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It's supposed to get up into the mid 40s this week (sunny too), and I would like to reverse my two deeps. Currently all of the bees seem to be heavily concentrated in the top deep. Do you guys think it's too cold to do this?

Ken
 

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Yes,.too cold! I would wait until the last week of March at least--at least! Even though it's in the 40's,..it could be in the 20's,..low 30's all of next week. I myself, will try and put pollen-sub on by the end of next week; but that's all.
 

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So what about George Imiries thoughts on reversing. I read starting in Feb. then about three times before flow starts if using deeps. I'm trying to build up my hive counts with existing hives so I want to help them out as much as possible.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for the replies everyone. I was under the assumption that you want to either reverse, or checkerboard in early March (Chicago) in order to prevent swarming. This would be about 8 weeks prior to apple bloom.

I have some supers with some honey left in them, but I don't want my queen up there laying. She did this last year, and it was a PAIN! Can I add a super of honey with an excluder?

I'm just trying to prevent swarming on my 2nd year queen.
 

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So what about George Imiries thoughts on reversing. I read starting in Feb. then about three times before flow starts if using deeps. I'm trying to build up my hive counts with existing hives so I want to help them out as much as possible.
GI was dedicated teacher, and I can't dispute his success at keeping bees in Maryland. But, if I performed some of George's tricks here in the Champlain valley, I could see real problems...Imrie Shims, or having to reverse 3 times starting in February.

If you want to practice reversing, ask your self...why? Earlier buildup? Swarm prevention?

Reversing brood chambers won't aid the colony in any way for faster or greater buildup. The queen is only going to lay what she's going to lay. It will aid in swarm control if done at the right time.

When are you seeing swarming in your area? Dandelion/Fruit bloom or just after? If much before, maybe your broodnests aren't large enough for your bees. Prolific queens will maintain large clusters and have 9-12 frames of brood by the D/F bloom. No way to keep them in the hives without early management. If the broodnests are large enough, thay can expand down until you can do your spring work.

I used to reverse twice, once before the apple orchard, and once after. Brutal work and I still had swarming problems...bees in 2-3 deeps and no supers on yet. I look at reversing like this...it places empty comb space above the active cluster. So does supering or CBing. Maintaining empty comb space above the cluster is, you will find, the most important key to swarm control.

So, I reversed in late April early May before apple pollination. The cluster was in the top box, and reversing moved it to the bottom. Empty comb space above...and the cluster moves up. When D/F flow starts, the cluster has already moved up and D/F nectar goes in top box competing with queen for comb space. Swarm preparations are started as if the colony had never been reversed in the first place.

Adding supers will act as a reversal...empty comb abover the cluster. Not necessarily so with excluders. So I eliminated the first reversal and add 2 mediums before D/F bloom. Once the D/F flow starts I reverse and add more supers.

Adding those 2 supers delays the swarm preps until the flow starts. Reversing at the beginning of that flow gets you into the broodnest. You can identify which colonies are just starting cells. Removing those, reversing, and proper supering will stop most colonies. You can do your queen evaluation and disease check at the same inspection. It seems that no matter how strong, once they start making honey, and provided they have enough empty comb above, they won't swarm. Some will, of course, persist. Swarming is a way that some stocks requeen themselves. Work with these colonies and requeen them.

If you are going to split your colonies to make increase, then I would think removing the split from the top brood box and adding empty comb would be like reversing...and you wouldn't have to. At some point you will have enough colonies and maybe you wouldn't want to split as a primary swarm control method. I think you'll find that supering early and often, one reversal at the beginning of that first flow, and allowing the queens to have an unlimited broodnest, will build big honey producing colonies.
 

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GI was dedicated teacher, and I can't dispute his success at keeping bees in Maryland. But, if I performed some of George's tricks here in the Champlain valley, I could see real problems...Imrie Shims, or having to reverse 3 times starting in February.
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Why would Imrie shims be a problem in Vermont and not down here.

We teach reversing in April, not sure why GI talked about Feb. Too cold here still.
 

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Feb would be about right for that area of MD. Climate there is warmed by Ocean temps (Gulf stream). Although quite aways north of me in latitude, the bee season is only about 10 days later than mine. Check your hardiness zone map from a nursery sales outlet.

Can't understand George's infatuation with the "shim." Went through some hives with shims just across the beltway, on the VA side. My friend was throwing out his shims with a vengence. Apparently, the shim was not even desirable in that area.

Years before that, had tried a similar approach myself - a shortcut for nectar foragers seemed like a good idea. I used a tapered wooden roof shingle about 3/4 inch wide on the sides of the hives at the top of the brood nest to open a 3/8 crack at the front. My test didn't last long. Only a small percentage of the foragers used the shortcut. Learned later that foragers prefer to negotiate through the broodnest when other options exist.

The worst part was the accumulation of propolis in the frame rest area below the crack. The colonies were preparing to close the unwanted opening with propolis. That means that an undue portion of the workforce was diverted to propolis gathering. Or reduced honey production. Maybe George used bottom beespace supers, and this would not be so obvious. I was stunned when the shim showed up in supply catalogs.

Walt
 

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Feb would be about right for that area of MD. Climate there is warmed by Ocean temps (Gulf stream). Although quite aways north of me in latitude, the bee season is only about 10 days later than mine. Check your hardiness zone map from a nursery sales outlet.

Learned later that foragers prefer to negotiate through the broodnest when other options exist.
I think it's a mistake to plan your hive manipulations by the calendar date or the zone maps. Think pollen/nectar flows. I've tried to pin down what flow in the VA/MD area starts the swsarm preparations. It's before Dandelion. I've been told that there's a little low growing pink/purple flower that might be the one to start things moving. Was it Henbit? So, I would wait until then to reverse. I would add a couple supers...or CB...a bit before that time just to take up any incoming nectar so they don't start swarm preps too early. I would also keep my colonies in a larger broodnest.

Read what Tom Seeley has said about foragers. The foragers don't take the nectar up through the broodnest. The give it to receiver bees somewhere near the entrance. It's the receiver bees that take it up into, around, and above the broodnest. He likens the process to a factory. Factories have raw materials entering the factory at one end. Someone with a forklift has to unload the truck, and place the raw materials in the proper place. The truck driver doesn't do the job. He's a trucker and we all know that truckers don't lift anything. Now if there are many trucks to unload, and only one forklift, then there's a backup at the door.

Bees are the same. Forager (trucker) gives the load to a receiver (forklift operator). If the nectar flow increases, there are more foragers that the receivers can handle. Either foraging slows down or they hire more forklift operators. So, there's another dance to recruit receivers. As the number of incoming foragers goes up, the number of receivers recruited is right behind.
 

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I think it's a mistake to plan your hive manipulations by the calendar date or the zone maps. Think pollen/nectar flows.
You don't have to convince me. I got that the first time you ever mentioned it, it is very intuitive and makes sense. Especially if you are also a gardener or married to a vigneron. The calendar dates are close to meaningless without looking at them in the context of current weather pattern and bloom. One of my new tactics is to study my photographs and see what was blooming when I was doing certain things in the beeyard. Now I am taking better notes of what is blooming around me and I understand to look for nectar in the frames.

We have much to learn about nectar flows still. While we may have a dandelion flow here in MD/VA, there is so much urban sprawl and suburban growth that I think it might be less obvious, at least to me. We do not see fields of dandelions. I have never seen that, it must be a beautiful sight. I will keep my eye on henbit which is a weed all over my yard and make special note of when it blooms and what is happening in the hives. Seems like cherry blossoms (which one has to be half dead to ignore is happening in the DC area as the bloom report is a part of daily news for weeks...) is another good indicator for hive management, at least for the overwintered nucs. That is usually first week of April. I am not sure it is a major nectar flow. I have no idea, except that my cherry trees were so loud with bees last year, it sounded like a swarm for days on end.

I would add a couple supers...or CB...a bit before that time just to take up any incoming nectar so they don't start swarm preps too early.
Last year, I added supers before April 1st and that made not one bit of difference for me and all the hives swarmed. This year I am smarter, wiser, and more confident, and know to inspect more regularly and what to inspect for, and how to manage what I find- starting mid to late March and throughout April. I also use queen excluders and I will experiment with not using one to see if that makes a difference.God willing and if the creek don't rise, it will be close to 60 degrees here on Monday and we can take a first look.
 

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Karla: May I come and see you?? Will be in MD in mid March. I know a little about swarming and we could take a look at your status in the prime swarm prep period. If yes, PM me with contact info.

Mike:
We've had our differences, but we both have the same objective - to inform the beginners. Let's talk about some of the above from the standpoint of regionality. We both know that beekeeping is not the same in all areas of this big country. I havn't the foggiest notion how what I have learned applys to the desert southwest or the prairie country where trees are scarce or nonexistant.

Have seen many references to northern beeks keying on dandelion. In my area and in MD dandelion is almost insignificant. Trees provide the early forage. American elm is the earliest - starts in late Jan. and lasts longer than most - through all of Feb. Overlapping sources of maple and redbud provide continuous forage through the swarm prep period. All of those sources provide both nectar and pollen, but the colony emphasis is on pollen if they have ample honey reserves. With short honey reserves, nectar if available. This is prime swarm country. They have everything they need to meet swarm requirements. Even slow starters swarm here.

You may see a few dandelions in bloom in protected areas before then, but it peaks in the early fruit bloom period. About the time of swarm commit (starting of swarm cells) Too late for swarm prevention - time for swarm control. Some bees will work the dandelions for dietetic diversity, but it has little effect on the swarming game plan.

Seeley does some good work on items of interest to us in the field. But I'm suspicious of his timing on this report. (Havn't seen it) My observations indicate an absence of house bees above nursebee age in the early season. That would include "receivers." Reading between the lines in old literature, recievers would be the nectar driers distilling the incoming nectar to reduce the moisture content for honey storage. There is no need for drying nectar in the early season because nectar is used raw for food. In fact, honey is being diluted with water during that period. Honey storage comes later.

I wonder if Dr. Seeley made his determinations later in the "main flow." Have seen many experimental results where the experimentor did not recognize that build up and swarm preps is a separate mode of operations from main flow. And colony access is more of a problem in the early season.

Walt
 

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Amen.

1. I think early spring buildup will be different this year than normal-it's been so cold. I usually have bees working henbit a lot, but it's been blooming here for 2 weeks and Sunday will be the first day it will be warm enough for them to work it.

2. I have have kept both upper and lower entrances for several years. I do it like WCUBED described with a 3/8 shim on three sides. I have an excluder below the shim. This makes a 3/8 bee space both above and below the excluder(little problems with burr comb) and if the bees use the upper entrance they are bringing nectar directly into the honey super area. I've found that about 40% use only the lower, 40% only the upper and 20% both. I haven't been observant enough yet to figure out why or how this effects storage, swarming, etc.
 

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>Mike:
We both know that beekeeping is not the same in all areas of this big country. I havn't the foggiest notion how what I have learned applys to the desert southwest or the prairie country where trees are scarce or nonexistant.

Obviously, all beekeeping is local. This isn't the desert Southywest. No scarcity of trees here.

>Have seen many references to northern beeks keying on dandelion. In my area and in MD dandelion is almost insignificant. Trees provide the early forage.

Here, too. I talk about Dandelion. Yes, that's when swarm commit happens here too. So preparations obviously come before that. With a small broodnest, capped cells are present in many colonies ad Dandelion. With a larger broodnest, and a super for nectar storage above the broodnest, swarm preps are delayed.

>American elm is the earliest - starts in late Jan. and lasts longer than most - through all of Feb.

Elms are mostly dead here. The old timers...all gone now...saw a difference in spring buildup when the Elms died out.

>Overlapping sources of maple and redbud provide continuous forage through the swarm prep period.

We have a decent tree pollen/nectar flow here in VT too. I've seen many colonies fill a super from the willow/maple flow. Of course you would never know if you hadn't put on any supers yet.

>All of those sources provide both nectar and pollen, but the colony emphasis is on pollen if they have ample honey reserves. With short honey reserves, nectar if available. This is prime swarm country. They have everything they need to meet swarm requirements. Even slow starters swarm here.

If the nectar is there and colony strength permits, then the bees will gather nectar. Colonies with excess honey stores will rob deadouts bone dry even before the hives are unwrapped.

>You may see a few dandelions in bloom in protected areas before then, but it peaks in the early fruit bloom period. About the time of swarm commit (starting of swarm cells) Too late for swarm prevention - time for swarm control. Some bees will work the dandelions for dietetic diversity, but it has little effect on the swarming game plan.

I've seen early swarm preparations by colonies too. Some strains will start before others. What I found was that small broodnests contributed greatly to the early swarm preparations. When that early nectar flow starts up, and the colony has no upward expansion, then swarm preps can start. Now correct me if I'm wrong...I know you will...you have a hive configuration of shallow-deep-shallow. I believe I've read that the bottom S is filled with pollen, the top S if filled with the honey reserve, and the deep has two frames of honey and two frames of pollen. That leaves 6 frames of brood.

I don't think that's a large enough broodnest...at least in my neck of the woods where we have Willow/Maple bloom that can yield 30 pounds of surplus. My bees have built up to 9-12 frames of brood by Dandelion...because the combs are available to the queen and the bees winter here with large clusters that support such early brood production. Yes, Dandelion starts a week or more before Apple bloom here too, but it's the tree nectar/pollen flow that gets them building up like mad. If they hit the limit of the cavity...your honey dome...swarm preps will start. If they can place that nectar somewhere other than the active broodnest swarm preps are slowed down or non-existant.

>Seeley does some good work on items of interest to us in the field. But I'm suspicious of his timing on this report. (Havn't seen it) My observations indicate an absence of house bees above nursebee age in the early season. That would include "receivers." Reading between the lines in old literature, recievers would be the nectar driers distilling the incoming nectar to reduce the moisture content for honey storage. There is no need for drying nectar in the early season because nectar is used raw for food. In fact, honey is being diluted with water during that period. Honey storage comes later.

But I see capped honey stored from tree bloom. Supers of it some years. And when the bees are capping honey...abundance of nectar...they aren't uncapping and using last year's excess honey in the broodnest. It sits in the upper broodnest and takes up space needed above...hence reversing.

>I wonder if Dr. Seeley made his determinations later in the "main flow." Have seen many experimental results where the experimentor did not recognize that build up and swarm preps is a separate mode of operations from main flow. And colony access is more of a problem in the early season.

Never say never, right? Obviously, we can construct scenarios where bees don't follow the division of labor that we all know. Old bees will attempt nursing...just look at a package after installation. At 3 weeks after installation, how many young nurse bees are left in the colony? Young bees will become foragers and bypass their household duties if the need is great. Worker bees will attempt to be queens when the colony is hopelessly queenless.
 

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Mike: (Without quotes)
I see the "division of labor" issue regularly and routinely - every year. The absense of house bees is conspicuous if you look for it in the early season. They even have a shortage of guards (older house bees) in that period. It's so routine that skipping house bee duties is considered deliberate. That action definately has efficiency advantages and bees are efficiency experts. Their social insect lifestyle demands it. You may find it hard to believe that genetic instinct controls such complex operations, but I believe that to be the case.

Wax making is one of those house bee duties that are bypassed in the early season. Have seen some (very few) colonies start capping some honey immediatly above the brood nest in the early season - cured by brood nest heat rise. Without wax makers, that honey is capped with stored wax, and typically, they abandon that capping pending development of main flow new wax makers. Apparently, capping with old wax does not suit them. Most leave all their open-cell honey open until the start of main flow when cells are extended ,topped off, and capped with new wax.

That begs the question: Is the capping of early season sources that you report done with old or new wax?? It is possible that your bees DO operate differently than in Dixie.

Walt
 
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