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So maybe at least part of the build-up you suggest may not entirely be the bees' fault.
I have read the anecdotes and know more than a few beekeepers who have initially met with success in a TF context only to have significant failures after a few years.
I saw the same I had 2 good years... and those good years made it hard to change my ways even in the face of 3 years of 100% loses

you see the same pattern in a lot of organic AG programs ..specifically common in aquaponics (fish waste hydroponics) systems, you set up with no dirt no weeds and no bugs and it takes a few years for the pests to drift in and reproduce at a scale that's a problem.. and much like 2 and 3 year beekeepers they think they have to problems licked... till they don't

I remember a "great idea" locally, a large active thermal battery earth mass greenhouse .. run fans to suck in hot air in to the ground during the day and cool it and put it back into the greenhouse, at night warm air from the mass heats the green house... seamed great till they caught a powdery mildew infection and there was no way to sterilize the mass.. took a bit to get the reason figured out . even years later if they tried to turn on the fans there was an outbreak.. end result fans off, great idea dead


I am going to pull a GWW here... "some were that I can't recall at the moment " there is a Skep keeping reference that one sould not by a stock that was XC old (I want to say 4 years) as it won't do well do the old combs ...
 

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Discussion Starter · #642 ·
Russ
So maybe at least part of the build-up you suggest may not entirely be the bees' fault. Does your hypothesis lead you to consider a strategy to conduct systematic comb renewal?
No, not yet anyway.
Cheers
gww
 

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Discussion Starter · #643 · (Edited)
It looks like I am going to start with about 5 hives from ten coming out of winter. I am not sure of this yet cause I have not opened one of them to be sure yet. The hive I did open today was a bit of a surprise to me. I got a couple gal off of it last fall and thought it was active earlier. It had a very big cluster that was dead in a ball in the top box. The top box was empty of stores. So I assume starvation. The medium and deep under the top box had plenty of honey.
62360

This was the deep I mentioned cutting the comb down to fit a medium. It is full of honey and there is honey in the medium above it though maybe not full cause I did not pull frames to see. I left the hive sitting just as it is so the other bees can rob it. So 5 hives are getting to split about 8 gal from dead outs and they are working the maples now and so they should make some baby bees.

I think I may have been my laziness that caused some of this. I had extracted in Sept. expecting them to stock up during Sept. to first frost and I had known that they had not completely filled the upper boxes but also felt they were smart and had enough honey in the hive (which you see they did) and would move it if needed as we usually have warm spells mixed in with out cold.

At least I did finally weed eat.

I have no ideal of what shape the other hives are in right now. It seems it has taken them longer than I though to rob out the other open hives but some of the honey in them seemed to be crystalized and probably hard to get. This honey was so pretty and white capped I thought about keeping it but broke one on the grass and when I was trying to pick it up it seemed kind of wet. It is capped but may have drawn in some water from sitting unguarded and freezing and moisture in the air from rain a day ago. Either way, it is a lot of honey and the live bees have quite a bit of comb on them and so hopefully they put it to good use or I will regret not trying to salvage it as it is about half of what I get in a year.

That is two or three hives that gave surplus honey last year dead now. At least I get my trap back (which is the bottom deep on this hive).
Cheers
gww
ps
Lots of comb under the mediums in that deep that have honey in them but built cross wise to the frames.

ps ps It also looks like one hive that I was sure was dead earlier by putting my ear against it may still be alive. Just goes to show that I will not really know till I pop some tops on what is really what.
 

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... but also felt they were smart and had enough honey in the hive (which you see they did) and would move it if needed as we usually have warm spells mixed in with out cold.
Thank you for the post, GWW. While I am sorry to hear about your troubles it is interesting to read that the colony did not move around stores as you anticipated. I think those of us in milder climates take it for a given that the colonies will go and rearrange stores when the weather is suitable but this would suggest that this may not always be the case.

Reminds me of a good talk that Roger Patterson recently gave entitled, 'Challenge What You Are Told'... or at least learn from situations which turn out different than anticipated.

In your mind, what (if anything) are you planning to do differently this year based on your overwintering challenges this year?
 

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Discussion Starter · #645 · (Edited)
Russ
Sad to say but the only change till I change my mind might be to make a couple splits like I did the first two years. I am going to ride it out as I have been just a bit more cause I still have not been bit hard enough to change yet. Of course the bees, if like some last year, may may not build strong enough to be split. So some stuff still remains to be seen.

My problem is that I have low expectations and ambition and even with the losses, have bees to work with and am not that far off from where I started with ten if I only catch a swarm or two. Since I am not a sales man that can get rid of too much extra, I have this feeling I am going to end up close to where I have been.

The first year, I was afraid I was not going to be able to keep the numbers down. That is less a worry now but I of course don't want to go too far down where I am bee less or get nothing either. I do not believe as of now that I am at that point and so no real adjustment yet.

I will know more later. I still wait for randy oliver to get his shop towel approved as if I ever do decide to get more ambitious, that would be my first effort. Even that I am resistant against if I can stay static and get my ten gal a year of honey with out it and have a hobby that is repeatable and cheaper then chickens and my dog. I know it is terrible but also interesting seeing which hive died compare to my preconceived notions of which were good and which were bad. I figure that I am still learning and that is a bonus. I have been reading some of the problems in the forum of others who keep bees in a different way than I am on this forum and it is showing a bit that some is mechanics and some is art. Some bee keepers consistently do well and some that emulate them do not.

Were I unhappy,(Prior to treating) My first effort would go more towards making splits in mite free ways like I did the first years and having one portion starting with no drawn comb so that I would have young hives going into winter with the old hives. See how that goes and then adjust. Since I am not unhappy, I will probably make splits toward getting back up to 8 or ten hives as a winter number that I feel safe gives some kind of bees come spring to play with. But will not be making it part of a mite program which I think might work with out killing you on honey making.

So though not sure, I will probably just be robbing brood from several hives to make a small increase but leave the hives good and full of mites and still laying. I am thinking maybe end of march depending on weather of counting brood frames, seeing what is average. Cutting them back to some number I pick and taking the excess above that number. Shake the bees off and them pick my strongest hive and put the brood over it above a queen excluder and see it they start queen cells and if the do, set it off on its own stand as a hive. Might be able to do this a couple of times and still be done a couple of weeks before mid may. If I have a real bad hive, might be able break it apart and start a few real small nucs with extra queen cells if any. If the bees don't make the cells, I can just split like I have in the past. These are just thoughts and not actions yet and may have no impact on apiary issues and like I said, if the hives do not build up enough to donate brood, I might have to rethink. If they do build up proper, I might have just had a fluke few years that will rotate back and give a few good. Reading, even the treaters have those.

As always, I don't have the answer yet but time will tell something.
Cheers
gww
Ps it was one hive that died of pure starvation, nothing in hive and three that died with honey in the lower boxes but not where they were clustered. Only one of the clusters was really pretty impressive that died. One was small and one was fair.
 

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Discussion Starter · #646 ·
Thanks gypsi. Hope things are working out for you.
Cheers
gww
 

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Discussion Starter · #647 · (Edited)
I couldn't stands it no more. I got into two hives that I thought might have been dead. One I was already sure was alive but had thought dead in the cold weather when I tapped on it.
The other I had opened the top and seen about 30 bees poking their head out of the inter cover hole. This hive did only have about 50 bees in it. There was no dead cluster. They were covering a super tiny bit of brood. I did not see a queen anywhere or where new laying was uncapped and so finaly got greedy and took the honey.
62424

Since I was too lazy to get the extractor out, I am doing a sorta scrape and let drain and then feed the rest back to the bees. I told the wife she could crush them but she is trying to save something. Doing it this way might end me up with a couple of gal.

The other hive was raising brood but not loaded with bees. It was in the second box down though with the top box being capped honey and this was part of my taking the honey rather then to keep feeding it all back. It is always a bit of a hard decision when the greed is fighting against the laziness.

So I had fifty percent loss over winter with most dead outs having honey. I could have already got my ten gal for the year but gave most of it to the bees and they will probably swarm on me because of it (though the one I looked at has some ways to go for that).

Pollen coming in and flying weather for at least one more day if the weather man is correct. Then rain every day and early snow one day per forecast.

I know. my picture sucked and I could have took some of bees instead. Oh well.
Cheers
gww
ps you can see part of my bee brush sitting in front of the super.

Ps ps The bees were super calm considering I had open dead out two feet away being robbed and hundreds of greedy bees in the air.
 

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I haven't done a full inspection. Got a little head-butting from my swarm hive when I took them a fresh jar of syrup today, put one on the beeweaver hive too. Both seem to be doing well, it's pond season and I'm gone to work a lot. Considering using OAV and considering waiting til I have time. I had no mite drop the last time I treated, and were it not for the extreme cold I think my nuc would have been fine. I fed honey back to mine this winter too, have some fondant in the fridge, but they never ran out of honey. I don't have time to do a lot of honey selling so not having it sitting around crystalizing is kind of a plus. I keep bees for the garden and my enjoyment of learning about them. I'm happy they are alive
 

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Discussion Starter · #649 ·
Gypsi
I'm happy they are alive
Hope they stay that way for you. My wife has already spent several days in our garden and I am not good at selling honey either. I do put the crystalized honey in my oven with the light on for a couple of days cause it only gets to about 110 degrees. It takes a while but does clean it up for a while. I will turn the jars over and over to keep it mixed a few time during this. Just thought I would throw the ideal out there.
Cheers
gww
 

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I don't have the answer yet but time will tell something.
GWW:

I do apologize for my delay in reply as I have been away from the computer, busy at my day job and using what little free time is left in the garage getting things ready for the season.

I do appreciate your detailed and helpful reply- I wasn't asking to grill you but to learn and get a sense of how you are interpreting what you are seeing in your yard.

Hopefully your newly-baited swarm traps will come through in spades for you and it won't be any trouble for you to get back to parity.

Best of success to you this season.

Russ
 

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Discussion Starter · #652 ·
Looked in the hives today. Not impressed yet. Believe one thing though, I won't have to worry about a april 15 swarm from my hives.
Obseravtions:
1 The smallest hives with the fewest bees seem to have the most honey on them.
2. The only hive I looked at last time that had nice little patches of brood did not have any real brood today.
3, The hives have few enough bees but yet I could only find one queen in a hive with no real brood in it at all and with the most over all bees in the hive.
4.There was two hives with few bees but solid brood patterns. Three with no real brood in the hives.
5. No capped drone brood or drones in the hive.
6. All hives bringing in pollen.
7. All hives would drip if holding a frame sideways and so some new nectar coming in.
8. The hives were a little jumpy but one little hive actually may be kinda hot. Some times I notice times of year making the bees funny but they are small and busy and when big can be very nice and so I think coolness could be a little involved. Did get stung twice though and don't most times.
9. I still do not know what I am looking at or seeing but at least have a starting point to watch from. I have seen hives just packed by now in the past.
10 Had two hives that had a ton of bugs (beatles roaches bla bla bla) cornered on top of the inter cover with bees keeping the inter cover hole guarded but did not see stuff in the hives itself. I dumped them on the ground near the hives so they can breed better.:)
11. Had a little cross comb in the boxes that were loaded with honey (Don't know how I missed this last year) that I took the putty knife to seperate and then smashed strait and any chunks that broke off I just let fall to the next box and then smashed the frames down into it to make them fit. It was easy enough but makes me want to have water at the hives to wash with. luckily there was mud puddles half way back to my house and so it was not quite as far to clean up a couple of times while working the bees. Honey is so messy.

I tried to take a picture of the one queen I saw but my hands were dirty and I accidently snapped the picture while switching hands and after trying three times said heck with it.
Cheers
gww
 

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I won't have to worry about a april 15 swarm from my hives.
Good update, GWW. Many of your observations mirror mine in that things appear to be off to a slower start this year. I am also seeing a lot of nectar just now coming in and being stored around the nest.

Another thing that has been interesting to me has been watching the hive weight of #2011 (the so-called reference colony) relative to brood rearing and available forage.

More specifically, if you look at the attached weight graph of the last 90 days and exclude the data point from February 19th (snow) and the data point from March 23rd (evaluation), the weight from before the New Year until now has not changed by much more than 7 pounds.

I understand that colonies tend to utilize very little stores when not rearing brood, but this small data set also makes me wonder if some colonies will mind their brood rearing to reflect incoming nectar and/or pollen.

Thus I wonder if what you might be seeing is possibly a reflection of the later start to forage availability?
 

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Discussion Starter · #654 ·
Russ
Could be. I know one had one small round of brood rearing earlier and I saw what I thought was a small orientation flight but was surprised to not see more brood but see pollen coming in and dripping frames. Doolittle used to say that with lots of honey they make lots of babies but you may be correct and they may still need the push of new nectar to kick start them.

I try and watch but am a slow learner. Still, I now have a base to watch what happens further. I am too cheep and lazy to find a way to track hive weight but just love the ideal and thing over a few years it would speed up the learning process of an areas flows like crazy and make more sure of what you see in bees related to real facts.
Good luck
gww
Ps, I was surprised that the 8/9 gal from dead out honey was not more evenly though the live hives and did not kick of a decent brood rearing round.
 

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Good update, GWW. Many of your observations mirror mine in that things appear to be off to a slower start this year. I am also seeing a lot of nectar just now coming in and being stored around the nest.
According to flower blooming, we are one week early this year compared to the last 2 years. I wonder if that late cold spell affected you southern folks more than it did us? It got cold here too, but the bees (and everything else) were still huddled up and probably didn't even notice it, whereas for you it wasn't just a late frost, but an unusually hard one that set things back.
 

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I was surprised that the 8/9 gal from dead out honey was not more evenly though the live hives and did not kick of a decent brood rearing round.
GWW:

While I am only speculating, it makes me wonder if some of what we are seeing is at least partly predicated upon the genetic makeup of the colonies themselves insofar that it represents the genetic predisposition of certain subspecies who wait to commence broodrearing in earnest until nectar and/or pollen are incoming.
 

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... whereas for you it wasn't just a late frost, but an unusually hard one that set things back.
You might be right, AR1. With most all stone fruit trees now in full bloom and the potential for a hard-freeze again mid-week, we might be in for another set-back.
 

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Discussion Starter · #658 ·
Russ
My plumbs and peaches are in bloom now and I do see a few dandelions. We are scheduled for 28 degree night time low wensd.

I think is is a good thing if my bees bloom a little late no matter the reason. I am a fair weather bee keeper and keeping the bees in the box past the first few 70 degree days is good regardless of the reason. I still remember one cold april when this was not the case.:) I keep thinking it might be some lingering problem from last year though. I have time to watch though.

The fear of swarming early was one reason for sending bees though winter with out making them as heavy as I could so they would live more hand to mouth and not get so far ahead of me. I have no doubt also that my bees would do a bit better if I would restrict their space in the early warm days like feb or early march and then add it back not. The bottom box is almost always empty then. It might make not difference since it is on bottom but that is what the only guy with bees I have ever seen does.
Cheers
gww
 

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GWW:

I assume you saw this Bob Binnie link on Bee-L, but I wanted to make sure:


Not saying you should do this, just recalling a conversation we've had here off-and-on regarding the subject. The take-away (i.e. Bob's opinion):

All beekeepers should rotate out old comb as a part of their overall management strategy and this includes nontreatment and organic treatment beekeepers alike. Any beekeepers who think they are immune to the problems associated with old comb are kidding themselves. We can’t tell the bees where to go or what to bring home, and organic compounds can easily have nasty interactions, too. Even in what seems to be a non-exposure situation, combs will eventually become contaminated and overloaded with undesirable substances, and will need to be replaced.
 

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Discussion Starter · #660 · (Edited)
Russ
I did not see that but do believe I heard him mentioning the benefit of making lots of nucs helps him refresh comb continually.
Cheers
gww
 
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