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Hi all,

I have three hives all of which have so far overwintered. Each has a shim over 2 10-frame deeps. The heaviest hive going into winter (call this "hive 1") has essentially no bees on the top of frames (I can see them packed between frames) while the other two ("hives 2 and 3") have various numbers on top of the frames. I am feeding each hive on the same day with a few pounds of granulated sugar on newspapaer and Pro Winter patties as needed. Hive 1's bees have never touched the food, while 2 & 3 have. The interesting thing is what happened between the first feeding (~ Jan 16) and the second (~ Feb 8). Both 2 & 3 have been eating up the patties (less so of the granulated sugar), but even though I saw a small (~ 2 frame) cluster of bees above the frames for the first feeding in hive 3, for the second there was a large cluster spanning 6 to 8 frames. Hive 2 had 5 to 6 frames covered for both feedings (see below picture of cluster at first feeding).

Should I assume that more bees on top of the frames is a sign of running out of food below and therefore should be more vigilant with feeding, especially for hive 3?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Ben

IMG_7742.jpg
 

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Lift the back of the hive off the stand. If it's light, feed. If it's heavy, feed. :)
 

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It seems that I also see different behaviour regarding whether they heading for high ground or not. Even when the colonies were identical double deep setup and fed to the same gross hive weight (125 - 130 lbs) some colonies will stay down in the frames and work the honey and in spring I have to remove the top feed virtually untouched.

I would stay on the safe side and continue feeding until you can get in to examine the combs. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to get individual hive weights at any time? Right now my hives are completely buried in snow with only front faces exposed.
 

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for as cheap as winter patties and pollen patties are i just chuck em in.
Bugger it if they dont use them its no great loss. But if they do need the feed its right there.
 

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Forty pounds of winter patty costs less than $60. Assuming you can get in to inspect by the middle of April, with that much patty you could slap a one pound patty in those two hives, twice every week until then. What does a single new package cost, probably what, twice that?

My bees are like crofters' bees, they winter in colonies with the same number of boxes/frames in very well insulated stacks and generally of the same total hive weights (I weigh each one carefully.) Some stay lower down most of the time, some stay there for awhile and some spend the whole winter hanging out in the shim, except of the coldest days (well below freezing F, and below zero.) None of mine are starving, but I am giving them some winter patty every 10 days or so since early Feb. The biggest ones are eating a whole pound of patty/week, even though I can see capped honey in frames in the top box. I see no correlation to bees on top and bees w/o adequate stores. Some bees just like living in the penthouse, I guess. But I am not willing to take the risk of disregarding the Received Wisdom of Beekeeping regarding the status of stores in hives where the bees are in the upper box in February.

Once I can get in and assess the frames themselves (and move honey-filled frames up from below), I sometimes cut back a bit., But in the meanwhile, I know they have chow, so I don't worry about it. I would be absolutely crushed if I let an otherwise-viable hive starve to death at the tail end of winter. Of all the things that can befall a hive, that one is 100% preventable if a beekeeper stays on the ball.

Nancy
 

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Forty pounds of winter patty costs less than $60. Assuming you can get in to inspect by the middle of April, with that much patty you could slap a one pound patty in those two hives, twice every week until then. What does a single new package cost, probably what, twice that?

My bees are like crofters' bees, they winter in colonies with the same number of boxes/frames in very well insulated stacks and generally of the same total hive weights (I weigh each one carefully.) Some stay lower down most of the time, some stay there for awhile and some spend the whole winter hanging out in the shim, except of the coldest days (well below freezing F, and below zero.) None of mine are starving, but I am giving them some winter patty every 10 days or so since early Feb. The biggest ones are eating a whole pound of patty/week, even though I can see capped honey in frames in the top box. I see no correlation to bees on top and bees w/o adequate stores. Some bees just like living in the penthouse, I guess. But I am not willing to take the risk of disregarding the Received Wisdom of Beekeeping regarding the status of stores in hives where the bees are in the upper box in February.

Once I can get in and assess the frames themselves (and move honey-filled frames up from below), I sometimes cut back a bit., But in the meanwhile, I know they have chow, so I don't worry about it. I would be absolutely crushed if I let an otherwise-viable hive starve to death at the tail end of winter. Of all the things that can befall a hive, that one is 100% preventable if a beekeeper stays on the ball.

Nancy
Couldnt agree more!

I took a look in one hive today...no bees in top box...no bees in middle box, but bees in 3rd box down. The top two boxes are full of capped honey!
I chucked a pollen patty on top of the cluster, put their supers back on and moved onto the next colony.
Several colonies were up in the shim but like Nancy said...i saw capped honey beside and below them
-> gave them winter and pollen patties since the patties are cheap and the colonies are expensive!. Not only that i kind of look at my bees as pets and as such i have a responsibility to them...
 

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I have a insulating sleeve made of rigid insulation that slips off the hive so I can inspect. I don't weigh the whole hive but crack the top box off and heft it. If heavy then I leave alone. Except for my own curiosity, cracking the inner cover to see the cluster. I think plopping things on the cluster when they don't need it does more harm than good. I'm pretty sure I've killed a few hives this way.

Most local bees know how to survive the local winter and manage stores. My job is to make sure they have enough and protect them from the weather. Usually they do a good job and those are the bees I want to have. I have some that build up too early with big clusters filling the hive by the end of March. Those are strong enough to add a box with some food frames at that time. If I did that to weaker clusters I would put them in jeopardy.

And to answer the question yes the bees are usually in the top box at this time of year. Doesn't mean they are out of food.

I should add that an insulating sleeve that I can slip off to check stores has added piece of mind. I started by taping insulation to the hive itself, so I couldn't check stores properly, leading to anxiety, inappropriate intervention and some bee death.
 

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I have a insulating sleeve made of rigid insulation that slips off the hive so I can inspect. I don't weigh the whole hive but crack the top box off and heft it. If heavy then I leave alone.
<Snip>
I should add that an insulating sleeve that I can slip off to check stores has added piece of mind. I started by taping insulation to the hive itself, so I couldn't check stores properly, leading to anxiety, inappropriate intervention and some bee death.
Quick and easily removal of at least feed ring and upper box insulation is something I seriously need to accommodate. My bees generally dont need spring feeding to survive but no doubt I could get them going a bit earlier if I gave them some pollen pattie. I can use the insulation benefit til near the first week in June.

Easy on and easy off or otherwise it tends not to happen.
 

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Frank wrote:

Easy on and easy off or otherwise it tends not to happen.
That's my motto, too. That's why the fronts of my insulation panels are held in place with leaned in shipping pallets. Drop the pallet, pull the front off, and I can do whatever I want. Putting it back up takes only seconds.

I tried all kinds strapping, taping, roping, ratcheting, etc. All are five-handed jobs and I generally work alone.

Old picture, seen many time before: nancy's pics 059.jpg

I also climb the pallets when I am refilling pollen and winter patty, without taking off the front insulation which extends upwards to just under the top entrance hole in the rim. I just remove everything above the telecover, then remove the telecover and set side. Remove vent shim above QB. Tilt QB up enough to see in and rearrange any remaining chow and make space for the refill.

Laying the patty (or bricks) down is completely harmless to the bees; you can do it quickly and very gently. Main risk is bees getting out along the box edges, a bit of smoke and bare fingers flicking them back down into the hive and I rarely find squishees when I open up again.

I think it's pretty early to be adding pollen patty in cold northern areas in NY. Unless your plans are to bust 'em all down splits in early May, you'll be ramping up your swarm risk pretty high if you're already pushing pollen sub or supplement. I generally only start in the third week of March. That's usually about two weeks before my first inspection when I can make sure that they have pollen close to the brood areas and I don't want them to run short before I can move some frames to them. My goal is to NOT have excess swarm pressure, and I am not growing my apiary numbers, either. If I plan to split I want to do so after Memorial Day, not before.

Nancy
 
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