First year, fall assessment
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
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    Austin, TX
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    Default First year, fall assessment

    I'm going into fall with my first hive this year, and wondering if anyone with more experience wouldn't mind spending a few minutes to assess how things are going. Starting from the top, the bars should be in order from front (entrance) to back of hive. Link to pics: https://imgur.com/a/tI2TQ3V

    I feel like the hive is in pretty good shape, but my eyes are not tuned in yet to early warning signs for possible problems, so if anyone sees anything that I should be concerned with, please let me know. Only thing I noticed was a single queen cup near the top/side of bar 7, but there was no egg inside, so not too worried about that. I did not see the queen this time, but saw here about a week ago, and I see signs that she's there, so not worried about that.

    Just really want to make sure there are no signs that something is wrong and that the amount of brood, stores, etc. seem to be inline with a healthy hive for this time of year. Any and all advice and/or recommendations are greatly appreciated. BTW, This is in central Texas, so we're still probably a few weeks away from having cool-ish weather. Still a ways off from any consistent coldness.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
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    NW Florida
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    Default Re: First year, fall assessment

    Have you tested for mites? Any mite treatments given? That will provide you more information to indicate if they will survive.
    Beek since 2016: Hardiness Zone 9a: in NW Florida

  4. #3

    Default Re: First year, fall assessment

    I don't see very much honey but that might just be my old eyes.
    The brood a bit spotty looking. As the previous poster asked....mite testing/treatment?
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  5. #4
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    Jul 2018
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    Austin, TX
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    Default Re: First year, fall assessment

    I have not mite tested yet, but I plan to soon. Queen is supposed to be a mite resistant variety (beeweaver), but I suppose testing is good regardless. I'll get that done next week and report back.

    I think the pattern is probably ok. Last week, most of those brood bars had a nice solid pattern, so I assume lots of it has recently emerged. This bar at least seems like she's got a pretty good hit rate: https://i.imgur.com/K5hvTfB.jpg

    Also, the queen will naturally slow brood production at some point, right? I assume that's weather dependent, probably not time for that here yet, I guess?

    I've had concerns about this hive's brood pattern though with regard to which bars they are on. They seem to backfill brood bars with nectar/honey and then they end up with this weird pattern of spotty brood bars. I've been encouraging comb building over the summer (b/c they started pretty late and slow) by adding empty bars between brood bars. Maybe that has something to do with their inconsistency.

    Regarding stores, I agree, there is very little capped honey, and I have not taken anything from this hive so far. I got it as a 5 bar nuc in June. There does seem to be a fairly good amount of uncapped nectar or honey (not really sure how to tell the difference). It's just not organized by the book. Everything I've read says the bees will figure it out and sometimes they organize things differently than we'd like, so as long as they have what they need, I'm not too worried. We have had a ton of rain here lately as well which could be contributing to a lack of resources, if there is actually a lack.

    Thank you both for the replies. I'll try to get that mite count done asap.

  6. #5

    Default Re: First year, fall assessment

    Quote Originally Posted by donk View Post
    This bar at least seems like she's got a pretty good hit rate: https://i.imgur.com/K5hvTfB.jpg
    The test with regards to mites is the spottiness of the capped brood. If the queen has a decent laying pattern as appears in your linked photo yet the capped brood pattern is spotty then we often suspect varroa mites.
    There are some who believe that BWeaver queens are resistant and others who insist that they aren’t any better than ordinary mutts.

    Good luck.
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  7. #6
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    Austin, TX
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    Default Re: First year, fall assessment

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    The test with regards to mites is the spottiness of the capped brood. If the queen has a decent laying pattern as appears in your linked photo yet the capped brood pattern is spotty then we often suspect varroa mites.
    There are some who believe that BWeaver queens are resistant and others who insist that they aren’t any better than ordinary mutts.

    Good luck.
    Great info, and exactly what I was looking for as I didn't know spotty capped pattern was a telltale. Unfortunately I have to leave town for a few days, but I'll get on that test as soon as I'm back. With regards to testing, is there a preference between alcohol wash over sugar roll?
    Last edited by donk; 10-08-2018 at 07:22 PM. Reason: grammar

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
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    Geauga, Ohio
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    Default Re: First year, fall assessment

    Nice capture of the state of the hive! I love the bar holder.

    I would get in touch with your local beeks - when do they usually see brood laying drop off? When is your dearth? Do they recommend a full deep with honey for a langstroth double deep "overwintering" (sorry, I'm from northeastern OH, and an Austin winter gets ""). I'm assuming there won't be anything coming into the hive about now, and that if you want the bees to build up stores, you will need to feed. For my top bars, with a high mite infestation, I had 6 bars (corresponds to 9 Kenyan, since mine is straight-sided) covered with bees, and 6-11 bars beyond that with stored nectar/syrup or honey (both in equal proportions). That was plenty of stores for the girls, they had some left by May. For a hive that is packed with bees, they do need a full deep of honey - but mine was lighter than that in bees, so I needed proportionally less honey. I hope that helps with a guide for how much honey the bees need... btw the last combs in the series have nice capped honey for the top half of the bars. You want to see at least 10 bars like that...beyond the brood nest.

    That brood pattern is spotty. A queen who is laying strongly and consistently, with good nutritional support, and medium to low hygenic tendencies will lay a more solid pattern - like missing 5 cells in a 7 x 7 patch. You can compare the capped brood pattern to the bar with all larvae - there are fewer missing larvae cells than brood cells. This could indicate a high varroa load. It could mean excessive hygenic tendencies, or could mean the queen is reducing her laying due to being old, but that is too many combs with brood for her to be cutting down on laying due to the season.

    Be sure to notice the difference btwn the honey-storage comb (larger cells, also used for drones) and brood comb for workers (smaller cells) - honey/drone can NEVER be used for worker brood because the cell size is too large. There is a transition bar with half small (worker) sized cells and half honey/drone cells. It is critical you not place bars with honey/large cells in the middle of the brood nest, so note in pencil on the bar if it is smaller/worker sized or large/honey sized.

    Varroa- it can take down hygenic queens. You need to figure out how you want to treat, more than how to detect, at this stage of the game. For the record, detecting with an alcohol wash, with 300 bees, is the only method I use, and I would suggest seeing even 1 mite in a pwd sugar shake be counted as 5. I use oxalic acid vaporization, but for a top bar, the bees have to be clustered pretty well and the wand has to be moved from the front 1/3 of the brood nest to the back 1/3 of the brood nest and REQUIRES a screened bottom board. I had solid boards and had to drill a hole with a circular bit in the bottom - with bees in the hive. Not as bad as you might think! And OAV can kill you, can roast your lungs or eyes. It is vital to have protection that you can rely on, rather than "just standing upwind". I use a respirator that blocks organic acids - off amazon, like $25.

    Oxalic acid dribble https://honeybeesuite.com/how-to-app...-acid-dribble/ is another option you can do. That site has lots of good tips and articles.

    I can't speak to the formic based options - MAQS or proformic - because I haven't used them. Same with Apivar - a strip with a coating the bees must walk on. It can be placed in the brood nest strategically, but if the bees don't walk on it, it don't work.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
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    Geauga, Ohio
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    Default Re: First year, fall assessment

    oh and here is what I am looking for at this time in my hives - keep in mind when we say, "winter is coming," we really mean it...

    For a hive that has been building since May, I want to see 20 bars covered with bees. That's 25 for you. But you don't have all the comb drawn yet, so at least a dense covering with bees. I am seeing a lighter covering but not by much. The amount of bee coverage is medium, and any lighter is a source of concern. Varroa will result in fewer bees covering the combs for a given amount of brood....

    I want to see 5 or more bars with capped brood, so that's 8 for you (my bars are langstroth deep sized). You are good in that zone. But keep in mind with each bar of brood that emerges, 2 bars with become covered in bees - so a healthy hive has 2 times as many bars covered with bees as there were bars of capped brood recently. I am not seeing that. I'm seeing fewer bees than expected. Which means either the queen massively ramped up, or that something is subtracting bees too quickly - could be varroa pressure.

    I want to see 1-2 bars with eggs, 2-4 with larvae. Fewer than that shows a contraction starting. No larvae means they may have swarmed, they may have a failing queen, and it is too early in the season to see a queen shutdown. No incoming pollen and no incoming nectar will cause a queen shutdown too. I see larvae, so the queen was there 6 days or so ago, and she is getting fed.

    So please read up on Parasitic Mite Syndrome and how varroa kills a hive. The more you learn, the better steward you will be for your hive. Not intervening means 50-100% losses each year, and sadly even if you treat for mites, if you don't realize it was ineffective or that your hive became re-infested, you can still be at risk for high chance of the hive dying. Find a mentor, someone who has been keeping hives alive for a year or more and who has been doing it long enough to make the mistakes you want to avoid.... bees are bees, and many people who use Langstroth hives understand bees very well.

  10. #9

    Default Re: First year, fall assessment

    Many sunken cell cappings, looks like brood disease. Do a Holts milk test if the larvae ropes on a tooth pick.

    No nectar, pollen yes. Did you feed? Hives that do VSH, are mite infested and have to draw comb use up all the nectar stores very fast. A colony that has no capped honey, not even a small corner, starves.
    I see one very very small corner. A food situation like that would make me very nervous but in your location it might be possible to store more honey later on? How´s your climate?

    Some cells look like VSH done. A hygienic queen can overcome a brood disease if you are lucky. If you don´t feed fondant or honey comb the bees are not able to substitute mite weak short lived bees or pulled out pupa.
    Short lived bees do not forage much or not at all when they are old.

    The one comb with open larvae looks ok.

    http://www.dave-cushman.net/bee/holst_milk_test.html
    Last edited by 1102009; 10-09-2018 at 01:27 PM. Reason: studied again

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
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    Hall, Georgia, USA
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    314

    Default Re: First year, fall assessment

    Pretty cool exercise!

    I think it looks like a large, well-populated hive, without as much stores as I would like. I don't see some of the bad things other posters are talking about; maybe I'm not looking closely enough. If you don't see evidence of disease locally, forget about it. I would like to see 5 or more full frames of honey in here. Not sure how to evaluate Texas or even if your Fall flow is over with. Other than honey, I see no problems. I like it! give them some sugar water.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Location
    Austin, TX
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    19

    Default Re: First year, fall assessment

    Thank you all for chiming in. To answer some of the questions asked...

    Regarding weather/fall flow - We just had our first cold front hit here today. Yesterday it was in the 90s, and its in the 40s today. Should be back up to 60s by end of the week, and probably 70s/80s next week. We're getting a ton of rain lately though, so I'm afraid they have been and are going to continue to miss out on foraging opportunities. We've been having a good few weeks of goldenrod bloom, so if the weather would cooperate, I think they should be able to bring in what they need. I guess it wouldn't hurt to go ahead and start offering syrup. I'll do that in the next day or so.

    Regarding varroa/brood disease - I readied my test equipment for sugar roll and alcohol wash and was planning to run both tests yesterday while I had the hive open. Got the sugar roll done first and did not count a single mite. Guess I had a brain-cramp and left my alcohol at the shop, so I skipped that test this time. Weather permitting, I'll get into the hive later this week and do that test. Also, I meant to do the test to look for ropey larvae (AFB), but got flustered by the missing alcohol and forgot. One of these days I'll get better at this. :/

    I went ahead and took more pics yesterday as it makes it much easier for me to go back and compare what is changing between inspections. I know these are painstaking to go through, but if anyone really wants to take a peak, the images are here: https://imgur.com/a/yp6P9My - These should be in the same order as the original post, for ease of comparison. I'd say the pattern of capped brood continues to look rather spotty.

    One thing that I noticed when comparing to last week is on the bar I posted to illustrate the laying pattern. Here's the image from last week: https://i.imgur.com/K5hvTfB.jpg and now this week looks like this: https://i.imgur.com/AXDz8CI.jpg. Looks like there might be a good portion of the larvae that were there last week are now empty cells. Can someone comment on that? Do you see the same as?

  13. #12
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    Jun 2016
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    Geauga, Ohio
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    Default Re: First year, fall assessment

    I do see that there are fewer capped than there were larvae - not on the order of half, but maybe 10% loss. There is pollen in a spotty manner too, so it gets in the way of a full coverage with capped brood. I'm happy to see that there are combs with too many bees to easily see the capped brood, but I do not see as many bars like that as I would like at this "age" of a hive. Here are a couple of pics of what solid brood looks like: http://www.wildbunchbees.com/wp-cont...sale-small.jpg and https://www.tbhsbywam.com/wp-content...e-contents.jpg and here is a well-covered bar of comb http://www.bushfarms.com/images/KTBHComb.JPG

    I'm not calibrated to Austin season/pollen/nectar resources, so I can't say if this is what to expect this time of year. For us, we need to have at least 4 langstroth sized frames of solid capped brood emerge after about mid Sept. No brood emerging, no winter bees. All the existing bees born before mid Sept will be dead by mid Jan if not earlier. They spent too much energy feeding younger sisters and foraging.

    I can say that this is a small hive. And not enough capped brood if there was a pollen/nectar flow in the last few weeks. They have enough resources stored in their combs to survive, but this is not a well populated hive. If you have not seen it with more bees than this, I would be concerned that the queen is not laying fast enough due to issues with her quality - it happens something like 15% of package hives due to the stress of the situation. If you can feed 2 parts sugar:1 part sugar water, with a light scent so the bees know it is there, that can stimulate the queen to lay. Like an artificial nectar flow. It can result in so much sugar water in the cells that the queen has no room to lay - so feed maybe 1 quart every 2-3 days at most. If the lows are above 55, the bees can suck up the syrup. Below that, they will not be able to.

    good luck, keep us posted...

  14. #13
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    Default Re: First year, fall assessment

    Thanks Trish. I will say that up until a couple weeks ago, the (capped) brood pattern was much more solid. This is why my initial thought was that the queen was just tapering off brood production. That was pure conjecture though.

    For whatever reason (mostly my fault I think), this hive got a really slow start. I picked it up as a 5 bar nuc at the beginning of June. I think I fed them for a week or so, but then just let them do their thing. In hindsight, I probably should have kept feeding. I think they only built out one bar of comb the first month they were here. My inexperience probably was the biggest factor in their slow start. I don't even know if there was any forage at that time. Once I started feeding and adding empty bars within the brood nest, they really got on the ball. But I probably didn't figure all that out until mid-July.

    Interestingly, I don't think this hive has ever build any new comb at the back end of the hive - maybe that first one that took them forever. That was a bit of surprise to me since a lot of what I had read before said they would do just that.

  15. #14
    Join Date
    May 2018
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    Wise County, Texas, USA
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    Default Re: First year, fall assessment

    I'm from north of Ft Worth and today I had foragers bringing in pollen. My TBH is also small but has honey & brood. First year for me also,20181021_124453.jpg20181020_154242.jpg

  16. #15
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    Default Re: First year, fall assessment

    Quick update... After keeping an eye on the hive for the last several weeks, I'm convinced that I have a virgin queen. Over the past couple, maybe three weeks, I have seen no brood at all in the hive. The weather has been pretty nice/warm here, so I don't think this is just the queen shutting it down for winter. Also, the last 2 or 3 times I've opened the hive and pulled out the bar with this queen on it, she has flown off the bar. I never saw this behavior from the previous queen. Previous queen was unmarked, so I can't be 100% sure they are different, but my untrained eye tells me this one looks a little smaller, and the weird flighty behavior really makes me think she's new. I've managed to locate her each time (she never goes far) and place her back in the hive.

    So, if this is a new/unmated queen, is it safe to assume that since I have no drones, there probably aren't many around this time of year, and this queen has little to no chance of mating? Is the recommendation in this scenario to re-queeen the hive? Will anyone actually have mated queens available this time of year? I haven't done a thorough search yet, but have checked a few online suppliers and no one seems to have queens right now.

    As a data point (since I know we're all in different climates), here in central Texas, we've been having, and should continue to have temps in the mid-60s on average. This weekend has been a little warmer (mid-upper 70s). Most days will probably be in the 50s/60s for most of December, lowest lows will probably be 30s. Maybe a cold front that cools it off a little more here and there.

    The other concern I had was stores, and I'm no longer too concerned about that. As recommended, I started feeding 2:1 syrup and stores have been building up nicely.

  17. #16
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    Geauga, Ohio
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    Default Re: First year, fall assessment

    Hmmm, I wonder if there are drones around. I would ask your local beeks. I have seen quite a few who are obviously tucked in the winter cluster - about once a month, the weather breaks to 50s for a day and I see a drone here and there. Drones and queens won't do a mating flight unless it is fairly calm and 65+ and sunny....or 70 and cloudy... At this point it is moot, because a queen beyond 21 days cannot be mated, ever, due to something weird about their anatomy. She will become a drone laying queen.

    I agree the flighty behavior is not like a stately matronly mated queen. They move differently from virgins. More girth to slow them down!

    I know there are "kona queens" from hawaii, and Olivarez bees has apiaries there too.

    At this point in the colony's life cycle, they are seriously at risk of having comb damage due to wax moth and SHB. This is because a colony that is not queenright and has no brood is not motivated to fight off intruders, sometimes described as a demoralized colony. And you can't rely on mother nature's freezer to kill off SHB adults, larvae and eggs on untended comb! Our Ohio hard winter is good for something... You might consider removing any comb that is not currently covered with bees, really squeeze their territory down. And freeze it. I would not worry about depriving them of stores, since they won't use much without brood to feed. They really don't keep the hive that warm without brood, just keeping themselves above 50. So you don't need to feed them as long as the comb they have left is about half full of stores, which you can maybe check every couple of weeks or so.
    I have frozen comb safely (without it coming off the bar) by turning it upside down and laying the bar on the flat base of the freezer. I would not lay the comb sideways. You will want to wrap in foil or a bag, so any frost and then any condensation will end up on that impermeable layer and not on the wax. After 2 days or so, you can store the comb in a SHB-tight space, but not air-tight.

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