Helping small winter cluster
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    Eliot, ME
    Posts
    73

    Default Helping small winter cluster

    Three of my 4 hives are overwintering very well, ones a NUC and they are all packed with bees. But one hive has a small cluster left - between 2 frames, they've gone through pretty much all of the candy board. I want to try to save them. Thinking of removing the bottom super (they are in a 2 deeps stack now, with QB and CB) and quickly making a replacement candy block today along with adding a winter patty to help them through. If it was in the 50s I suppose I could pull a frame from a strong hive but I really don't want to tear into the other hives and risk them, hope to see 45F today.

    Any other thoughts on helping them out?
    TIA
    Mike

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2019
    Location
    Bellflower,Montgomery County, Mo
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    44

    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    That's what I would do. Your thinking/doing could save them.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    2,578

    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    I haven't seen a robin yet, trust them more than a groundhog. Got a ways to go yet I think.
    It is hard to design a safety net that some will not use as a hammock.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
    Posts
    4,593

    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    If the queen is laying and you have a small amount of brood, I would give them the candy, the patty, and a shake of nurse bees each from your two strongest hives. Just make sure you do shake one of your queens into the hive. Right now they need bees for heat more than donated brood. Two or three cups of nurse bees should get the brood production ramped up.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    2,578

    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    In Eliot Maine I would not be shifting bees yet for a weak hive. Couple of weeks more. Are they are raising brood on their own? The nuc is two frames? Foam followers on each side and foam on top. No need to be pretty.
    It is hard to design a safety net that some will not use as a hammock.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    washington, vermont, USA
    Posts
    389

    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    Still way to cold to be shifting bees and frames around. You could very likely shoot one of your other hives right in the foot doing that. Spring turnover could become impossible. Best action is more candy board for the struggling hive. Don't remove the bottom super. If they're up in the top it's because it's warmer and removing the bottom one will change the hive dynamics. You might consider some insulation board. You could use ratchet straps to strap them to all 4 sides. Then put a double layer on the roof of it. It may survive it may not.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Grand Rapids MI USA
    Posts
    1,642

    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    Don’t jeopardize your other hives to prop up one that might be a dead man walking. Keep the sugar on em and wait for decent flying/inspectable weather to see if they’ve made it.
    Rod

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
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    7,854

    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    Consider this. Put a queen excluder over a strong colony. On the strong colony, put pollen patties and sugar bricks. Put a queen excluder on top of the rim and put the hive body containing your weakling on top. Make sure both colonies have an entrance. Put top insulation on the stack and put an insulated wrap around the stack. BTU's make bees. The weak hive if it has a viable queen will attract bees when she starts laying as she should stimulated by the rising warmth and pollen patties. I do it and it works for me latitude 46 43

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    2,578

    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    Googled average temps for Great Falls And Elliot. Feb about the same, Mar -5 for Eliot and -2 for Apr, ave daytime. Matters a lot where in Eliot the hives are. Inland gets warmer faster. Not doubting the plans, just thinking about the local weather pattern running later than most would think. I would not poke around much in the good hives for the weak quite yet. Granted I have not looked at the strong hives, a visual might change that opinion.
    It is hard to design a safety net that some will not use as a hammock.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
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    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    I noted his location and stand by my advice. Must be done quickly and wrapping is what will make it work. Top insulation is a must and both colonies need entrances.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
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    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    Did not realize how cold it still was up there. In lieu of adding bees, Vance's suggestion of stacking the hives for the additional heat makes a lot of sense to me. Isn't that the key of MP's nuc overwintering strategy in VT?
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Yuba County, California, USA
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    6,572

    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    I'd get a squeezer of honey and fill some cells on the combs near the brood and cluster area, and squeeze some out on the top bars of the two frames. You'll need feed close to the mini cluster. Sugar on top bars is good too.
    Live real time bee chat, most evenings...
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  14. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    Eliot, ME
    Posts
    73

    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    Thanks everyone. I ginned up a sugar block and put it over where the cluster was. I say was because that particular hive had a zillions bees taking cleansing flights yesterday afternoon. Apparently the population is just large and healthy. Im thinking when I opened that hive and only saw a small cluster, there were many more bees down in the frames. It makes sense now because all the sugar was gone, pointing to the fact that lots more bees had eaten it - compared to the other hives - where I could see lots of bees on top. Im gonna leave everything as is, wrapped and insulated, and just put patties on top, they should arrive tomorrow from Better Bee.

    The hives are in somewhat of a mico-climate, I have southern sun exposure from across meadow on the one side and on the back of the hives, wrapped in black tar paper, but not insulated on that side so the heat from the sun gets through, even when its cold out they do get solar warming.

    Looks like an unusual 60F out today, and somewhat mild in the upcoming weeks... with 30F at night.

    Thanks
    Mike

  15. #14

    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    I have three late made nucs September. That I put in a customer apple cooler. An are doing great. About 30degrees since he turned it off. I will be looking to doing more next year.

  16. #15

    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    Any idea why the cluster is so small?
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    Eliot, ME
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    73

    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    Any idea why the cluster is so small?
    Im guessing that the cluster only appeared small to me as I only saw bees between 2 frames, but in reality there were many more bees down below. The give away was no sugar block left, as there was in other hives, so there are lots of bees, hiding. I was expecting them to be up top like the other hives, but they weren't... The true test will be in the spring.. another thought, I will clean the bottom board tomorrow when I install the patties, knowing the amount of deceased will tell me more...

    Mike

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    Great Falls Montana
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    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    Are you sure you are not being a bit aggressive on your springswork? Making sure they have feed is one thing. Exposing them to a lot of cold air is another!

  19. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
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    Eliot, ME
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    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    Quote Originally Posted by Vance G View Post
    Are you sure you are not being a bit aggressive on your springswork? Making sure they have feed is one thing. Exposing them to a lot of cold air is another!
    It was 55 yesterday, mid 40s today, I think thats warm enough to pop the lid and place sugar/winter pattys, like I said, I really dont want to get into the other hives, adding a frame or shaking bees would be a last resort. I wont do real spring work until April...

    Best,
    Mike

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Location
    England, UK
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    1,815

    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    Fwiw - this is the simplest of several 'heater frames' I've made and keep in the shed - "just in case":



    It's simply an aluminium-clad power resistor bonded with JB-Weld and 2mm nuts & bolts to an aluminium sheet, salvaged from a caravan (camper). In use, the lead (cord) can be run-out through the hive entrance. I'm not suggesting such kit should be regularly used, but can come in handy if there's an emergency need for some additional warmth. Assuming there's a source of power nearby, of course.

    Right now (end of February) we've had one of the warmest winters on record, and most hives have depleted stores, with many appearing to have started brooding-up - far too early. And, yes of course - the forecast is now for a period of sub-zero temperatures, with snow and so forth ... Bugger.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    7,854

    Default Re: Helping small winter cluster

    I got the impression you were pulling frames. Opening lids does little harm as long as things are done quickly.

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