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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is my 4th year of beekeeping. I have 3 hives in 2 locations; 1 Lang deep and 1 Warre at my house, 1 medium 2 miles away (.75 miles as the crow flies).

Last year I got a small amount of honey from my lang deep, nothing from my Warre
This year, my warre and new lang medium are strong, but not producing a whole lot of surplus honey.
The deep is weak, with only 1 box full, and a second partial.

I have tried foundation less, treatment free, and other tips I've picked up on this forum, but can't seem to get over the hump to create hives that produce a significant amount of surplus honey. It seems like my hives do great in the spring, hit a wall in August, and barely progress in the fall. I'm doing my best to contribute positively to the honeybee population, but I don't think it's being too selfish to expect to gain some benefit!

Any suggestions?
 

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What's the area surrounding them like? Lots of forage or mostly wooded? Hives in sun or shade?

How did your bees look coming out of winter?

Did you feed over the winter? You might consider adding some pollen patty next year at the very end of the cold period to help build up your bee numbers. (I added pollen patty on March 23rd.)

Did you have a swarm that reduced your population?

And, of course, what are your mite/disease loads? Bees struggling against a heavy infestation of varroa don't have much vigor. I would like to be treatment free, too, but it is just not realistic with my bees (mutts that just arrived here unbidden) and in my area (north of Albany). I did have one hive that had consistently low/zero mite counts its first year, but starting this spring its numbers rose, so it was treated with the others a couple of weeks ago. I used MAQS. I loathe treating, but I see no other way to maintain my bees until I gain enough experience to try something else.

I use a mix of foundationless (mostly this year) along with Pierco plastic frames (what I first started with last year) and foundations in wooden frames (late last year and using up my inventory this year). I find little difference in the bees' acceptance, brood pattern, storage, etc. of the different types. I like the foundationless (wood frame with a starter strip) because I prefer to have less plastic in my hives but otherwise I am unconvinced that it makes much of a difference.

If you've had the same bees for four years, something is amiss if they are not (or have not, ever) had a good year by now.

If you're sure that you have the forage for a good honey crop, then I would think the next most likely cause of poor performance is a heavy mite load or mite-vectored disease burden

What are your most recent mite counts?

It must be very discouraging to not have them well-established and thriving after all this time! I'm not sure I would have been able to sustain my interest as long as you have without some good evidence that the bees were doing well and my ability to care for them is solid. I have no interest in honey, so that part wouldn't bother me, but if the hives weren't strong and healthy I would be really stressed out. And a second (or fourth!) year with a colony only occupying a single deep Lang sounds like a problem to me. (Unless this is split, or the result of some manipulation you intended to make.)

Is there a local experienced beeekeeper you can persuade to come and look at your bees on site? I did that and I learned a lot from it.

Enj.
 

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I like to experiment as much as anybody, and I understand your desire to try different hive types. However, the Langstroth hive seems to me the easiest to manage for honey. Maybe concentrate your efforts with that hive type. Try to build enormous population prior to your flow and give them plenty of room. Of course you also have to try to keep that strong hive from swarming.:) I'm sure others may have different or better suggestions. Hang in there and keep trying!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
All good questions. Yr 1 I started in mid June, so I didn't expect success. Yr 2 I had a swarm (thanks to a shady local beekeeper, but that's a long story). Yr 3 I rolled the Queen in April, requeened, and had moderate success (8 lbs of homey from Lang) Yr 4, tough winter, Deadout Warre, weak Lang. Added 3rd hive with 4 frame medium from a local beekeeper from hygienic VSP queen and is doing great.

My mite counts are extremely low. My original 2 hives are in the sun for 2/3-3/4s of the day. The new hive is in a relatively wooded area, but far less congested.

I would drop the Warre, but have $4-500 invested from the Warre Store, so I restarted it in the spring.

I feed in the late fall, and use sugar blocks in late winter.

I'm not sure about ample forage. It's a relatively suburban area, and while I don't use chemicals in my gardens, Im sure many neighbors do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
all 3 hives have screened bottom boards. I spray the grid with Pam, leave it under the screen for 2-3 days. The numbers were insignificant.
 

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"Any suggestions?"
Langstroths. To each his own, but I would reset. Decide how you want to keep bees and how many hives you want and can afford for this coming spring. Build or buy all eight frame medium Langstroth hives with solid bottom boards. Craigslist the other hives, and transfer your bees to the new equipment. Don't use queen excluders. You have learned a lot, and that is your biggest asset. Play this with twelve and twenty-four month horizons. Do not give in. I hope whatever you decide to do works for you.
 

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Ok, I think you have a sampling technique problem!

If the varroa board (grid?) is in the open there is a good chance that some of the mites that have fallen down are blowing, or crawling, or being carried off by ants before you can count them. You need to protect the screen board during the test.

When you say the numbers "insiginificant" do you mean that the daily average is say below, 3 or 4? That's what I call insiginificant. The treatable level for late summer is an average of eight per day.

And is it possible that you are under counting. Do you use a magnifying glass and remove each mite as you see it, or just visually scan over the board while counting?

And ho often do you run a test. Right now when mite numbers are increasing exponentially, at least once per week would be a good rate until you get a handle on the mite level.

At any rate, if in doubt, do a sugar roll ASAP. This doesn't do (much) harm to the bees and gives adequate numbers for a treatment decision. And now is the time to treat to have a hope of raising strong healthy over-wintering bees.

Sugar rolls are not difficult to learn to do.

Enj.
 

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Next spring do frame manipulation. Weekly if possible or more.If there are any frames that have all or mostly honey move them up and give a F or a FL frame. Make those queens lay eggs and keep moving new frames in as soon as they draw the comb out on older ones. If the honey frames are capped remove them entirely. Or harvest the honey and place em back in.
Late summer, go into fall with lots of bees and a good amount of stores,both pollen and honey. If they are shy then feed them until they fill enough frames with food for the winters you have. Your summer and fall new hatched bees will carry the hive through the winter. Requeen no later than 2 years of age or kill the queen and let the bees raise a new one if the hive is strong.
I consider my bees livestock so management is extremely important if you want the honey or if you want the bees to make nucs and sell. Work em and work em hard. They can handle it.
 

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This is my 4th year of beekeeping.
It sounds like you have some reasons for low production. As these problems go away you should get better results. If you have setbacks like bad queen or rolled queen and swarms you have lost it for that season. When you have a season without these problems things will look better. If your desire is honey I would lean more toward the Lang hive and sell or trade the other.
 

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When I first started counting mites I used the Pam and corrugated plastic board for my counting method. My counts were always pretty low or so I thought. Then one day I noticed DWV, so I asked on Bee source about it. Most of the replys came back it was from a high mite count. I really wasn't so sure about that because I thought I was doing a good job of monitoring. So I went out and did a sugar shake just to cure my curiosity. I was shocked my mite count was pretty high. Then I got to really looking at my sticky board that was sprayed with Pam and what I found was the ants were able to walk on the board without any problems and they were carrying off the mites. Try a different monitoring method just for the heck of it and see what you come up with. At least it will help you rule out one problem even if you decide not to treat. An over wintered hive even one that swarms should make you a fair amount of honey.
 

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I was going to say LOL at trusting a mite count from natural drop through a sbb. I have the same issues, they're unusually low but I know it's getting about that time. I figured it was the ants carrying them off since I see a few on the drop board when I pull them. It's fairly easy to guage your mite situation by looking at the bees in my opinion but that's just me. I don't understand why people need to sample and do all that extra work, it's pretty obvious when and if you need to treat by looking at brood and phoretic mite loads.

Maho, it sounds like you may have poor late season flows and not much of a mid season flow but I'll give you a tip if that is case, you will need a strong double deep of bees going into the flow to make surplus honey, come spring, if your hive is just 4-8 frames of bees you're going to miss it and they're going to eat whatever they can bring in to brood up. A strong hive will put up surplus so you need to focus getting your bee populations maximized in fall and go into winter with very strong colonies.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
So is the consensus out there a preemptive sugar shake? I personally lean towards requeening the weak Lang, Maybe switch to uniform size (mediums)
 

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all 3 hives have screened bottom boards. I spray the grid with Pam, leave it under the screen for 2-3 days. The numbers were insignificant.
In our first year, we did that same method for checking. One hive had a count of zero, the other had a count of one. By all reports here, and elsewhere, that's a tolerable mite load, no need to treat. Eventually the question got asked, if the dog came into the house with just one flea, would we do something about the fleas ? Then why should we ignore one mite ? I put thymol into the hives.

I pulled the sticky board again after a 24 hour period with the thymol in the hives. I started counting dead mites on the sticky, and to be honest, I lost track, but I was well north of a thousand when I did lose track.

The conclusion from that exercise, a very low count using natural drop onto a sticky board means, we have a good strong mite population that's not dropping. It says NOTHING about how many mites are in the hive.
 

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Do an alcohol wash. Even if the ants don't carry the mites away, the drop is a not very accurate method as it doesn't take into account colony size. For an alcohol wash, 300 bees is 300 bees be it a single, double, lang, warre or top bar hive.
 

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Do an alcohol wash. Even if the ants don't carry the mites away, the drop is a not very accurate method as it doesn't take into account colony size. For an alcohol wash, 300 bees is 300 bees be it a single, double, lang, warre or top bar hive.
What volume in cups is 300 bees?
 

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According to many sources it's 300 bees per one-half of a US cup. I note that info from Marla Spivak asserts that there are 400 bees in a half-cup, which would change your calculated numbers by a large factor. I use 300/half-cup which is the more conservative one.

An easy way to get that volume correctly is to take a straight-sided pint canning jar and add one-half cup of water to it. Slide a thin rubber band around the jar exactly at the top of the water level. (Dump out and throughly dry the jar before proceeding to do the test.) That way when you have wiggling, frantic bees in the jar, you can just tap the bottom on your hand and get them to fall back in pile and sight through the jar over the top of the rubber band to know you have the correct sample size.

Then count the mites revealed by the test, divide by three (for the number of hundreds of bees tested in the sample) and then multiply that number by two (to account for the mites concealed in the cells on the pupae) and this gives you the approximate percentage of your bees infested with mites.

Ick.

Enj.
 

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What volume in cups is 300 bees?
I use the common measurement of half a cup=300 bees. I shake it about 60 times and then give it a swirl while tipping it up. I usually swirl it twice with the second time almost always yielding more mites. I have tried swirling 3 times, but always end up with roughly the same as what I get the second time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
We all have our red lines. I'm not exactly the kind of person that likes killing 300 bees at a time. I'm going to have to take a pass on the alcohol wash method.
I am open to other suggestions though!
 

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We all have our red lines. I'm not exactly the kind of person that likes killing 300 bees at a time. I'm going to have to take a pass on the alcohol wash method.
I am open to other suggestions though!
it's a matter of perspective. I find it helpful to think of it like a biopsy. Not pleasant, but necessary to accurately determine the health of the rest of the super organism. Individual bees are like cells in a super organism, they die and are replaced everyday. I don't think anyone enjoys doing it, but its better than prophylactic treatment or not checking and having the hive crash and die. A lot more bees than 300 die in either situation.
 
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