devastating. I'd look more into Apiguard, MAQS, and Oxalic Acid, but that's my take on it.

    Good Luck!

  5. #4
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    Default Re: First Year Plan

    I would not plan on splitting a 4-frame nuc starting out as you are, from scratch, with no backstock of drawn comb. Just let them get going really well this summer, which will give you a high likelihood they will survive and be chomping at the bit to be split next spring. Providing, of course, you also take Specialkayme's and my advice to address the mite issue with regular and frequent monitoring, and treating as needed. Honestly, without controlling the mites, you could split/not split and you'll still be likely to be buying new bees next spring.

    If you want another hive this season, then aim for finding a swarm.

    Hive your bees, see if you can see the queen. (Ask and pay the small charge to get a marked one - best $2 you'll ever spend for beekeeping.) Give them some syrup, and leave them alone.

    Are you using 8- or 10-frame boxes? I've seen students who used 8-frame boxes and plunked really populated 5-frame nucs in them lose swarms within a week. If you're using 10-frames and getting a 4-frame nuc, I think your swarm risk is probably a lot lower.

    An easy, less intrusive, way to check for swarm cells is to just tip the box up and look at it from underneath. If they are making swarm cells you'll see them hanging down underneath the frames. While pulling and looking at the frames gives you a bit earlier warning about swarm preps, as a new beekeeper you might not recognize it anyway. I do tips ups every 5 or 6 days during the height of swarm season on my established overwintered colonies.

    Aside from the brief period of swarm risk, the bees don't need looking at every week, but you need to look that often to learn what's going on.

    How many and what size boxes you hoping to winter on? I run triple deeps (because I hate the hassles of a medium on top of deeps in the spring). Even if you plan to winter on just double deeps, I would still run a third deep this summer to try and get some extra deep-sized combs drawn. You can spin that honey if they have made a surplus, or combine them down into two using the best selection of combs and stores without feeding. If you plan on deep(s) + medium, then you have to start them drawing the medium as soon as you've got your deep frames drawn. Bees have a distinct season for comb-making, and after that ends (mid summer-ish) even syrup doesn't get most of them back in the wax business. So get your comb-drawing done ASAP. (Another good reason not to split this year, since it could leave you with a colony that hasn't got enough comb to store what they need to overwinter, even if you were willing to feed them steadily.)

    ETA: Regarding your #6 - It won't be relying on a "miracle" to get your combs drawn and filled in good season if you don't split the colony. That should be the expected outcome (barring unforeseen things like bears, droughts and drunken four-wheelers that mow down your hive stand). And that's my point about not making a split: to split is to give you two colonies that both need miracles just to have chance to survive. You'll have plenty of Hail Mary opportunities in later years of beekeeping. It's really miserable waiting through the whole winter not knowing if you're going to lose colonies. Make your first year a happy and confident one.

    I hope your bees give you lots of fun this summer, and for many years.

    Nancy
    Last edited by enjambres; 04-30-2018 at 10:58 AM.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: First Year Plan

    Thanks for the feedback.

    I will admit I was a little uncertain about the mite treatment - the apiary I am buying my nucs from does an OA treatment a few days before pickup, and wasn't sure what was needed between then and fall. I'll have to do a little more research there, but a monthly alcohol wash sounds like a good starting point. I'm not heart-set on any treatment method at this point; apivar is what many of the local beekeepers use, which is why I was planning on doing the same.

    I am getting a 4-frame nuc that I am installing into a 10-frame deep lang. Queen is supposed to be marked. While checking underneath sounds easier, part of my rational of weekly inspections is simply to get better at handling bees and understanding what is going on in my hive - I know it is excessive in terms of what needs to be done to maintain a healthy hive, but unless its harmful to the bee's I think I'd prefer to stick to that schedule for the first year...is that a bad idea?

    In terms of wintering, I am planning on running single deeps, which is the norm around here (and what my pseudo-mentor recommends/does).

    Sounds like I should give up on the idea of splitting this year - hopefully I can catch a swarm or two to help build my yard.

    Thanks again!

  7. #6
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    Default Re: First Year Plan

    Quote Originally Posted by SuiGeneris View Post
    a monthly alcohol wash sounds like a good starting point.
    If you mention your monthly alcohol wash plans to anyone locally, they'll likely tell you its overkill. And to a certain extent, it is. But that's really what you want.

    If you read Randy's work (Scientificbeekeeping.com) he has fantastic models that you can use to see where your mite levels are going to be based on where they're at now. Key point is that they can move for a variety of reasons. On average, they can double every 30 days. But you can see spike increases if the bees stop rearing brood due to a dearth (because all the mites in the cells become foretic), or from mite bombs from nearby collapsing colonies. You'd never know any of those things are occurring unless you're keeping track.

    That's why I always recommend to new beekeepers that you test monthly and chart it out, for at least the first two years. If you're charting it out and you notice that you went from a 2% infestation to a 6% infestation in 30 days, you should know something else is going on. Or if you test one month and get a 2% infestation rate, but the next month you get a 0.5% infestation rate, the issue may be because you treated between or because you took a bad sample. Any one number is meaningless without having a reference point behind it.

    After two or three years you'll be able to get a good feel for at what times of year you'll have higher mite counts. Then you can scale back to three or four tests a year. But until you know, test.

    The big three to look out for, for overwintering to get heathly colonies, are:
    1. Mite levels
    2. Queen issues
    3. Honey stores

    Make sure you haven't gone above treatment threshold in the previous 12 months, keep young healthy queens, and make sure they have plenty of stores and you'll be set for the winter.

    I had 32/32 make it through winter last year following this method, and had 28/29 (I think, records aren't in front of me ATM) the year before. When I was just guessing on mite levels, and hoping my treatments worked, I was looking closer to 30-40% annual colony losses. Of course your mileage may vary.

    Quote Originally Posted by SuiGeneris View Post
    I'm not heart-set on any treatment method at this point; apivar is what many of the local beekeepers use, which is why I was planning on doing the same.
    Some have evidenced resistance to apivar. Will your colony show it? Who knows. But if it does, what will you use then?

    Like a good scout: bee prepared. Rotate your treatment methods to a) prevent developing resistance and b) make sure you don't get caught relying on a single treatment method.

    Quote Originally Posted by SuiGeneris View Post
    While checking underneath sounds easier, part of my rational of weekly inspections is simply to get better at handling bees and understanding what is going on in my hive - I know it is excessive in terms of what needs to be done to maintain a healthy hive, but unless its harmful to the bee's I think I'd prefer to stick to that schedule for the first year...is that a bad idea?
    Every time you open a hive you have a chance of killing the queen. Your early years that chance is greater than when you have experience. Say there is a 2% chance each time. If you open it up 5 months in a row every 7 days, that's 20 (roughly) different chances to kill the queen. At 2% each, you're at 40% (ok, so not really, as the odds aren't cumulative like that, but you get the idea).

    Plus, opening up the hive is disruptive. I've read that every time you open a hive the bees lose a day of productivity. I don't think that's actually true, but I'm sure they lose some productivity.

    Of course never opening it up will ensure one thing: the bees will fall apart and you won't know what to do about it. Plus you won't learn. So it's a balancing act. How many times is enough? It's really a personal question.

    I think you'd be better off "cracking boxes" on odd weeks and doing "frame inspections" on even weeks. But that's me. You may want to open them every week. Hey, they're your bees, right?

  8. #7
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    For a nuc. If I installed right now in my area ide put it into a 10 frame box next day. When moving frames ide check for queen eggs. I also wouldn't feed. Plenty of food available right now.

    When I sell nucs this is my advice. If some reason nucs were weak then I would not do above.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: First Year Plan

    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post
    If you mention your monthly alcohol wash plans to anyone locally, they'll likely tell you its overkill. And to a certain extent, it is. But that's really what you want.

    If you read Randy's work (Scientificbeekeeping.com) he has fantastic models that you can use to see where your mite levels are going to be based on where they're at now. Key point is that they can move for a variety of reasons. On average, they can double every 30 days. But you can see spike increases if the bees stop rearing brood due to a dearth (because all the mites in the cells become foretic), or from mite bombs from nearby collapsing colonies. You'd never know any of those things are occurring unless you're keeping track.

    That's why I always recommend to new beekeepers that you test monthly and chart it out, for at least the first two years. If you're charting it out and you notice that you went from a 2% infestation to a 6% infestation in 30 days, you should know something else is going on. Or if you test one month and get a 2% infestation rate, but the next month you get a 0.5% infestation rate, the issue may be because you treated between or because you took a bad sample. Any one number is meaningless without having a reference point behind it.
    I'm a scientist by profession, and I have to say, this approach is very appealing to me.

    My wife will roll her eyes at my graphs...but that's normal.

    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post
    Every time you open a hive you have a chance of killing the queen. Your early years that chance is greater than when you have experience. Say there is a 2% chance each time. If you open it up 5 months in a row every 7 days, that's 20 (roughly) different chances to kill the queen. At 2% each, you're at 40% (ok, so not really, as the odds aren't cumulative like that, but you get the idea).
    A fair point. But the flip side is opening the hive = more experience. Damned if I do, damned if I don't

    Quote Originally Posted by burns375 View Post
    I also wouldn't feed. Plenty of food available right now.
    Perhaps in Kentucky that works. Up here in the frozen north we don't even have a nectar flow yet - every apiary and bee keeper I've talked too, as well as the provincial bee keepers associate, strongly recommends spring feeding of all hives and nucs.

    thanks again, everyone.

  10. #9
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    Default

    I think I said "in my area" if you reread post.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: First Year Plan

    >Pickup nuc, install the same day.
    >Immediatly after nuc install, start feeding 1:1 syrup.

    I would always feed 2:1. There is no advantage to 1:1 and a lot of disadvantages. 1:1 will not keep well. 1:1 is more work to haul around.

    >Check feeder every day, perform first hive inspection 1 week after instillation

    Don't check the feeder every day. Don't check it more than once a week. Let them run out of syrup in the feeder periodically so the queen will have somewhere to lay.

    >-First inspection goal: check for eggs & larva, try to find queen

    Sure.

    >Continue feeding until bees stop consuming syrup

    They will never stop consuming syrup until the syrup is below 50 F which may not happen until fall. But then they will swarm long before then... The queen will have no where to lay and the bees will likely swarm. For sure they will have difficulty getting established. The feedback mechanism for foraging will be short circuited by the feeder and their instinct to hoard will cause all the cells to be filled and the queen will have no where to lay.

    > perform inspections every 5-7 days looking for laying/brood patterns, filling of frames and evidence of swarming preparation
    Split the hive if frames in hive are mostly full and hive starts forming swarm cells before summer nectar dearth:

    Probably more often than you need. I'd pop the lid and take a peak once a week, but no need to be pulling out all the brood frames... They are unlikely to swarm unless you feed incessantly.

    >-Cage queen

    Why?

    >-To new hive, transfer 3 frames of brood, a frame of honey and a frame of pollen, plus empty foundation frames. Add purchased queen (using cage with sugar plug). Check after ~4 days for release of queen.

    A waste of money buying a queen. The only reason to be splitting is because they build queen cells, so you already have cells. Locally mated queens are important to overwintering ability.

    >-To the old hive, replace removed frames with empty foundation and release queen.
    If, through some miracle, hives fill up before fall: add queen excluder and honey super.

    It just takes a good year, not a miracle...

    >After fall nectar run:
    >-Remove honey supers & queen excluders (if used)

    Definitely don't leave excluders on. But then I wouldn't put them on in the first place.

    >-Treat hives with apavar strips

    Not me.

    >-Feed 2:1 syrup until frames are full and no longer taking syrup

    If you feed until all the frames are full the bees will have no where to cluster. Feed to your target weight. Ask around and find out what that is for your location.

    >Wrap & insulate hives, providing fondant as an additional winter store

    You already fed them until they couldn't take any more... so what is the fondant for?
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  12. #11
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    Default Re: First Year Plan

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post

    >-To new hive, transfer 3 frames of brood, a frame of honey and a frame of pollen, plus empty foundation frames. Add purchased queen (using cage with sugar plug). Check after ~4 days for release of queen.

    A waste of money buying a queen. The only reason to be splitting is because they build queen cells, so you already have cells. Locally mated queens are important to overwintering ability.
    this is the best approach if you are already running hundreds of hives with a wide genetic diversity or have a possibility to move nucs with young queens for mating to the other apiary with different genetics.
    but, if you start with a very few hives with the similar genetics, then how you prevent from your queens and drones being sisters and brothers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post

    >-Treat hives with apavar strips

    Not me.
    you can afford that with bloodless winter and very efficient OAV.
    otherwise, without wide genetic diversity and with few hives it's very likely that you lose all (or most) of your hives to the varroa and that could be very very discouraging for the beginner. the beginner (with few hives) has no choice but using "killer" treatment (like apivar) in late summer or fall + OAV in winter. over the time, with higher number of hives and good genetic diversity you can afford sacrificing even half of your hives in favor of survived varroa resistant hives.
    just beginner's vision.
    Last edited by dvorai; 05-06-2018 at 06:55 AM.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: First Year Plan

    >but, if you start with a very few hives with the similar genetics, then how you prevent from your queens and drones being sisters and brothers?

    Bee biology makes it unlikely to happen. Queens fly further and higher than drones so your queens will likely find other drones. And they mate with multiple drones.

    >you can afford that with bloodless winter and very efficient OAV.

    I don't use OAV. I don't use anything but natural comb.

    >otherwise, without wide genetic diversity and with few hives it's very likely that you lose all (or most) of your hives to the varroa and that could be very very discouraging for the beginner. the beginner (with few hives) has no choice but using "killer" treatment (like apivar) in late summer or fall + OAV in winter. over the time, with higher number of hives and good genetic diversity you can afford sacrificing even half of your hives in favor of survived varroa resistant hives.

    But I don't lose all my hives to Varroa. Look at the statistics. Treating does not guarantee success. Not treating does not guarantee failure. The differences are not nearly as wide as you think.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  14. #13
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    Default Re: First Year Plan

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    >but, if you start with a very few hives with the similar genetics, then how you prevent from your queens and drones being sisters and brothers?

    Bee biology makes it unlikely to happen. Queens fly further and higher than drones so your queens will likely find other drones. And they mate with multiple drones.

    >you can afford that with bloodless winter and very efficient OAV.

    I don't use OAV. I don't use anything but natural comb.

    >otherwise, without wide genetic diversity and with few hives it's very likely that you lose all (or most) of your hives to the varroa and that could be very very discouraging for the beginner. the beginner (with few hives) has no choice but using "killer" treatment (like apivar) in late summer or fall + OAV in winter. over the time, with higher number of hives and good genetic diversity you can afford sacrificing even half of your hives in favor of survived varroa resistant hives.

    But I don't lose all my hives to Varroa. Look at the statistics. Treating does not guarantee success. Not treating does not guarantee failure. The differences are not nearly as wide as you think.
    don't get me wrong Michael. i'm familiar with you approach and agree that treating makes bees weaker and varroa stronger in long term. no doubt about that.
    of course, after many years of no treatment you bees became more varroa resistant and that's why you don't lose hive today.
    i just tried to explain my (beginner's) view regarding the treatment. i'm hobbyist with 12 hives and i feel a have a long way to go until i switch to treatment free.
    I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the information and experience you share with us. personally, i learned a lot from you.
    for example, from the begging i run hives foundation less with natural sized cells.
    i hope, one day i will go treatment free.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: First Year Plan

    Quote Originally Posted by dvorai View Post
    of course, after many years of no treatment you bees became more varroa resistant and that's why you don't lose hive today.
    MB still loses hives to Varroa. Just not all of them every year.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: First Year Plan

    I lose hives to winter. I used to lose hives to Varroa. There are not enough Varroa in my hives to say I lose them to Varroa. We searched the dead out bottom boards this year and never found more than three or four Varroa in any hive after searching for some time... I'm sure there were a few more than that, but not like when they died from Varroa.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

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