What are best practices to maximize population count at honey flow?
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  1. #1
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    Default What are best practices to maximize population count at honey flow?

    I'm curious as to the best practices to maximize brood production, and colony population, when the honey flow kicks off this year. My main nectar source is Tulip Poplar, with clover and other misc. plants mixed in. Tulip Poplar's generally start blooming May-June.

    I currently have six single 10 frame deeps that are looking well and came out of winter strong. I am keeping pollen patties on them and will start 1:1 syrup feeding soon. My plan was to get the bees to 9 or 10/10 frames covered, then add another deep (what I use for honey supers) and let the queen move up in there to lay. Then, around the third or fourth week of April, shake all the bees down to the bottom super and add a queen excluder to the bottom deep, thus making the top deep a honey super. Any brood would emerge out and become workforce, and the cells would be ready for honey. I have numerous frames that are still full of honey stores that I was going to extract (sooner than later) and store for fall feed, but make the empty comb available to them again while I fed syrup and they build up.

    Should I keep syrup and patty feeding? If so, should I stop when the queen excluder goes on, or sooner? Maples and other trees are starting to bloom and pollen is coming in, but my part of VA has been getting waves of rainy days mixed in.

    I also have several frames that were heavily damaged from wax moths; should I give these to a few nucs to mend (while keeping the 1:1 syrup on continuously) and not checkerboard in with my honey making hives during the pre-honey flow period?
    Zone 7a

  2. #2
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    Default Re: What are best practices to maximize population count at honey flow?

    Some of this is just NOT doing things. For instance you may find in your location that feeding early makes them swarm before the main flow. Or you may find that feeding (at just the right time) gets them to peak at the main flow. You have to work that out for your location. You may find that feeding pollen patties too early gets them raising brood too early and they peak too early. The other thing is you need to do is have an idea of when the flow will happen so you can make better decisions. If the flow is just a week or two away and the population is peaking you may be able to keep them from swarming until the flow arrives. But if the flow is a month away and the population is peaking you may be better off just splitting it. So how do you predict the main flow?

    One of the most important things in beekeeping is timing. If you can predict things you can be proactive in your beekeeping and you can set goals for important events during the season such as likely swarming, the main flow, etc. How do you do this? You keep notes. Not so much on each hive as on the season. From year to year chart the blooms of trees especially but also things like dandelions and clover etc. Also events in the apiary such as swarming and the main flow. The main flow you can identify by new white wax, a steady stream of purposeful flight, and a rapid gain in weight. Also sort out blooms you identified in town and blooms you identified in the countryside. The difference, at least in my location will be two weeks earlier in the city. If you do this from year to year you will see some things are good indicators of the start of the season (in my location the wild plums) and some are not (in my location the read maples). For instance, if the wild plums are blooming two weeks early, then I know the flow will be at least a week early. You will find things sometimes catch up as the main flow approaches. In other words, the plums might be two weeks early but the black locust might be only a week and a half early and the main flow may be only a week early. Once you can predict things with reasonable accuracy you can make better decisions. For instance your goal is to peak the population of the colony right at the main flow. If you want to do a cut down split to maximize honey production while getting more bees, that would be two weeks before the main flow. If you can predict things you can make better decisions on splits. For instance if your colony seems to be peaking (you'll get a feel for about the maximum size before they decide to swarm in the pre flow period) several weeks before the main flow there may not be any point in trying to prevent it from swarming before the main flow and you might just split. But if the main flow is only a week away, maybe you can stall them that long by opening the brood nest. Knowing when to expect the flow can help you make batter decisions. Decisions like when to plan on putting on supers or do swarm control etc.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  3. #3
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    Default Re: What are best practices to maximize population count at honey flow?

    Feed the bees to stimulate brooding with 1:1 syrup. Put pollen patties on the top bars directly on top of brood frames. I start feeding patties in mid February and never let them run out until massive amounts of fresh stored pollen surround the brood nest. That usually occurs at swarm time.

    Now, you have created a monster that is capable of making a super of honey or two off the dandelions and fruit bloom and or swarm. My solution is removing queens in small splits or splitting. Just be aware, you need a plan when attempting.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: What are best practices to maximize population count at honey flow?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vance G View Post
    Feed the bees to stimulate brooding with 1:1 syrup. Put pollen patties on the top bars directly on top of brood frames. I start feeding patties in mid February and never let them run out until massive amounts of fresh stored pollen surround the brood nest. That usually occurs at swarm time.

    Now, you have created a monster that is capable of making a super of honey or two off the dandelions and fruit bloom and or swarm. My solution is removing queens in small splits or splitting. Just be aware, you need a plan when attempting.
    Thanks! I know I'll be walking a tight rope against swarming until the flow hits, just hope I can handle it (hobbyist/sideline keeper, not a lot of time left after 40hr work week and wife/baby). To contrast, i've never done anything to my bees before. I would only give them syrup in fall...never gave pollen or syrup in early spring, so I'm hoping to see a pleasant difference.
    Zone 7a

  5. #5
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    Default Re: What are best practices to maximize population count at honey flow?

    Quote Originally Posted by phyber View Post
    Thanks! I know I'll be walking a tight rope against swarming until the flow hits, just hope I can handle it (hobbyist/sideline keeper, not a lot of time left after 40hr work week and wife/baby). To contrast, i've never done anything to my bees before. I would only give them syrup in fall...never gave pollen or syrup in early spring, so I'm hoping to see a pleasant difference.
    I would suggest you do what I do to figure out the time line. It will take a year or two. I do different interventions to each colony and leave some control colonies without intervention. e.g. Feed pollen patty ONLY, feed syrup ONLY, feed both pollen patty and syrup. You can do two "sets" of experiment hives which are 2 week apart. This means you need at least 7 hives with about equal strength. If you don't have that many hives then you can just feed both pollen and syrup to two hives two weeks apart e.g. one hive on Feb 15 and another hive Mar 1. The key is to only do exactly one intervention exactly one time per hive and record how it progresses through the season that way you can objectively link the effect of "an" intervention to the source. Obviously there are lot of other variables (queen age, age distribution, etc) between the colonies even at the same location but these kind of experiments will tell you what intervention and when is beneficial to the honey flow. The timing is everything so you should also note the bloom dates along with your experiments so you can adjust the dates in the following years. There is copper bullet (there is NO silver bullet) but it is VERY local and you are the only one who can find it with experiments.
    Last edited by pjigar; 03-27-2019 at 01:31 PM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: What are best practices to maximize population count at honey flow?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    Some of this is just NOT doing things. For instance you may find in your location that feeding early makes them swarm before the main flow. Or you may find that feeding (at just the right time) gets them to peak at the main flow. You have to work that out for your location. You may find that feeding pollen patties too early gets them raising brood too early and they peak too early. The other thing is you need to do is have an idea of when the flow will happen so you can make better decisions. If the flow is just a week or two away and the population is peaking you may be able to keep them from swarming until the flow arrives. But if the flow is a month away and the population is peaking you may be better off just splitting it. So how do you predict the main flow?

    One of the most important things in beekeeping is timing. If you can predict things you can be proactive in your beekeeping and you can set goals for important events during the season such as likely swarming, the main flow, etc. How do you do this? You keep notes. Not so much on each hive as on the season. From year to year chart the blooms of trees especially but also things like dandelions and clover etc. Also events in the apiary such as swarming and the main flow. The main flow you can identify by new white wax, a steady stream of purposeful flight, and a rapid gain in weight. Also sort out blooms you identified in town and blooms you identified in the countryside. The difference, at least in my location will be two weeks earlier in the city. If you do this from year to year you will see some things are good indicators of the start of the season (in my location the wild plums) and some are not (in my location the read maples). For instance, if the wild plums are blooming two weeks early, then I know the flow will be at least a week early. You will find things sometimes catch up as the main flow approaches. In other words, the plums might be two weeks early but the black locust might be only a week and a half early and the main flow may be only a week early. Once you can predict things with reasonable accuracy you can make better decisions. For instance your goal is to peak the population of the colony right at the main flow. If you want to do a cut down split to maximize honey production while getting more bees, that would be two weeks before the main flow. If you can predict things you can make better decisions on splits. For instance if your colony seems to be peaking (you'll get a feel for about the maximum size before they decide to swarm in the pre flow period) several weeks before the main flow there may not be any point in trying to prevent it from swarming before the main flow and you might just split. But if the main flow is only a week away, maybe you can stall them that long by opening the brood nest. Knowing when to expect the flow can help you make batter decisions. Decisions like when to plan on putting on supers or do swarm control etc.
    Lots of good info in there Michael! Thank you so much! I always appreciate your replies in these forums... Always enough information!

    I'll ask more beeks around here about precise bloom dates (I've always just let the bees be on autopilot and start getting nectar when they can without prepping) and try to stay on top of swarming. Hopefully a swarm thrown wouldn't set me back too much.
    Zone 7a

  7. #7
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    Dec 2008
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    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
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    Default Re: What are best practices to maximize population count at honey flow?

    Listen to Vance.

    In simple terms, determine what the limiting factors are, and remove them. Carbohydrate and protein supplies can be limiting. Heat produced can be limiting. More importantly is open cells for the queen. Make sure she does not have to wander about looking for open cells to lay in. We run single deeps and manipulate frames.

    Ian in Canada does a similar manipulation of adding/removing(to the queen) a deep. Be aware heat goes up. Timing may be important.

    Crazy Roland

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
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    Richmond, VA, USA
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    306

    Default Re: What are best practices to maximize population count at honey flow?

    Phyber,

    The link below might give you a place to start on blooming dates. It is for Central VA, perhaps 40 miles west of Richmond, on I-64.

    I imagine your season would be a week or so earlier, depending on where you live.

    https://www.sustainablemarketfarming...-happens-when/

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