Small winter cluster
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2018
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    Sacramento, California, USA
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    14

    Default Small winter cluster

    Hello I had a question about how I should prepare to overwinter my small hive and what are the odds of them making it through winter. Due to poor mite management throughout the summer months the hive was left in a very weak state leaving a handful of bees and almost no brood, after mite treatment and careful watch their numbers have began to rebound but now it is winter time and I'm concerned about them surviving the winter months. Below attached are a few pictures of the current state of the hive, I was starting to see signs of wax moth or small hive beetle damage on the frames that weren't being defended by bees so I decided to remove and freeze them. So my real question is what can I do to best prepare and help these bees survive the winter? They are currently in a 10 frame deep box with only 6 frames inside, 2 brood 3 honey/polled and one drawn out empty frame. I am from California and temperatures should stay in the low 40's during the night and mid to high 50's during the day time. Any advice would be must appreciated, if any additional information is needed I shall provide it.IMG_0274.jpgIMG_0271.jpgIMG_0273.jpgIMG_0272.jpgIMG_0270.jpg

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    St. Charles, MO, USA
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    113

    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    Is this your only hive? If you have another one, use a double screen board and put them over a strong hive. If not and you really want to save them, I'd put them in an observation hive inside or put them in a nuc box and put the nuc box inside and run an exit through a window. But, I'm in Missouri and it gets a lot colder here. There may be other options in warm and sunny California.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Grand Rapids MI USA
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    1,560

    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    Well theyíre brooding up and thatís a good sign. Make sure youíve good plenty of feed on em, syrup or bricks if your in an area where itís going to get chilly at night.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    2,465

    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    Add a follower board for your comfort and add frames as they expand. They are working the foundation from the looks. Some capped brood in black plastic frame. If there is a frame of capped they will expand rapidly. Eggs and open brood too?
    Looks like a decent nuc to me as is. It would do fine in my March, so in December Cal? If fed syrup they would be taking off, though that might be poor timing.

    Time for local feedback.
    It is not true that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
    They can learn them, they just can't do them.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Northern Il, USA
    Posts
    397

    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    Put them in a nuc. I made the mistake of trying to overwinter a weak hive in a ten-frame. Even with loads of honey it was hard on them. Too much space for them to maintain, I believe.
    Insulate the top of the nuc. Give them sugar.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Yuba County, California, USA
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    6,556

    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    I agree with AR1
    Put them in a nuc with feeder shim under the lid, and damp sugar the consistency of wet snow on the top bars of the frames.
    Live real time bee chat, most evenings...
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  8. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Dane County, WI, USA
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    3,474

    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    Nuc hive is not necessarily available.
    Exact same affect is achieved by using follower board(s) inserted into the 10-framer (actually - a much better effect).
    The follower boards are trivial to make from any scraps (1 minute job from a cardboard box - my favorite).
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    2,465

    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    OK my questions;
    They look like they are working off stores, not seeing any wet cells. (that may be just photos) When would you feed from beginnings of natural flow?

    Looking again, I would put the empty drawn frame inside and the frame being drawn outside until there is a flow. Looking for votes.

    Follower or nuc; use what you got, nuc if on hand
    It is not true that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
    They can learn them, they just can't do them.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
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    Dane County, WI, USA
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    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    I'd consider a nuc nothing but extra hassle.
    Before you know it - they will outgrow the nuc again - more busy work.
    The "leaky" follower boards are hard to outgrow - you can sleep well.
    Meanwhile - if create air pockets on both sides - you get a free bonus - extra insulation.

    Moving a follower/adding a frame when need to expand just a little - 1 min job/no stress.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    Meanwhile - if create air pockets on both sides - you get a free bonus - extra insulation.

    As long as you do not create two unguarded houses. Question of strength.
    It is not true that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
    They can learn them, they just can't do them.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2018
    Location
    Sacramento, California, USA
    Posts
    14

    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    Hello, thank you for the responses! Yes this is my only hive so combining them isn't an option. Yes they have about two frames of solid brood and enough bees to cover this brood but what I am worried about is the fact that even once all these bees hatch out the cluster still wont make it and the queen will cease laying soon seeing as the temperatures are rapidly dropping and its due to rain for a while. There is larvae in all stages of development ranging from eggs to larvae to capped brood, the two frames on the outside both have capped honey and then one of the frames closer to the brood has so wet honey. From reading it looks as if my options are condense to a nuc or install follower boards, also if I am reading this right it appears that the follower boards are put in place to insulate the hives in between the follower boards, is this correct? Also they are not taking syrup water anymore I assume due to the temp drop, so should I place a candy board on top of the hive? GregV do you have any recommendations on how to make and place follower boards ion my hive as it currently stands?

  13. #12
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    Dec 2017
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    Dane County, WI, USA
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    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    Quote Originally Posted by Saltybee View Post
    Meanwhile - if create air pockets on both sides - you get a free bonus - extra insulation.

    As long as you do not create two unguarded houses. Question of strength.
    This is a standard technique very commonly used.
    I use it routinely.
    This is not a question of strength at all.
    You can compress them down to one-two frames if what it takes so to keep the bee density (move the store frames outsides of the followers IF bees do not cover them).

    Sort of like this:
    20190815_191257.jpg

    PS: speaking of question of strength - reduce the entrance appropriately and allign the entrance with the frames properly to be guarded - nothing new there; all basic stuff.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  14. #13
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    Feb 2012
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    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    Greg you are a masterful keeper as you have never had ants, big black spiders or beetles take up residence behind a follower.
    It is not true that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
    They can learn them, they just can't do them.

  15. #14
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    Dec 2017
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    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    Quote Originally Posted by Saltybee View Post
    Greg you are a masterful keeper as you have never had ants, big black spiders or beetles take up residence behind a follower.
    I never care about ants, spiders, and beetles.
    Seriously.
    Most of this stuff is overrated.
    Never understood the issue.

    If concerned - keep those air pockets empty then and have no bug food in them - no bugs.
    No food; no shelter - no bugs.
    Simple.

    Ants routinely live in some of my nucs and hives (cause they love the burlap inner-covers).
    I shake them out, brush them out of they way, and do my work.
    They return back.
    And?
    Nothing.

    In fact, I welcome the ants to live over the top bars.
    Those buggers get into little holes where the bees can not - guess what - what is good for ants, that is bad for moths and beetles.
    Outside of getting in my way, I don't care for the ants.

    Too many artificial issues over nothing, IMO.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  16. #15
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    Nov 2018
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    Sacramento, California, USA
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    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    Alright sounds as if I am going make follower boards then! The only question that I have is, do I sandwich my remaining frames between the boards or is it just the frames containing brood? Thank you all for all of your help!

  17. #16
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    Quote Originally Posted by andrewj54 View Post
    what I am worried about is the fact that even once all these bees hatch out the cluster still wont make it and the queen will cease laying soon seeing as the temperatures are rapidly dropping and its due to rain for a while.
    Thing with a hive like this is they know they are small, and they know they could do with more bees. In your temperatures, they will brood all winter, provided they do not have to do it on stores alone. They will think they have to preserve their stores, so will make less brood than they would if they were being fed. However they cannot be fed much because they are already pretty choca and making them store feed where they cannot properly cover it with bees is not a good plan. To keep them brooding, just give them very small amounts, fairly regularly, just what you gauge they can use. You say they are not taking syrup atm, can you post a pic of your feeder in use? It may be necessary to switch to a different method in colder weather.

    The other biggy that has not yet been mentioned is mites, a hive such as this, to come through in good shape, must have near zero mites. Even a small number of mites can really mess up the chances of a hive like this.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    The advice you are getting is more of a nuance and preference than different. As much as from looking at photos not the hive. You say there are wet stores in the hive, then they have been taking stores. They do not have to take syrup every day to keep going,
    If they are actively drawing comb on your foundation I would put the empty drawn comb inside the follower. If they are not I would wait. Just reading the strength of the hive from Maine.

    If Ray says damp sugar, and you say it is going to be rainy, I would listen to Ray. His boots are a lot closer than mine. He knows your bee weather.
    It is not true that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
    They can learn them, they just can't do them.

  19. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
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    Dane County, WI, USA
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    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    Quote Originally Posted by andrewj54 View Post
    Alright sounds as if I am going make follower boards then! The only question that I have is, do I sandwich my remaining frames between the boards or is it just the frames containing brood? Thank you all for all of your help!
    You want sandwich ONLY the boards covered with bees (must have good density - that is the real decision factor - the density).
    For sure - brood frames.
    Optionally, storage frames.
    Maybe one or two - as long as you don't stretch them to thin and screw up the density.

    Once the density is good (no empty sims) - the next decision to make for you - how will they eat?
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Nov 2018
    Location
    Sacramento, California, USA
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    14

    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    Thing with a hive like this is they know they are small, and they know they could do with more bees. In your temperatures, they will brood all winter, provided they do not have to do it on stores alone. They will think they have to preserve their stores, so will make less brood than they would if they were being fed. However they cannot be fed much because they are already pretty choca and making them store feed where they cannot properly cover it with bees is not a good plan. To keep them brooding, just give them very small amounts, fairly regularly, just what you gauge they can use. You say they are not taking syrup atm, can you post a pic of your feeder in use? It may be necessary to switch to a different method in colder weather.

    The other biggy that has not yet been mentioned is mites, a hive such as this, to come through in good shape, must have near zero mites. Even a small number of mites can really mess up the chances of a hive like this.
    I have done a sugar test after my last OAV treatment a 2-3 weeks ago and saw no mites, I didn't feel as if using an alcohol test with the hive in the shape it is in was the best option. I was using an external feeder with a jar in it to feed however I do still ahev an internal feeder that could be cleaned up and put to use if that would be better? If not what would you suggest?

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    Default Re: Small winter cluster

    Sugar is a desiccant, meaning it will absorb moisture from the air. So putting it on top bars will have it absorb any heavy moisture that might be in the air inside the hive. As the sugar gets wet from absorbing moisture, the bees suck it out as syrup. So, putting wet snow ball consistency sugar on the top bars actually feeds the bees syrup. Bees don't eat solids, they crush up solids with their mandibles, and suck food as liquid down through their hollow straw like tongue.

    Using follower board is fine in my opinion, it will only take one to work. I would put a frame of honey against the most warm side of the hive ( a side facing either south or west) then the brood frames, then any other stores frames, then the empty drawn frame or a foundation frame, then the follower board. If the bees are not populous enough to cover 4 frames, then I would not put a foundation frame in yet, it can be moved in later as the bees grow.

    For added insulation, I could put a block of styrofoam or insul board in the space outside the follower board.

    Using a follower board instead of a nuc box will cause a bit of issue using the top sugar, or mountain camp method as it's known by in this forum, because it'll require a feeding shim under the top lid to give room for the sugar. That means the follower board won't reach up to the top of the space under the lid, but it won't cause much problem other than lack of sealed air flow. I think the bees like to feel crowded and cozy, but they do fine besides what I do with them most times.

    I still say a five frame nuc box would be better. Besides, every bee yard should have a complete nuc box setup in the beeyard for any situation that might arise that might make it come in handy. A place to put frames as you are inspecting a hive, a box to make a split with, a box to hold the queen on a frame as you are inspecting and etcetera. Perhaps you'll decide to get one for your yard soon.

    I have found that using the sugar snow on top bars, the bees cluster up under the sugar, and keep the sugar dried out from sucking out all the syrup that it creates. I've even seen them store excess syrup from the sugar, excess in that they don't need it at that moment for feeding.

    Good luck, it's sounding to me like they'll most likely make it fine and in good shape whatever path you take to secure them.
    Live real time bee chat, most evenings...
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