Not quite a first, but also not quite a second year either
I learnt that just because the activity at the entrance seems to be all good....if you have a mesh screen and sliding bottom tray and are not seeing an increasing level of debris...your hive is Not doing well.
I was lucky in that a local beek (on another forum) had experienced the same thing I was and came over to help me out.
if not, I probably would have lost my bees.
Second lesson was,
Just because your bees seem to be doing really well, do not stop what ever fall/autumn winter treatment regime you are doing.
I am in the process of regressing my bees down to small/er and thought that because the winter cluster was smaller- that it was because the bees themselves were smaller. this time I was wrong.
having said that, they have come out of their second winter...so zero losses two winters in a row...thanks to a caring local.
caring and sharing, a human right everyone has a right to express.
Re: Not quite a first, but also not quite a second year either
You need some years experience to interpret what´s going on and most important you need to read a brood comb or get the overall view. I needed 4 years to evaluate most of the appearance in treatment free colonies, it differs much from conventional colonies appearances, and the bees take different actions. Treated bees recognize the danger too late and must be triggered which is a high risk.
In my case I should have started a soft bond approach from the beginning but I only learned this year how to do this under my circumstances and still have a lot to learn. But I feel good and optimistic now with my education.
With a slide you need to monitor very often, every day in spring and fall for ten days to take the average and then once a week.
Small cell bees are not neccesarily smaller but develop a different phenotype. Winter bees are as fat as big cell bees and the cluster is as big ( or small). Sometimes the cluster is even bigger in fall as if the bees know they need more numbers because of the ones with shorter lifes. Those may come out of winter weak but may explode.
If mite loads are high in fall you watch them breeding more which means more stores needed so you have to watch the weight.
Small cell is not the only factor to have healthy bees but a good one to have a higher brood nest density.
You have to give it time if you have no reserve of colonies. Good luck to you!