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How many frames of bees should you see coming out of winter?
I hear a grapefruit sized cluster to 10 frames.
Is there any correct answer?
I have Russian mixed queens and they all came out with 3 frames. But had capped brood.
Thanks
 

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The best answer is as many as will not swarm. Bees survive our best attempts to destroy/help most of the time. They reach their ideal survivable rate. You can influence the balance with feeding, space changes, reducing stresses, and learning what the bees want or need.
 

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I can't speak about Russian mixes. They usually winter with small clusters.

My bees winter with large clusters. I raise my own queens, and one trait I look for is wintering with large clusters. The first time I lift open the inner cover to check feed and cluster size, end of March, I record the size of the cluster. One box of bees...6-8 frames, is a medium. Less than that is M-. More than one box is M+. Bees top to bottom in 3 boxes is Strong. I find it's these strong colonies that go on to have 9-12 frames of brood at Dandelion, and maintain that strength through the summer. They're to colonies that produce the best crop. That's one reason I don't like to use Russian stock. Clusters too small to take advantage of early flows.
 

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I like this thread

Just to clarify -
Mike: what you are saying is you call a "strong" colony a colony with cluster in 2+ deep boxes before the dandelion. Meaning if these bees were only in a 2 deep configuration, they'd have starved. Correct?
I say this because I think way too many of the northern beeks are trying to winter in a 2 deep only configuration which does not have enough honey to build up to strong, maximum potential.
I'm running 2 deeps plus a medium or 4 mediums myself and finding great winter success and no need to feed.
-E.
 

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Re: I like this thread

I live vary far north compared to you and winter in 2 deeps and I have no need to feed!
My bees do vary well up here.
 

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What we call Winter ended quite a while ago. These past few days it's been near 90F and not much below 50F at night. Tomorrow it's expected to cool off some and we may get even more rain. Wildflowers have started to kick in, lots of pollen and enough nectar to keep the brood nests expanding.

Anyway, despite continuously feeding throughout Fall and Winter, now Spring, most hives are still less than one full 8-frame medium super (four to six medium frames), though, about six hives are beginning to be crowded even in two 8-frame medium supers. I've been carefully harvesting frames of sealed brood to populate two and three-frame mating nucs. I really think the queen is the lynchpin of the colony. Though I can't think of an easy way to test this hypothesis, I'm fairly confident that a good queen is the most important factor to having a strong colony.
 

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Re: I like this thread

Just to clarify -
Mike: what you are saying is you call a "strong" colony a colony with cluster in 2+ deep boxes before the dandelion. Meaning if these bees were only in a 2 deep configuration, they'd have starved. Correct?
I say this because I think way too many of the northern beeks are trying to winter in a 2 deep only configuration which does not have enough honey to build up to strong, maximum potential.
I'm running 2 deeps plus a medium or 4 mediums myself and finding great winter success and no need to feed.
-E.
No, I didn't say that. I was just talking about cluster strength. The bees could certainly have a strong cluster in 2 deeps and not starve. I prefer to have an extra medium for a couple reasons. It allows me a bit of extra time to get around in the spring before swarming starts. Also allows the bees to build large populations for winter while at the same time storing adequate honey. Since I favor large clusters going it to and out of winter, I find a 2 deep, 1 medium broodnest to be best for me and my bees.
 
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