When do I start "doing stuff"?
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  1. #1
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    Default When do I start "doing stuff"?

    The nuc has been installed for a few weeks. I did my first FULL inspection of removing all frames and such. A few findings I wanted to run by people here:

    1. Water on the inner lid. Thought this was syrup at first from my leaky top feeder, but then realized even if leaking, it can't feasibly leak where I saw the moisture. It lines up right over the inner lid hole. This water was in big raised bubbles on the surrounding parts of the inner lid. Is it condensation?, the bees storing water up there or something? I have the Ultimate Hive Cover with ventilation channels too.
    2. They have expanded from their 5 frame nuc to using maybe 7 frames. Drone frame is still empty. A good mix of capped honey, brood, open nectar in the frames. I didn't see a ton of larvae or any eggs, but I am a noob and it was my first time. I also didn't shake the bees off so they could have been under there.
    3. I didn't see the queen anywhere, which I though was weird. But hey there are thousands of bees in there. I did see a dead bee on the bottom of the hive but it was between two frames and I didn't want to bother going in there. It was a biggie, so I got nervous thinking it was my queen. But I saw her last week alive and well and I sure as heck didn't crush her. So maybe she was elusive today.
    4. I didn't see anything abnormal looking other than some comb on the bottom of one of the frames.

    When should I do my first varroa test? I don't want to sacrifice 300 bees from such a small colony just yet, unless it's no big deal.
    I was going to let them get the rest of the 1 gallon syrup I have in there until it runs out then they're on their own for the summer.
    I know beginners can go overboard, and I don't want to stress them too much. But I also don't want to let them just do their own thing and die or leave.
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  3. #2
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    A few dead bees is no worry, they are born and they die eventually. My concern from what I can see, is a relatively small brood nest. Maybe not the best queen? If there is indeed just a smallish brood nest on one side of one frame, and the combs are not mostly filled with nectar, I would replace the queen. If the combs are mostly filled with stores then it is probable that the queen doesn't have enough space to lay. Check for some help with a local bee club. Someone might be willing to come out and help you do an inspection. Something doesn't sound right regarding the excess moisture in the hive. Is it "rain forest Washington" that is the issue. You might want to increase hive ventilation. High humidity and high temperatures make it hard for bees to control hive temperature. I use screen bottom boards in Michigan for this reason.

    There is not enough information to make any real remote assessment. Has the weather been cool? etc.

    I am a relative noob with bees but have a heritage of a professor entomologist dad who kept bees. Careful observation is important. It is something you learn by doing.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    Hi Mendozer,

    1. Water - I've not used the Ultimate Hive Cover. Was it sitting right on the inner cover? Lots of rain recently? Standing water nearby? I've never run into water on the inner cover. My biggest concern with that would be what happens during winter. Starvation & water dripping on the balled colony is the best way to lose a hive over winter. See if you can't resolve the water before then.

    2. Be careful with the drone frame. If you aren't diligent about removing the drone brood, you're going to have an explosion in the mite population. They really like drone brood. Are you using a 8 frame or 10 frame setup?

    3. Seeing the queen is great (is she marked?). Seeing eggs or very young larvae is more important. I'd be more concerned about the fact that you didn't see any eggs. How many hives do you have? If there are no eggs next week, you really need to start considering whether the queen has failed.

    Varroa - How are you planning on treating? I'd wait a few weeks before any treatment, but be aware of temperature ranges of certain treatments. You don't necessarily have to sacrifice bees via alcohol wash - you can do a sugar shake. Remember, the important thing isn't the absolute number, or even necessarily the implied %, it's the trend.

    Feed, feed, feed. Unless they stop taking the sugar syrup, keep feeding.

    Lastly - check them as often as you want. Don't worry about "overdoing it" first year. The best way to learn is to get in there & watch them!

    Hope this helps.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Trin View Post
    A few dead bees is no worry, they are born and they die eventually. My concern from what I can see, is a relatively small brood nest. Maybe not the best queen? If there is indeed just a smallish brood nest on one side of one frame, and the combs are not mostly filled with nectar, I would replace the queen. If the combs are mostly filled with stores then it is probable that the queen doesn't have enough space to lay. Check for some help with a local bee club. Someone might be willing to come out and help you do an inspection. Something doesn't sound right regarding the excess moisture in the hive. Is it "rain forest Washington" that is the issue. You might want to increase hive ventilation. High humidity and high temperatures make it hard for bees to control hive temperature. I use screen bottom boards in Michigan for this reason.

    There is not enough information to make any real remote assessment. Has the weather been cool? etc.

    I am a relative noob with bees but have a heritage of a professor entomologist dad who kept bees. Careful observation is important. It is something you learn by doing.
    It's been cool here since it is still May. Nothing too crazy as far as rain. But also, rain can't directly get in. So if anything it's the humidity. How would I help that? Another rim of wood as a spacer? I'll do another one soon trying to look for eggs more. I'm of the assumption that every one of the first 5 frames it came with will have a mixture of brood, honey, nectar.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    Quote Originally Posted by ApisMell View Post
    Hi Mendozer,

    1. Water - I've not used the Ultimate Hive Cover. Was it sitting right on the inner cover? Lots of rain recently? Standing water nearby? I've never run into water on the inner cover. My biggest concern with that would be what happens during winter. Starvation & water dripping on the balled colony is the best way to lose a hive over winter. See if you can't resolve the water before then.

    2. Be careful with the drone frame. If you aren't diligent about removing the drone brood, you're going to have an explosion in the mite population. They really like drone brood. Are you using a 8 frame or 10 frame setup?

    3. Seeing the queen is great (is she marked?). Seeing eggs or very young larvae is more important. I'd be more concerned about the fact that you didn't see any eggs. How many hives do you have? If there are no eggs next week, you really need to start considering whether the queen has failed.

    Varroa - How are you planning on treating? I'd wait a few weeks before any treatment, but be aware of temperature ranges of certain treatments. You don't necessarily have to sacrifice bees via alcohol wash - you can do a sugar shake. Remember, the important thing isn't the absolute number, or even necessarily the implied %, it's the trend.

    Feed, feed, feed. Unless they stop taking the sugar syrup, keep feeding.

    Lastly - check them as often as you want. Don't worry about "overdoing it" first year. The best way to learn is to get in there & watch them!

    Hope this helps.
    Water. it was on the sunken portion of the inner lid. Not on the rim at all.

    Drones. They haven't even started with the drone frame yet. I see drone brood on the other frames, but they haven't made it to the perimeter of the box yet. Its a 10 frame. I'd say that they currently use 6 frames. So basically they expanded on one frame thus far. One is mainly comb, which I assume is new brood since I have been giving them 1:1 syrup.

    Queen is marked with a blue dot. I did see a few larvae, not any eggs, but I also didn't have bare frames to look into. This is my first and only hive. I'll get in there wednesday for another peek with my other beekeeper. So should I shake off all bees to analyze the frames bare?

    Varroa. I was going to do alcohol washes to get a number. Using that and a % limit, treat as needed with something like Apiguard. Then maybe the occasional sugar dusting to get some of the phoretic mites. Oxalic acid as a last resort.

    Feeding: I was under the impression they wouldn't need feeding in the summer. You're saying until they stop taking it. Why would they ever stop if it's free easy syrup right there?



    Lastly, smoke. I smoked them more than usual during this more in depth inspection but don't really know how much is too much. I know to look for the guards but with so much going on in the hive and me being nervous to screw up, I'm not really in tune to looking for guard bee eyes. I noticed them "buzzing" more, even the nurse bees whenever I'd apply smoke. Hopefully I wasn't pissing them off haha

  7. #6
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    I don't see water on the inner cover at all during the summer. Even still we see 80-90% relative humidity during the summer so a screen bottom board helps them move more air. I would replace or fix.an inner cover that is warped in the middle. Especially if it is over the brood nest. During the winter it is not the cold that kills hives, it is sometimes not enough ventilation causing condensate to rain down on the bees. I use wooden covers.

    You may be having a hard time seeing the eggs. Make sure the sun is over your shoulder so the light is shining to the bottom of cells.

    You can simply lightly touch the back/top of the bees to move them away so you can see cells. Or blow on them gently.

    If there is nectar coming in and the hive seems to have a decent amount stored then I wouldn't bother feeding them, unless you have foundation frames in the hive. You want to give them enough resources to build comb. I only feed during a dearth or if I think their honey stores are light in the fall. Or if it is a swarm or new package and I don't have some frames of honey/nectar to put in the hive.

    I could be wrong but I understand a standard 4-5 frame Nuc comes with 2 frames of brood, mostly capped and a frame of honey and or pollen plus and empty frame of comb.

    It could be that the queen is a slow starter? I bought 2 packages of bees this year. One queen looked smallish but could have not been laying, so she was a bit lean. I think she is a newly mated queen from her looks. She is a laying machine. After 2 weeks she went from 2-3 frames with some brood to most of the box laid and mostly capped. Some frames were corner to corner brood with maybe a dozen empty cells. I had a moment of panic, I don't want a swarm. So I added a second deep with drawn comb. Third inspection shows the second deep at 60-70% various stages of brood. No queen cups yet, so I think it will get split soon which is exactly what I was hoping for. I pulled some not so good comb and put in a couple of foundation frames to slow them down a little. One frame went in next to open brood with a starter strip. I am hoping they draw that out.

    Second package queen is so-so. First week and not much laying. She is a big fat Italian. Found her wandering around on empty frames basically taking a walk. My guess is that she is an older queen? I decided to wait a week that turned into 10 days because of pouring rain. Second inspection showed passable brood pattern on 5-6 frames. So she got a reprieve. I will decide what to do when I go to pick up a couple of new queens when I do the splits. Going to put some Saskatraz genetics going.

    Both hives were started out with fully drawn comb, 2 frames of honey/nectar and at least some pollen mixed in.

    As far as the Varroa issue. A screen bottom board with a white board will at least possibly show the presence of mites. Not at all scientific. But if you see one then a sugar roll would be something to consider. Won't harm the bees much and will give you a better idea of numbers. It is not as sure as an alcohol wash count but is information. If you don't have honey supers on then a OAV treatment would be fine. (maybe your BK friend has the equipment) Considering that there may not be a lot of brood yet. The drone brood frame is used by some to remove varroa because those mites prefer drone brood. In a starter hive I wouldn't bother.

    Here is a link to a lot of information: https://pollinators.msu.edu/resources/beekeepers/

  8. #7
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    i've been feeding since they're new and need to build comb on the other frames. I thought I could get them from 5 frame nuc to doulble deep 10 by end of fall, then actually do a honey collection next summer.

    I do have a screened bottom for both the ventilation and mites reason. I leave the bottom board in for dropping stuff. Should I leave it open at all times and only use the board for sugar shakes?

    Also, as they expand are they going to naturally start making drone brood on just the drone frames? in other words, are the existing drone brood cells going to be "remodeled" into regular brood?

  9. #8
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    Ask yourself this "How does a top vented hive in winter help raise the dew point inside a hive?" Especially in winter. Have you measured this effect? Have a scientific reference? I would like to read it. Being a Contrarian, I do not buy into dogma easily.

    I have seen bees lined up in winter drinking water during a Nor'Easter (rain gale) through a crack in a cover (wind driven, meaning differential pressure driven water). How do you know dripping condensate from a cover killed a colony or even some bees? DO you know bees were wet before or after death? Death from the cold - hypothermia - would it bee? The only time I have seen significant "dripping" was dripping raw sugar that hygroscopically absorbed so much water it was dripping down and through the paper with a top vent in place. Gave me a clue about dogma.

    I have seen scientific evidence of large colonies, in winter, dying from dehydration. In Scotland of all places. Unfortunately the investigator died before he was able to further his investigations. No one seems to have taken up the banner so far. But the ability to measure RH in a hive has only recently been provided via electronic sensors, prior sensors were too large cumbersome for practical applications. It is a new era for understanding temperature and humidity inside a hive (IMO).

    I have run no top vents for two full winters on wind and thermally shielded hives - ~ ten hives each winter. The shields are still on during this past few days of very humid, rainy weather - the hives have been drying out for some unknown, to me, reason. My guess is mass transport of water via foraging flights it will take a long time and better sensors to figure this one out.

    So much to learn just when you think you got it.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    I think the issue with winter condensate over the cluster has more to do with a hot ball of bees respirating water vapor that rises through a center hole in the inner cover into a space that is improperly insulated. Hot moist air meets cold surfaces, condensates and drips down on bees. If the lid or hive top is insulated the condensate will happen at the air exit points along the edges or at a top exit hole. Not over the cluster.

    It's not dogma it's common sense and basic physics. Sure too much cold dry air and maybe not enough H2O in the honey and the bees might be vulnerable to dehydration. Dehydration during winter of a hive would be related to relative humidity over time and the volume of air flow through the hive, and available H2O. It would take more time or more bees fanning if RH is high vs low during warmer seasons. I just have to think that if you are already soaked by hot humid weather the only thing that helps is either cold water or a fan. Evaporating the water faster one feels some cooling effect. Except when the air is really hot and humid, then I crawl under a rock. (air conditioning)

    If you consider a hive in a tree; It has more insulation around it, It has wood to absorb H2O and possibly give it up. Outside influences on internal temperature fluctuation are slower. We go light weight hive design because we don't like lifting heavy stuff. Probably not what's best for bees.

    I do concede that there are unknown aspects with this subject. Bee physiology probably isn't understood well enough yet. Can a man made hive experience an environmental internal pollution issue during winter cluster? Maybe consider adding outside frames of punky wood for Winter water storage like a tree might provide? What are Co2 levels in a hive during the winter vs summer? ..........lot of questions.

    My first year keeping bees I did not do a good job with winter prep. I saw a lot of dead bees (100's) being dragged out of the hive during the winter. So on a warm January day I popped the lid and saw a lot of condensate over the center lid hole. Made an aluminum "V" shaped piece that was tented over the center hole which caused the condensate to drip into the top feeder wells. The dead bee parade abated. Not meant to be a scientific proof, just an observation. Very well could have been death by virus or other issue.

    Top winter entrances are used in my area because of high snow conditions. I don't use them myself during winter because drifting is not a problem by layout, and we don't normally see snowfall amounts of much more than a foot at a time. Maybe once or twice per year. But go West or North and at the extreme end of the spectrum some area's of Michigan see upwards of 300 inches per season.

    I figure to monitor my hives for bearding during hot humid weather and do temporary remediation. A popsicle stick between the hive boxes or under the lid, will probably help.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    @Mendozer
    On the feed issue - it really does depend on your area, but you can't overfeed, especially during the colony's first year. Generally, if they're still taking it, keep feeding. I've always found that if the flow is on, they'll leave the sugar water alone. Just don't put on a super while you're feeding.

    Bottom board - is it marked for a mite count? If not, I'd leave the screen open. Your question re the sugar shake makes me think you might be confused as to what that is - or maybe I've done a poor job describing it. It's similar to an alcohol wash, but with sugar. I've also heard of people dumping powdered sugar in the hive to encourage grooming behavior. I tried it, once, which was enough. A bunch of sugar coated pissed off bees was all I got.

    There are a million sugar shake videos on youtube - I couldn't find my favorite, but this one will give you the idea. https://youtu.be/48vomY-If2Q

  12. #11
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    Default

    Yes I knew what you meant by sugar shake. It's not as precise of a count from what I've seen on researched sources but it's better than nothing. I suppose I could do that first before alcohol.
    As for the screened bottom its just a white plastic board. Wasn't sure if it stays in or if you slide it in during a treatment only for mite drop. I'll let it ventilate better and remove it

  13. #12
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    Wow!
    Lots of advice.
    Here's mine. Colony looks pretty good to me. There are lots of bees covering the frames so we (or I) can't see inside the cells to make a thorough inspection, BUT I do see lots of capped lolly water on the top of the frames. Because of that, I would advise you to STOP feeding. They are storing the syrup and capping it. They are not able to draw comb fast enough to prevent them from backfilling the brood nest and limiting the area for the queen to lay. You want more bees -- not more stored syrup. Give her room to lay more eggs -- they are not going to starve this time of year, and they can draw comb using nectar. You CAN overfeed and end up with the colony being honeybound.

    A few weeks is not much time in a honey bee colony. Remember, it takes three weeks from the time an egg is laid until an adult bee emerges. The colony has not had much time to expand, and if they are backfilling the brood nest instead of preparing the cells for the queen to lay more eggs, they will not expand very fast and may dwindle. So, one thing you need to do is STUDY. Learn all you can. Beekeeping involves a lot of timing. Timing takes record-keeping.

    Water on the inner cover? Never seen anything like that, but I wouldn't worry too much about it, unless you keep seeing it. If you do, something is wrong with the equipment, not the bees.

    Not laying the drone frame? Don't worry about that. If it is on the outside edge, if will be laid last or probably just used for honey storage. Most of the time the brood nest is shaped sorta like a football and is centered in the hive, not along the outside edge. They don't NEED drones except to spread their genes, which is important, but they know when that is. You don't, and you can't make them do anything.

    Doing stuff? Be thankful that there isn't much stuff you need to do right now. Watch them grow and enjoy them. Be careful about doing stuff. The bees know what they need to do. You just need to give them opportunity to do it. Give them more space when they need it -- not now, they need to expand into the space they already have first. Control the mites for them as they most likely won't be able to do that for themselves. That is a sad reality, but it's true. But with a new nuc, you shouldn't have to worry about that for a few more months. If you see any deformed bees, though, do a mite count and take action if you need to. Otherwise, wait until July to start really worrying about mites. What you can do now is figure out what you are going to do to control mites when the time comes. Make a plan. Again, STUDY, and see what seems right for you. Beyond giving them the right space and controlling the mites, there is actually very little that is necessarily going to NEED to be done. Hopefully, one day, you will be able to do stuff for yourself, like harvesting honey, wax, pollen, or even royal jelly. Maybe you will be able to split them for more bees. The bees don't need you to do that stuff, but it's part of the reason we keep them. Right now, though, just enjoy what nature hath given you, and don't do anything except get that feed off of them.
    Last edited by roddo27846; 05-27-2020 at 06:48 PM.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    I am 4 years in and just getting a handle on things. I was very slow to treat mites and it bit hard. Even if you plan to go Au-natural and not treat in the future, my plain advice is to treat the first year or two. Prove you can get through winter with live bees and then experiment. Sounds like you are making a good start. I didn't do that and killed a bunch of innocent hives.

    Alcohol washing is easy. Give it a try.

    Drone brood can be on any frame, not just the designated drone brood frame. I put one or two medium frames in and they build the drone brood below the lower edge. Makes it very easy to remove if that's your plan.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    So I filled out the full box with frames and foundation so they can expand to it. Should I not be doing that and only expanding one frame at a time?

  16. #15
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    for Mites I have Apiguard to deploy. I'll remove the bottom board for better ventilation and check on them again trying to find the queen.

    I'm confused on the feeding. Some say don't feed in the summer, some say keep feeding if they take it, some say feed especially since it's a nuc and they need syrup to made brood wax.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    You're good on that. The bees will go at their pace. Leave the frames and foundation in and watch them work it.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    Quote Originally Posted by mendozer View Post
    for Mites I have Apiguard to deploy. I'll remove the bottom board for better ventilation and check on them again trying to find the queen.

    I'm confused on the feeding. Some say don't feed in the summer, some say keep feeding if they take it, some say feed especially since it's a nuc and they need syrup to made brood wax.
    I have never used Apiguard, so I have no advice to give on that.

    Feeding, like everything in beekeeping, has no hard and fast rules. It's a judgement call. I am judging from the fact that they already have stored a lot of syrup that you are running the risk of them backfilling the brood chamber and restricting your queen from having room to lay eggs. Because of that risk, I say stop feeding them. At least for a while -- but most likely the rest of the summer.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    I would never add one frame at a time in a conventional Langstroth hive. Maybe you could add a few at a time in a horizontal hive with a follower board. Bees will build comb where they can, so an open frame space will turn into a mess of crazy or cross comb. The design of conventional hives takes into account proper "bee space" that "steers" the bees to build combs the way we want. You might want to expand into a 10 frame box if you have it. Otherwise I think you are adding a second NUC box? Also, until the number of bees rises significantly, comb building, foraging, etc, is limited. Some BK always feed new smaller hives when they are trying to boost those hives and or get them to draw out comb. Others will not, especially if the nectar flow is on. I think there is some confusion on this. A lot of people start hives early in the year when there isn't a nectar flow, so they feed. Doesn't mean this is necessary for a hive started today, for instance. Regardless, the bees will often 'tell' you. If they don't show much interest in a syrup feeder then they probably have enough nectar. I have seen hives die in the winter because honey was harvested in August and there wasn't enough of a fall flow to allow them to fill the cupboards. You have to adjust to what is going on where you live and adjust to weather, year-to-year.

    One thing you can do is encourage them to build comb by frame manipulation. if a frame next to brood is just nectar or honey , you can place a foundation frame next to the brood and shift the honey frame over one place. Just be aware that the bees store pollen next to brood for good reasons. It is harder for them to move that. (from what I have heard).

    Checked the tray under one hive today, lots of chewed wax, pollen drops, and no varroa mites. Hive is just expanding into second deep brood box. The way I decided to manage for varroa this year is to keep an eye on the trays I keep under the screen bottoms. So far looks good. In mid June I will begin maybe a sugar roll or alcohol wash and treat accordingly. During July which is most commonly a month of drought, I might cage the queens and do OAV treatments with a brood break. July through clustering needs careful monitoring and treatments as necessary. Some years we have a good fall flow, others not so much. One has to adjust.

    If I find one mite I do something. When you check bees by alcohol wash are you getting mostly nurse bees? I have thought about just plucking drones and doing a wash just to see if mite population is higher on them. I will be asking some questions about this when I can talk to the phd. BK's at MSU. I am wondering if field bees or drones carry more mites because they probably have a larger fat body tissue. That is what the mites eat. (Maybe mites "Know" that fat bees are better food sources.)

    I wouldn't bother with a drone frame until I have the bees in a 2 deep brood chamber. In an early season NUC, the bees don't need that many drones, and besides, they will build it as they choose. Adding drone frames in May/June makes more sense to me. Keep in mind that this is in Michigan, We see snow in April. So we are behind a lot of other states. Once it is capped you pull it out and freeze it to kill the mites. Scratch the cappings and the dead will be pulled out and it might get laid again, repeat.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    you can use a follower in a regular langstroth. Although they call them dummy boards. Here is an article about it

    https://www.honeybeesuite.com/follow...ngstroth-hive/

  21. #20
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    Default Re: When do I start "doing stuff"?

    this is all good stuff, thanks. I'm also taking the online Penn State Beekeeping course. Thanks for all the tips!

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