Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Location
    Claiborne County, East Tennessee, USA
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    82

    Default Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    I see people talking about weekly inspections, about rotating boxes
    and it makes me wonder, does everyone
    do this? Is there anyone else out there
    that operates on the principal of just
    leave them alone?
    What I mean is I treat mine with Formic Pro in the fall and in the spring. I might go in them once a month the check the supers.
    I never rotate the boxes as I figure they have
    been raising bees a longer than I have. I just let them be bees.
    I also will not cut comb , I figure they lose
    honey production when they are replacing comb.
    Some days it's not worth chewing through the restraints.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    ElDorado,Arkansas,USA
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    1,592

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    Man I wish it was hands off like it was 40 years ago!!!

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Location
    Claiborne County, East Tennessee, USA
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    82

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    That would be nice.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Location
    England, UK
    Posts
    1,514

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    I do have just the one colony (amongst dozens of others) which I've been 'leaving alone' as a trial for a couple of years now - in a thick-walled 'Warre' stack I modified to take British National frames. I've been checking that hive just twice a year: in early Spring, and again in October. Other than dosing with VOA at the same time as all the other hives and ensuring it has adequate stores ... that's it. The colony was doing fine last time I checked - and it's been happily sucking syrup since then - but I'll only know for sure that it's ok come next March.

    What I'm really doing of course is testing the hive design itself, which has a permanently-exposed Open Mesh Floor with a Slatted Rack over, and which the colony has been keeping as clean as the day it was installed - unlike most of my other hives which require periodic cleaning-out.

    But - other than functioning as a test colony, it hasn't been contributing anything at all to the running of the apiary - except maybe a few drones.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Dane County, WI, USA
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    3,115

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    Just yesterday I visited a 3-unit yard so I could move a colony into a better equipment for the winter.
    The last visit prior was 8/18/2019 - two months.

    Bees are fine, if a little light on the stores (which is fixable later in a season).
    In fact, they are fine without me.
    One hive just chased me away - good for them; they did not need me there, poking around.

    I suppose I taped over the entrances from robbing, proactively.
    (one hive was actually under robbing pressure but they had no problems holding the invaders back - taped them in while on site anyway; surely, it was no the first robbing attempt - but I will never know and it does not matter)

    I have another 1-unit yard I have not seen about 3 months.
    Low priority.
    I have nothing for them yet (a bigger winter hive be good for them).
    Pretty sure they have nothing for me to see either.

    PS: to be sure, I don't do Langs either - deep frame hives require no box rotations and the like moves, for me to be physically present; bees can do the rest on their own.
    Last edited by GregV; 10-21-2019 at 10:47 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Hubert, North Carolina
    Posts
    378

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    Our inspections are done every 7 to 10 days Spring to Fall. A lot can change in that time and we've been able to stop some problems from becoming bigger ones.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Location
    Wakefield, Rhode Island, USA
    Posts
    52

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    I would say I minimize my interference. I have a standard winter / brood configuration that I put a QE over than supers. I check the standard section box bottoms for swarm cells in late May and June, maybe part of July. If I am suspicious of a queen issue then I go in looking for brood status. That's it, no frame moving, no box swapping, no alcohol wash sampling. I will be increasing drone cells removal this coming year as a test. I am debating with myself about doing a brood break next year. Brood break resulted in a house cleaning (low Varroa numbers) but was followed by a massive horizontal invasion as the foragers went "a robbing and foraging" while waiting for a new "acceptable" queen..

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    321

    Default

    Sure that’s fine if that’s how you want to keep bees. Probably not a good method for honey production, nucs, or keeping swarms from moving into the neighbors’ houses.
    Mistakes are the best taechers

  10. #9

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    I suppose if you are located in a very isolated place, no big deal. If you live somewhere that there are neighbors, schools, businesses and such….then neglecting any sort of swarm management is irresponsible, in my opinion. Some of those swarms will become a nuisance to your neighbors.
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    5,592

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    Agree about the swarm prevention. Springtime - Mid April into June I'm checking the hives almost every week. Reversals, opening the broodnest, adding supers. If not, the usual outcome is swarming. Summer through Fall it's more hands off. Maybe once every 3 or 4 weeks. A few more frequent inspections in the Fall for mite treatment and late season feeding if needed.

    When I was first starting out I was in the hives all the time. Wasn't really necessary but it was a great learning experience.
    To everything there is a season....

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Dane County, WI, USA
    Posts
    3,115

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    Just yesterday I visited a 3-unit yard so I could move a colony into a better equipment for the winter.
    The last visit prior was 8/18/2019 - two months.
    ....
    To be sure - I was weekly or so in that exact yard in May-June (the swarm season).
    No way I was going to loose my #1 queen.
    As well as the #1 queen must working to the max to my advantage - so that takes some personal time.

    But that was then.
    Starting at about August and with proper setup some of the units can be neglected for a month and more.
    Nucs, on the hand, need frequent visits - that's where the neglect is balancing out.
    So, the "neglect" really must be qualified - blanket "neglect" is not working too well - selective "neglect" is pretty much a necessity if one to have any decent # of units.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    San Mateo, CA
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    6,795

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    I have one three visit yard.

    1. Spring inspection, place supers and supered bait hives.
    2. Harvest and place Apivar.
    3. Remove Apivar.

    I should use Formic Pro and get it down to two visits a year. Or leave the Apivar in for four months.

    If loses are bad there is a bring new colony trip.
    All of my opinions and suggestions are based on my five decades of actual beekeeping,
    not so much on book learning, watching YouTube videos nor reading internet sites.

  14. #13
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    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    53,844

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    Queen rearing in my home yard I'm in the hives every week. My outyards I'm in the hives about three or four times a year. More would be better but it's hard to find the time...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  15. #14
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Spokane, Washington, USA
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    219

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    There are different ways of doing things. I prefer more management, which I believe will result in more sucess in my goals.

    Quote Originally Posted by fadder View Post
    I figure they have been raising bees a longer than I have. I just let them be bees.
    But not in man-made hives, in their non-native environment, with pesticides and herbicides, and with varroa. They also do not naturally want to make honey for you, so maybe that needs to be managed if you want to maximize it.

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Cherokee, IA
    Posts
    10

    Smile Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    Quote Originally Posted by fadder View Post
    I see people talking about weekly inspections, about rotating boxes
    and it makes me wonder, does everyone
    do this? Is there anyone else out there
    that operates on the principal of just
    leave them alone?
    What I mean is I treat mine with Formic Pro in the fall and in the spring. I might go in them once a month the check the supers.
    I never rotate the boxes as I figure they have
    been raising bees a longer than I have. I just let them be bees.
    I also will not cut comb , I figure they lose
    honey production when they are replacing comb.
    I'm pretty much in your camp. I've been keeping bees for almost 10 years (so still a novice for the most part) but I've had years where I aggressively treated, regardless of indication of issues, for varroa, tracheal mite, nosema, etc and then years when I've been pretty passive. I haven't noticed a survival or production difference other than I save a buttload of money not buying chemicals. The only thing that I did treat aggressively and am glad I did was hive beetles. I had them pretty bad one year and I treated which took care of it. Mind you I don't do the powdered sugar rolls or other advanced monitoring things that more seasoned beekeepers do, so take what I write for what it's worth. The first person to figure out how to have a colony produce 200 lbs of honey and survive every winter will be a millionairre...

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Nov 2018
    Location
    Central PA, USA
    Posts
    32

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    Fadder,

    we are like you. My son & I keep a small apiary of 2 - 3 hives. We have not suffered losses from any problems related to not checking in on the bees. We check when we think it's needed (per weather, local pollination flows, etc). Our only losses were from a bear attack and from a robbing before we knew what to watch for in 'robbing' season. My son does the Formic Pro thing starting only this year of 4; until then... no problems with mites. We do not "move supers around" unless we see, during minimal flows or close to putting down for winter, that there are unfilled frames that need to 'get out of the way' for the bees to produce their last harvest (now asters here in PA), and then we close up, feed sugar, and tie down to stop he bears!

    We simply do not have time to do more, and so far NATURE & the BEES are doing their thing. Yay! and we are getting wax for crafts, honey for us, and more honey to sell ... just not on commercial scale.

    Michele

    Quote Originally Posted by fadder View Post
    I see people talking about weekly inspections, about rotating boxes
    and it makes me wonder, does everyone
    do this? Is there anyone else out there
    that operates on the principal of just
    leave them alone?
    What I mean is I treat mine with Formic Pro in the fall and in the spring. I might go in them once a month the check the supers.
    I never rotate the boxes as I figure they have
    been raising bees a longer than I have. I just let them be bees.
    I also will not cut comb , I figure they lose
    honey production when they are replacing comb.

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Fayette County,Indiana
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    Where I'm located, if you do not tend to the bees at least every 10-14 days things become hairy quickly. The honey flows are not lining as they did in the past. In my location, putting too much room on drags the bees down(I know, this is not how it is supposed to work). The queens fail and the hive requeens itself, but the new queen doesn't work out. Mite bombs. Short intense honey flows occuring during the dearth. I don't tear into the hives like I did years ago, but I do pop the inner cover whenever I go into the yards on every hive.

  19. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Tehachapi, California, USA
    Posts
    17

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    A few of my favorite reference books and materials. Inspections are the only way to observe the health of your hives throughout the year, if your hives are honey bound, queenless, ready to swarm, etc and make decisions. Sometimes, when you inspect your hive you may need to go back in the next day to complete some maintenance. Do you belong to a beekeeping club?

    My favorites:
    Pink pages are golden. http://pinkpages.chrisbacherconsulting.com/
    At the hive entrance. Check out Preparing for Winter and During the Winter chapter. http://www.biobees.com/library/gener...20Entrance.pdf
    Videos. http://www.uoguelph.ca/honeybee/videos.shtml
    Their many downloadable books. http://strathconabeekeepers.blogspot...asicbeekeeping Multiple downloadable books.

    Uploadable guide books from archive.org

    https://archive.org/details/practica...llrich/page/10
    https://archive.org/details/cu31924003202276
    https://archive.org/details/Original...pingD6/page/n8
    https://archive.org/details/beekeeping_for_all
    https://archive.org/details/A_Practi..._of_Beekeeping
    https://archive.org/details/beekeepingincali100ecke
    https://archive.org/details/fundamentalsofca42stan


    Beekeeping Guide Books
    https://nybeewellness.org/wp-content...r_maladies.pdf
    http://www.biobees.com/library/gener...20Entrance.pdf
    http://strathconabeekeepers.blogspot...asicbeekeeping Multiple downloadable books.
    http://www.uoguelph.ca/honeybee/videos.shtml
    http://biobees.com/library/general_b...beek00quin.pdf
    https://victoriancollections.net.au/...c/original.pdf
    https://thebeeyard.org/wp-content/up...troth.1853.pdf
    http://library.uniteddiversity.coop/...Beekeeping.pdf


    Other beekeeping sites.
    https://digital.library.cornell.edu/collections/bees
    https://www.facebook.com/Historical.Honeybee.Articles/
    http://pinkpages.chrisbacherconsulting.com/
    https://nhbees.wordpress.com/tag/supercedure-cells/
    https://www.keepingbackyardbees.com/...in-the-winter/
    https://bees.caes.uga.edu/bees-beeke...parasites.html
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o..._the_honey_bee
    https://www.foxhoundbeecompany.com/b...is-a-queen-cup

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    Geauga, Ohio
    Posts
    441

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    Wouldn't it be nice if we could glean all of the info we need about a hive from watching the entrance? Here is a book about that: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bx7...JpN2NqeVk/view

    Thanks to the previous poster for all those resources in one place! And for the posters before, sharing your perspective and approach.

    I note the number of foragers returning in 10 sec (I raise a finger for every group of 5, while I count 10 sec). And I note the # returning with pollen (out of 10).

    For a split, that is raising its own queen, watching the entrance has been a reliable indicator of the state of the hive - queenless or good! the enthusiasm with which they are foraging, and seeing around 4/10 or even 5/10 with pollen, is a very reliable indicator that their queen is doing well.

    A large hive does not send clear signals. I can say that during swarm season, if you are counting returning foragers every day at the same time, you will see a drop in foragers the day after a swarm. But... even though a swarm leaves with something like half the bees, there are more bees just about to emerge, and many nurse bees just about to become foragers. So, in a week post departure, I don't see a big difference in the number of frames covered with bees for hives that swarmed vs hives that didn't. So I really try hard to check in swarm season in a timely way to detect that a hive swarmed - no more than 14 days between inspections. I really want to know if they swarmed, because I am only breeding from queens who do not swarm when given enough space.

    And during the summer, I have watched pollen collecting very closely. In my area, once it gets hot, the bees collect pollen from about 8-9 AM and about 730-830 PM. But... a big hive apparently can collect more than they need, and then "skip a meal". I have seen large hives with as few as 2/10 foragers bringing in pollen, started to feel bummed that the queen is a dud - then found plenty of brood when I opened up. They just had enough pollen with 2/10 bringing it in. They also often had 15-20 foragers in 10 seconds too - so 90-120 a minute. That's the max possible, it seems, without dropping in lots of extra capped brood...

    I aim to check production hives (with honey supers) about every 2-4 weeks, outside of swarm season. I don't want to lose steam with honey collecting, so I would want to know ASAP if they need a new queen due to a failed attempt at mating. And that's a black mark on their record, if they swarmed or superceded without successfully bringing in a mated queen - I want to work with hives that can start superceding in time to try again if she doesn't make it back. That trait appears to be heritable, can be selected for. So I'm selecting for it - but I have to know more about the state of the hive to know if the hive swarmed, is superceding, failed their one attempt to get a queen mated...

    In a couple of years, I will trust my stock more, and I will have a couple of outyards that I am not using to select for breeder queens. So those ones will be once-a-month yards for sure.

    But... I am able to quickly tell if a hive is OK based on a brief inspection, like after the 2nd frame or so. A well functioning queen results in a well-ordered hive. But that ability was gained by checking every 7-10 days for the couple years before. And if there is a problem, then I have to dig in more, and so I don't try to do "quick" inspections where I am relying on finishing a hive every 10 min. I would rather finish a hive as needed, as long as it takes - so I can't bet on not finding a problem!

    So it all depends on your goals for beekeeping, on your willingness to accept that you might miss a chance to save a hive. I would not recommend only checking a hive seasonally - as in, once a season - for someone with only 1 hive, or as few as 2. That's an expensive mistake, to not realize a hive is light on stores until they starve, or that they were queenless mid summer...

    I really don't like mystery losses, so I am motivated by fear to check more! That's not necessarily a positive... Every inspection is a chance to lose a queen. I aim for that balance between getting necessary information (or lessons on a how a hive "works"), and leaving them bee...

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    53,844

    Default Re: Hands off Beekeeping.....for the most part.

    >The honey flows are not lining as they did in the past.

    In 46 years of beekeeping every year has been different. All you can do is average them out, keep records and base your guesses on past experience. i.e. if things are running early then expect things to be somewhat early the rest of the year, though sometimes they catch up a bit. And if things are running late expect things to be somewhat late the rest of the year though they sometimes catch up closer to normal as the year progresses. Droughts have been unpredictable throughout history. You have to be aware of what's happening in the present.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

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