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  1. #161
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    I decided to insulate hives. Bee boxes, even thick ones like mine are a poor substitute for bee trees. The results are encouraging. I figure the bees are under enough stress already dealing with mites and viruses and I want to ease up on them in other areas. I might go for more winter hardiness after (if) the mite hardiness settles into place. Even then reduced food requirements (and less poop produced), better spring build up makes it profitable to insulate.

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  3. #162
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    #1.
    I know of three hives from my collections that did fly out in early November - being in direct sun.
    The mother-queen did not care to fly out, but nothing prevented it - they are in my backyard.
    Pretty much I did go around to check for open entrances where it was needed (for sure adding upper entrances too in the future - to cut down the hassle).

    I don't really want bees to be flying at every chance they get anyway - a poor trait as for me.
    I don't practice any wrapping as unnecessary.
    Attachment 46653

    #2.
    This is always a possibility.
    I don't feed (outside of emergency or nucs) and don't control what honey goes into the winter.
    As I did not take any away.
    There could be some honeydew honey; if so - it is what it is.

    However, they had plenty of chances over the 4 months to develop dysentery for any old reason (not the first week of March all of a sudden and in precipitous fashion).
    Virtually few days prior they looked very good as I added dry sugar, just in case (it was needed I can now tell).
    All of a sudden - lots of brutal runny poop all over and a rapid cluster collapse.
    Attachment 46655
    Attachment 46657

    #3.
    Industrial-type sheds with controlled temp and humidity?
    Yes, the proper refrigeration-type shed gets the job done for most any average bee.
    Not even admissible.
    This is for "wimps".
    Besides, I don't have such a thing anyway; bees stay outside and do best they can.

    Try wintering in a tree, 20-30 feet up, in USDA zone 3, 6 months straight - this is the real AMMs we are talking about.
    Kind of like his bee tree in Bashkortostan:
    Attachment 46659

    In any case, I conclude the pictured dead unit just reached their natural limit under the conditions, with just 1-2 weeks to go.
    They basically exploded no longer being to hold the poop after 4 months of not flying.
    Too bad, tomorrow they could be out flying.

    So, yes, I agree with Juhani somewhat:

    But only somewhat.
    This is not over yet.

    GregV--I wouldnt think you should have that much problem finding a bee to successfully overwinter in Wisconsin. I'm probably just a touch north of you in Michigan. The issue we've always struggled with (even prior to both tracheal and varroa) is keeping enough of northern type traits when mating. That was only compounded with arrival of both mites and the increase in migration that resulted. There's no shortage of migratory bees in this state but I think Wisconsin has plenty too. Finding right stock to winter and that can tolerate mites really is no longer that tough. The real hard work happened 2+ decades ago when the first survivor stocks were accumulated for USDA. And since the vast majority of that stock traces its roots to Michigan its all was pretty winter hardy at one point. The hard part is keeping the right balance of traits when open mating particularly for folks with small colony counts in areas where they cant control the drone concentration

  4. #163
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Discussions aside, I had few hour window of sun and +15C to do a head count.
    The window closed by now (back to cold rain).

    One more failure of the "pooped-out" kind - exact same picture I reported above.
    A case of good riddance due to the winter hardiness issues.
    Fortunately, this "pooper" still has two dark sisters left to carry on the mission and the game still goes on.

    So, down to five and these should be my starters for the 2019 season.
    Everyone still alive had their chances to fly out today and take care of any urgent business.

    One survivor of yellow-ish TF line - I completely re-hived them - they also pooped all over and lost lots of bee - but yet did hold the cluster around the queen and managed to stay alive.
    Two survivors of dark TF line - one looks perfect and strong; the other lost lots of bee but still gave me few good stings for being nosy (always a good sign of fighting spirits).
    That strange swarm I complained about in fall - these dark dogs look very strong and keep tunneling the sugar pile; so must be OK material to keep around and see what they can do.
    Another random swarm of dark exterior bee are also fine.

    Everyone should have plenty of supplies to do their spring job.
    I get to harvest some perga from the dead.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  5. #164
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Here is a run-down of what actually happened over the 2018/2019 winter.
    Looking at the outcomes per unit.
    All frames I list below - of Dadant size (large).

    #1 - Alive - random late-July swarm. Was a big one too.
    Wintered fine on 10 frames, no matter how much I bad-mouthed these "idiots".
    These grayish bees are on the irritable side and require smoke.
    I guess I will need to find/mark the queen and we will keep working together.
    20190202_165346.jpg

    #2 - Dead - my biggest true loss - the 2-year old queen of my TF line #1.
    Broke the cluster, pooped all over, and froze all over the hive without a cluster, with only a week to go before they could fly.
    I had lots of plan for this units.
    They were sitting on 8 frames.
    Yellowish mutt bees from Arkansas.
    These bees I did not see coming out once since November (part of the problem - my lower entrance only design - the upper entrances may have lured them out a couple of time and that would be beneficial).
    So the 4 months of no flight did them in (a milder winter would be just fine; upper entrances availability may have given them a better chance - this loss is partially on me, I feel.).
    The large, gray hive to the left.
    20190105_115136.jpg

    #3 - Alive - July daughter of the #2 .
    Interestingly - also pooped all over even before the #2 did - yet survived somehow, after loosing 50% of the cluster.
    On a milder side too. Yellowish bee.
    I suppose this is a good enough material to split/propagate this summer.
    The same pic as above - but blue/white hive to the right.

    #4 - Alive - July queen off my other TF line #2.
    Survived very well on 7 frames.
    Defensive grayish bee require much smoke to work.
    I would call these bees mean.
    I definitely have plans for these.
    20190223_134446.jpg

    #5 - Dead - a June TF queen from a friend.
    Really mild bees; yellowish.
    Wintered on 6 frames in a temp hive.
    Came out flying every chance they got.
    Looked very good and strong until the February 2019 vortex freeze came.
    60% of the cluster just froze in place; the remaining 40% dropped within 3-4 weeks.
    This loss I blame on myself - needed to move them away from the entrance.
    20190105_114718.jpg

    #6 - Alive - a random June swarm (these subsequently swarmed on me too - while away on vacation).
    Wintered fine on 6 frames.
    Some commercial bee off-shoot, grayish carni something.
    The hive on the left
    20190125_080509.jpg

    #7 - Dead - a random August swarm.
    Were doing OK on 5 frames until in February.
    I take responsibility for this one - something went wrong with the setup and moisture was the real killer.
    It was so moist that even dry sugar on the top never caked into a hard chunk (in as it should normally).
    I had to just rehive them mid-winter as there were opportunities.
    So, shame on me.
    The same picture as above, but the hive on the right.
    Last edited by GregV; 03-31-2019 at 02:29 PM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  6. #165
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    #8 - Dead - a July queen of the TF (same line as #4).
    This one is a real loss as I had plans for these.
    The same issue as in #2 - needed to hold the poop one more week - they could not, broke the cluster, pooped all over, froze.
    Also, an upper entrance availability might have improved the chances for these.
    There were 2-3 opportunities where the bottom entrance only was the obstacle - too cold to come out.
    20190202_160900.jpg

    #9 - Dead a July queen of the TF line #2 (same line as #4).
    The queen did not mate well, I feel.
    These started pooping and dropping off as early as December.
    A good riddance I feel.
    EntranceDiffElevations.jpg

    #10 - Alive - a July queen of the TF(same line as #4).
    Lost a lot of bee, maybe partially due to sitting in a temp, plywood hive.
    Started on 7 frames, but now reduced to just 3 frames.
    Grayish, nervous bee that will require smoke to work.
    Good enough material for July splitting if/when they build back up.
    20190202_160931.jpg

    #11 - Dead - a random August Italian swarm.
    Just a worthless commercial bee, full of mites too (as it turned out).
    Should have let them collect honey and take it all way and let them drop.
    Used them as a resource for splits - was a mistake.
    Waste of time, outside of hive testing.
    Should send swarms through the winter quarantine before using for anything.
    20180924_190606.jpg

    #12 - Dead - a very late mated, September queen (daughter of #2 above).
    I did try to carry these one through to hold onto the genetics.
    Unfortunately, the tiny cluster froze in place in January after eating all the honey around (should have had dry sugar on them from the very start).
    Even used a heater; and put them into the middle of the "wintering hive" - still the harsh winter 2019 killed these - could have survived a mild winter though.
    Not much to cry over. Experimentation loss.
    Middle of the big brown hive.
    20190105_115205.jpg

    #13 - Dead - a late mated Russian queen added to a split taken from the Italian swarm #11.
    Mites killed them - frass all over - the queen was not able to turn things around - probably winter would have killed them anyway.
    I should have made a split from one of the better units - to have any chances.
    One side of the big brown hive above.
    Experimentation loss.

    #14 - Dead - the same as #13.
    Last edited by GregV; 03-31-2019 at 02:31 PM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  7. #166
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    So out of 9 lost units, only 3 units truly lost as they were of value to me.

    The other 6 losses - whatever - few lessons learned.
    Some lessons:
    * must quarantine the swarms before using them for any splits/brood (I did better this year; last year I caused lots of losses to myself by over-using the swarms for brood - bad mistake)
    * don't get lazy setting up the hives for the winter (don't expect the winter to be mild - no matter the precedence)
    * mite-hardy bees are not the same as winter-hardy bees (just a possibility of the both traits being there)

    Overall - out of 9 lost units, only three units showed clear mite-related issues (#11, #13, #14).
    The six other units lost units were due to combinations of many factors (poor beekeeping/equipment, hard winter/low winter-hardiness of the bee, late/weak nucs).
    So, really, I am not blaming mites that much at all for my losses.

    Only ~33% (3 of 9) of the 2019 winter loss in my case I would account for mite-related issues clear-cut.
    The remainder of the loss (~66%) is really a multi-factor loss.
    Mite could also be in the mix - but not a clear cut.
    Some cases are clearly not mite related at all (#2, #5, #7, #8).

    Depending on the stock on hand/management practices, this entire mite-issue maybe overblown to a degree.
    The significant part of the loss is really are more basic issues (beekeeper, equipment, weather, poor winter-hardiness, anything else).
    I will give it a generous 50/50 for mite/no mite loss causation.
    OK, the game goes on.

    PS: according to the latest local chatter, even more "Russian" packages are coming to the area this spring;
    this is great - I will be chasing these "Russians" and see what comes along;
    I may even save a couple of un-needed "Russian" queens from the locals (almost expect questions soon about what to do with their "mean" bees);
    once they realize they got some "mean" bees and working them in shorts/T-shirt is no longer possible, some people are going to scream, hehehe ...
    Last edited by GregV; 04-01-2019 at 09:44 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  8. #167
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    Some lessons:
    * must quarantine the swarms before using them for any splits/brood (I did better this year; last year I caused lots of losses to myself by over-using the swarms for brood - bad mistake)
    * don't get lazy setting up the hives for the winter (don't expect the winter to be mild - no matter the precedence)
    * mite-hardy bees are not the same as winter-hardy bees (just a possibility of the both traits being there)
    Good report, GregV. I appreciated reading your status update and conclusions you drew from the overwintering success/failure.

    Your idea of 'quarantining' swarms seems prudent to me both from the disease perspective and also as a way of evaluating suitability for propagation.

    Based on your moisture/cleansing issues, do you expect upper entrances will be the standard set-up for you going forward?
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  9. #168
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    Good report, GregV. I appreciated reading your status update and conclusions you drew from the overwintering success/failure.

    Your idea of 'quarantining' swarms seems prudent to me both from the disease perspective and also as a way of evaluating suitability for propagation.

    Based on your moisture/cleansing issues, do you expect upper entrances will be the standard set-up for you going forward?
    Russ, I think indeed I will now be keeping mixed upper/lower entrances.
    For sure for my USDA Zone 4/5 case, during the cold season, availability of auxiliary upper entrance may make or break the game.
    There were border-line days when upper exit available could mean bees able to get out to poop.
    I feel bad to loose two valuable units this way.
    At least one of these (#2 above) being in a sunny location could have flown out on a couple of occasions (they did not).
    On those borderline days difference between bottom/upper entrance is significant (bottom entrance is too cold; the upper entrance is warm enough).

    #7 dead out had a good entrance configuration.
    Bees in this exact hive wintered fine last year.
    Given, there was actually ice on the bottom of the hive, I suspect there was some leak into the hive when melting snow/rain could be tricking inside.
    Really, should not be wintering bees in temp summer hives (basically swarm traps) but I had no better hives in fall (and got too lazy in winter when free boxes came up - these dead bees are on me).
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  10. #169
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    Some lessons:
    * must quarantine the swarms before using them for any splits/brood (I did better this year; last year I caused lots of losses to myself by over-using the swarms for brood - bad mistake)
    * don't get lazy setting up the hives for the winter (don't expect the winter to be mild - no matter the precedence)
    * mite-hardy bees are not the same as winter-hardy bees (just a possibility of the both traits being there)
    Great report Greg! Love the details, images, and analysis. Looking forward to following the survivors progress throughout the year.

  11. #170
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    ... these dead bees are on me).
    GregV: Thank you for your reply. I can certainly identify with this sentiment. With all the various factors that one can employ in their management, it seems that the first and most foundational precept is to, ''do no harm". I am still learning how to follow this, before even considering how to provide beneficial husbandry. That is why I enjoy and appreciate everyone being willing to post what works (and what doesn't) as a means for us all to benefit from the experience gained.

    Thanks again for the updates, and best of success to you this year.

    Russ

  12. #171
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by nickhefferan View Post
    Great report Greg! Love the details, images, and analysis. Looking forward to following the survivors progress throughout the year.
    Sure thing.
    This TF/local adaptation/swarm chasing project is fun as for me.

    PS:
    in the end, I got to harvest few pounds of honey off the recent dead-outs;
    kids/wife are happy again, since we were out;
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  13. #172
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    GregV: Thank you for your reply.........Russ
    Sure thing, Russ.

    We all could use some fresh swarms.
    I hope you catch few good ferals!
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  14. #173
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    We all could use some fresh swarms.
    I hope you catch few good ferals!
    Thanks, GregV. I hope so too- it has turned cold here again so things have slowed down. Thankfully we dodged a bullet last night with lows near 28 degrees F with most stone fruit in full bloom and a lot of pomes beginning to bloom in earnest. No swarms for me in March, though judging the bloom cues it appears we are generally a week to 10 days behind where we were last year. We'll see!

  15. #174
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Down to 4.

    These bees failed too as they could not come out the March/April critical population dive.
    The winter bee is dropping off and they must produce the sufficient replacement in timely fashion OR collapse.

    #10 - Alive - a July queen of the TF(same line as #4).
    Lost a lot of bee, maybe partially due to sitting in a temp, plywood hive.
    Started on 7 frames, but now reduced to just 3 frames.
    Again - winter-hardiness issue with the bees wearing out (a better insulated hive vs. plywood could have helped - maybe).
    They were hammered so badly over the winter - ran out of life energy staying afloat - could not raise the replacement bees quickly enough and in time.
    So the winter bees dropped off - all brood in progress perished without cover - no bees left to keep it warm.
    Queen dropped off.

    I don't see mite being an issue here either.
    Most issues about winter-hardiness (and some beekeeping ways) this year in my program.
    Last edited by GregV; 04-12-2019 at 04:29 PM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  16. #175
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Hi Greg , Bummer sorry for the late loss . Did they have feed left? I lost a big hive that should been fine, odd year.
    GG

  17. #176
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gray Goose View Post
    Hi Greg , Bummer sorry for the late loss . Did they have feed left? I lost a big hive that should been fine, odd year.
    GG
    Feed I supplemented with dry feed on top.
    Also, there was plenty taken from the dead for the survivors.

    Just winter bees ran out too early and spring bees did not come out in time.
    Kind of like on this great picture from Randy Oliver (to be slightly adjusted for us - but close enough):
    BeeAgeClassesOver1Year.jpg

    So yes, it feels as if I had pretty good mite-hardy stock this season.
    But not good enough winter-hardy stuff - so took almost all my losses into spring.
    March/April was the real hammer for me.
    But I have enough stock on hand to rebuild from.
    Will be chasing those swarms for sure, to get any honey this year!
    Bah!
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  18. #177
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Status update:

    #1 - Alive - random late-July swarm.
    A weak colony.
    These guys lost a queen sometimes in late March/early April.
    No idea how, as I did not really look inside much at all to pinch it until first week of April.
    Found many emergency cells in early April when taking off dry sugar remnants and reviewing the status.
    This resulted in an interesting experiment - super early abnormal mating attempt - which worked out to my surprise.

    After talking to few local folks, decided to ride it out and just see if the virgin would mate out (very low chances in April here - basically still semi-winter).
    The darn thing did mate somehow (was about one good week in late April and it was enough).
    The drones most certainly imported with the packages, not local (less than ideal case).

    The queen looks small and not laying in a nice pattern as for me, but maybe she is still too young and still growing and just getting started (or not really - TBD).

    In any case - if I get some honey out of these puppies this summer - they served their purpose.
    I will not propagate this line by design (maybe will do cut-down split in late June, mostly for the honey production purposes).

    #3 - Alive - July daughter of the #2.
    A weak colony due to heavy losses in March (almost pooped to death), but now healthy and building.
    I am sure they will build-up very well to make July starts out of this line.
    Will propagate by design in late June/early July due to presumed so far mite-hardiness (the lacking winter hardiness will hopefully mate in from the local drones).
    Not the best choice, but a good choice for expansion.

    #4 - Alive - July queen off my other TF line #2.
    Very strong at about 120 liters of volume packed by bees (this is late April in WI).
    Good propagation material due to presumed mite-hardiness and winter-hardiness (both).

    On May 5th I did the OTS-style split and took the queen away into a weak split just to defuse the swarming pressure (and maybe get some dandelion honey too).
    So the queen-less unit should work now for honey production.

    In late June/early July will create as many starts as I can from this #4 queen.
    This will be my #1 bet on the expansion side.

    #6 - Alive - a random June swarm
    A weak but healthy colony.
    Should build up nicely for the mid-summer flow however and should make some honey.
    May do a cut-down split targeting for July production.

    Overall, 5 active units is plenty just about now.
    Hopefully, there will be 3-4 swarms landing too.
    There should be about 15 units of various traits and sizes going into the winter again (the goal) - plenty for a suburban peasant.
    Some honey would be good this summer; I will work towards that this season (did not last season).
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  19. #178
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    Status update:
    Enjoyed reading your update, GregV. I am impressed that you have a full year goal and specific matrices to assess against.

    Best of success to you in your propagation and swarm trapping efforts.

  20. #179
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Well, well...
    All the while I have been planting my vegetables, my own bees are ready to split on me.
    I was meaning to install honey super onto this puppies as the July flow is almost here.
    What do I see?
    They are set and ready to take off.

    Well, the darn queen is nowhere to be found (not laying either - ready to fly off).
    Entire hive is in swarming mood.
    Foundantion-less blanks are still that - blanks (no work is done).
    Forget the honey supers now.
    Swarm interception project on hands instead.

    Moved all frames (lots of QCs) into a couple of stand-by nucs (checked really well for the queen to not be there - well, I missed the queens before many times; need to go back and check again tomorrow).
    Dumped all the bees in front of the hives and left them there for the night (rainy night too).
    Letting them sit outside tonight and think about their behavior.
    20190622_200744.jpg
    Pretty sure rain will chaise them inside - the hive is empty - only blank top bars and a couple of frames with brood in the current honey super (she went up there too).
    This is kind of a anti-swarming shock therapy some Euro people posted on Youtube - dump them all outside and take the frames away.
    Will see if work for me.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  21. #180
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    Default Re: GregV's Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    LOL Greg. Sounds like we need a new forum entitled "retaliatory beekeeping" or "getting back at the bees". Best of luck.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

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