Northern Midwest Winter Beekeeping Manifesto - Page 2
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  1. #21
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    Default Re: Northern Midwest Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    A few years ago I bought 2 (very expensive) nucs of russians. They were great. Not really aggressive but I guess you would call them quite responsive to an inspection, especially in the fall. They overwintered very well. Not much honey the next year but overall I was reasonably happy. They shared that yard with italians and carni's. When they re-queened the colonies were just so-so and as I recall, I lost both the next winter. The value proposition for my mixed yard approach wasn't worth it although I wouldn't turn down a reasonably priced package or nuc. I just don't have the time to devote to the line. They showed promise though....
    "My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"

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  3. #22
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    Default Re: Northern Midwest Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    Quote Originally Posted by Ravenseye View Post
    A few years ago I bought 2 (very expensive) nucs of russians. They were great. Not really aggressive but I guess you would call them quite responsive to an inspection, especially in the fall. They overwintered very well. Not much honey the next year but overall I was reasonably happy. They shared that yard with italians and carni's. When they re-queened the colonies were just so-so and as I recall, I lost both the next winter. The value proposition for my mixed yard approach wasn't worth it although I wouldn't turn down a reasonably priced package or nuc. I just don't have the time to devote to the line. They showed promise though....
    so from your perspective it doesn't sound great, but the jury is still out.
    Help is here to never misplace that hive tool again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTqB0zcmhmQ

  4. #23
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    Default Re: Northern Midwest Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinWI View Post
    I understand about purebred and hybrids....what I was reading was saying that if you think you will get xyz traits by breeding russians into your local mutts, you may be in for a surprise and get more of the agressive aspects and less of the wanted "winter hardiness" aspects of that genetic.....
    Honestly, I've never had Russians, so I have no frame of reference, but I've been staying away due to their more "staple your pant leg to your socks" personality that I've only read about.
    I don't care much for any signs of "aggression" - outside of liability issues. Those must be addressed, obviously.

    For this case, I got remote yards, big hives, and hands-off management then.
    If they don't like me - fine.
    For as long as they stay alive - I still like them and want them around me.

    Managing mean bees is not that hard:
    - put them into a big horizontal hive full of frames (this way you do not need to break entire hive apart every time, pissing them off - TBH-style management is the best)
    - put them far from innocent people and animals
    - walk away and don't bother (they got a big hive full of frames to themselves)
    - get your honey in late fall/early spring, kind of like this guy does - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAu5xmzDeL4
    (you don't break into them in the middle of a dearth because it is convenient to you).
    If they die - a good riddance.
    If they stay on - you got yourself some great, winter-hardy and maybe mite-hardy bees.
    Done.

    Most all scary stories come from trying to manage Russians/AMMs (or various angry mutts with some Russian/AMM blood) in the equipment more suitable for Italian/Carni bees OR in a manner more suitable for forgiving Italian/Carni bees.
    Last edited by GregV; 03-19-2019 at 10:25 PM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  5. #24
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    Default Re: Northern Midwest Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post

    So, it depends on your priorities and the context - to cull or not to cull.
    Yep, 100% agree and sometimes those priorities change. years ago I would have not culled as needed at least half the operation with large clusters coming out of winter to fulfill pollination commitments. thats no longer a priority and i've always got way more bees than need. current priority is for bees that take the least amount of effort on my part

  6. #25
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    Default Re: Northern Midwest Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinWI View Post
    Can I inquire on a question? from my understanding only pure Russians are what you want to breed from as people have not been having good luck with hybrids...so although folks love the winter hardiness of the russians, you need pure stock to achieve. Sort of like the buckfast...makes a great bee in its purest form, but not so much in any cross breeding. What do you think?
    here's my perspective for whatever its worth. i used some of the first russian breeders that were available to the public probably around 2002-2003. at the time we were in pretty close association with a couple of the folks that were and still are part of the russian program; they really liked them and highly suggested them. i used inseminated breeders to produce drone mother colonies to flood parts of my mating areas hoping to cross those to my stock. it worked poorly in my case. they did not combine nicely and that's being kind. ended up with the worst end of the spectrum---extremely aggressive bees (and I already have fairly mean bees so when they are too aggressive for me thats saying something), nasty chimney habit effect, swarmy, etc.

    I know people that currently maintain fairly pure russian stock with great success. I also know people that have it mixed to some stocks and also have very good luck. but as always happens when you start crossing things you can get some good outcomes and some poor ones. didnt work good for the predominate stock i use. think everyone would need to try it for themselves but trying to cross stock is a gamble unless you have the numbers and location where you can get good mating control

  7. #26
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    Default Re: Northern Midwest Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlackBirds View Post
    Yep, 100% agree and sometimes those priorities change. years ago I would have not culled as needed at least half the operation with large clusters coming out of winter to fulfill pollination commitments. thats no longer a priority and i've always got way more bees than need. current priority is for bees that take the least amount of effort on my part
    I spoke to Tibor Szabo who was the source of my bees. He says that his criteria is not to graft from any queen that shows any sign of aggressive bees. He says that he also does not graft from any that did not survive the winter!

    That results in a bee that fits my priorities to a tee!
    Frank

  8. #27
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    Default Re: Northern Midwest Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    Quote Originally Posted by crofter View Post
    I spoke to Tibor Szabo who was the source of my bees. He says that his criteria is not to graft from any queen that shows any sign of aggressive bees. He says that he also does not graft from any that did not survive the winter!

    That results in a bee that fits my priorities to a tee!
    His breeders were without a doubt the best I've ever used; there's not even a close second in comparison

  9. #28
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    Default Re: Northern Midwest Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    I think the list is good, but item 2 and item 4 seem to be in conflict with one another and might be reworded to make more sense.

  10. #29
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    Default Re: Northern Midwest Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    Quote Originally Posted by Storm View Post
    I think the list is good, but item 2 and item 4 seem to be in conflict with one another and might be reworded to make more sense.
    Yes there does seem to be a conflict there. Perhaps based on too small a sample to be conclusive. Lots of "all depends" factors could have played into those observations. Painted with too broad a brush.

    A large colony in the fall that also had a high mite load is more susceptible to varroa collapse. How much surplus honey was available could skew the survival of a large vs small cluster. Location of stores in the hive also affects outcome.

    A small healthy population consisting of young bees (winter bees) with low mite count can winter well if it is put into a reduced space and ensure adequate stores above the cluster. It is correct that a mangy bunch of worn out foragers will not survive and probably should not be combined to drag down a health hive.
    Frank

  11. #30
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    Default Re: Northern Midwest Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlackBirds View Post
    here's my perspective for whatever its worth. i used some of the first russian breeders that were available to the public probably around 2002-2003. at the time we were in pretty close association with a couple of the folks that were and still are part of the russian program; they really liked them and highly suggested them. i used inseminated breeders to produce drone mother colonies to flood parts of my mating areas hoping to cross those to my stock. it worked poorly in my case. they did not combine nicely and that's being kind. ended up with the worst end of the spectrum---extremely aggressive bees (and I already have fairly mean bees so when they are too aggressive for me thats saying something), nasty chimney habit effect, swarmy, etc.

    I know people that currently maintain fairly pure russian stock with great success. I also know people that have it mixed to some stocks and also have very good luck. but as always happens when you start crossing things you can get some good outcomes and some poor ones. didnt work good for the predominate stock i use. think everyone would need to try it for themselves but trying to cross stock is a gamble unless you have the numbers and location where you can get good mating control
    Sounds a lot similar to what other stories I've read. Thanks for the perspective.
    Help is here to never misplace that hive tool again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTqB0zcmhmQ

  12. #31
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    Default Re: Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinWI View Post
    Do you tape off the box joints at all?
    No, don't wrap or tape off joints. Just insulation on the cover. I've been using the same foam boards since 2012 and they are still in pretty good shape. They are aging more gracefully than me.
    To everything there is a season....

  13. #32
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    Default Re: Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    No, don't wrap or tape off joints. Just insulation on the cover. I've been using the same foam boards since 2012 and they are still in pretty good shape. They are aging more gracefully than me.
    I've been debating trying some foam insulation over the top in the upcoming winter. I primarily winter with a simple migratory cover---5/8" plywood. Seems that it has less insulating qualities than a traditional inner cover and telescoping cover setup as I see plenty of condensation inside the migratory setups compared to the others this time of year. I'm primarily wanting to stop the moisture as it seems to make a soggy mess on frames in some instances. I've never noticed any harm to the bees but realize that many folks consider it detrimental. This winter I experimented with a few of the ceiling tile boards under the cover to see how they would absorb moisture. They did absorb moisture but they are now somewhat a mess to take out and I suspect they don't hold up to long term use but could be wrong. So thinking trying some foam over the top to see if that slows the heat loss and moisture build up.

  14. #33
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    Default Re: Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    The insulation on the top will reduce the condensation but i think it takes a quite thick amount to ensure it will not occur to some extent if it gets extremely cold. Keep the fiber board wick in there too for backup. My experience from this past winter is that some upper ventilation is a must if blockage of bottom entrance by dead bees or snow is even remotely possible. It seems the bees can suffocate if that happens.

    Shavings or quilt boxes work well but is a fairly involved setup for someone with a lot of hives. Storage is an issue. Enjambres and I had 4 or more winters with zero losses with that system. The quilt box shavings we used represent a high insulation R value plus they slowly wick moisture out with quite low air exchange. It does seem to cast off a lot of bees in suicide missions into the snow. Some conjecture is that they are in search of water; too effective at moisture control; Dunno

    My mind keeps coming back to the system that VanceG uses which is a thick foam slab on top of a tightly wrapped stack with an upper entrance/ventilation 1" hole drilled below the handhold on the upper box. A warm bubble at the top of the hive results. Warm enough that condensation does not occur over the cluster. That is on my agenda for next winter.
    Frank

  15. #34
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    Default Re: Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    Only my first winter with bees so I`m not claiming to know a lot. I wintered two hives here in Wisconsin. We had an extremely rough winter here this year. I pretty much followed Michael palmers wintering method ( not claiming I did very thing the way he does it). 1 1/2 inch stryrafoam on the top of inner cover. I duct taped the feed hole on the inner cover shut and made sure that the stryrafoam laid down flat against the inner cover . The inner cover had a 1 1/2 inch entrance notch in it and I had a 1 inch entrance whole in the front of the top box below the hand hold. The bottom was wide open with 1/2 inch hardware cloth for a mouse guard. The hives where then wrapped with 30 lb tar paper with the the wrap coming up past the inner cover and tucked under the telescoping cover. When I checked them the 14th, the first hive was packed full of bees and looked really good. The second one had a very tiny cluster with no queen and isn`t going to make it. They were both nice and dry though. I checked all the frames in the the second hive and found no obvious sign of disease and no brood. I do not believe the loss of the second hive had anything to do with how I winter prepped them. I suspect queen failure but who knows.
    Zone 4a

  16. #35
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    Default Re: Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    I run a 3/4" hole in all my brood boxes. Pretty sure that is important if you arent using some other specialized system---if you look at my colonies on a really cold morning those holes will be full of ice crystals and ice will even form up the side of the box from the moisture that vents. I struggle with enough space for my general equipment that quilt boxes simply wouldnt be workable without investment in buildings. Probably should run experiment using just top insulation for one group and another with top insulation and fiber board. Guessing the latter leads to less moisture dripping down but maybe just top insulation would be enough for my purposes.

  17. #36
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    Default Re: Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    Quote Originally Posted by crofter View Post
    The insulation on the top will reduce the condensation but i think it takes a quite thick amount to ensure it will not occur to some extent if it gets extremely cold. Keep the fiber board wick in there too for backup. My experience from this past winter is that some upper ventilation is a must if blockage of bottom entrance by dead bees or snow is even remotely possible. It seems the bees can suffocate if that happens.

    Shavings or quilt boxes work well but is a fairly involved setup for someone with a lot of hives. Storage is an issue. Enjambres and I had 4 or more winters with zero losses with that system. The quilt box shavings we used represent a high insulation R value plus they slowly wick moisture out with quite low air exchange. It does seem to cast off a lot of bees in suicide missions into the snow. Some conjecture is that they are in search of water; too effective at moisture control; Dunno

    My mind keeps coming back to the system that VanceG uses which is a thick foam slab on top of a tightly wrapped stack with an upper entrance/ventilation 1" hole drilled below the handhold on the upper box. A warm bubble at the top of the hive results. Warm enough that condensation does not occur over the cluster. That is on my agenda for next winter.
    I cannot disagree with a thing here.

    I made the mistake on a nuc this year.....I had upper and lower entrances...foam board on top...wrapped colony...but this was a 5 frame box and the holes were drilled in the center....can you see the problem?
    The hole was behind a frame end...in the summer, this wasn't an issue...but in the winter, with dead bee buildup on the bottom, it quickly blocked up the lower entrance and moisture built up...then bees died between frames early spring and clogged up the upper entrance ....lost 3/4 of the colony before I discovered it was an issue and intervened.....all my nuc boxes are in process of having new hole locations for odd numbered frame boxes. Center isn't always better!!! other colonies I had were dry as a bone...but on occasion you find one where vents got blocked off by dead bees....my German hive bottoms I built this winter will help solve that issue.
    Help is here to never misplace that hive tool again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTqB0zcmhmQ

  18. #37
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    Default Re: Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    Crofter, I checked with my neighbors and they wintered a double deep with a 1/2 inch round hole in top part the entrance reducer and a quilt box and a bee cozy wrap. I would find it on the risky side as dead bees may block the only entrance and suffocation could cause the hive to die out.

    However, I found this minimal ventilation quite interesting and liked the entrance lower on the hive as it may prevent some of the false flights on sunny, cold days.
    Zone 3b. If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got!

  19. #38
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    Default Re: Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    I wish there was something more scientific on the water availability and false flights issue. Is it affected by light shining in, condensation availability inside, temperature, horizon inversion, etc. I noticed nearly zero bees flying out when I have no upper entrance. The bees that might have issued forth are most likely amongst the dead on the floor so maybe a wash as far as colony survival. Dunno. My son has experimented a bit with kind of a snorkel of poly pipe and seems to see fewer fly outs. Enjambres baffles upper exit for draft control but could affect sunlight shining in.

    An entrance part way up the hive seems to have something to offer in the way of light shining in yet providing an exit for moisture, but low enough to still keep a large area of warm upper air captive by cutting down convection above entrance level.

    I think Kevin has a point about the restriction of the handhold area hole being quite baffled by the frames sidebars. Dead bees could get hung up there and create a plug up. I would have to measure to see if that level is at the full width section of the sidebars or down on the reduced lower section. It would not be hard to bell mouth or scallop the inside of the hole but it would have to be done with the frames out.
    Frank

  20. #39
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    Default Re: Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    Quote Originally Posted by crofter View Post
    I wish there was something more scientific on the water availability and false flights issue. Is it affected by light shining in, condensation availability inside, temperature, horizon inversion, etc. I noticed nearly zero bees flying out when I have no upper entrance. The bees that might have issued forth are most likely amongst the dead on the floor so maybe a wash as far as colony survival. Dunno. My son has experimented a bit with kind of a snorkel of poly pipe and seems to see fewer fly outs. Enjambres baffles upper exit for draft control but could affect sunlight shining in.

    An entrance part way up the hive seems to have something to offer in the way of light shining in yet providing an exit for moisture, but low enough to still keep a large area of warm upper air captive by cutting down convection above entrance level.

    I think Kevin has a point about the restriction of the handhold area hole being quite baffled by the frames sidebars. Dead bees could get hung up there and create a plug up. I would have to measure to see if that level is at the full width section of the sidebars or down on the reduced lower section. It would not be hard to bell mouth or scallop the inside of the hole but it would have to be done with the frames out.
    I had side by side hives....one was a california italian which swarmed and I caught, the other a Carniolan mutt bred locally from the parent hive behind it. Every day in the winter...even -10 below the Italian hive would be out at the front top entrance and many took suicide missions...this went on all winter. The Carniolan local mutt next door I never saw except on those +40F days they'd come out for cleansing....
    The Italians mowed through their stores....the Carniolan mutts ate up 5 frames to date..... I don't think sunlight has anything to do with it...nor upper entrances.....hard to pin down what it is, but it's annoying.....I'm leaning to local stock vs stock not suited to this weather.
    Help is here to never misplace that hive tool again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTqB0zcmhmQ

  21. #40
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    Default Re: Winter Beekeeping Manifesto

    I think perhaps for the north anyways, is that locally adapted means that the ones having much of the italian bee habits have eliminated themselves from the gene pool

    As you may have guessed I am just the tiniest bit biased on this: I know that Itallians can do very well and be very productive but some of their habits affect how they need to be managed.
    Frank

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