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There should be a whole section on Beesource just regarding nutrition.

Is it wise to assume that you can genetically breed for food/stores consumption in bees during the wintering phase?

I read a whole lot about breeding for genetic 'traits' in bees. Consumption of food stores (or lack thereof) is always listed as a desirable trait. My observations may contradict this. Over the years, the strongest hives going in to winter just don't necessarily know when to shut down brood rearing. Or may take signals from mother nature (false starts, warming trends) as well as beekeeping mistakes that trigger brood rearing or faster consumption of stores (lack of insulation also termed on here as a 'colder than normal winter'.)

Here's my take and it applies to treatment free, commercial, side-liner alike. We are all LAZY. I have seen this since the eighties. Lack of food kills bees more than any other cause. We as beekeepers just look for other excuses. Randy Oliver has also cited this numerous times in his writings.

I'll ask this of the hobbyist, you wouldn't let your dog stay outside without an insulated dog house. You would not limit the food that you give a dog, nor give it to them all in November and not check again till February to see if they still had food. Consequently you would also make sure they could still access their food. (If you did the SPCA would charge you criminally.) Why do this with your bees?

For the commercial and sideliner it is about the same. If you kept cows instead of bees, would you limit the feed to the cows? Would you consider a cow 'bad' if it ate more and was more healthy over winter? Or stronger or heavier?

I would accuse US as a group of being LAZY. We put the bees to bed in fall and ignore them till spring. I would say 95% of the Beekeepers monitor nothing in their hives during this time. Consequently in spring when they have high winter losses we point the finger at everything but the truth. One of two things happened.

1.) They starved.
2.) They were too cold, could not break cluster and get food. Died because they could not keep warm/starved.

Either way, they starved.

I am suggesting a new approach. More intervention, more data points, more supervision. First measure is weighing hives. When they get winterized take a weight. Two months or three months in take a weight (depending on the length of winter). If weather allows and there has been warming trends take another weight.

Know your minimum weight and if the hive drops below this weight start feeding.

I personally think genetics plays a very small role in winter survival. Or a much smaller role than is assumed.

My strongest hives would likely be the ones that die if I do not intervene during winter. Why would I want to remove this as a 'genetic' trait?

Bees can make 'mistakes' or 'assumptions' based on temperature, light, food triggers. Queens can miss a signal to shutdown. I see no reason to allow them to die for this reason.

So lets hear the excuses...
 

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>1.) They starved.
2.) They were too cold, could not break cluster and get food. Died because they could not keep warm/starved.
>Either way, they starved
>I personally think genetics plays a very small role in winter survival.

In my area we have a flow that starts in October. I lose half my un-medicated hives by February. They die with pounds and pounds of stores in them. They can fly almost every day so they can always migrate onto stores in the hive. Some live right next to those that died. Some of those that live collect a surplus crop while the others full of stores next to them, die.

Doesn't that shoot your hypnosis?

I think genetics and queen age has a whole lot to do with it.
 

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>

In my area we have a flow that starts in October. I lose half my un-medicated hives by February. They die with pounds and pounds of stores in them. They can fly almost every day so they can always migrate onto stores in the hive. Some live right next to those that died. Some of those that live collect a surplus crop while the others full of stores next to them, die.

Doesn't that shoot your hypnosis?

I think genetics and queen age has a whole lot to do with it.
If your bees have underlying disease issues that is not what I am discussing. I would assume you have nosema ceranae, contaminated comb and other contributing factors. I am discussing a more northern climate issue. I have kept bees in Vancouver, BC, Canada to as far north as within 2 hours of the 60th parallel. I would still interject that laziness in the cause of most failures in your area. You probably have more cross-contamination from other beekeepers who are lazy but it is still the root cause.

So hypothesis that beekeepers are lazy, still in tact.
So hypothesis that lack of nutrition causes most failures where there is 'actually' winter. This means snow, below freezing for at least a week or two. Still in tact.
So hypothesis that we need to measure, feed, and intervene more. Still in tact.

P.S. Nutrition does mean more than just honey right?
 

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JODIE I think your right when it comes to Nutrition. I had 25 hive at the start of winter and now have 15 and all but one died from starvation.
I had all 2013 queens and where doing great all year.
I had 13 nucs and lost 6 of them but they where robbed out bad in mid. summer and I tried to get weight on them by fall but some where just to lite . I should of combined but did not.
So this year I'm going to build my numbers back up and study bee Nutrition and make some healthy strong bees. This is a good read to start from. http://ebookbrowsee.net/gdoc.php?id=176016773&url=54a3e7c8bdd6d27db8e2d8a9eba1a8db&c=176016773
One thing I have learned about keeping bees is there allways some thing to learn and this is my new learning curve for this coming year .
I have learned about making bees/ making honey/dealing with VARROA {still learning}/ and robbing .
Just when I thought I know what I was doing there's some thing new to learn.
Going it to this past winter I was pretty sure I would have 100% survival and I did not in fact I only have 65% survival as of right now so I have been humbled :eek:.
 

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A couple additional thoughts.. There are 40,000 "dogs" or so ganging up to go through winter together, vs. one having to generate enough heat to survive. My 40,000 "dogs" also are living right on top of their food , guarding it, using it when needed vs. my golden eating a 50 lb. sack in one sitting if available. Also the actual nectar and pollen stored and preserved in the colony cannot be improved on by the beekeeper so I wouldn't consider it poor nutrition or call it lazy if I left the honey.

On the other side of lazy, is too much. How much splitting and nucing go on too late in the season for the colonies to build up to go through a winter in the north?? Everyone wants to take nucs through the winter, but why not get the nuc built up into 8 frames, 10 frames vs. 5.

You don't mention Varroa in your OP but I think it's all about the genetics in how colonies deal with varroa.. Varroa has an impact on most colonies, whether they crash outright, they dwindle over the winter, or they make it to spring. What's lazy is not knowing what the mite levels are and expecting the colonies to make it to spring without treatments. We've all seen small clusters buried in the cells with stores one cell over. More syrup or pollen sub will not make any difference to these colonies genetically lacking.
 

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We are all LAZY.
How can you tell it has been an overly long cold winter... LOL

Jodie, I have a different take on it. I dont check my hives during the winter for stores and its not out of lazyness. Mostly because, I can't. I follow the old saying "prepare for the worst, hope for the best".
If a prairie beekeeper prepares their hives as per usual conditions, and worst conditions fall upon them and the yards fall onto starvation, and the colonies are accessible and workable, then yes, thats Lazy... But if those yards are under drifts of snow and not accessible because of snow and cold...that is just the way it is...a tough winter resulting in unfortunate losses.

Im starting to hear higher than normal winter losses (unofficially) around here from outdoor guys. Terrible thing, its not fair to start calling these guys Lazy.
 

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Why would I want to remove this as a 'genetic' trait?
OK I will let you have fun, I am lazy. But before you beat up on me remember one thing bees are vulnerable during the winter. Disturbing them will result in loss of resources one way or another. If it is touch and go on whether they run out of food entering the hive in the winter will mean they will need more food. As nutrition goes there is no better food then honey and fresh pollen so if you go in then you are going to be feeding them something that is less nutritious.
 

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> I would accuse US as a group of being LAZY. We put the bees to bed in fall and ignore them till spring. I would say 95% of the Beekeepers monitor nothing in their hives during this time. Consequently in spring when they have high winter losses we point the finger at everything but the truth. <

Jodie,
The above statement seems a bit harsh but I do understand where you are coming from, while there is no doubt a good many lazy beekeepers there are many other factors other than laziness at play, some could be listed as - lack of devotion, lack of experience, bad advice, and even complacency. Our weather as a whole is much milder than what you experience in Canada. I cannot speak for others but I have been experiencing fairly mild winters for a number of years now and was completely caught off guard this year as we went through this recent winter. I had gotten used to milder winters and not needing to insulate my hives and as a result I lost a hive in February, and let me make it clear that it was my fault that it happened I had become complacent, now that I know better I will do better I will have my hives insulated every winter from now on, I did let my guard down and the 1 hive paid the price. I monitor my hives for weight and by listening to the cluster 1 to 2 times a week and when I discovered that a hive was dead I immediately wrapped the others in blankets and tarps to protect them from the frigid temperatures and I am also feeding 2 nucs that came up short on feed, I am happy to report that all these hives have come through the winter in great shape and are growing fast.

My point is that people must be given the chance to learn and grow in knowledge and understanding and those that are truly lazy or not devoted to caring for their bees will soon grow weary of forking out the money each year for new packages. We as Americans can be a bit complacent at times where wintering hives is concerned but I assure you we are not as a group lazy. :)
 

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I would accuse US as a group of being LAZY. We put the bees to bed in fall and ignore them till spring. I would say 95% of the Beekeepers monitor nothing in their hives during this time. Consequently in spring when they have high winter losses we point the finger at everything but the truth.
Please explain how you would "take action" in the middle of the winter I just went through?
 

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I'm not lazy, just busy.

I don't like opening up my hives too often during the regular season. Once a week would be too often in my opinion.

I don't open up my hives in winter because IMHO it's likely to cause more problems than it solves. Besides, what exactly can I do if I find a problem besides order new bees?

I'll take a peek when it gets warm enough. I don't want to chill any brood unnecessarily.
 

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>1.) They starved.
2.) They were too cold, could not break cluster and get food. Died because they could not keep warm/starved.
>Either way, they starved
>I personally think genetics plays a very small role in winter survival.

In my area we have a flow that starts in October. I lose half my un-medicated hives by February. They die with pounds and pounds of stores in them. They can fly almost every day so they can always migrate onto stores in the hive. Some live right next to those that died. Some of those that live collect a surplus crop while the others full of stores next to them, die.

Doesn't that shoot your hypnosis?

I think genetics and queen age has a whole lot to do with it.
I am still in my first year at this. I have not yet pinched a Queen.

My question is:

Do you pinch a Queen just because she is a certain age? If so what age? If your Queens aren't marked how do you know the Queens age...she could be a super ceded Queen and younger than you think.

If you pinch based on age you will never know which Queens are long time producers.

Or

Do you pinch Queens when they aren't producing well? If that is the case what are specific guides as to when one ides she has to go?

If you pinch a Queen and replace with a new mated Queen how long do you wait before introduction.

Re "lazy beeks": if you follow this list you would know that many folks that have lost hives agonize and work hard to best manage their bees. They prep them for winter starting in early fall, they protect them as best they can for their climate, they ensure they have feed and by some means manage parasites.
 

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Genetics play a big part. Carniolan and Russian bees will use less feed than Italians. I have been raising queens from my own surviving hives for a few years with a leaning towards "carniolan" type. Most hives seem to make it into March having used about half their stores.
I guess I must fall into the lazy category as I don't check my hives from October to March. Still haven't looked into the hives yet, this morning it was -22C. As Ian says there isn't a lot we can do for hives in our climate during winter. If fall prep work was done correctly there is no reason to bother hives until spring.
 

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Here's my take and it applies to treatment free, commercial, side-liner alike. We are all LAZY.
So lets hear the excuses...
Speak for yourself son. You follow me around and we'll see who gets LAZY. You want to put snowshoes on and pull the toboggan through this deep snow out to my 45 apiaries, or should I do it for you? Or would you wait for snow melt? Are you going to weigh my 700 hives in September, or watch me do it? Lift the 700 nucs to estimate feed needed or go home with sore fingers? Go ahead and feed out 9 tons of sugar in the fall, and still pick up a few starved colonies in March, and then we'll talk lazy.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Speak for yourself son. You follow me around and we'll see who gets LAZY. You want to put snowshoes on and pull the toboggan through this deep snow out to my 45 apiaries, or should I do it for you? Or would you wait for snow melt? Are you going to weigh my 700 hives in September, or watch me do it? Lift the 700 nucs to estimate feed needed or go home with sore fingers? Go ahead and feed out 9 tons of sugar in the fall, and still pick up a few starved colonies in March, and then we'll talk lazy.
Mr. Palmer you are the exception, not the rule. The 5% or less who actually put in the effort and reap the rewards. My real question has little to do with the beekeeper. I have watched your videos and admire your skill.
The purpose of the initial post is to turn the thought process on it's head about genetics and feed. Since I would consider your knowledge well beyond my own please give me your thoughts.

Is winter consumption really genetic? How much so?

We have changed many other aspects of beekeeping over the decades, yet we tend to look at this problem as binary. They made it through winter or they didn't. If they didn't they were genetically weak and should have been purged from the gene pool.

I wish to challenge this particular thought process. Those hive were usually the strongest going in to winter. Plus I cannot believe in my own situation that if left alone 25% of my hives right now would starve and therefore would be considered genetically weaker than the others.

Second purpose:
See if it were possible to do a non-evasive evaluation of hives and also a non-evasive method of feeding when required. More attention by the other 95%. Wintering methodology has not changed in decades, perhaps it should.
 

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Please explain how you would "take action" in the middle of the winter I just went through?
I don't know, hence why I am starting the dialogue. There are many smart people here, perhaps they can tell us what they do. Wintering methods haven't evolved in 30-40 years. Everything else has.
 

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How can you tell it has been an overly long cold winter... LOL

Jodie, I have a different take on it. I dont check my hives during the winter for stores and its not out of lazyness. Mostly because, I can't. I follow the old saying "prepare for the worst, hope for the best".
If a prairie beekeeper prepares their hives as per usual conditions, and worst conditions fall upon them and the yards fall onto starvation, and the colonies are accessible and workable, then yes, thats Lazy... But if those yards are under drifts of snow and not accessible because of snow and cold...that is just the way it is...a tough winter resulting in unfortunate losses.

Im starting to hear higher than normal winter losses (unofficially) around here from outdoor guys. Terrible thing, its not fair to start calling these guys Lazy.
Ian,
I can't start a dialogue on here without a bit of controversy. If calling beekeepers lazy get's em talking so be it. This ties together with your post 'When was the last time you tried something new for the first time?' There are certainly shades of lazy in all of us and it isn't necessarily a bad thing.
I have been in and around beekeeping my whole life. Everything has changed and evolved, but we do the same thing every winter expecting a different outcome. (Isn't that the definition of insanity?)

If you could somehow have a data point indicating that 100 of your hives were near starvation wouldn't you want that detail? If you had it could you intervene? If you intervened, would those hives be more or less successful than hives that wouldn't have starved? Would those hives actually be genetically different than hives that would have survived?

There is a very large number of beekeepers that ARE lazy. Like any other problem or disaster there should be a written plan in the event of this problem. We have an IPM for our apiaries. There should be an Integrated Nutrition Plan and an Integrated Temperature Control Plan. Or as you said at minimum plan for the worst and hope for the best.
 

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Those hive were usually the strongest going in to winter. Plus I cannot believe in my own situation that if left alone 25% of my hives right now would starve and therefore would be considered genetically weaker than the others.
I think you are making way too many assumptions that are not correct.
 

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I believe there is an aspect of physics that can't be ignored here. Genetics will play a part, but were dancing around some cold facts that can't be ignored. The fact is that it takes calories for a biologic entity requiring self heating, to survive, in direct proportion to need of the entity, and difference of temperature, and the losses VS gains of the shelter or home. Heat losses are strictly a function of the size of the space enclosed, and the insulative qualities of the materials enclosing the space. In other words, proportional to the surface area, the temperature difference, and the insulative nature of the material. In the case of bees which are a colony of individuals that all depend on the collective ability to create the necessary heat (a variable specific to climates and conditions) to survive, the size and quality of the hive material, together with the difference in temperature, dictates how many bees are required to produce the heat, which directly relates to the quantity of honey needed for that number of bees, and the period of time needing survival. This says nothing about ventilation, or any other factors that become additional complications to this survival equation.

The physics dictates that unless the heat retained is greater than or equal to the heat lost, for the entire duration of the cold, total loss is inevitable. It is clear that factors of, space size, insulation, size of colony, temperature difference, and necessary feed, all play into this equation. It is pretty clear that genetics can also play into this equation, such as carnies, for example, who seem to have a tendency to reduce brood earlier and also in proportion to honey flows, that often enter winter in smaller colony sizes.

However in nature, bees are often found in big thick tree trunks and other fairly well insulated locations. Our artificial boxes for bees are typically only 3/4" thick to maybe 1 1/2" thick. It stands to reason that the more harsh and cold the climate gets, and length of cold season, all of these factors must be taken into account in the above equation. Colder climates will require more heat, and / or more insulation, and more heat will require more calories to create, therefore more bees. Longer colder season will require more and longer heat, leading to more calories burned, or significantly more insulation to lower the first two requirements. All of this leads to more honey required.

The lifespan of bees and dormant period with no brood, are additional parameters that must be taken into account. The colder and longer the winter season, the more complex and difficult survival becomes. I believe that the physics here is like a ball and chain that dictates a line in the sand that is independent of genetics or beekeeping styles. If the genetics affects the ability to create heat, or the number of bees in the colony going into winter, or the amount of honey stored, it affects the survival equation. Ignorance of the survival equation by man or beast will result in the consequences that are not flexible. Bees that choose a well protected home in the wild, should experience better survival rates in the cold climates. Beekeepers understanding these principles will manage accordingly and have positive results.

I believe that the genetic aspects of the above equation are very small players, in the above equation for survival, comparative to the location, size and materials and insulation of the hive, and the size of the colony and stores required. The variations in the length and severity of certain climates, would require a wide corresponding response from beekeepers to adjust the above physical parameters to maintain that golden triangle of surviveability. I don't believe personally that it is reasonable to expect breeding practices or genetics to accomplish the same thing. In my opinion.

Unless we succeed in grafting some of the genetics of that frog that can freeze up North, and then thaw out and revive.:D
 
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