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So I live in a smallish house and have a largish woodshop on the property. It actually looks like a home with a garage, but it isn't. Initially I have been relegated to a small corner of the backyard just beyond the garden. And initially I have been limited to exactly 1 colony/hive. And of course, when spring comes, unless everything goes exactly perfectly any loss is 100% loss with no resources to use to help recover. So essentially, this particular style of beekeeping on such a small scale, either requires very disciplined, and intensive maintenance to avoid buying bees every year. If I didn't have to feed them, or medicate them, or put any other money into them, I can't harvest enough honey to break even on recovering the cost of the price of a Nuc. However, as it is, there are other costs as listed.

Backyard, circle around current hive location.
yard1.jpg

View from hive location behind garden shed.
yard2.jpg

Okay, so I have to following options available to me at present since I have no active colony.

1. Buy nucs, packages, queens (expensive at best)
2. Try to catch swarms (unreliable might not be successful)

If I have an active colony, I assume I have some ability to do splits, false swarms, forced swarms, and/or swarm mitigation

It would appear to me that if I don't take a colony, and somehow make it into multiple colonies going into the winter, I am more likely than not going to come out of the winter with no colonies. Much of the splitting and queen rearing strategies I see come from those with established bee yards, with history and existing equipment in specific states. There seems to be no limit to frames of clean already drawn comb, frames of brood in many stated day 0 through capped brood. And plenty of extra mated queens, employees, and unlimited time as in many cases it is their whole day-job.

Those are not to complain, but merely to show the techniques used in such scenarios may or may not scale down to those who are doing small scale home beekeeping.

There are plenty of strategies for getting a nuc through spring and into summer in hopes of winter. The last nuc I ever bought here is what I was told to do.
1. Transfer them to your hive.
2. Get a 5 gallon pale and 25lb bag of sugar and mix it with 3 gallons of water.
3. Feed, feed, feed, feed...
4. When the bees are covering all the frames in your box, add another box.
5. If they cover all of those frames, then put on supers.

In addition to all that, I treated with OA 1x a week for 4 weeks in the spring, then MAQs once in the fall and left it on until the bees cleaned out the trash. No sugar rolls or alcohol rolls. Just treat them period.

This is not a workable strategy,

My very first was a more fly by the seat of my pants and try to apply what the bee school taught and what I could read. I won a nuc as a door prize from the bee school.
1, Transfer them into the hive.
2. When you open the box and they are pouring out when they are opened, add a new box. When they pour out of the second one add supers.
3. Made jar feeders, and when it got hot and very dry and they didn't seem to be bringing in anything, they were fed sugar water "Until they didn't want anymore"
4. I used no OA, and no FA and didn't really do anything for the SHB

When spring came, I had a tiny baseball sized cluster, Then we had a weird late spring few freeze days and then they got robbed out.

And there a couple years in-between where a little more this or a little less of that. But in the end, it seems like had I had multple colonies there were times that they could have either been combined, or a frame of one thing or the other from one could have been used to boost the other. In addition, Especially in the beginning, I would have done well to have some "drawn comb" rather than frames with just froundation or nothing at all. But again, first year, all one has is the nuc and what came in it, and brand new gear possibly with wax foundation.

So, I have a few goals, and would like to come up with strategies to move forward.

1. I don't want to buy bees every year.
2. I would prefer not have to treat with OA FA or prophylactic pharmaceuticals
3. I would prefer not to feed sugar water as a matter of course
4. I must keep the size of the outdoor area being used to a "minimum." So while a shotgun approach might work, don't have unlimited space, and I do have next door neighbors, with little kids.

Additional concerns,
a. I must work a day job
b. I have no dependable help or employees so must do it as 1 person

So for #1 I need to optimize my ability to catch swarms. Both if they happen from my own colonies, or from external ones to populate initial colonies. It also requires that I cam split and make multiple colonies each spring/summer to increase my ability to come out of the winter with any colonies.

I am not sure I understand all the aspects of #2 but it appears that if I can keep a strong colony, in right sized space I don't think I have as much problem. And if I am propagating enough newer colonies, I will be having lots of brood breaks, and perhaps the bees that better handle such problems will be the surviving colonies. But I am willing to do some a/b testing if I can have multiple colonies at a time as well. But more research needs to be done on this.

For #3, I am not sure that I am in an environment where there aren't enough resources for foraging bees to feed a hive and even prep it for winter. Feeding as a matter of course just doesn't seem like the right thing to do. I understand drought years and other problems as exceptions, but they should be just that, exceptions.

Okay, so I am reading everything I can get my hands on about "treatment free" and "natural" beekeeping. I do understand that some of these things are religious level of opposition/acceptance. I am not looking to get into such wars.

Anyway, if you want to help me come up with some strategies or if you can point me to more people like Seely, Sharashkin, Bush, Barnyard Bees... no other names are coming to mind, but I know there's more. I would love to know some people (even if they are not in my same area) who are doing small scale in a small area like me.
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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I will lay this out and hope you take it the right way. Being TF, having a micro apiary, ie, 2 hives, along with not feeding during our sumer dearth is not a recipe for success. Your lament about resources is understood, but we all started there. We focus on comb production and keeping the bees healthy during the first two years. After that, things become easier and you can afford to experiment a little. To get to that point, you need to feed constantly throughout the summer, rotate frames to encourage comb production, and you need to treat for mites starting late July to early August. If you do not, you will be comb poor and need to buy bees every year (or get good with catching swarms).
 

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JWPalmer hit the major points so I will not rehash what he stated. I would also add, there are no internet experts. Or, rather, there are plenty of self proclaimed internet experts that will tell you exactly how to manage your hives. Not coincidentally I think all of those internet experts will also sell you replacement bees, queens, and equipment. That isn't aimed at anyone on here, I've just heard too many stories of "<insert expert name> said to do this, my hives are all dead, why would that happen? I followed <internet expert>'s advise to the letter"

I have only ever bought 1 single nuc which was my 1st hive. I've grown from there and have at times had more bees than I can handle with the time I have available to put into them. I'm not an internet expert or trying to sell you bees. Nor am I a commercial beekeeper. Here is what I would recommend if you and I were sharing a cold beverage. It is also the same advise I gave my sister who is starting with bees and is 1000 miles away.

1. Read and understand the process of beekeeping in your area. Understanding is very important because local conditions matter so much.
2. Once you understand, realize that you don't understand. That's OK and why you should ask questions.
3. Get your 1st hive/package
4. Manage them just in the plain boring fashion. While I respect the TF crowd, the learning curve is too steep when you are starting out. This is supposed to be fun and dropping $100-$300 every year to buy bees is not fun.
5. If you do everything almost right you will need to or can split that hive sometime your 1st year. Now you have 2.
6. As part of your winter prep put those two into a resource hive or two single nucs.* I have used both but prefer single nucs and have never lost one over winter.
7. In spring, if fate smiles upon you and you kept your end of the bargain you will have 2 strong nucs coming out of winter. Then you will be trying to figure out what to do with all the bees after you put them into fill sized hives and they explode. That is when you can sell or give some away.

7a. If you lose one, then you still have one left and can repeat 1-6 again in year two learning what to do different.

*My base strategy is 8 frame deeps so moving an 8 frame deep into a 5 frame nuc isn't that difficult. 10 frame to 5 frame may be more difficult. I also prefer deeps to mediums for brood boxes but that is a preference I picked up from my experience.

This is supposed to be fun!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I will lay this out and hope you take it the right way. Being TF, having a micro apiary, ie, 2 hives, along with not feeding during our sumer dearth is not a recipe for success. Your lament about resources is understood, but we all started there. We focus on comb production and keeping the bees healthy during the first two years. After that, things become easier and you can afford to experiment a little. To get to that point, you need to feed constantly throughout the summer, rotate frames to encourage comb production, and you need to treat for mites starting late July to early August. If you do not, you will be comb poor and need to buy bees every year (or get good with catching swarms).
I think I am taking it as you intend. This is great sounding as a statement. It is not, however, strategy that was ever laid out to me before. For example no one has ever discussed comb production as a strategy, or even mentioned how to do it before, nor that it is something to do in the first 2 years. (If you buy enough nuc's every year you have lots of comb :) as long as you don't lose it to SHB and wax moths. But that is not a good strategy for comb production, nor is it what I think you are suggesting :) ) Treatment free, is a long term goal, and please don't get me wrong in thinking that I am some kind freak about it. I would like to get to that point, but if I have to drag that battery out on Saturday mornings I will mask up and do that thing. :) As for feeding during dearth, that actually makes sense, if if people said things like, when there is nothing blooming and the bees are not bring in nectar you need to feed them so they don't consume all their winter resources, that would make more sense than, basically, feed them all the time always, and if they don't need it they won't take it. Or somehow treat them like the family dog. I do however, see sugar as a non-optimal food source. That it is not honey, and doesn't contain all the micronutrient and minerals and so on and so forth, and pollen substitute is not the same thing as pollen, and that substituting yeast for pollen is not the same, and it is all sub-optimal.... but so is the American diet, and we live and thrive on it here in this country. So although I would love to raise bees that live off honey and the fat of the land, I realize it is not always possible, and must provide something that takes the place for other reasons. I am good with that, just need a good strategy in place for when to do so , and when not to. And if I can get to a point that it becomes unnecessary in all but the most dire exceptional circumstances, that would be a goal... but a long term one.

I am a firm believer that in order to do something well, you have to be willing to do it poorly, and make many mistakes. But I don't want to repeat the same mistakes over and over, and I want to have a solid plan. It can even be a bad plan, and get changed along the way, but I have to have something more than I do now.

Thanks.

So can you get bees to draw out comb, and then steal it from them and then have them draw out more, or do they draw out a little then start putting stuff in it, then draw it out further and so forth? The latter has been my experience. How does one focus on comb development?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Steve, this was a clear, sane, well though out response, void of the voodoo and bull-jazz and misleading bull-jazz that I have become used to hearing in the past few years. I am a firm believer in grandma when she said, "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't!" Contrary to what I may come off as, I am not looking for a silver bullet, or magic solution. So I don't buy the 12 answers to 10 questioned idea, or any other magical voodoo. This is ultimately animal husbandry that has been practiced for quite a number of years. Things may be slightly different by locale or minor pedigree difference of the livestock. But there has to be a common starting point and learned tweaks that are particular to some specific difference.

<snip>

I have only ever bought 1 single nuc which was my 1st hive. I've grown from there and have at times had more bees than I can handle with the time I have available to put into them. I'm not an internet expert or trying to sell you bees. Nor am I a commercial beekeeper. Here is what I would recommend if you and I were sharing a cold beverage. It is also the same advise I gave my sister who is starting with bees and is 1000 miles away.
Then I shall accept it as such, and if the opportunity presents itself, I will pay for that cold beverage some day.

1. Read and understand the process of beekeeping in your area. Understanding is very important because local conditions matter so much.
I am not 100% certain on information specific to my area. It seems so far that we have a few classes of beekeepers near me. Some of them are migratory, in that they move their bees relative to the sour wood flow, and back. Then there are the differences between our commercial and backyard few. I have yet to meet actual successful backyard ones, but after the zombie apocalypse is over, I will try to get back out to our county beek association and dig through the pack until I find them if they exist. That or I would love to find an actual mentor, but ask me about that in private sometime. :)

2. Once you understand, realize that you don't understand. That's OK and why you should ask questions.
Did you mean "what" instead of "that" or was this meant to be the paradoxical, "everything I know is wrong" and "I don't even know what I don't know" kind of statement? I am not afraid of asking questions. I realize I am not an expert at any of this, and someone must know the answer. The changes of me having some novel problem that hasn't been seen before at least 10000 times are pretty slim. My MiL was impressed with me early on before GPS, that I would actually stop the car and go in to a store and ask directions. I like to get the path straight, before I get so lost that I can't get back to where i started. That's just me. I will ask questions even when I am pretty sure I know what I am doing.

3. Get your 1st hive/package
Well, the initial plan was to take this season off. So unless either of the two ground level, bait hives picks up anything other than earwigs, shb and wax moths it is certainly too late in the season to pick up either a nuc or a package around here. I will , if needs be, put in my order early for next spring right around Thanksgiving. There is a local guy who seems to be raising local bees. I have had them in the past and liked them so I will try to get them from him.

4. Manage them just in the plain boring fashion. While I respect the TF crowd, the learning curve is too steep when you are starting out. This is supposed to be fun and dropping $100-$300 every year to buy bees is not fun.
So, feed them 1:1 until they don't take it anymore, vape them with OA for the month of July? Do a weekly inspection to see that they are still in there, and add boxes if they cover all the frames in the first one? Add supers when they cover the second brood box? And hope they draw out the comb in the supers? That is all I have gleaned about managing them in the plain boring way. Am I missing anything, or is there anything to add?

5. If you do everything almost right you will need to or can split that hive sometime your 1st year. Now you have 2.
This is a little sketchy. Like grandma's recipe for cheese gnocchi. "make a well in the ricotta, and crack an egg into it. Then add enough flour until it is the right consistency. You will know this, because it will look right. Don't add too much, because then it will look wrong.... See what I am hearing? So at some point I will know they need to or can be split. I know if I see open queen cells, they have already swarmed. So that is too late. But if I am not inspecting every 3 days, I may or may not see them. If I see queen cups with larva in them, then I know they want to swarm, but haven't quite left yet. This might be a good time. Or possible, when I can count X frames out of 16 in the double deep that are filled with capped brood and open brood then it is time to split. This is definitely a strategic point that I would need some guidance on. But definitely, this seems like the most sane aspect of what you are saying so far. Just not sure how specifically to implement it.

6. As part of your winter prep put those two into a resource hive or two single nucs.* I have used both but prefer single nucs and have never lost one over winter.
This is also enticing and definitely another piece of new advice. I like the idea of overwintering nucs. Not sure how to actually do that. Or how to get from the 8 frame double deep idea down to a 5 frame nuc. Does one overwinter a nuc on candy or can you provide enough resource frames to keep a colony alive in 5 frame deeps? What else has to happen special to overwinter these things? Why would they do better than 8 frame double deep colonies? Not sure what else to ask here, but I know this is somehow key!! Makes me want to go out to the shop and build some nucs already :)

7. In spring, if fate smiles upon you and you kept your end of the bargain you will have 2 strong nucs coming out of winter. Then you will be trying to figure out what to do with all the bees after you put them into fill sized hives and they explode. That is when you can sell or give some away.
I get the "if" aspect, and hopefully we get the right smile... :) Pretty sure I kind of know what do do from here, move them into deeps and get the build up started or something. But sounds like, based on the beginning, I will be making 100lbs of syrup instead of 50, and feeding both of these 8 frame guys
until I can split them again... Or something like that?


7a. If you lose one, then you still have one left and can repeat 1-6 again in year two learning what to do different.
As long as both don't get lost there is certainly a plan moving forward.

*My base strategy is 8 frame deeps so moving an 8 frame deep into a 5 frame nuc isn't that difficult. 10 frame to 5 frame may be more difficult. I also prefer deeps to mediums for brood boxes but that is a preference I picked up from my experience.
All my equipment is 8 frame size. I have several deep boxes because the idea was that the brood box should be 2 deep. And I have exactly 1 meduim because I was told that they needed 40lbs to get through the winter. Then I have a bunch of shallow supers, with lots of undrawn out wax foundation. For as much as I have been able to put the supers on, they have never really been all that interested in anything above their winter store in the medium. But I have them :) I was considering moving to all medium at one point, but that didn't happen, as well I have considering going horizontal because I thought that might be easier on the back. Of course, going to 5 frame nucs sounds even easier on the back :) So I can gear up some more deeps, and frames, or more mediums whichever makes sense. But it sounds like I at least need to make some nucs. But definitely, need some pointers on a few of the above points.

This is supposed to be fun!
Yes, and so is gambling. I love playing craps. I enjoy the energy at the table, sometimes I even like throwing the dice. But, you know what is the most fun? Winning. Now, I already figured out how to make money in beekeeping. Make equipment and sell supplies to beekeepers. It is the same model of selling shovels and tents and "jeans" to the gold miners. But I don't think that would be fun. Getting things working to where I am not buying bees every year, and being able to help others not go though the same plight would be fun. And getting some honey to help offset all the feeding might be a plus. But it seems to me, if you are feeding constantly, then your honey is mostly made from sugar water rather than nectar. So I guess honey from backyard keepers isn't really all that much honey. But that is certainly a topic for discussion once I can come up with sustainable stock.
Let me know if I missed anything, or maybe if I misunderstood any of what you put out there. Thanks again for sharing your experience.
 
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