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Hi, I am new to bee keeping and live in the SF bay area and am doing my best at reading, learning and keeping bees using no chemical intervention, but could use some advice. Got a package of Carniolans at the end of April and have been using foundationless frames the whole time. Also was moving/interspersing new empty frames into the center of the broodnest (leaving at least 2 full frames on either side) to get them to start drawing smaller cell size and keep the broodnest open to keep them from swarming (at least that is what I think the purpose is). I now have 5 medium 10 frames boxes (with follower boards, so 8 frames in each box). All frames are drawn out except the top box which only has 2 drawn frames. Originally, I was doing unlimited brood nest, and nadiring, but there seemed to be brood in all 4 boxes and a little brood in almost all the frames and I didn't want to kill them by harvesting those frames, so I finally put a queen excluder above them and the 5th medium on that. I was checking them every week or week and a half for a while, but have been out of town so I did my first check in a 3 weeks today. I found 5 or 6 queen cells in the bottom box that were already opened up, one of them might have been closed still. Also, only a little brood in the next box above that and all honey in the top three boxes. It doesn't seem like they swarmed -- my partner didn't notice anything while I was gone and there still appear to be 4 full boxes of bees. What does this mean? Do I have a new queen? Should I worry that there is so little brood now, or is that normal when we have a super cold summer like we've been having? Also, should I leave all 16 frames of honey for them to get through winter? Thank you in advance for any insight or advice!
 

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More than likely they have swarmed if you do not see any eggs and larva if they were superseding there queen most of the time the older queen will keep laying until the young virgin mates and begin laying the old queen may lay few days even a few weeks if there is a flow going.

A week after a hive swarms if there was lots of hatching brood it will look like they have not swarmed.

I would give them about 2 more weeks to see if 1 of the virgins starts laying.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Velbert! I was hoping that was not the case, but I imagine you are right.
I hope that the virgin queen's mating flights went alright (it has been a really cold summer) and that she starts laying soon. They've got an awful lot of honey to keep them going if that is the case.
 

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Where on the frames were the queen cells located? If they are all along the bottom of the frame then I believe you had a swarm. If they are located within the frame nearer the center, your bees probably superseded the queen and there was not a swarm. As this is a 1st year package, it is not unusual for the bees to supersede the queen and raise their own. As it takes about a month to raise a laying queen, it is not surprising you currently have little brood. I agree with Velbert about the old queen may continue to lay if it's a supersedure unless she was injured during an inspection, etc.

As to leaving all 16 frames for winter, I'd ask a local beek what to expect. I know we leave about 90 pounds on board but we have a real winter. Always good to join a club if you already haven't. It's helpful to have local beekeepers available to ask questions and get ideas as to what works in your local environment.

Having 2+ supers of honey on 2 mediums of bees is good for a new package. Keep up the good work!
 

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Thanks Eyeshooter. The cells were all along the bottom, so it must have been a swarm. I'll try to find someone in the bay area to ask about how much honey to leave since we have winters that are in the 50's. If anyone from the SF bay area is reading this and has any advice for me it would be much appreciated.
 

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As a beek up in Humboldt County, which also has very cool summers and mild winters (though WET), the general rule around here is to leave at least one super - 60 lbs of honey. Some prefer to leave more, of course, but since we don't get REAL winters, usually 60 lbs is okay. But it was a very cold wet spring, and it was quite the foggy summer here as it was in the Bay Area. If you have a deep full of honey, I'd probably leave it for the bees. Who KNOWS what this winter will bring!

jules
 

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Hey there! Where in Oakland are you? I'm in East Oakland, off of High St.

My bees also built a lot of queen cups, but never put brood in them. My research suggested that the bees built these structures "just in case" they needed to raise new queens.

I've got quite a few pictures of queen cups over at my blog. I'm writing from my phone, so I won't try to do a fancy link.

howsrobb.blogspot.com (And then click the link for bees.)

I really wouldn't fret too much!
 

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I forgot to ask how your bees are doing, this winter. Are they flying and foraging? Mine are quite active, bringing in pollen, and presumably nectar. I had to swap out a cracked hive box last week, so I got a glance inside the hive. Plenty of glistening uncapped nectar!

As for the queen cups, do they look like these?





 

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Are you asking me, or the original poster?

(The cups in my photos remained empty all summer. The bees would enlarge or embellish them, but as far as I can tell, they were never used as a nursery. It *was* fascinating to watch them change form, over the summer.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Hmmmm ... it was a while ago, and I didn't really know what I was looking at back then. They were either open cups OR cells that been used and opened. So I guess they either swarmed or never used them. I'm inclined to think that they had been used and swarmed while I was gone because there were so many bees and so little larvae when I got home and then the hive brood area built back up again after that.
I'm a little worried about them now because when we had a huge rainstorm a few weeks ago that blew a ton of water under our front door and into the building, the hive opening was facing the same direction and a lot of bees died. The screen bottom was covered with bees. By the time it was warm enough for me to take it apart and remove the dead bees, I couldn't tell if the queen was among them or not. There are still lots of bees in there, though, and they continue to forage on dry days, so I am hopeful. I've now got 3 mediums that they are wintering in and it was all full of honey and brood at the beginning of winter so I hope they have enough food.
Oh, and I am in the Ghost Town neighborhood of Oakland, close to San Pablo.
 

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Ghost town is West Oakland, right? Are you guys the people who hosted the barbeque for the Alameda Beekeepers Club? I'm just moving my studio (not my choice -- alas!) out of West Oakland, and I know there are quite a few beekeepers in that area.


I find that on really cold rainy days, the bees don't do anything with their dead. They end up on the landing board, which is freaky and upsetting. But then, as soon as the weather improves, the bees drag their dead away. I keep telling myself that every single day hundreds of bees are born and hundreds die. So a few dozen dead bees is nothing to worry about.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
We have not hosted any bee groups. Just doing our thing in the backyard. We are a few blocks from Novella's place, if you are familiar with her urban farm that she wrote about in"Farm City". Thanks for reassuring me that a bunch of dead bees in rainy weather isn't so uncommon. And thanks for the link to your blog. I posted a comment there as well.
 

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I have read Novella's book, but never quite figured out where her place is.

She works at Biofuel Oasis, doesn't she? Margaret (who I also think lives in West Oakland) teaches beekeeping classes there. I took one of the classes last spring. It was very informative. I think they're teaching a mid-level class this year.

Do you ever come to the Alameda County Beekeeping Club's meetings? They're an odd group (but I say that with love), and they really know their bees. They've had some incredible speakers in the past year.

My bees are doing amazingly well, flying all over the place. I was hanging laundry out today, and they were blasting past me on the way to who-knows-where.
 

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As for how much honey to leave in Oakland. We keep over 1000 hives within 25 miles of you. Strong hives (10 frames of bees+) will gain weight through the winter in the Oakland area 8 out of ten years. September through March. Have run a thousand for over 25 years in the bay area with only a shallow on top. The big ones rarely touch the honey as the weather breaks enough to give them a drink in the right location. Big field force will do the trick. The eucs are blooming right now and the pollen flow is on. I bet 9 out of ten hives with 2-3 deep capped frames of honey on October 31 would survive the winter. They won't jump in the end of January like one with 8 frames of stored honey but should survive.

We are switching back to some double deeps after 20 some years of all deep shallow. This will leave the bees more feed than a shallow although the bees won't need it all. We are doing so out to improve logistics for making nucs /splits. Easier to shake bees on a deep shallow for packages so some will stay that way. Like most bee variables both sizes have their benefits and drawbacks.
 

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Honey-4-All --

Do you ever offer tours of your apiaries? I'd love to see your operation! Do you ever have time to host visitors.

Thanks for your reply. It's hard to tease out information for our unique climate, from the stack of beekeeping books that address the rest of America. I'm still trying to figure out how to best understand Northern California's seasons, having lived almost all of my life on the East Coast.
 

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Oh, and thank you for your thoughts on hive box size. It's so interesting to hear reasoned thinking on this subject.

We opted to use eight-frame medium boxes, mostly because of the weight of larger set-ups. My partner has paralyzed legs and feet, which means that he has balance issues. I'm not super-strong, and the difference in weight between hefting full ten-frame deeps, and eight-frame mediums is significant for me.

I've actually considered the top-bar hive format, if I were to expand, because it seems to involve less hefting of boxes. Of course, I'm just a teeny weenie backyard beekeeper, with a tiny urban yard. You've got a huge professional operation.
 

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I'd doubt they swarmed this time of year. If you're queen was trapped in the top box when you put the excluder on the bees 4 boxes down could consider themselves queenless, & try to raise a queen. There aren't enough drones around for a queen to get mated this time of year.

Also I'd never put an excluder on in the winter, If the cluster moves up the queen will be left behind & possibly die.
According to Eric Mussen of UC Davis we don't need more then 6 deep frames of honey to winter in our area.

Glad to hear you're hive is so strong this winter, Eucalyptus is already blooming, & my hives are bringing in pollen, & raising brood.
 
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