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Hey guys,

I was wondering if you had any suggestions of things I can do right now to prepare for when I get packages in the spring. I just inherited three hives that all had pretty much failed by mid November (packages from the spring, all empty hives now). I want to do a better job than my predecessor and have been doing a lot of reading.

Somethings I am planing to do are:

  • Clean out burr and dead bees.
  • Install west hive beetle traps on each hive.
  • Paint orientation marks on each hive (reduce drifting)
  • Place oil trap below legs of the hive stands (ants)
  • I found that many frames had comb drawn out improperly. The comb was wavy. Maybe they didn't like the plastic foundations or weren't fed when initially hived. Should I toss the wax from these frames and replace the foundation?

Any suggestions of things I can do to make my hives better? Would be thankful for any tips.
 

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Some of the things you are doing may be unnecessary. Orientation marks, ant traps, beetle traps...why do you think you need to do these things? Ask experienced beekeepers in your area if these are must-do's. Otherwise, these sound like solutions to problems you don't have and may never have.

As for the comb, if there is burr comb or IMPROPERLY drawn comb, scrape it off. If the comb is INCOMPLETELY drawn out (what you might be calling "wavy"), leave it be and wait for the bees to draw it out fully. Alternate drawn frames with undrawn frames to give the bees a guide. Freeze all comb for 24 hours to kill anything that might live on it. That drawn comb is going to give you a huge advantage in starting in the spring with new bees. Treat it like its gold.

Don't toss the wax scraps or foundation. The foundation will be fine. You can use the wax scraps to rub extra wax to the plastic foundation. The bees will be more enticed by that extra wax than bare plastic.

Good luck.
 

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Wavy comb is only a problem if the waves extend under the next frame top bar -- very difficult to get that frame out without rolling a ton of bees and damaging the comb. Incompletely drawn comb will get finished off in the spring flow.

Unless you have ants driving the bees out or getting drowned in honey, they won't be anything but a nuisance. Fire ants can make it impossible to work the hive AND steal all the honey, though, if you are in fire ant country. Not an issue here.

Beetle traps are a good idea, but the best defense is to restrict the amount of empty comb on the hive late in the year. I've learned to store empty drawn comb after the spring harvest, we don't get anything stored here over the summer, and it's always full of hive beetles by late August if I leave it on.

My winter prep consists of making new equipment to expand or replace old stuff (and this year to help my neighbor convert from 10 frame to 8 frame equipment), making frames, and planning what I'm doing with the hives we have. I'm hoping to get up to six or more hives between my brother and I this year, we want more honey. Also plan to get a couple swarm calls, you want to have equipment ready to hive a swarm or two if they show up, or to do a cut-down split if your other swarm prevention plans don't work.

Peter
 

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If the comb is wavy, carefully flatten it out on a warm day using a serrated knife. The drawn comb is a valuable property and will help your new bees get off to a better start. If you are drawing comb, feed the bees. Do not use feeding stimulants like honey be healty or Lemon grass oil and they will quit when the real stuff is available coming in. Stop feeding when you have your brood box/s drawn out. Sounds like you are making logical plans. Best of luck.
 

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As mentioned, you may not "need" to do all things mentioned but it's your call and it won't hurt to try things and see what works. When I get antsy during the off season, I go through all my boxes and scrape propolis (I use it for various things like tincture), scrape, patch and paint boxes, check comb and sometimes sort frames to keep brood and honey comb separate if I wasn't careful storing them. I make any new woodenware I might need (or rather, want) and I'll even take it all a step further by pruning fruit trees on the property, spraying with dormant oil so that I don't do that too close to spring. All that stuff is "bee" prep for me and it all feels good.
 
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