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The first Spring with overwintered colonies has got to be the hardest for the beginning bee keeper. Meaning the decision making, strategies and swarm management and do I split, do I trap, can I handle more, yada yada? It sure seems that way. Last year, my first year, at this time I installed 2 new packages in freshly built and painted woodenware. I left them alone for a week or so then just visited the hives weekly and watched the magic happen. It was great. Every inspection I saw something new and was amazed. Ignorant bliss.

Then late summer came and I had to make some decisions about mite control and SHB. Read a lot about it then picked a couple strategies. Ok, not too bad.

Then Winter prep. Improve ventilation. Add moisture quilts. Wrap hives. Build windbreak. Hive weight good. But nervous so I added back a few medium frames of honey to each hive. Winter came, and came and came and came. I got tired of seeing snow build up and blocking the entrances so I built little awnings. Worked well. No more bee tracks over miniature snow drifts on the front porches.

Finally winter breaks. Spring has finally arrived in Michigan. Both hives survived. One is doing really well. The other not so well but hanging in there. Spring Management of over wintered hives seems to be the hardest time. So many decisions based on what the bees are doing, my goals and management style. As I am doing the first real tear down inspection of both hives I feel frustrated, confused and unsure of what exactly to do. And I think to myself, I like every aspect of keeping bees except inspections. That’s not good. But I realize it’s because I have no real plan going into the inspection. I have rough ideas. I’ve read a lot. A lot! But putting head knowledge to practice isn’t always easy. That takes experience. And experience comes by having experiences. So I hope my inspections become more organized and more purposeful. I hope I go into next Spring with 3 times more hives but more importantly at least 6 times more knowledge and experience.

By the way, a few things I learned this year. Comments welcomed.

1. One of my hives struggled all last year despite attempts to equalize it. I should have recognized an under performing queen and replaced her last Fall.

2. Start Varroa management earlier and time the last treatment with the brood cycle so that there are young non-stressed healthy bees going into Winter.

3. I think I stumbled upon good winter prep that lead to both hives surviving this crazy winter.

a. My hives are in the woods. While overall not good I think it helped keep down wind and may have reduced the overall chill.
b. I stretched a 5 foot tall tarp between 2 trees just 5 feet behind the hives on the Northwest side.
c. I used moisture quilts with ventilation holes.
d. I closed up the screened bottom board but drilled 1” holes in each corner of the insert. Those holes corresponded to the 4 corners of the hive and theoretically kept any draft from the center of the hive.

4. Do not give dark honey back to your bees in the late Fall. Dark honey has more solids and if it happens to be a long winter with few cleansing flights, the poor girls are going to get dysentery. I could not believe how much a bee can poop. And it’s not easy to clean up.

5. Finally, have a plan. Plot out your whole year with dates for the important things that you need to do. Obviously it needs to adapt to weather but know what needs to be done and when. Have a goal for every inspection. Gain the experience needed to make decisions. So have lots of experiences, and fun and appreciate the wonder of bees.
 

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>1. One of my hives struggled all last year despite attempts to equalize it. I should have recognized an under performing queen and replaced her last Fall.

I've never seen the point in equalizing. Why not just requeen the ones that aren't doing as well as they should under their circumstances?

> 2. Start Varroa management earlier and time the last treatment with the brood cycle so that there are young non-stressed healthy bees going into Winter.

While I do absolutely nothing for Varroa beyond natural comb...

> a. My hives are in the woods. While overall not good I think it helped keep down wind and may have reduced the overall chill.

Sure. But also blocks the sun some. Not so bad in hardwoods as the leaves fall for winter...

> b. I stretched a 5 foot tall tarp between 2 trees just 5 feet behind the hives on the Northwest side.

A wind break is always a good thing.

> c. I used moisture quilts with ventilation holes.

Not sure I follow. A quilt box with vent holes?

> d. I closed up the screened bottom board but drilled 1” holes in each corner of the insert. Those holes corresponded to the 4 corners of the hive and theoretically kept any draft from the center of the hive.

A little ventilation is a good thing.

> 4. Do not give dark honey back to your bees in the late Fall. Dark honey has more solids and if it happens to be a long winter with few cleansing flights, the poor girls are going to get dysentery.

They always get dysentery. Confinement will do that. A presentation I saw by Tom Webster in about 2003 he said research showed bees get Nosema less when wintered on dark honey than light honey and less on honey than on syrup. I winter them every winter on dark honey.

> I could not believe how much a bee can poop. And it’s not easy to clean up.

For you and them...

>5. Finally, have a plan. Plot out your whole year with dates for the important things that you need to do. Obviously it needs to adapt to weather but know what needs to be done and when.

Always good to have a plan and be willing to adjust it to the current conditions.

>Have a goal for every inspection.

Yes. When starting out that goal may just be learning...

>Gain the experience needed to make decisions. So have lots of experiences, and fun and appreciate the wonder of bees.

Experience can be a good teacher if you are a good student...

http://www.bushfarms.com/beeslearning.htm
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Michael for taking the time to comment.

> While I do absolutely nothing for Varroa beyond natural comb...

The only treatment I use for anything is OAV. I don't have natural comb though I think it's something I want to move to. So I 'feel' I need to do something to give them a boost.

>Not sure I follow. A quilt box with vent holes?

I may have restated the obvious in my description. 3.5 inch box with window screen bottom filled with 3" of wood shavings. Vent holes at 3" level to allow the wood shavings to breath and shed moisture.

>research showed bees get Nosema less when wintered on dark honey than light honey and less on honey than on syrup. I winter them every winter on dark honey.

Hmmm. I am glad to hear that. Sounds like a good strategy then.

>Experience can be a good teacher if you are a good student...

Reminds me of "practice makes perfect if you practice perfectly"

Thanks for the link to your site.
 

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>Reminds me of "practice makes perfect if you practice perfectly"

Exactly. There are a lot of sayings that are close, but not quite right... like "you get what you pay for". You don't necessarily get what you pay for. You can spend a lot and get very little, but you DO have to pay for what you get. "There's no free lunch" is more accurate, but the meaning is lost in history...
 

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d. I closed up the screened bottom board but drilled 1” holes in each corner of the insert. Those holes corresponded to the 4 corners of the hive and theoretically kept any draft from the center of the hive.
Thanks for your "ramblings". I really like your idea of the holes in the solid insert on your sbb and your explanation of keeping draft from the cluster.
 
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