How are folks doing this year?
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  1. #1
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    Mar 2017
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    Lilburn, GA, USA
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    Default How are folks doing this year?

    Hi, everyone,

    I was just wondering how folks were doing this year. I could say it's about 200% better for me. Last year I had one hive, and it was on its way out this time of year. This year I started with three packages and purchased a late season nuc in August. I still have four-ish hives. One of the original hives died out after being queenless for several months after I made a post-swarm split at the beginning of May. The split is probably on its way out.

    But the other two hives and the late nuc are doing very well.

    I've been feeding the split and the nuc and not the other two full hives, ironically, it's the non-fed hives that are doing the best. But that might just be lucky.

    So I'm going into the winter with a least a couple of viable hives. We'll see if they make it!

    Heart,
    thomas
    My grandfather and great-uncle kept bees and my fiancée's grandfather, too. I want to pass this tradition along.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
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    Dane County, WI, USA
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    Default Re: How are folks doing this year?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yunzow View Post
    Hi, everyone,........
    But the other two hives and the late nuc are doing very well.
    ......
    thomas
    Thomas, report back and ask this exact question just about Thanksgiving.
    Then around Christmas again.

    IF still doing very well, then your chances will have improved.
    Right now too early to say much.
    Many hives seemingly doing "very well" will be dead or near dead around those very convenient check dates.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
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    Aylett, Virginia
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    3,718

    Default Re: How are folks doing this year?

    Thomas, it is way too early to tell how well the hives will do this winter. Greg is right, Thanksgiving is when most hives will have succumbed to varroa. Being in the Deep South, you won't have as much to worry about regarding the cold weather but food may still get scarce. I lost two hives last year in November from varroa and the last one in Jan after a -8° cold snap. In that hive, the cluster was too small for those temps and they froze. Generally, any hive still alive and strong around Christmas is likely to make it through winter, provided they have adequate food stores. That is why Greg mentioned those days.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
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    Geauga, Ohio
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    429

    Default Re: How are folks doing this year?

    This is my 4th year, and I have 6 top bar (tanzanian) hives. I started with 3 that overwintered. Last year this time I had 6 with mite counts of 20+/300; and 3 died at various points over the winter. I started doing OAV in August and did so 3-4 more times, with the last time being in April (on the 3 surviving hives).

    This year the hives which had brood for the longest (all were split) have 2/300 mites. 2 other splits have 0/300. This year is so different from last year with mite pressure! Like night and day! I had several hives hitting 22 bars densely covered with bees. Last year the bees had 10 bars of brood, and 12 bars covered with bees. Now I know that meant they were experiencing too much mite pressure which forced their numbers down to be small hives.

    Back to this fall...Then the fall nectar flow happened; 2 of the 5 existing top bars (beginning Sept) swarmed. They had open bars where they could have drawn out comb and made me honey, but chose to restrict the broodnest and swarm instead. Ungrateful stinkers!!!! Or swarmy wenches; I will be requeening the daugthers...

    The one requeened itself; the other I caught just after the hive swarmed and before more than 1 piping virgin was traipsing around. I could hear her piping on the comb, but could not see her for the life of me!!! Thankfully she was making noise. I set up 4 mating nucs (went from a top bar to 4 mating nucs with just a few moves of brood, stores and divider boards - love top bars!!!). I got back 3 of 4 mated queens, used one to re-queen a Dadant deep that had swarmed (I also have 3 dadant deeps)... and now have 6 top bars. Bees instead of honey.

    So I have mite management working well (love winter OAV!!!), and I have figured out splits so I don't end up losing a hive to queenlessness. But haven't figured out how to make honey instead of bees.

    I am worried that my fall swarming means either 1) top bars are forever prone to swarming, and I'm screwed with that hive design, or 2) the genetics in my area are hopelessly swarmy, and I'm screwed, or 3) I over-crowded the hives and need to manage them differently, which I should be able to handle.

    So next year's project is to see how to make honey without making swarms. I don't want to sell bees until I can be confident that I have non-swarmy genetics. I'm still mulling how to determine whether the double Lang really is superior for swarm prevention (I already know it is not necessary for overwintering success), or whether my area produces swarmy queens, or whether I need to change my management.

    But I know my bees have plenty of stores, low mite counts, capped brood to become winter bees - so we should be set. my 3 late august swarms may not have enough winter bees, actually, now that I think of it - I have not done splits like that before. They will have at least 2 bars of capped brood emerge in the next 2 weeks, which may not be enough. If not then I wont' be too sad to lose the swarmy wenches.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Hall, Georgia, USA
    Posts
    316

    Default Re: How are folks doing this year?

    Year 3 and this is my best fall yet.

    Year 1 I was totally learning the ropes and I had some not very good stock. I lost 2 of 3 hives, and knew that going into the fall.

    Year 2 was a year of rebuilding and learning. 3 of 3 survived.

    I'm feeling pretty good right now. I have 4 very strong hives going into winter. Our summer has been a little weird and I am keeping an eye on honey stores (this amazing goldenrod bloom seems to have taken care of my pollen concerns). I think that I may need to feed a little syrup but am otherwise feeling good.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Yakima Co, WA, USA
    Posts
    129

    Default Re: How are folks doing this year?

    Things are going ok. I tried to treat with OAV but my vaporizer had a problem...new part and my hubby broke it trying to fix it, so...they are untreated as of right now and I'm not sure what to do. <sigh> Stores look good, etc., but I'm afraid they may get done in by varroa. I don't have the budget for a new OAV right now nor do I have access to another one.
    Meghan

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
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    Isle of Wight, VA
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    2,763

    Default Re: How are folks doing this year?

    It has been a fun year for sure. Been keeping bees in topbar hives since 2013. This is the first year I got enough of a harvest that I won't have to buy any from the other local beeks. Ran approx. 17 colonies, about 7 of them full size hives with the rest nucs for intentional queen rearing.
    Bought 30 packages from a truck driver 3 hrs away from me and kept 10 of them for making topbar nucs for the students in my class, so I wasn't having to split my bees so soon (this is why I actually had a honey harvest this year that amounted to something). 30 packages in a mini van is a bit of an "experience".

    Also did a medium horizontal lang with 20 frames, but I added two 8 frame medium boxes and one 5 frame box on top as supers. They did very well, and after the spring flow, allowed me to use those top boxes for making small splits to raise queens. The packages made a great deal of honey while I was waiting for them to requeen with the local queen cells. If one can time it just right, pulling the queen right before the main flow can make a lot of honey in a hive.

    With all the colonies to tend to, I didn't get into the big colonies as much as I did last year. Quite a mess of cross comb in the one. My usual preference is to alternate empty bars in with drawn comb. In this one particular hive, I was just pulling 4 combs of brood at a time to prevent swarming, and just adding back 4 empty bars in their place. That is how I ended up with the cross comb and frankly cross bees. Can't really get in that hive. She's the daughter of a TX Beeweaver queen. Was very nice last June-Sept but not so much anymore. Maybe the cooler weather will settle them down so I can do a final inspection and sugar shake. Since I have not done my normal powder sugar shake each month on that hive, the mite counts in there will be very telling whether or not the monthly sugar dusting is effective. I know that hive has more mites than others, as I found free ranging mites on the 4 honey combs that I pulled out in early July from that hive.

    I was also able to park one of my topbar hives at work so I can give classes in a more urban setting so people don't have to travel so far to my house (and I'm not giving strangers my home address). That hive did suffer vandalism from the area kids. Observation window is still broken in that one and the bees have eaten through the 2 layers of cardboard that I used to patch it up. I have resorted to two layers of duct tape and I hope that holds. At some point, I need to remove the bars with comb and bees and replace the window, but don't have an empty hive to put them in. Guess I'll have to see if I get one freed up at my house due to winter/mite kill in a few months.

    I also tried a Buckfast queen and Caucasian queen from New River Honeybees, both virgins so they do have local genetics in the mix already. The Buckfast bees are surprisingly more gentle than any others in my apiary, but she quit laying in July and they keep building queen cells, so they obviously think something is wrong with her. Can't seem to get one of her daughters mated either. Have made numerous queens off the Caucasian queen, and boy do they pull in the honey and make brood. Really sold on both types and hope to do more with them next season.

    My group is also hosting a Grafting Queen Bees for the Backyard Beekeeper class in January, which is the first of its kind in our area. Hopefully, it turns into something we can repeat each year in order to get more beekeepers to graft their own queens instead of buying in queens from out of the area.

    Still only using powdered sugar for my mite control, along with screened bottoms with the solid IPM board underneath that is covered with diatomaceous earth. Seems to work very well, at least for me.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Hall, Georgia, USA
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    316

    Default Re: How are folks doing this year?

    There's a dude in my bee club with a oxavap 110 who is offering (within reason) to let people borrow it to vaporize. You know anyone like that you could ask? what's your mite count now?

    (This was aimed at Meghan's post, but I must have replied using the wrong button).

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Yakima Co, WA, USA
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    129

    Default Re: How are folks doing this year?

    Quote Originally Posted by AvatarDad View Post
    There's a dude in my bee club with a oxavap 110 who is offering (within reason) to let people borrow it to vaporize. You know anyone like that you could ask? what's your mite count now?

    (This was aimed at Meghan's post, but I must have replied using the wrong button).
    Unfortunately, I don't know anyone except my FIL who has one...he would let me borrow it but lives too far away for it to be reasonable. I have not done a recent mite count. That reminds me...I have to get my mite counter thingy back from my friend. I have done the alcohol wash with just a jar but bought a contraption this spring. Forgetting the name right now. Mostly an expensive piece of plastic but it works well.
    Meghan

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
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    Lilburn, GA, USA
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    Default Re: How are folks doing this year?

    Hi,

    so everything at this point is brand new to me. What do you do for inspection @ Thanksgiving and @Christmas? Full inspection? Wait for a warm day? I am probably going to purchase a thermal camera later this year, if that helps.

    thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    Thomas, report back and ask this exact question just about Thanksgiving.
    Then around Christmas again.

    IF still doing very well, then your chances will have improved.
    Right now too early to say much.
    Many hives seemingly doing "very well" will be dead or near dead around those very convenient check dates.
    My grandfather and great-uncle kept bees and my fiancée's grandfather, too. I want to pass this tradition along.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
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    3,718

    Default Re: How are folks doing this year?

    If you have a warm day, yes do a full inspection. What you find will determine your next step. As mentioned before, many hives have, uh, "absconded" by this time (died). If they are still doing well, an OAV treatment may be in order. You will be checking stores, and in your area, how much brood is still being tended. Half a frame would be good. A flir would be a cool addition but not as necessary since you should have many days throughout your winter when the bees can fly.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    Geauga, Ohio
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    429

    Default Re: How are folks doing this year?

    I am about 2 weeks until frost. The bees have a week or so more of forage, if it doesn't get rained out. My goal is to check for things that I can change. If a hive turns out to not have a queen, I can't do anything to get them a queen. I can combine that hive with a queenright one, as long as that hive is in the neighborhood of 2xs as strong, so the new bees don't kill off the queen in the destination hive. Or I can let them die - so far that is what I am planning.

    I can address low nectar honey now, so I am checking for that now. I can't do much about it later - it will be too cold for the bees to take liquid feed.

    I can swap capped brood around as needed - I have a couple hives that just got started with queen rearing, and if they don't have time to get 2 frames minimum (well, bars, but same size) of capped brood hatched out, then they won't have enough winter bees. So I have imported some.

    Later on, after frost, there is next to nothing that I can do for the bees. About the only thing is a OAV mite treatment. I can't give them more bees easily, as they will be in cluster, and they don't use honey much until Feb anyways so I don't worry about stores (yet). I do like to know the day of death as closely as I can - so every few days if it is cluster weather then I will check with a stethoscope at the hive entrance. No need for fancy equipment! Actually it is just that I probably can't see with a FLIR through the 2 x lumber that we used for our top bars...

    So for me whether I inspect in the fall/winter is determined by whether I can do anything for the bees. Come March-April, I want to know when broodrearing starts, so I will probably check in the hives on a warm day for capped brood.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Arlington Hts, IL
    Posts
    81

    Default Re: How are folks doing this year?

    Second year, no treatments. Hive is looking good, I harvested about 10 bars in the spring and another 4 last week, which will leave them with 8 full bars through winter (plus about 10 brood bars).

    It was a strange year. Took a long time to warm up, and they did not get to enjoy a big goldenrod bloom as much as last year. Will put the insulation on by the end of October and cross my fingers. There was a small orientation flight today. Drones have been gone for at least 2-3 weeks.

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
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    Dane County, WI, USA
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    2,879

    Default Re: How are folks doing this year?

    Removed - dup.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
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    Dane County, WI, USA
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    Default Re: How are folks doing this year?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yunzow View Post
    Hi,

    so everything at this point is brand new to me. What do you do for inspection @ Thanksgiving and @Christmas? Full inspection? Wait for a warm day? I am probably going to purchase a thermal camera later this year, if that helps.

    thanks
    Remember - I don't do commercial Langs.

    This means I don't need to open the entire nest or take entire box to look at the bees.
    This also means I don't care how cold it is, I just look when I have time and it is not raining.
    If it is freezing, I don't care either and still look.
    In fact, I prefer it to be cold so bees don't come out flying.
    I'd rather they stay clustered up.

    Essentially, I simple remove the roof/top cover/(pick your name) and look.
    Removing the roof for me does not mean I open the nest - the nest is still closed.
    I crack open the side frame farthest from the entrance and look for bees (hopefully, still alive).
    If no bees, crack the next frame and look. And so on.
    I remove any frames not covered by bees and place them outside of the follower boards for storage on-site (or take home if want to harvest some honey).
    At this time I also look under the frames for any bee-fall (that gives a good idea of the status - lots of fall is bad and you know the trend is bad and what is generally coming).
    Done.

    I don't have a thermo-camera and don't really need it.
    However, a thermo-camera (a smart-phone plug-in) is a good thing to have as it has many good uses, not just checking on the bees.
    Last edited by GregV; 10-03-2018 at 09:02 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
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    Lilburn, GA, USA
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    Default Re: How are folks doing this year?

    Very interesting. Yes, I got two top bars and two horizontal deep hives.

    Good to know that it is possible to do inspections even it is cold. Ah, and you live in a place where it is going to be very cold for long stretches.

    I guess I wouldn't have to do cold inspections because we will have days here and there warm enough for bees to fly around.

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    Remember - I don't do commercial Langs.

    This means I don't need to open the entire nest or take entire box to look at the bees.
    This also means I don't care how cold it is, I just look when I have time and it is not raining.
    If it is freezing, I don't care either and still look.
    In fact, I prefer it to be cold so bees don't come out flying.
    I'd rather they stay clustered up.

    Essentially, I simple remove the roof/top cover/(pick your name) and look.
    Removing the roof for me does not mean I open the nest - the nest is still closed.
    I crack open the side frame farthest from the entrance and look for bees (hopefully, still alive).
    If no bees, crack the next frame and look. And so on.
    I remove any frames not covered by bees and place them outside of the follower boards for storage on-site (or take home if want to harvest some honey).
    At this time I also look under the frames for any bee-fall (that gives a good idea of the status - lots of fall is bad and you know the trend is bad and what is generally coming).
    Done.

    I don't have a thermo-camera and don't really need it.
    However, a thermo-camera (a smart-phone plug-in) is a good thing to have as it has many good uses, not just checking on the bees.
    My grandfather and great-uncle kept bees and my fiancée's grandfather, too. I want to pass this tradition along.

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Seattle WA
    Posts
    1,148

    Default Re: How are folks doing this year?

    My 4 top bar hives are doing quite well currently. One which had a swarm move in about the middle of May I was sure was dead shortly thereafter. A month after the swarm moved in, I found some bees, no queen, eggs or sealed brood and a major wax moth infestation. I decided to kill the moths, stop feeding and let them die out. At the end of July, there were still bees and I found the queen and some brood. What a nice surprise. I decided to re-queen and add some extra bees to the hive. I also started feeding. Last week, they had a pretty good population but not nearly enough stores. I will probably add sugar to some of the comb in a couple of weeks but I expect it to make it. I also treated for mites when I found out it was still a living hive.

    The other three top bar hives are doing great as are the Langstroth hives.

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