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Discussion Starter #1
So,

This winter kicked my back side and humbled me in ways I don't feel like getting into in this thread. The long and short of it is I went into the winter with between 40-50 colonies and now have 8. It's painful even to type it out and see it on the screen in front of me. I've had a very disheartening and frustrating week going through dead-outs, cleaning up old comb and hive bodies, and trying to extract the full frames of honey that have been left behind. I'm at a crossroads with what to do and I'm beating my head against the wall trying to come up with the best solution. I'll walk you through my thought process and hopefully you gals and guys can chime in and give me your two cents.

With eight colonies coming out of winter I anticipate having at least 36-40 frames of brood between all 8 colonies by the first-second week in May. I'm able to purchase queens at 15$ a piece and figure I can start a colony with one frame of brood/bees and a laying queen. If I divvy up resources early on by the second week in may I could have ~25-30 colonies that are queen-right. Allow the queens to lay and hopefully by mid June those 25-30 colonies are sporting ~5-8 frames of brood. At this point I can either A) buy more queens and repeat the process until my brood boxes are full again or B) Rear my own queens and stock my equipment with my own queens that have been reared.

The problem with plan B) is the time gap from when I start rearing until the queens hatch, mate, lay, and produce the first brood cycle. Huge bummer
The problem with plan A) there isn't really a draw back to this plan simply because I already have drawn frames to support at least 100 colonies so the queens I purchase will be able to go right into laying.

Plan C which is another possibility I'm pushing around is let's say the queens I'm buying I have no anticipation of taking all the way into winter. If they go into winter great, if they don't no big deal because all I need them for is to reproduce my work force. As the queens I buy begin to lay and bring the colonies to full strength it gives me the option to harvest brood/workers and use to supplement other colonies or nucs that I'll start setting up when the resources become available to breed.

Some things to keep in mind,
1.I'm not anticipating a honey harvest this year, quite the opposite. I plan on having to feed rigorously.
2.I already have enough comb and equipment drawn to fill 125 deeps
3.I still don't know what I'm doing but am having fun making mistakes along the way.
4.I'm not buying packages or nucs, I'm going to grow what I've got to get where I can

My question boils down to: am I setting myself up for failure trying to start colonies with a laying queen and a brood comb full of nurse bees and brood or will this plan suffice?
 

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Don't go with the small splits and only 1 frame of brood, let the colonies grow a little. If you are using deep equipment what my plan would be is:

Don't split by dates split by colony size
Don't split all at the same time
Since you are just looking for increase add a feeder, fill it each time you split, along with a pollen patty, only when you split don't be excessive with it
Let them build up a strong 2 deeps, divide 4 ways, throw on an entrance reducer, and set in a new double deep configuration ( since you have drawn comb) you'll be surprised how quickly they re-populate that drawn comb if you make good five frame splits with 3-5 frames of brood.

For time, and resources sake I would purchase your queens.
 

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I feel your pain. At my home I went from 15 to 2. I've got a few packages ordered that will get requeened with my own queens later this summer.

To answer your question. I have never had luck starting a colony with less than two frames of brood, adhering bees and a queen. My issue has been creating a big enough colony to take into winter and have come out on the other side alive.

I'm concerned that your estimate of brood on hand in early May is overly optimistic. I think you should plan on taking two seasons to rebuild. Can what you describe be accomplished? Yes, but by a beekeeper with more skill than me in a climate other than Maine and perhaps Wyoming.
 

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Moon - another method or plan, let your 8 hives build up until mid-May. You should have 8fr of brood. Split the survivior
queens off with 2fr of brood and let them build up, moving them away 2mi. Then let the rest raise their own queens, while they
gather you some honey with your drawn combs. Wait until end of June or first week in July, and split. Your 8 original hives should
have 8fr of brood to split 4ways, that's 32hives.
Take your other 8hives which should have brought in about 60lb/hive of honey while they raised a new queen, and split them up
3ways for they should have 6 fr of brood. That's 24 more hives, now your back to 56hives plus some honey.
PS used to live in Torrington. Love that blue sky and sunshine.
PS The notching of cell walls will get you free young queens also, that really helps beat old man winter.
 

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I haven't any useful suggestion about the splitting aspect, but what occurrred to me to wonder was if you had worked out how to get how ever many colonies you can get re-established this summer through the next winter. If you know what to do differently then a growth plan that takes two years to get completed is feasible, but if not you are on a Spring-to-Spring treadmill. In that case the upside depends completely on having an exceptionally lucky winter. Even a normal winter would still not provide the necessary increases, only (scarcely) replacements.

It's OK if you don't want to go into it here, But you need to be pretty sure that you know what you can do to prevent another bad loss, no matter what the winter throws at you.

Enj.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Moon - another method or plan, let your 8 hives build up until mid-May. You should have 8fr of brood. Split the survivior
queens off with 2fr of brood and let them build up, moving them away 2mi. Then let the rest raise their own queens, while they
gather you some honey with your drawn combs. Wait until end of June or first week in July, and split. Your 8 original hives should
have 8fr of brood to split 4ways, that's 32hives.
Take your other 8hives which should have brought in about 60lb/hive of honey while they raised a new queen, and split them up
3ways for they should have 6 fr of brood. That's 24 more hives, now your back to 56hives plus some honey.
PS used to live in Torrington. Love that blue sky and sunshine.
PS The notching of cell walls will get you free young queens also, that really helps beat old man winter.
The only concern I have with this is allowing the bees to raise their own queens. That's ~ 45+ days of a hive without a queen laying eggs. The season here is far to short for that amount of time lag. Thanks for your input though, and I have to say I think Torrington is a darn site better then Gillette :)

but what occurrred to me to wonder was if you had worked out how to get how ever many colonies you can get re-established this summer through the next winter. It's OK if you don't want to go into it here, But you need to be pretty sure that you know what you can do to prevent another bad loss, no matter what the winter throws at you.

Enj.
I've no qualms about getting into it here or anywhere else, how we learn is recognizing our mistakes, learning from them and moving forward.

Very simply put, I didn't do anything to my colonies. I started a new job at the start of the summer and was working on average 60+ hours a week. I did absolutely no prep on my colonies going into the winter and it was really all I could do to get out and get the honey off of them one or two days in October. I figured in years past they made it through fine, this winter they would undoubtedly do fine, and for all intents they did do fine up until the end of January. Most (if not all) of my colonies were still alive in January. January had some really harsh temperature swings here in Wyoming that froze them out.

Would fall feeding have helped? Probably. Would a dedicated IPM program have helped? Probably. Would wrapping them have helped? Probably. Would combining the weak hives with the strong ones and making sure all colonies going into winter had an ample supply of young bees helped? Probably.

As I said though, none of those things were even approached once last year simply because my priorities were different. I still work the same hours, however, my superiors know I won't be working the amount of overtime I did last year during the beekeeping season.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Don't go with the small splits and only 1 frame of brood, let the colonies grow a little. If you are using deep equipment what my plan would be is:

Don't split by dates split by colony size
Don't split all at the same time
Since you are just looking for increase add a feeder, fill it each time you split, along with a pollen patty, only when you split don't be excessive with it
Let them build up a strong 2 deeps, divide 4 ways, throw on an entrance reducer, and set in a new double deep configuration ( since you have drawn comb) you'll be surprised how quickly they re-populate that drawn comb if you make good five frame splits with 3-5 frames of brood.

For time, and resources sake I would purchase your queens.
Thanks for the advice cheezer. I'm going to try what you outlined here. Fall starts setting in around late September mid-October here. I think I could continue doing this up through the end of July maybe even mid-August and begin prepping for winter by the first week in September. That leaves six weeks for feeding and equalizing before I wrap everything up at the end of October?
 

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I prefer strong splits, but I have started many nucs with a frame of brood and a frame of honey and a shake of bees. That is my typical mating nuc and my typical nuc from a hive full of swarm cells. But my typical split for increase is at least two eight frame mediums (or one ten frame deep) full of honey and brood and bees and two empty eight frame mediums (or one ten frame deep) for expansion. A strong split like this will build up quickly. You may be able to split the queenright side again in a few weeks and maybe again after that in a few weeks...
 

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I agree with enjambres ideas. Need to pay attention to both growing and over wintering these hives. Doesn't matter
if you have 1000 hives build up for the entire year. If they cannot make it thru the winter alive then you are back to square one again.
Prevention of winter death will help with next year's hive growth. So that this cycle will not repeat again at every Spring.
On the bright side you still have 8 strong hives to work with. I say to combine them into 4 hives to make them
much more stronger for early Spring build up then split later on. Take the weakest queens to put in a small nuc
for them to build up. This way there will be no gap in laying. The strong nuc hives can be used to support the bigger
hives for early splits too. Packed them with so many bees that they have to raise their own queen cells for your splits.
Also, buy your queens for faster splits too. Feed them syrup and patties until they are ready to swarm and then make your splits before that. Put half or as many hives as you can into a small shed for next winter. Now you can compare if the shed bees are better or the hives left outside is better for over winter. Everything depends on the weather and your bee management practices now.
 

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All my splits this year were two frames of capped/open larva and one frame of food, a frame of drawn comb and an empty frame. I introduced queen cells to them over a week ago and as of Wednesday all queens were hatched out and looking good. I will have to transfer to my deeps next weekend since the nucs are very strong right now and each one is drawing out the empty frames! I will be making more splits with my remaining hives in a couple weeks. I didnt have the devastating loss that you did, but I went from 20 last fall to 12 into almonds. I plan to be at 40 by summer. And yes, having drawn comb is a giant bonus for you! I wish you the best!
 

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I've started nucs with a mated queen, frame of honey & 2 frames of bees with capped brood. Shake a few extra bees in the nuc & you're good to go.
 

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If you have strong queens and can get queens on demand whay not make your splits and keep a couple of strong queens in nucs to continue raising brood. Pull frames of brood for more splits. Treat them like Michael Palmers brood factor nucs. Once you hit your last split date let them grow out. It is always easier to add a brood chamber to a strong hive them figure out which weak splits to combine, if you find the time.

You know your local conditions.

Tom
 
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