Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005
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  1. #1
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    Default Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    2019/02/10

    I spoke with SquarePeg this afternoon. He asked if I would be willing to host a thread discussing my beekeeping efforts as a treatment free beekeeper using Square Dadant hives. I agreed to do so with a caveat that I will be super busy in April and May as I also run a plant business selling tomato and pepper seedlings. I will attempt to document all major manipulations and hive maintenance work and perhaps will be able to make a video or two to show how these hives work in daily use.

    The bees I keep are from a mix of stock with most of the genetics derived from a queen I found in a swarm in 2004 that was highly mite resistant. I purchased 10 Purvis queens that were used to produce drones to mate with queens raised from my mite resistant queen. In 2006 and 2008, I deliberately pushed my bees to swarm putting a few dozen mite resistant swarms into the trees locally. Since pushing the swarms into the trees, I have been able to get queens mated with nearly 100% of them showing very high mite resistance. I had a few losses in the first 5 years due to mites. Since then, I have simply ignored mites except when someone occasionally challenged me to go hunting for them. A couple of years ago, I sampled sealed drone cells in one of my colonies searching for mites. I finally found a mite in the 127th cell. Given that the colony had roughly 1500 capped drone cells at the time, this suggests a very low number of mites in the colony probably in the range of 50 or less total. At that time in the spring, a heavily infested colony would have had more than 1000 mites.

    The bees I keep are very frugal with winter stores tending to overwinter with 3 to 4 frames of bees when clustered (remember that these are Dadant size frames). They build up very rapidly in early spring reaching swarm strength usually in mid April. I usually pull a 3 or 4 frame split out of every strong colony to prevent swarming and increase colony numbers. Most years, the split makes at least a super of surplus honey.

    My bees have a strong dose of Apis Mellifera mellifera in their background as shown by their extremely frugal wintering, increased hive defensiveness, and tendency to forage from can see to can't see. As noted above, I purchased queens from Purvis in 2005. Purvis bees have Italian and Russian in their background. I purchased 3 queens from BWeaver in 2015. BWeaver queens have Italian, Buckfast, and African Scutellata in their genetics. I also purchased a few Buckfast queens from Ferguson in Canada. I very much appreciate a Buckfast queen mated to drones from my line as they tend to be very mite resistant and very good honey producers. I am planning to use 2 queens as breeders this spring, then send them to someone else to raise from. One of them is from a 2016 daughter of an exceptionally good queen from my line. The other is a 2017 Buckfast daughter mated to drones of my line. Both have exceptionally good mite resistance and produced a very good crop of honey in 2018.

    I changed over from Langstroth equipment to Square Dadant in 2016 for all colonies. The advantages of Square Dadant are numerous with one significant disadvantage that the hive bodies are very heavy. All of the boxes, tops, and bottoms were cut from cypress by Albert Zook in Lawrenceburg, TN. I made my own frames with 32 mm end bars putting 14 frames in each Square Dadant box. Wired brood foundation was supplied by Dadant. Each frame has 3 horizontal wires to complement the vertical wires in the foundation. The frames are 11 1/4 inches deep and the boxes are 11 5/8 inches deep giving 3/8 inch for bee space between boxes. I use shallow square supers with 13 Kelley shallow frames until drawn out, then running 12 frames for honey production. This gives nice fat combs to extract. Here is Albert's address: Albert Zook, 26 Midway Road, Lawrenceburg, TN 38464

    I have a 100 gallon Kelley tank, a 50 year old Kelley stainless 4 frame extractor, and a 40 year old Kelley bee blower which I use to take off honey. The 100 gallon tank does double duty for uncapping with a strainer and filter cloth in the top. The extractor is old enough that it was made to accommodate Dadant size frames so I can extract the deeps if I choose. I use a very sharp very thin bladed kitchen knife for uncapping. It works as well as or perhaps better than a heated uncapping knife so long as I remove wax buildup occasionally.

    The only time I make sure to wear a veil is when removing honey in August. The rest of the time, I just wear a light colored t-shirt and work the bees gently to avoid disturbance. I've had a few too-hot-to-handle colonies over the years. Those colonies get requeened with a cell from a gentler queen.

    Here are a few links and notes for background reading.
    https://fergusonapiaries.on.ca/
    https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?249192 Gives background for my reasons to use 32 mm frame spacing
    https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?316006 Brother Adam's hives and some reasons I was interested in them
    https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?320011 A thread about jumbo size hives and my and shinbone's journey to get them
    https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?320759 Figuring out the number of cells in a frame for different size frames and cell sizes
    https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?321069 A discussion of hives in terms of honey production and cost efficiency
    https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?321209 8 or 10 frame configuration, actual usable brood space in different hive sizes
    https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?325985 What is really important when building a frame
    https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?327308 Large hive, small hive discussion
    https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?327565 Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages
    https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?306234 Two queen colonies and other discussion of square Dadant hives
    https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?330089 Sense of smell for varroa resistant bees
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    2019/02/10 - I had helped a friend by setting up a colony of bees for him to get started as a beekeeper. He died of a heart attack a few weeks ago and his wife asked that I take the bees back. They were in Langstroth double deep configuration. I had a Dadant deep of honey stored on a strong colony as a reserve so I could give full frames instead of having to feed syrup for any light colonies this spring. I pulled 8 frames from this reserve and put them into a Square Dadant box with top and bottom. Then I pulled the 4 frames of brood from the Langstroth hive and positioned them in the Dadant box and placed it on the stand where the Langstroth hive had been. I noted about a hundred cells of drone larvae with the oldest perhaps 8 days from the egg being laid.

    I walked by all of my colonies yesterday and verified all are alive and collecting pollen. None have died so far this winter.

    Goals for the year: My goal is to increase to 40 total colonies this year. This should be possible with judicious splitting. I need to assemble 10 more Square Dadant deep hive bodies and paint them and the tops and bottoms. I also need to paint and put foundation into at least 30 more shallow supers. I will have to assemble about 200 more Dadant 11 1/4 inch deep frames, then wire and install foundation in them.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    sincere thanks for accepting the invitation to host this thread dar and for the many excellent contributions you have made to the forum over the years.

    as best i can tell you are in the top tier of contributors when it comes to hive-years of successfully keeping bees off treatments.

    we are looking forward to hearing more about your experience with the square dadants.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    I second that sentiment. A worthy goal to achieve this level of success.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    +1
    One on my favorites reads on the BS, hands down - FP threads.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    Fusion_power:

    I will also offer my hale and hearty thanks for your willingness to share your insights here. It is largely your thoughts that have impelled me to dip my toes in the water with narrow frames.

    Looking forward to reading your chronicles.

    Russ

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    I forgot to mention above that I purchased some Carpenter queens a couple of times. They are nearly as mite resistant as my line and pretty good honey producers.

    Today is windy with heavy cloud cover and a forecast of rain. My bees are flying and collecting pollen. There is nothing for me to do at this time except assemble woodenware.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. I've always learned from your posts and look forward to learning more on this thread.
    "Sometimes the best action, with bees, is no action at all."

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    I'm glad that you have agreed to share Dar. I look forward to following your efforts.
    I am very interested in one of your "used" breeder queens. I have appreciated how your queens that squarepeg raised and were bred by my local drones have done for me. I have had good results with subsequent generations that I grafted. Carrying that forward with a breeder queen would be great.
    Working to propagate my survivors and staying treatment free USDA Zone 7b

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    2019/02/15 with temps around 60F:

    Bees were flying very heavily foraging for pollen. A strong colony at the back of my house had 20 pollen laden bees land in 5 seconds while I watched. We have abundant maple, elm, and willow bloom for foraging plus some pear trees are in full bloom. The peach trees in my yard have enlarged flower buds but have not yet opened.

    I am replacing the plastic cover of my greenhouse so have not had time to work on bee equipment for a few days. I should have it finished sometime Monday and get back to planting seed and painting bee boxes.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

  12. #11

    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    I am replacing the plastic cover of my greenhouse
    S o, you because victim of Squarepeg too... , cool to hear how your spring and summer is progressing. We have 60 cm snow, bee season far away...

    But anyhow, my comment, that greenhouse plastic is what I use as hive cover. Do not throw it to waste pin.

    Can you link a picture of what is your average hive looking at the moment?

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    2019/02/17 temp near 60 with sporadic heavy rain

    Yes, I too am a victim of SquarePeg. He trapped me with words and offered only one way out.

    I have quite a bit of spare greenhouse plastic right now and agree that it would be a way to protect the top of my hives. I'll give it a thought or two and come up with a way to attach it to the covers.

    My average hive is a single square Dadant box with 14 frames of which 10 are full of honey and 4 to 5 frames are bees and brood. One colony is far ahead of the others with 10 frames of bees. I will take a picture or two tomorrow when the rain stops.

    Bees were foraging today though not as much as they were Friday. Most of my colonies have to be split in about 3 weeks to prevent swarming. As stated above, this fits my plan to double or more the number of colonies this year.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    i've yet to have the nice days line up with my days home from the day job so i haven't gotten to look deep into most of my hives yet. the activity at the entrances is looking encouraging however at all but one of my hives.

    assuming the one not foraging pollen is queenless, and the ones bringing in mass quantities of pollen are queenright, that should have me starting the season with 20 overwintered colonies, same as you dar.

    this might be a good opportunity for us to compare and contrast the square dadants vs. traditional langstroths, especially since we are both working with similar stock and reside in similar locations.

    i'm going to concede up front that your approach wins the manual labor category hands down.

    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    2019/02/18 cloudy, high near 55, with a stiff cool breeze most of the day.

    The forecast is for temps in the 70's this weekend. I'll try to get a few pictures of a typical colony to use as a comparison point for you and Juhani. Meantime, today gave only a little foraging with a high near 55 degrees. We have henbit in bloom along with maple, pear, elm, and willow. If we were not getting so much rain, I think my bees would be producing a small surplus.

    I'm especially satisfied with the reduced amount of work involved when managing the square Dadant hives SP. There is still quite a bit of work involved in handling supers.

    I got the roof on my greenhouse yesterday afternoon and will be putting up the two ends tomorrow if I can catch a dry spell between rain showers.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    dar, you mentioned doing some combining of weaker colonies last fall. how did you determine which colonies needed combining and which of the queens to dispatch?
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    Any colony with less than 2 frames of bees and a queen more than a year old is a candidate to combine. Farrer recommended taking winter losses in the fall. I've found this to be excellent advice. (note that this is Dadant frames of bees so less than 4 deep Langstroth combs would be equivalent)

    I've had 2 colonies pulling drones out and discarding them over the last week. I haven't opened them to see what is going on because of the cold temps the last few days. If the weather cooperates, I will open all colonies tomorrow and add a frame or two of honey if they need it.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    understood dar and many thanks for the reply.

    i am going to try a little harder this fall to identify colonies having a poor chance of overwintering, as well as try to have a few more 'spare' nucs made up to take through the winter.

    also had a couple of hives hauling out drone pupae today. fingers crossed for good inspecting weather tomorrow. expecting to have to donate nurse bees from the strongest to the weakest.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    I inspected all colonies and found surprising results. There were abundant mature drones. This is about 2 weeks earlier than drones have historically been ready for mating. There was only one weak colony and it had 4 frames of brood. The rest of the colonies were overflowing with bees. I will have to split within the next week to avoid swarming. It is time to fill some frames with foundation.

    The weak colony had a surprisingly good brood pattern and an abundance of honey to build up with. I'm uncertain why they are so slow getting in gear. What about the strongest colony? They fully occupy a double square deep Dadant hive. That is roughly the equivalent of 3 Langstroth deeps plus a shallow on top. When I say fully occupy, I'm talking about bees overflowing all edges and covering the top bars.

    My plans are to raise queens from my best queen and requeen all of the splits with a queen cell. I will start queens this week, perhaps tomorrow if I can find time.

    This year is shaping up to be a year of rampant swarming unless serious control efforts are used.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

  20. #19
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    Default

    FP maybe equalizing your colonies as br. Adam did might be a good idea to put all on equal footing? Slow swarming down and bump up overall honey crop.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Beekeeping using Square Dadant hives, treatment free since 2005

    I will equalize, but there is not much to do. All colonies are roughly the same with the exception of one very strong and one moderately weak. When they hit this strong this early, I have to split to control swarming.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

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