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  1. #121
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    Default Re: Treatment-Free Bungling 2018 - ?

    Quote Originally Posted by clong View Post
    Cleo Hogan Jr has a nice pdf on how to do this.
    clong- you read my mind! I actually e-mailed Mr. Hogan this morning and asked him for advice on securing some genetics from this hive exactly as you suggested. He and I communicated this summer, and being a fellow Kentucky guy, I knew he must be alright .

    I'm with you on preserving the existing colony- my hope would be to utilize an existing 10-frame medium box I have, fill it with drawn comb and let them properly provision it early in the Spring, trying to time my removal such that there are stores, pollen and fresh eggs in the box and hopefully no queen.

    Then, just bring it back to the house, let them make a new queen, and I'm off to the races (sounds real easy as I type it, but I know better...)

    Great suggestion- thanks for the advice.

    Russ

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  3. #122
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    Default Re: Treatment-Free Bungling 2018 - ?

    Russ
    Great question, clong. I'll be interested in people's thoughts on this question too. Certainly seems reasonable that your efforts to insulate your hives might make an appreciable difference in this regard.



    I have an opinion but what I write should be taken as uninformed opinion so that no one gets hurt following it.

    Abby warre, who lived in a warmer climate then me believed that thin wall was better due to being more responsive to the outside temp. It would warm quicker during the day but cool quicker also. He was big on how much stores the bees used during winter and wanted to keep them as low as possible. He also wanted smaller entrances and to provide air but not too much.

    I read a study that I could not find now and if I read it right, it was comparing 2 inch wood to 1 inch wood. I thought it was saying that there was more disease in the thicker walled hives.

    I have settled on solid bottom, thin wall, no wrap and two inch insulation on the top of the hive. My thoughts in this are that the colder sides of the hive are where condensation would happen and it would hopefully be dryer above the cluster. I keep hearing the cold is not what kills the bees but more it is the water that might drip on them.

    So, if combs need to be 45 degrees for the cluster to use the stores in them, it makes a certain sense to me that thin walls allowing they sun to make it more responsive to warming up inside the hive would allow the cluster to move to food sources. I do think having a bit of a wind block to the north would be a good thing.

    None of this makes me right on any of this, it is just stuff that I used to try and come up with what I would do until I found it did not work. Last year was not the super low temps that I have seen but was colder with fewer flying days during winter and it worked for me.

    I have also seen studies where they put bees in super cold situations to see how long they lived. Bees do pretty good. I am not like member MLS who can find back all the things he reads. I read and try to remember but the actual studies get lost never to be found again by me.
    I try and remember correctly but may not even be able to read what is actually being said. So take what I wrote here with that in mind.
    Cheers
    gww
    zone 5b

  4. #123
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    Default Re: Treatment-Free Bungling 2018 - ?

    Quote Originally Posted by gww View Post
    Abby warre, who lived in a warmer climate then me believed that thin wall was better due to being more responsive to the outside temp. It would warm quicker during the day but cool quicker also. He was big on how much stores the bees used during winter and wanted to keep them as low as possible. He also wanted smaller entrances and to provide air but not too much.
    GWW:

    Thank you for your response- funny you should make this point, clong, GregV and I were just discussing this same thing last week:

    https://www.beesource.com/forums/sho...29#post1684729

  5. #124
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    Default Re: Treatment-Free Bungling 2018 - ?

    Russ
    Now that you bring it up, I remember reading that as it was written.
    Cheers
    gww
    zone 5b

  6. #125
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    Default Re: Treatment-Free Bungling 2018 - ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    1. At the risk of unfounded optimism, experiment with checkerboarding at least one overwintered hive.
    I am going to gladly reveal my ignorance on this topic, in hopes that the many sage beekeepers who frequent this forum will steer my aright on this subject- namely, the idea of backfilling the honey dome.

    For background, Mr. Walt Wright's foundational principle (as I understand it) relative to Checkerboarding is that a colonies' first priority after successfully overwintering is to replenish their critical reserve stores (if necessary) to best position them for continued survival.

    Their second priority is to begin backfilling the top of their volume in preparations to cast a reproductive swarm.

    Taking these two hypotheses as fact, it makes me wonder about the relative effectiveness (or maybe more accurately the need) to Checkerboard as a swarm mitigation strategy based on where in their volume a colony decides to overwinter. There is so much I do not understand about how or why a colony decides to set-up shop in a specific location within their volume for the winter, but as a practical matter I see the "Tale of Two Cities" emerging with the two hives I have left at present.

    Specifically, one appears to be clustered in the 2nd of 5 medium 8-frame boxes. Assuming they prevail this winter, the idea of Checkerboarding becomes textbook, whereby you dig down through the stack until you find the top of the cluster, and you alternate stores and empty drawn comb above that. In theory, they will now have loads of room for the brood nest to expand upward, and will have a devil of a time backfilling this same area before Reproductive Cut-Off, thus mitigating swarm propagation.

    Alternatively, the other colony seems to have contented itself with setting-up in the very top of the stack. As they eat through stores this winter, they have nowhere to go but down (o.k. left and right too, but you get my point). Should they be left to their own devices, will they simply backfill the area emptied by their Winter consumption, cast a swarm and fail to move down?

    Obviously one can (and maybe should) move the cluster down in the stack to get them set-up for Checkerboarding above, but the concept intrigues me. If (and this is a big if) the colony clustered at the top survives and is left to their own devices this spring, what does the hive cross-section look like when backfilling begins?

  7. #126
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    Default Re: Treatment-Free Bungling 2018 - ?

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    Put me on the list.
    but that gets us back to the valid part of the point you were making greg.

    there's no guaranty that our local strain will perform in a similar manner at your location.

    even worse, after a generation or two the bees will have pretty much reverted back to whatever it is that you have around up there.

    my guess is you will get more bang for you buck if you can locate and trap out or collect swarms from any unmanaged colonies you might have lurking around.

    short of that propagate like crazy from the best you guys come up with and do what you can to influence the gene pool, (which is what i believe you have said you're trying to do).
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  8. #127
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    Default Re: Treatment-Free Bungling 2018 - ?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    but that gets us back to the valid part of the point you were making greg.

    there's no guaranty that our local strain will perform in a similar manner at your location....
    Ah!
    But you know what, so far I am liking the "Arkansas bees" that go into the second winter for me.
    With bees it is all about inputs into the melting pot.
    Bees are all about melting pot (if given a chance).

    Any good inputs should improve chances for fine outputs under the circumstances.
    I am all about variety placed into a set of circumstances.

    But here, let me state another point.
    As the USA is basically much larger case of the same old Russian Far East, the current location of population does not matter much (unlike in the traditional Old World places where the historic locations still matter).

    You see, in the Old World, the traditional AMMs will never be placed in Italy or North Africa.
    Such migrations are impossible due to administrative and traditional obstacles.

    In the USA, to compare, bee migrations have no rhyme or reason.
    Warm climate Italians are shipped to Alaska (terrible fit).
    The Russains are placed into study in subtropics where they just do not belong.
    AMMs should never exist in the subtropical locations.
    The AHB should never exist up North (but I am pretty darn sure, there is some generic presence of AHBs here too - thanks to the bee package shipping).

    In many ways, this is a huge mess.
    However, all this illogical mess actually forces adaptation and produces strange results (some bad and some good).

    With that - your "Alabama bee" can totally produce unexpected results in WI.
    It may croak OR it may actually flourish OR anything in between.
    They just as well have enough "Russian" blood in them that will only benefit from colder climate placement.
    In addition, their inputs into the melting pot should have some effect as well.

    Only live testing will show.
    Theoretical are pretty much meaningless.
    Last edited by GregV; 12-18-2018 at 09:16 PM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  9. #128
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    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    3. Experiment with the most appropriate means to increase the brood density in 8-frame medium boxes- likely through employing narrow frames.
    This evening, I took a stab at this concept, following the general principles laid-out so well (as always) by Mr. Michael Bush:

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesframewidth.htm

    Practically speaking, I followed TheOhioCountyBoy's video instructions here:

    https://youtu.be/rca3V7WOfLk

    With the Hoffman frames I have, the resultant product were top-bars and the lower-half of the end-bars having a frame-to-frame spacing of 3/16". My initial concern is that this might induce propolizing between the end-bars, so I've posed that question on a narrow-frame thread here on Beesource. It might require shaving the lower edges down too to maintain a gap of at least 1/4"

    Otherwise, the distance between the last end-bar on either side and the corresponding wall is approximately 5/16".

    I'll save any extended thoughts about why I am considering narrow frames for a later post, but succinctly the hope is that it will afford higher brood densities per box, helping to accelerate early-season build-up and mitigate a colony's thrust to "climb the ladder" within an all-medium set-up. May not make a hill of beans difference, but it seemed there is little downside to this approach- at least from a brood-production standpoint.

    Narrow Frames in Box.jpg 1.25 Narrow Frame.jpg 3-16th Top Bar Spacing.jpg 3-16th End Bar Spacing.jpg Narrow Frame End Spacing.jpg
    Last edited by Litsinger; 12-19-2018 at 08:00 AM.

  10. #129
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    Default Re: Treatment-Free Bungling 2018 - ?

    I bought half a dozen nucs about 6 years ago that had frames with shaved shoulders that resulted in similar spacing to what your picture shows. I have found that the space between top bars gets to be more than 50% filled with webbed bridge comb. Not solidly filled but enough so that dropping a frame back in or sliding one up against another results in a lot of bee crushing. I did not pay attention to what was happening between lower ends of the sidebars. I no longer space them up tight.

    I made up some frames that will space 1 1/4" but the top bars are proportionately narrower as well so between top bars space still respects standard bee space. Top bar bridging is not a problem with them.

    Your local conglomeration of bee type may be more or less inclined to use bridge comb and propolis so your experience may be different. I would suggest you do not alter hundreds of your frames till you live with the results for a while. Many people deliberately run 9 frames in 10 frame boxes and trade ease of working for the possible advantages you are seeking.

    You appear to have a quite objective appraisal of results and not too likely to get sidetracked by confirmation bias. I am interested in seeing whether you find net advantage from narrow frame spacing.
    Frank

  11. #130
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    Default Re: Treatment-Free Bungling 2018 - ?

    Quote Originally Posted by crofter View Post
    I would suggest you do not alter hundreds of your frames till you live with the results for a while. Many people deliberately run 9 frames in 10 frame boxes and trade ease of working for the possible advantages you are seeking.
    Frank:

    Thank you very much for sharing your experience (and admonition) with this set-up. I sincerely appreciate it. The advice from sage beekeepers like yourself is definitely helping to inform my opinions and approaches going forward.

    In addition, your advice to "dip my toes in" is very wise- In consideration of your thoughts, I am going to be rather circumspect about trying this approach and let the results guide future decisions.

    Thank you again for sharing your experience- I am grateful.

    Russ

  12. #131
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    Default Re: Treatment-Free Bungling 2018 - ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    5. Begin moving toward a foundationless paradigm as quickly as practical.
    Based on my quite limited experience, I was pleasantly surprised at how well foundationless frames can get drawn-out and used when placed in the right location (within the broodnest) and at the right time (prior to the Summer Solstice). Thinking back, it makes sense that a colony can and will do a fine job of making foundationless comb when not negatively influenced by a bungling bee wrangler (namely me)- they are after all comb building experts.

    The two photos below are just such an example- the first being a beautiful frame of mostly drone comb (subsequently backfilled and capped) that was drawn out in the Spring after I stole a brood frame on foundation from one hive to help-out another, replacing it with an empty foundationless frame. The second photo is a foundationless frame I put in a 5-frame nuc made in early July- bad idea all the way around. The empty area is where the bees simply fattened up the adjacent frame and allowed it to pass right through the void in the foundationless frame.

    Foundationless Frame.jpg Foundationless Frame 2.jpg

    Ultimately, it seems to me that goals 3 - 6 (as previously outlined in Post #85) are quite interrelated, and I am interested in exploring this dynamic further:

    #3- Narrow Frames
    #4- Hive Cluster Dynamics
    #5- Foundationless
    #6- Systematic Comb Renewal

    I'll plan on tackling Goal #6 in the next post, trying to distill some general thoughts about how these goals might tie together... or might turn into a real hot mess.

    As always, I welcome constructive criticism and/or lessons from the, "been there, done that and got the tee-shirt" crowd.

  13. #132
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    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    6. Related to (5)- evaluate the prospects of implementing a systematic renewal of comb in the stack by possibly moving brood comb up and eventually out.
    I will apologize in advance for this verbose post, but I want to take the time to outline my thoughts at present concerning this idea and how it might relate to the following previously outlined goals:

    #3- Narrow Frames
    #4- Hive Cluster Dynamics
    #5- Foundationless
    #6- Systematic Comb Renewal

    I'll start by reiterating that I recognized this year that I did not take fullest-advantage of having the same sized box for both brood boxes and supers. When running an unlimited broodnest, you come to realize that the terms "brood box" and "super" become conventions based on colony need and the beekeeper's objectives rather than fixed entities with dedicated (and exclusive) purposes.

    That said, what might one be able to accomplish with interchangeable boxes? There are several possibilities as I see it, but the one that seemed most appealing to me was the convention of systematic comb renewal and the idea of "management by box".

    While I do not have enough experience to say whether old comb or new comb in the brood nest is better, the idea of having and option to rotate it out every few years seems like an appealing feature. For Warre proponents, this seems to be one of the tenants of his "Beekeeping for All".

    As I researched this further, I discovered that Mr. Tim Rowe in Cork, Ireland has taken this idea and adapted it, employing a modified National box to a common size for both brood boxes and supers, calling it an "OSB" or One-Sized-Box:

    http://www.rosebeehives.com/uploads/...slide_show.pdf

    https://youtu.be/dMcBiCcuC8w

    The gist is as follows:

    1. An early-season manipulation puts the brood cluster at the bottom of the stack.

    2. Once the brood is expanded into two (or more) boxes, additional boxes with new wax foundation or foundationless are added just above the bottom box and the process is repeated until the Summer Solstice.

    3. Following, boxes are added immediately above the active broodnest as required for drawing-out and subsequent backfilling.

    While I can't say with any certitude if this will be an appropriate management strategy in my specific area, I consider that it *might* help support the other goals as follows:

    #3- Narrow Frames- introducing boxes into the middle of the broodnest might support getting brood-oriented comb drawn out in a priority fashion. It might alternately hasten their abandonment of the bottom box.

    #4- Hive Cluster Dynamics- adding boxes in the middle of the broodnest might seek to stifle a colonies' push to set-up shop above the bottom couple of boxes in a higher volume set-up. Alternately, it might effectively cut-off the bottom reaches of the hive.

    #5- Foundationless- See Item #3 above. The theory is that the bees can draw out the frames in a manner most-appropriate to their brood (or storage) needs. Downside might be poorly-drawn comb that is not easily seen due to being low(er) in the stack.

    #6- Systematic Comb Renewal- It stands to reason that by introducing new volume below, boxes that move up will ultimately become strictly capped stores and will be ready for processing. Alternately, the colony might be hesitant to draw out any comb after the Solstice, so one will suffer a serious loss of surplus stores potential.

    Other objections:

    1. Adding volume in the middle of the broodnest disrupts the integrity of the nest, sets-back buildup and runs the risk of chilled brood early in the season.

    2. Capped honey will be in frames previously occupied by brood /pollen.

    3. It is more work to add boxes to the bottom of the stack versus the top.

    4. You will suffer a surplus penalty by requiring significant new comb to be drawn each year.

    5. The additional volume near the bottom invites the risk of additional SHB pressure.

    Finally, I asked Tim if he ever tried adding boxes to the very bottom of the stack in true nadiring fashion and he replied, "Yes, I have tried adding boxes to the bottom of the stack – but with very little success. The bees do build downwards, of course, but no where near as quickly or successfully as when they’re filling in the gap."

    I am still wrestling with this concept, but do find some merit in the prospect of using a single box size to its advantage in regards to interchangability.

    I will wrap-up the 2019 goals discussion tomorrow with some plans/thoughts about nucs/splits and "locally adapted" genetics in general.

    As always, I welcome any input.

  14. #133
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    Default Re: Treatment-Free Bungling 2018 - ?

    2. Once the brood is expanded into two (or more) boxes, additional boxes with new wax foundation or foundationless are added just above the bottom box and the process is repeated until the Summer Solstice.

    If I understand this correctly, once you have two brood boxes you are splitting them by putting a new box of foundation only between the 2 brood boxes? Do you think the queen will cross the undrawn foundation to expand the brood nest or will she stay in which ever brood box she is in when the boxes are separated? What are your plans for when which ever brood box perceives they are queenless and begin building queen cells?

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    Quote Originally Posted by couesbro View Post
    If I understand this correctly, once you have two brood boxes you are splitting them by putting a new box of foundation only between the 2 brood boxes? Do you think the queen will cross the undrawn foundation to expand the brood nest or will she stay in which ever brood box she is in when the boxes are separated? What are your plans for when which ever brood box perceives they are queenless and begin building queen cells?
    couesbro-

    Great reply. I appreciate your feedback and insightful questions. The reality is, I don't have a satisfactory response for either, so I need to add your questions to the "objections" list.

    In reading through Mr. Walt Wright's treatises, he stresses time and again that one should not disturb the integrity of the broodnest. As such, I am loathe to do so as well.

    I may experiment with simply adding an empty box to the very bottom of the stack and see if they are interested in drawing it out- possibly "pyramiding down" a few frames when temperatures will allow.

    At least this way I will not be bisecting the broodnest and will at least (in theory) be taking a small step toward systematic comb renewal.

    Thank you again for the great response. Please always feel welcome to share your thoughts, and Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    Russ

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    Default Re: Treatment-Free Bungling 2018 - ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    I ... e-mailed Mr. Hogan this morning and asked him for advice on securing some genetics from this hive...
    I heard back from Mr. Hogan and thought I would share his feedback:

    "The transition can be any size, and made of anything that will allow you to mate the trap with the tree. Pipes, hoses, or wooden tunnels all work
    well. Yes, the drawn comb will give the queen additional space to lay in during the rapid buildup of the colony in early Spring. Once eggs are detected in the trap, you can remove trap, or, just remove frames of bees and leave trap in place. If you want additional starts from the tree, make sure you do not relocate the queen with the trap or frames of bees. If you do, the feral colony will likely die due to no viable eggs left in the tree for them to make a new queen."

  17. #136
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    Default Re: Treatment-Free Bungling 2018 - ?

    I have no small hive beetles or wax moth, so no experience there. Putting a whole box of empty comb or foundation in the middle of the colony would seem to fly in the face of advice about adding in new space incrementally only as the bees need it.

    There have been threads in the past regarding the Rose Hives methods and they certainly raised some eyebrows. Couesbros points are amongst some of the question marks.

    The flow patterns and bee types Tim Rose deals with may not be parallel with what you will have in your location.

    The one sized box has advantages but the size is somewhere between Lang deeps and mediums. Cost/benefit analysis time....
    Frank

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    Quote Originally Posted by crofter View Post
    The one sized box has advantages but the size is somewhere between Lang deeps and mediums. Cost/benefit analysis time...
    Frank:

    As always, your feedback is most helpful and brings a great perspective. After typing-out narratively the mechanics of the Rose Hive Method and considering couesbro's thoughts (weighed with Walt's thoughts on disturbing the brood nest) makes me reconsider the costs relative to the potential benefits of such an approach... All the more dangerous when small hive beetles are thrown in the mix.

    To your point, I am ultimately looking to determine the most-productive method of employing the all eight-frame medium boxes I currently have (i.e. evaluating narrow frame spacing). To do it all over again I might have standardized on ten-frame deeps, but at present I must work with what I have.

    As mentioned in my reply to couesbro, I might try an experiment of true nadiring to the bottom of the stack, recognizing that while I may not realize significant benefit, at least I won't be inviting significant trouble.

    Again, thank you for your sage counsel- I really appreciate it.

    Russ

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    Default Re: Treatment-Free Bungling 2018 - ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    7. Cautiously consider making a few splits and nucs.
    I'll begin my thoughts on this subject by prefacing that I am a neophyte beekeeper, so please forgive my lack of understanding on the subject of systematically expanding one's apiary. At present, I am strictly hoping I don't systematically spell the demise of my apiary!

    That said, and considering the theory of "adapted local stock" I am working from a premise that if there is stock in my area that is adapted, it is as a result of natural selection and that this process is dynamic and ongoing. In other words, the race for survival is incessant, with bees and varroa (and other symbiotic species) struggling to find balance in an ever-changing biological reality.

    Starting from this basis as one's working hypothesis, how might this guide one's goals of a sustainable, managed Treatment-Free apiary? I came up with a few goals/precepts (and attendant conclusions) and I welcome other's input on this:

    1. Prime swarms from un-managed stock represent the best that natural selection has to offer at present, distilled into a mated queen who has presumably made it through peak Fall varroa build-up and has overwintered successfully. As such, the backbone of any TF apiary should include the annual introduction of new prime swarm stock, even when assuming an apiary is fully-stocked and is consistently overwintering well (big assumptions, I know).

    2. Un-managed stock may be surviving based on dynamics that are unknown or are at least under-appreciated. As such, integrating such stock into a managed environment may alter or otherwise mitigate these forces in ways that are at best not helpful and are at worst fatal. Considering this, one should seek to mimic un-managed conditions as much as are practical/attainable. This might include:

    a. Smaller overall hive volumes.
    b. More frequent swarming (i.e. no managed splits).
    c. Natural comb building (i.e. no foundation).
    d. No queen excluders.
    e. No artificial feeding (i.e. no syrup and/or pollen sub.).
    f. No honey harvest.
    g. Others?

    Obviously, many of these presumed survival mechanisms are discordant with the beekeeper's goals, so we recognize that practically speaking we can only implement these priorities to the extent that they do not unduly impact the keeper's goals/objectives.

    3. (Related to Item #2) Un-managed stock may be successfully surviving/adapting but may not exhibit traits that are beneficial, at least from the beekeeper's perspective- in other words, un-managed colonies may be successfully adapted to their local environment and part of that adaptation might include:

    a. Bad temperament.
    b. High swarm proclivity.
    c. Extensive propolization.
    d. Extended, frequent brood breaks.
    e. Insufficient surplus storage potential.
    f. High pest/virus-harboring potential (i.e. Typhoid Mary).
    g. Others?

    While I think the above may only skim the surface, it does give one a lot to chew on when considering how to go about attempting a Treatment-Free management strategy. For me at least (my limited experience duly acknowledged), it is currently represented by the following guiding principles (subject to change at any time as conditions and observations warrant):

    1. Hive as much local swarm stock as possible, regardless of initial observations of fitness. As an example, one of the swarms I caught this year came in with mites, and immediately exhibited mite drops. I elected to leave them to their own devices and by all subsequent observational mite evaluations they continued to exhibit a low-level mite load throughout the season.

    2. Allow all hived stock to persist as they are able, despite exhibiting traits that might not be best-suited for a managed apiary.

    3. Seek to grow the apiary primarily on the basis of hived prime swarms rather than managed splits and nucs.

    4. Attempt to utilize foundationless and renew comb as much as practical.

    5. Utilize an unlimited broodnest approach.

    6. Seek to avoid supplemental feeding unless necessary for survival.

    7. Related to #6, be more circumspect about taking a honey harvest, maybe only taking in the late fall (i.e. November here) when final stores can be accurately assessed.

    Again, these goals are subject to change but are presented as a "proof of concept". Should the stock prove viable over a sufficient period of time, one then might feel confident to begin selectively breeding for traits with the admonition that these efforts could possibly run-afoul of natural selection's race for survival.

    I am way outside of my depth regarding this discussion, so I invite the feedback and perspective of the more learned minds on this august forum.

    Thank you all for your help and advice.

    Russ
    Last edited by Litsinger; 12-20-2018 at 11:52 AM.

  20. #139
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    Default Re: Treatment-Free Bungling 2018 - ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post

    4. Related to (1) and (3)- consider the dynamics of what makes colonies decide where to begin overwintering in the stack and evaluate the premise that anchoring in the bottom is most-suitable to long-term survivability and productivity in my climate.

    8. A little honey wouldn't hurt.
    I thought I'd deal with both of these goals in one post as it seems intuitive to me that an un-managed colony has the means to "read" their stores and make overwintering preparations based on that reality. If I accept that premise as fact, it makes me consider how this kind of colony "intelligence" might manifest itself in a managed setting. For example:

    1. When does a colony make the decision of where within the stack to overwinter, and is this decision-making process an ongoing evaluation or is it akin to their "go / no-go" decision to cast a reproductive swarm (Walt called this the Reproductive Cut-Off Date)?

    2. Does the amount of stores left on a colony impact how early/how intensely they build-up relative to the first significant nectar availability of the season?

    3. Related to Item (2), does a perceived surplus of stores impel a colony to store more pollen in planning for an early brooding effort?

    As I understand Walt's "Nectar Management" approach, he attributed the additional storage of early nectar to a survival mechanism which is evoked by the beekeeper perforating the "honey dome" and giving the impression that their reserve overhead storage is in danger of being depleted. As such, they are literally foraging for their lives. I am curious if some of the early build-up advantages might not only be due to the survival trigger from the manipulation itself but also possibly augmented by the amount of overhead stores that are left in-place for the purposes of the manipulation?

    In discussing both the concept and the actual practice of Checkerboarding with experienced practitioners, there seem to be two common keys to successful implementation that I am often reminded of, namely:

    1. You must leave abundant stores on the colony. In my specific set-up (i.e. 8-frame mediums) and location (i.e. Western Kentucky), most suggest that a five-deep overwintering set-up is what is needed. This is more stores than is typically required to overwinter in my locale (i.e. 40 - 60 pounds).

    2. The lower in the stack that the colony decides to overwinter, the better. Practically speaking, I understand that this means the first or second box in a five-box set-up, leaving more storage volume above to Checkerboard.

    So at the risk of over-complicating this, the questions I hope to work toward answering this year are:

    1. How do I encourage a colony to overwinter low in a five-box stack without supplemental feed?

    2. When is the earliest I can remove any potential surplus beyond the five-box base and not alter their decision to overwinter lower in the stack?

    There may not be clear-cut answers to these questions, and it may have as much to do with colony genetics as anything.

    What I do know based on my current small sample size is that one colony decided fairly early in the fall to set-up shop in the second box and has not moved from this location to-date, even after I gave them an additional box of stores early this month.

    The second colony however was set-up in the third box late in the season, which happened to be the top of their volume based on what they were able to accomplish on their own this year. After I added two boxes of stores to their stack early this month, they promptly moved up to the very top of the stack.

    Based on visual observations, both colonies seem to be of similar overwintering strength, so the only obvious difference between the two is the fact that the first colony had an additional box of stores going into late fall.

    This effort also taught me that it is advisable to have a long-range focus regarding surplus honey gathering, noting that between comb-building needs and the goal of overwintering in a five-tall volume without supplemental feeding, there may be little to no "extra" honey to go around depending upon not only the flow itself but also on how many founder colonies one is trying to get positioned for five-tall overwintering.
    Last edited by Litsinger; 12-21-2018 at 12:49 PM.

  21. #140
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    Default Re: Treatment-Free Bungling 2018 - ?

    as usual russ, very good questions. i'll add my thoughts based on what i have seen happening with my bees at my location, your milage may vary.


    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    When does a colony make the decision of where within the stack to overwinter, and is this decision-making process an ongoing evaluation or is it akin to their "go / no-go" decision to cast a reproductive swarm (Walt called this the Reproductive Cut-Off Date)?
    best i can tell, it has a lot to do with how good/poor the fall nectar flow is. i.e. with a good fall flow the colonies will end up lower in the stack and provision the lower boxes with honey prior to close out.

    conversely, when the fall flow is lacking, the colonies will have to consume spring honey to accomplish the fall brooding of overwintering bees. this tends to have them closing out higher in the stack leaving more empty comb down below.


    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    Does the amount of stores left on a colony impact how early/how intensely they build-up relative to the first significant nectar availability of the season?
    if it does i haven't noticed it. the limiting factors on how quickly a colony builds up are the size of the cluster coming out of winter, along with how conducive the weather is for freeing up foragers to gather fresh pollen and nectar.


    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    ...does a perceived surplus of stores impel a colony to store more pollen in planning for an early brooding effort?
    i haven't noticed that either russ. if anything pollen appears to have a 'shelf-life' to it and it's not unusual for me to see some of last season's stale pollen getting hauled out.


    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    As I understand Walt's "Nectar Management" approach, he attributed the additional storage of early nectar to a survival mechanism which is evoked by the beekeeper..
    i haven't noticed much early nectar getting stored. it appears to me that during the build up virtually all incoming nectar along with last season's honey gets used up for brooding. a couple of other beekeepers in my area got panicky when seeing this that thinking starvation was imminent and decided to feed. i hang in there and spring starvation hasn't been an issue.


    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    You must leave abundant stores on the colony. In my specific set-up (i.e. 8-frame mediums) and location (i.e. Western Kentucky), most suggest that a five-deep overwintering set-up is what is needed. This is more stores than is typically required to overwinter in my locale (i.e. 40 - 60 pounds).
    you may have read in my thread that i am surprised how little honey gets consumed by my bees through the winter months, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15 lbs. most of the rest of the 40 lbs. or so i try to leave gets consumed during the brood up. some of those extra pounds end up getting harvested along with the new spring honey.


    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    The lower in the stack that the colony decides to overwinter, the better. Practically speaking, I understand that this means the first or second box in a five-box set-up, leaving more storage volume above to Checkerboard.
    so in the end i really don't think it matters too much where the cluster spends winter. you are going to rearrange the stack for optimal brooding when you do your checkerboarding manipulation. using all mediums makes this especially easy for you.

    the other comment i'll offer in response to your previous post is that i had bad results with trying to insert a super of foundation between the brood box(es) below and drawn honey supers above. the 'barrier' i introduced had the effect of having the colony backfill the broodnest and swarm.

    i now avoid putting any foundation out until i see new white wax being produced. i also coat the plastic foundation i use with melted cappings wax, and place the foundation super on the top of the stack. i may rotate the super down into the stack once the bees have started drawing and filling comb, moving capped honey supers ready for harvest to the top of the stack.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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