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  1. #561
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    Sorry, GregV.

    This is where I think that those of us at lower latitudes have a much easier time attempting treatment-free, but I could certainly be mistaken.

    We have only had two nights in the teens thus far down here, and lots of flying hours to-date.
    It is what it is.

    Over Nov/Dec/Jan so far we had:
    - 15 nights in the teens F
    - 12 nights in the singles F
    Nov2019.jpg
    Dec2019.jpg
    Jan2020.jpg
    No negatives F yet, but the coldest time around here is usually Jan/Feb.
    So now comes along the winter hardiness test - the double-whammy.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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  3. #562
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    It is what it is.
    This I understand. The comparison of nighttime lows between your locale and mine does underscore the difference in overwintering dynamics North versus South, though it looks like you and I are fairly close in Longitude.
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  4. #563
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    Good advice- I am storing this back for next time. Will certainly save me a lot of headaches and mess...
    Russ also a laZy mans way to do C&S leave an inch or so of comb, then take 1/2 that away making whats left uncapped and to a point at the edge. place upside down over a cookie sheet overnight to drain, let the bees clean it up like the wet frames from extract. then the starter is done for next year.CScomb1_20180612_083113_2114.jpgCScomb2_20180612_083040_3345.jpg

  5. #564
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    This I understand. The comparison of nighttime lows between your locale and mine does underscore the difference in overwintering dynamics North versus South, though it looks like you and I are fairly close in Longitude.
    I have been thinking about this. A big problem further north is not just the cold but the length of the no-brood period. In the warm south, the time for winter bees is short; there are always at least a few new bees.

    One really bad effect of varroa is that it shortens the life of bees. In the south, with new brood coming on pretty much all the time, with no or only a short winter brood break, it isn't so important that the winter bee's life span is shorter. But we can have no new bees from November through February or even longer as you go north. 4+ months the winter bees have to survive, and then another month while they forage in the spring with little to no help from new bees. If varroa pressure is high, few bees will survive and you get puny spring clusters that can barely support new brood.

  6. #565
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by AR1 View Post
    I have been thinking about this. A big problem further north is not just the cold but the length of the no-brood period. In the warm south, the time for winter bees is short; there are always at least a few new bees.

    One really bad effect of varroa is that it shortens the life of bees. In the south, with new brood coming on pretty much all the time, with no or only a short winter brood break, it isn't so important that the winter bee's life span is shorter. But we can have no new bees from November through February or even longer as you go north. 4+ months the winter bees have to survive, and then another month while they forage in the spring with little to no help from new bees. If varroa pressure is high, few bees will survive and you get puny spring clusters that can barely support new brood.
    As well these "puny clusters" become very susceptible to low temps and wear out exceedingly quickly just trying to maintain the cluster core temp.

    What happened with the last dead nuc - was an excellent cluster going into the winter.
    Well, the cluster attrition was too great over the November/December.
    I found a grapefruit size cluster remainder frozen in-place with no stores reachable to them.
    They could not even take advantage of the dry sugar over the head.

    A viable small cluster down South is pretty much doomed up here (you can not just feed the small cluster through the winter here - it will trivially freeze anyway).

    So, this is partly what I observe - this is a double-jeopardy game for me (compared to the TF games down South).
    Indeed, playing a TF game in the Northern suburbia is a disadvantage up front - my case study.
    Last edited by GregV; 01-22-2020 at 08:54 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  7. #566
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    As well these "puny clusters" become very susceptible to low temps and wear out exceedingly quickly just trying to maintain the cluster core temp.

    What happened with the last dead nuc - was an excellent cluster going into the winter.
    Well, the cluster attrition was too great over the November/December.
    I found a grapefruit size cluster remainder frozen in-place with no stores reachable to them.
    They could not even take advantage of the dry sugar over the head.

    A viable small cluster down South is pretty much doomed up here (you can not just feed the small cluster through the winter here - it will trivially freeze anyway).

    So, this is partly what I observe - this is a double-jeopardy game for me (compared to the TF games down South).
    Indeed, playing a TF game in the Northern suburbia is a disadvantage up front - my case study.
    Greg, would it make sense to combine in the fall 2 or 3 small clusters and then split in the spring. If the little ones all perish then in the spring you have nothing to start from.
    If 6 were to be combined into 2 hives and 1 survived, then you would at least have something to start splits again with. Well good luck with the swarm trapping. I also have "many" small ones this year and have the proverbial fingers crossed. I made 6 late splits, I am seeing dead bees in front of 3 of them in the snow so I will get maybe 1/2 if I am lucky.
    GG

  8. #567
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gray Goose View Post
    Greg, would it make sense to combine in the fall 2 or 3 small clusters and then split in the spring. If the little ones all perish then in the spring you have nothing to start from.
    If 6 were to be combined into 2 hives and 1 survived, then you would at least have something to start splits again with. Well good luck with the swarm trapping. I also have "many" small ones this year and have the proverbial fingers crossed. I made 6 late splits, I am seeing dead bees in front of 3 of them in the snow so I will get maybe 1/2 if I am lucky.
    GG
    Well, I am also observing how many apparently strong clusters early November very quickly dissolve in a matter of just weeks and are gone by XMass.
    Unsure if the conventional combines are the answer.
    One issue with the forced combines is that when you combine high mite-infested cluster with a low mite-infested cluster - you just end up having a single ~high mite-infested cluster (and, basically, doom it).
    Also consider a likely loss a better queen to a worse one - from the resistance point, not the general point - which could be very much different - I don't care for the generally good, but low in resistance queens.

    So, IF I see a 4-frame cluster in October - it is a good enough cluster to try for it - a healthy cluster of this size should winter (as long as the attrition is not precipitous).
    But the margin of loss tolerance is low, of course.
    25-30% attrition will push this 4-frame cluster over the viability threshold - impossible to tell beforehand how the attrition will go.

    As much as I hate doing it - but mite counts maybe an answer to identify the worthwhile wintering units vs. the low-value units.

    It is puzzling how different the open-mated daughters of the same exact queen turn - some crash and burn quickly and yet the others are holding - the same mother and the similar mite loads that come from the mother hive.

    Hate killing the bees for alcohol washes, but the count information could be useful long-term (especially in the nucs - where the counts could be really valuable - and yet every 1/2 cup of bees does matter for the colony).
    For example, two low-mite nucs could be fine to combine.
    But low-mite and high-mite nucs should not be combines.
    This way I can see a value in the mite counts.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  9. #568
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gray Goose View Post
    Russ also a laZy mans way to do C&S leave an inch or so of comb, then take 1/2 that away making whats left uncapped and to a point at the edge. place upside down over a cookie sheet overnight to drain, let the bees clean it up like the wet frames from extract. then the starter is done for next year.CScomb1_20180612_083113_2114.jpgCScomb2_20180612_083040_3345.jpg
    Good post, Gray Goose. Thank you for the advice. That is some good looking comb you've got there for your starter...
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  10. #569
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    This way I can see a value in the mite counts.
    Good points, GregV. I've appreciated reading the back-and-forth.

    While I will be the first to admit that mite drop counts likely cannot hope to tell you the whole story about what is going on internally, it seems logical to me to at least have some point of reference to compare across seasons, colonies and years.

    It will be interesting to see what, if any patterns emerge when one consistently evaluates mite drops on regular intervals. Maybe this combined with approximate cluster size at a specific date (say October 1st) could serve as a good proxy for a 'go-no-go' decision to overwinter a colony 'as-is'?
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  11. #570
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    A little off-topic, but this is generally what I am doing - growing my foods without chems (with the side-affect of not damaging the pollinator population).

    The chem-free apple growing - using zip-lock bags.
    So this is an alternative way to grow your own apples (and any hard fruit) on a small scale - five semi-dwarf apple trees about 4 meters high in my case.

    The original idea comes from: https://gordosoft.com/orchard/bagging.htm
    However, after many years of doing it I made my own modifications.
    I am sure my way is much more efficient than the original - very important if you are to bag ~ 1000 apples by hand.

    You do the bagging one time only - when the fruit-lets are the size of a small/medium grape.
    Conveniently, you also thin the fruit at once (apple should be thinned for good quality fruit).
    So this is a double-procedure done once per the season - thinning/bagging.
    I would not do it on full-size trees, but semi-dwarf/dwarf trees are perfect.

    I would state the bagging is ~90% effective against coddling moth and apple maggots - the main apple pests in my area.

    Details:

    - it takes exactly three small snips at a ziplock bag - 2 corners and 1 cut across the flap/lock
    -- (ONLY one flap, not both - the original method suggest cutting through both locks and also cutting off the flaps - a bad, bad idea and makes for a terrible installation process later)
    -- my pics show well what and how needs to be cut
    -- I would NOT recommend following the video posted on https://gordosoft.com/orchard/bagging.htm
    - double-zip sandwich bags from Walmart (the generic type) are the best - or find similar product (here I agree with the https://gordosoft.com/orchard/bagging.htm)
    - let me repeat - don't cut off anything else - If you cut the flaps off you'd have a terrible time opening the bags later, for the installation and also to get the fruit out
    -- you want the process easy and efficient if you are to bag hundreds of apples while maneuvering in the tree

    - the moisture inside the bag - a non-issue;
    -- a healthy fruit does not care - the fungal disease will not set on a healthy apple (it is a myth) - see my pics
    - the sun will not bake the apple - that is another myth;
    - sometimes a bag just breaks when due to the weather or the apple pressure; usually this is late in the season and the apple ends up clean and well preserved
    - most fruit-let damage before you bag is irrelevant - plum curculio beetle is a major example - it only leaves behind a cosmetic damage, a scar - the growing apple will crush the beetle larvae inside it
    - earwigs sometimes get inside the bag - they don't damage the apple and a non-issue

    - I harvest store the apples directly in the zip bags - perfect storage - they don't go bad and they also don't shrivel, just requires a cool place as for normal apple storage
    -- yes - the bags are plastic, but this is food-grade plastic and you'd still wash them before using

    - good quality bags go 2-3 season before breaking up; poor quality bags should last a season just fine.

    Pics:
    20191009_175337.jpg
    20191009_175450.jpg
    20191009_175416.jpg
    20191009_175539.jpg
    20191009_175725.jpg
    Last edited by GregV; 02-07-2020 at 10:35 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  12. #571
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    More pics.
    This is the failed fruit - it never grew.
    The pics show how the grape-size fruit should be zipped in.
    Very tight seal around the fruit-let leg; and yet it does not choke it.
    You also don't want the zip-locks to be applied across the fruit leg - they will likely damage it while installing and the effort is wasted
    20191009_175305.jpg
    20191009_175318.jpg
    Last edited by GregV; 02-07-2020 at 10:05 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  13. #572
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    A little off-topic, but this is generally what I am doing - growing my foods without chems (with the side-affect of not damaging the pollinator population).
    GregV:

    I am always impressed with how good your orchard products look. I have a mighty difficult time with my orchard down here...
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  14. #573
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    GregV:

    I am always impressed with how good your orchard products look. I have a mighty difficult time with my orchard down here...
    Russ do you have chickens?? And the grass is always greener.....Nitrates help, just sayin. locate a farmer with a 4-6 year old pile you can mulch with.

  15. #574
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    In Japan I saw many fruits bagged with paper bags. The rain didn't seem to cause any problems.

  16. #575
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gray Goose View Post
    Russ do you have chickens?? And the grass is always greener.....Nitrates help, just sayin. locate a farmer with a 4-6 year old pile you can mulch with.
    Thanks, Gray Goose. In fairness I only started putting an orchard out last year and and lost a lot of trees to overly aggressive pruning... lots to learn.
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  17. #576
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    March 1st (still winter here).

    Bad news - I am down to 3 units as of yesterday (3/19; 16%)
    Good news - 2 of the 3 are of my best "survivor" line (the 3rd winter is almost over; I don't think their persistence is a random chance given all the hell I gave them).
    Interestingly, both are early June anti-swarming splits (not the July splits - all my July splits are dead).
    Early splits maybe a better bet in my area vs. the late splits.
    This summer will be dedicated to propagating these bees.

    The other unit just a random surviving swarm of unknown heritage - to early to say anything except for letting them tag along.

    Lesson learned - should probably start counting mites in later summer and selectively combine some units with lower nite counts into stronger units for winter.
    The repeated attempts to winter smaller nucs are not working too well for me (lost two maybe worthwhile nucs just over the February - caught too late to insert the heaters in and they froze).
    Probably should target for a lower number of stronger units going into the winter (not 20 dinks).
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  18. #577
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    How small were the smaller nucs?

    My 2 nucs seem to be doing very well. A single 5-frame deep for each of them. On top is a second nuc stuffed with insulation. Walls are one inch (true one inch, not lumber sizing). Small bottom entrance. Sugar on top of frames all winter. No extra insulation on the side walls. I plan to make a bunch of these this year since it is working. Of course, this has been an unusually mild winter here, and your winters are considerably colder, longer.

  19. #578
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    Early splits maybe a better bet in my area vs. the late splits.
    This summer will be dedicated to propagating these bees.

    ...

    Probably should target for a lower number of stronger units going into the winter (not 20 dinks).
    GregV:

    Sorry to hear about the winnowing in your apiary this Winter.

    While I don't know too much, your goals for 2020 seem prudent to me.

    I do look forward to continuing to read your chronicles, and I sincerely hope for better outcomes this year, suggesting progress in your local genetic profile.

    Best of luck to you this year.

    Russ
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  20. #579
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by AR1 View Post
    How small were the smaller nucs?

    My 2 nucs seem to be doing very well. A single 5-frame deep for each of them. On top is a second nuc stuffed with insulation. Walls are one inch (true one inch, not lumber sizing). Small bottom entrance. Sugar on top of frames all winter. No extra insulation on the side walls. I plan to make a bunch of these this year since it is working. Of course, this has been an unusually mild winter here, and your winters are considerably colder, longer.
    These smaller nucs entered the winter as strong 5-6 frame units.
    But the attrition was too massive and I found the residual clusters at 1-2 frames only (with these sizes no amount of insulation could help anymore during our deep cold snaps).
    Wintered inside this insulated rig (essentially, I have a double-wall winter hive that takes 3 nucs inside):
    20161127_132610.jpg

    I should have proactively checked them in early February (our harshest winter month here) and put them on the life-support (got heater inserts).
    This is regardless of the temp monitoring (which was fine until the very collapse) and the dry sugar on top.

    These 2 nucs were wintering in the backyard and I had all the means to save them - and didn't.
    So that is a bummer, to loose worthwhile units in February after making that far.

    But again, a healthy unit should not have such high winter attrition; somehow my remaining survivors clearly hold fine.
    So I should starting counting the mites as a forecasting tool - so to know which units are truly worthwhile saving and which should be let go.
    Last edited by GregV; 03-02-2020 at 10:11 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  21. #580
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    Default Re: Alternative way to keep (have?) bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    GregV:
    ......
    Best of luck to you this year.

    Russ
    Thanks; it should be a good year 2020.
    I got lots of leftover resources to jump start any number of new units I wish to do in 2020.
    Lots of housing is available for any new swarms that land as well.

    So over the 4 winters now (the first winter I don't count as a throw-away case), I had about 10 different bee lines (between 40 and 50 units in sum) come and go - all of these died off in the end.
    But I can now certify I have a line on hand that consistently survived through 3 winters somehow.
    Can still be a random case, but after 3 winters the randomness of survival is harder to attribute now as the various bees around kept predictably failing.

    However, they seem to be surviving consistently at only one of my yards - to be noted.
    This particular location - ecologically clean private preserve with good acreage and surrounded with similar land use properties.
    However, not isolated with another small beekeeper just across a road from me; he is a conventional beek.

    At the same time, I now have yards where the bees are consistently failing year after year (even the bees of the "survivor" line).
    What I originally considered a "good" yard did not have a single unit wintering yet after 3 years (maybe the over-saturation is the problem; I always end up with too many units there).

    My local partner here has a line that tested over 5 years TF by now.
    We should be able to create some good material between his 5-year line and my 3-year line.
    Talking about it.
    Last edited by GregV; 03-02-2020 at 10:40 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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