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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I often see posts or articles suggesting a hive needs anywhere between 40 and 90 lbs of honey to make it thru the winter. Often these sources don't address the colony size. It wasn't until today I learned of a better metric, the Brood to Honey Ratio. The ratio was expressed in number of brood frames to number of honey frames. Perhaps it should be Honey to Brood? Either way, a ratio makes a lot more sense to me, though the different frame sizes leaves some questions. Also, the ratio would vary according to geographical location/climate.

Can someone weigh in on this and could you share what is your minimum Brood to Honey Ratio for overwintering and location. Thanks!

Update 7/27:
For whatever is worth, I ran some numbers to translate lb of honey recommendations (for a single deep) to number of frames of honey needed. This should work for any hive type provided the honey and brood frames/combs are of roughly the same size (area). I believe this can help provide a ROUGH idea of the winter readiness of a colony. This certainly doesn’t account for numerous variables such as bee breed, bee average age, etc. Feedback is welcomed.

I have a TBH so checking number of frames needed makes more sense to me.

US LocationLB of Honey# of H FramesB:H RatioTranslation
Warm States3052½ frame of honey for each frame of brood
Southern States406.71.52 frame of honey for 3 frames of brood
Middle States601011 frame of honey for 1 frame of brood
Northern States8013.3.754 frames of honey for 3 frames of brood
Very Cold States9015.673 frames of honey for 2 frames of brood


Brood to Honey Ratios.jpg
 

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Brood Ratio = what every they have in the hive, Honey Ratio = what every they can fit in the box around the brood. My method of measurement is lifting one side of hive; A) heavy or B) light.

Winter survivability ratio = two and three "heavy" deeps very good around 90% percent. Less than one deep is around 80% and drops with size.

Any extra stores can be use for spring build up.

You would have to inspect each and every frame in every hive to determine the total square inches brood area in the hive. At a time when you don't need to be in the hive, a damaged queen will be the end of the hive.

Many different races brood up and shut down at different rates, also a fall dearth and other factors will determine how much brood they raise. New queen may raise more and go later into fall (the whole summer solstice thing). The fall flow also determines how much brood is raised.

Will you count drone brood? Good years they will raise them until Nov. On a flip of a coin they may or may not kick them out any time from Aug on.

Generation of beekeeping has already determined how many boxes and the weight of the hive does best for winter survival in a particular area. You might be reinventing the wheel.
 

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I think the number of bees and their age class also is an important factor. I could have a hive ready for winter with very few frames of capped brood and virtually no eggs but well populated with young bees. In different situation leading up to the accounting time, you could have a colony of very old bees and a large number of frames of capped brood.

I think climate, bee breed and previous conditions could cause too many variables to be solved by a formula as simple as brood to honey. Weighing I can do without opening the hive and risk rolling the queen when it is too late to recover.


Edit; I see flowerplanter has said it better while I was typeing my post. Agree 100%.:thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Part of the issue for me and others is I am using a top bar hive. Gauging weight isn't always so easy. Gauging weight may also be an issue for people with very small colonies and or people that haven't developed the "feel" for it.

Estimating the brood surface area to honey surface area or number of honey frames to number of brood frame seems fairly simple. It seems to me a 1:1 ratio may be a reasonable target. What do you think?
 

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It seems to me a 1:1 ratio may be a reasonable target. What do you think?
So that would be 5 frames of brood and 5 frames of honey in a typical L. Hive. Double that for a double brood box. I rarely see that. And it's too variable. How would you propose to change the brood size if the ratio was skewed?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I agree there are lots of variables, but it would be one way to gauge the winter readiness of the colony and hopefully avoid losses. If you know the ratio approaching winter is too high, then at least you'd know you'll need to start feeding. If the ratio was crazy high, then you may consider combining hives with a much readier colony or transfer bees to a colony with better resources, or take other more extreme measures.

So is 1:1 to high or to low for your part of the country/breed/etc?
 

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I can't answer that with any certainty. Right now it is high, as my hives are stabilizing from splits and we're in a dearth. Earlier in the spring it would be about right. My whole focus now is to make sure, whatever the brood size, that my hives buildup enough during the fall flow to have at least a better than average shot at surviving the winter. But that is up to the bees, not me. I can feed, but I can't lay eggs. Our inspector said a minimum amount of stores for our area is ~ 40 lbs. (5 deep frames) per hive. But those hives need to be monitored, due to extreme weather fluctuations. That would be about a 1:4 ratio per double-deep hive if I'm not mistaken. I think both flowerplanter and crofter offered some very sage advice on tried and true methods to ascertain winter stores. If you feel you can achieve 1:1 then by all means go for it. However, it may be a moving target due to the number of variables. I'm all for newer, better processes but I also subscribe to the saying that "if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it".
 

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I think I remember someone relating the number of capped honey frames per covered seam of bees. Probably this would not compute on top bar hive though; I know squat about them! I remember doing some hand wringing about amount of winter stores until I landed on the simplicity of weighing. Now I could calculate close enough to the target weight by estimating the number of capped deep lang frames. I would guess that the numbers of bees in a healthy hive would be close enough in either a lang, top bar, warre, national etc., could winter on 70 lbs of stores. That is a very wild ass guess so fire away anyone with experience on these hives.

With a bit of math and measurement of area of honey you should be able to estimate the weight of honey fairly close. Figure roughly 1.5 times heavier than an equal volume of water. If I had to judge a top bar stores I would have to try to convert it into a LANGuage I could relate to.;) An area of brood will occupy three times the frame space once it emerges so you would have to factor this into your calculations. This measuring and calculating sure would not fit my pistol!

During winter, until brood up starts there probably is not much difference in honey consumption between 3 pounds of bees and 8. There sure will be when brooding starts. Getting them through winter may be easier than getting them through spring!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Our inspector said a minimum amount of stores for our area is ~ 40 lbs. (5 deep frames) per hive. But those hives need to be monitored, due to extreme weather fluctuations. That would be about a 1:4 ratio per double-deep hive if I'm not mistaken. I think both flowerplanter and crofter offered some very sage advice on tried and true methods to ascertain winter stores. If you feel you can achieve 1:1 then by all means go for it. However, it may be a moving target due to the number of variables. I'm all for newer, better processes but I also subscribe to the saying that "if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it".
This is helpful. I noted elsewhere honey recommendations for a single deep as follows:
Southern States = 40 LBs,
Middle States = 60 LBs and
Northern States = 80 to 90 LBs.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but I ran some numbers based on info I found online and concluded a reasonable average is 0.4LBs of honey per Square Inch of comb. This led me to:
Lang Shallow: 3LB/Frame
Standard: 4LB/Frame
Lang Deep: 6LB/Frame

If these numbers are acceptable, then your MINIMUM 40LBs translates to 6.6 frames. Brood to Honey Ratio of 3. If you followed the Middle States recommendation noted above then you would need 10 frames (B:H of 2).

In Portland, Oregon, I'd probably need to shoot for about 80LBs for a single deep. This would be 13 frames
(B:H 0.77) <<== Note I went below the 1:1 I was asking about.

I hope this makes sense to some. I know going thru this exercise has already answered some questions for me. Even a B:H of 1 seems difficult to attain for my small colony so I know I need to feed heavily.
 

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If these numbers are acceptable, then your MINIMUM 40LBs translates to 6.6 frames. Brood to Honey Ratio of 3. If you followed the Middle States recommendation noted above then you would need 10 frames (B:H of 2).
I'll buy that. I think your numbers are correct. I was using 8 lbs./deep frame. Don't know where I got that number. Probably wishful thinking.
But...the inspector told me 5 deep frames and I calculated (wrongly) based on 8#/frame. The actual minimum weight would be closer to 30#/hive for our area. Whatever it is, everything they have now, and everything they bring to the hive in the fall will be theirs. I'll base my fall feeding regime on that outcome.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Do you think he meant 5 frames for a single deep? That would be 1:2 or 1/2 a frame of honey per each frame of brood. If he meant 5 frames for your double deep then that looks very low based on other numbers I see.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
For whatever is worth, I ran some numbers to translate lb of honey recommendations (for a single deep) to number of frames of honey needed. This should work for any hive type provided the honey and brood frames/combs are of roughly the same size (area). I believe this can help provide a ROUGH idea of the winter readiness of a colony. This certainly doesn’t account for numerous variables such as bee breed, bee average age, etc. Feedback is welcomed.

I have a TBH so checking number of frames needed makes more sense to me.

Also, I decided to update the first post to show this info.

US LocationLB of Honey# of H FramesB:H RatioTranslation
Warm States3052½ frame of honey for each frame of brood
Southern States406.71.52 frame of honey for 3 frames of brood
Middle States601011 frame of honey for 1 frame of brood
Northern States8013.3.754 frames of honey for 3 frames of brood
Very Cold States9015.673 frames of honey for 2 frames of brood


View attachment 26909
 

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Do you think he meant 5 frames for a single deep? That would be 1:2 or 1/2 a frame of honey per each frame of brood. If he meant 5 frames for your double deep then that looks very low based on other numbers I see.
I'm pretty sure she said 5 full frames per hive for our area. Now this was a minimum. I'll email her to verify. But IMO, 60 lbs. for a double deep here seems high for our area.
 

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Variables are even different on the same property. I had 5 over 5 exit the winter with most of the stores intact, only used maybe 1 frame. Another identically prepared hive set in a more protected spot literally 15 feet away ran out of stores and I had to feed in March. So 1:1 was overkill and inadequate in the same location. I just figure that for my small winter nucs 1:1 is my target regardless.

These five frame clusters take up about 30 cubic inches and I might consider them a minimum size for wintering. The thing that will change this year is that I am adding a frame per hive to bring them up to 6 over 6. Doing the math has this seemingly small adjustment allowing for a doubling of the volume of bees but I would only be adding 20% more honey due to the 6th frame (not counting any additional honey in the brood box). I am sure that I will be fine as I am not protecting the hives so they should consume less but extrapolating the math out to a 10 frame setup makes some more interesting numbers... and makes me think that wintering 10 frame colonies is not a good idea even if it is the norm.
 

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but extrapolating the math out to a 10 frame setup makes some more interesting numbers... and makes me think that wintering 10 frame colonies is not a good idea even if it is the norm.
What are your calculations showing for 10 frame boxes that would make you think that?
 

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Assume a cluster is roughly a sphere of bees. In a 5 frame they span 3 frames. I am using 1 1/4" center spacing. In a 10 frame they span 8 frames. The relative volume relationship between cluster sizes is not linear. Volume numbers are rounded so they look nicer. These numbers are not meant to be accurate, after all we are talking about bees, but just representative of what could be expected.

5 frame cluster radius 1.875 inches cluster volume = 30 cubic inches
6 frame cluster radius 2.500 inches cluster volume = 65 cubic inches
8 frame cluster radius 3.750 inches cluster volume = 220 cubic inches
10 frame cluster radius 5.000 inches cluster volume = 525 cubic inches

It doesn't really matter what the density of bees per cube is as I just assume that they cluster at the same density no matter the size of the cluster or, if they don't, the variance is not that great. Going from 5 to 6 frames is 30 to 65 cubic inches, more than double the number of bees and 30 to 525 is 17.5 times the number of bees. I think that it should be safe to assume that the stores consumption may follow the bee volume rather than the frame count but I am not certain if it is a direct relationship as the dynamics within a larger vs smaller cluster may be different just due to the higher number of bees, more or less heat efficiency perhaps?

In my climate a 10 frame only needs a full super to winter, from what I see around here anyway, which is 50 to 60 lbs of honey (5-6 lbs per deep frame). I really don't know if supplemental or emergency feeding in the early spring is needed with that though. If we ignore the brood box stores it could follow that a 5 frame setup would only need 3-3.5 lbs of honey. Based on what I saw last year in my hive that is possible but unlikely.

There may be an argument to start the spring with a larger number of bees per colony IF the primary goal is producing honey or even bees for commercial sale or migratory pollination. On the other hand, if the primary goal is to raise healthy bees, perhaps harvest honey on a small scale and perhaps sell some successfully overwintered nucs, then it makes more sense to keep the colony sizes smaller to reduce the load on winter stores and maximize the number of queens going into winter which will increase the number of surviving colonies to start the season with.

Having a warm winter where the bees are more active all year long probably makes a difference as well...but I might head the same way under those circumstances.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
JD_
Wow, you really took this to another level. You may be onto something though. I can buy that the appropriate honey to bee population relationship necessary to make it thru the winter is not linear. It makes sense to me that, in your area, if you have a small hive you can get away with less than 1:1 B to H, but if you have a large colony that may not be enough.

Your 60lb of honey per deep frame seems low to me.

The huge difference you mentioned in post #14 is pretty significant though. It could be a number of reasons, but the amount of resources in the brood area and the average age of the colony could be significant factors. In either case, such large differentials in similar colonies makes much of this math seem pointless.
 

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Interesting stuff. Far too complicated for my new philosophy of keeping bees, but interesting nonetheless. I'll observe directly and act accordingly since I can. Inspector confirmed 6-8 frames of honey per double deep, with inspection mid-January will suffice in my area.
 

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In my climate a 10 frame only needs a full super to winter, from what I see around here anyway, which is 50 to 60 lbs of honey (5-6 lbs per deep frame). I really don't know if supplemental or emergency feeding in the early spring is needed with that though. If we ignore the brood box stores it could follow that a 5 frame setup would only need 3-3.5 lbs of honey. Based on what I saw last year in my hive that is possible but unlikely.
JDMoodie, are you using supplemental insulation for your hives? I'm wondering whether that fits into your calculations.
 

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...I'll observe directly and act accordingly since I can. Inspector confirmed 6-8 frames of honey per double deep, with inspection mid-January will suffice in my area.
No matter what any math seems to point to, that's exactly what we have to do in the end... it's not like all of a sudden any calculations are going to change anything being done successfully. This is really just me getting a handle on the whole expansion plan anyway and this helps me conceptualize beekeeping on slightly different terms than I've been considering up to now.
 
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