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Even push the hive-opening temperature down scale a few degrees. Better to lose a few bees to chilling than the whole colony to starvation.

It has been a rough winter in the southeast for the bees. The long cold spell so far and a poor fall flow have combined to put the bees on the brink. Had we not fed syrup 3 weeks ago, we would have already lost some of the strongest. Details follow:

Current status:
As a result of the syrup feeding, all are in good shape as of today. The reversed empty deep at the top has been filled to prepare it for brood rearing. Only 2 of 11 (the strongest) had just restarted brood rearing. None had their queen lay during the extended cold spell. The others delayed starting, and still don't have any brood. Not having any sign of brood past mid Feb is highly unusual for this area. Concerned about the possibility of queenlessness, we saw the queen in the first two and stopped loking for her in the rest. Beginners take note. Have seen several threads recently about concerns for queenless condition.

Abbreviated history:
Steps in my fall checks did not get done. At about first frost, it looked like they would get the broodnest backfilled at close-out. We should have confirmed that after the first killing freeze. It apparently did not get done and the bees relocated the cluster up on solid capped honey above - abandoning the single deep. At first check in mid Jan, more than half of the clusters were at the inner cover. Could have been avoided with Nov feeding.

In late Jan, most colonies were bringing split loads - both nectar and pollen on the same trip. A clue to an irregular season - early season foraging is generally mostly pollen. They had a need for nectar.
Time to check inside. Decided to feed the lightest. On the feeding pass, empty deeps on the bottom were raised to the top, (Reversed) and comb-fed syrup. In a couple days the syrup comb was dry and we could relax. But on the few days that permitted some foraging, they were still bringing split loads. Comb fed another round with more than the first time. Today, for the first time this season, most of the foragers were bringing full pollen loads. Now they are ready to kick it into expansion gear.
And another cold blast is forcast.

They will be OK. How about yours?
Walt
 

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I've been aggressively working my bees every time we have temps in the 60 degree range. This included several days around December 20th when I removed all second brood chambers leaving only a single deep with a half full shallow super. I alternated full and empty frames in the shallows. My colonies have all been checked over the last week and the lightest have been fed plus most of the strongest have had a jar of 1:1 syrup to stimulate brood rearing. Pollen intake was sporadic in January but very heavy for the last 2 days. I have softball size patches of brood in most colonies and the largest colonies have about twice as much.

I am currently preparing frames with foundation to fill a second deep for all colonies with expectation that I will split at least 2 for 1 in late March. This area has strong early pollen but very little nectar until mid April so I will continue stimulus feeding to boost brood levels as much as possible prior to the split.

This is the first time in 8 years that I have worked my bees this aggressively. If I had not, I am certain there would be problems with colonies running out of honey and dying. With the extra winter effort, I expect to have full size colonies for the main flow which starts about April 20th.
 

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The long cold spell so far and a poor fall flow have combined to put the bees on the brink... The reversed empty deep at the top has been filled to prepare it for brood rearing. Only 2 of 11 (the strongest) had just restarted brood rearing. None had their queen lay during the extended cold spell.
Walt
Walt, what the heck is this? What if what you are experiencing is normal for someone else. Please explain this "reversed empty deep". Were these hives checkerboarded as you usually do?

It apparently did not get done and the bees relocated the cluster up on solid capped honey above - abandoning the single deep. At first check in mid Jan, more than half of the clusters were at the inner cover.
Eyes wide open...
 

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Whether I think they need it or not, I place dry sugar on all my hives in mid-January and check again in mid February. If bees have eaten a majority or are currently on the sugar, I add more. That tells me they need it. If it's just sitting there with no bees, I know they have plenty but I leave it just in case. It's a crazy cheap and easy insurance plan.
Once it's consistently warm outside, I will then begin syrup feeding for spring build up.
 

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Yup, was in the mid 70's yesterday so I did a full inspection. Other than the syrup from the feeder I put on a day or two before that, their stores were completely gone. The candyboard I had over their heads was the only way they made it through. I've got a feeder with syrup on them now to help build them back up until the actual flow starts.
 

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i'm really glad i left an extra super of honey last fall. weight by heft is still good on all but one, and that one still has capped honey visible from the top. hope to tear into them this weekend.
 

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Walt, what the heck is this? What if what you are experiencing is normal for someone else. Please explain this "reversed empty deep". Were these hives checkerboarded as you usually do?

Eyes wide open...
reread walt's post ace. he is describing colonies that did not get the deep adequately backfilled in the fall that had to move up into the supers to make it through this unusually brutal winter, which then ran out of stores before reliable foraging was possible.

taking advantage of a short break in the cold temps, the deep was brought up above the supers and the empty deep frames were filled with syrup. this wasn't swarm prevention, it was emergency feeding and heading off almost certain starvation.

pretty dang good beekeeping if you ask me.
 

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I went through 4 colonies today from top to bottom. The best one had a football size patch of brood on 3 frames with one of the frames already emerged and re-filled with fresh eggs. The other 3 colonies had small to large patches of brood from softball size up to about 8 inches across.

There was abundant pollen in all colonies. When I say abundant, I'm talking about 3 to 5 frames filled at least 2/3 with pollen. I've often read that it takes 2 cells of honey and 1 of pollen to make a new bee. If so, these colonies are going to be powerhouses in about 4 weeks.
 

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nice fp. hoping i see the same in mine this weekend. pretty good foraging here since sunday. nectar and mostly pale yellow pollen.
 

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reread walt's post ace. he is describing colonies that did not get the deep adequately backfilled in the fall that had to move up into the supers to make it through this unusually brutal winter, which then ran out of stores before reliable foraging was possible.
I don't need to reread it. What he is describing is normal for northerners. The bees go up and if there wasn't enough stores for them then why would you give him praise? Can you picture MP with a pipe and a rocking chair reading your post, "brutal winter"? He has got to be grinning ear to ear.
 

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:) yeah, brutal is relative i suppose. walt would never pass the buck, but the primary keeper of those hives that walt gets to play with from time to time was admonished to make sure they were heavy but didn't follow through. the observation that more nectar than pollen was coming in which tipped him off was pretty insightful, no? pipe and rocking chair, nestled up to the fireplace.... i like it.
 

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I did a deep dive into my hives Tuesday evening the temp was about 78. I fed dry sugar since Dec. and still had some honey left Tuesday. I found that 8 out of ten frames in the brood chamber were covered solid with bees and the deep super on top was 2/3 covered on 8 out of 10 frames. There were drones milling about in the hive with quiet a few drone cells capped. They have loads of pollen stored and still bringing it in. They are taking syrup from an open feed barrel at full bore. Going to have to watch very close to be sure they don't try to swarm before the end of March when I want to split.
 

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I don't need to reread it. What he is describing is normal for northerners. The bees go up and if there wasn't enough stores for them then why would you give him praise? Can you picture MP with a pipe and a rocking chair reading your post, "brutal winter"? He has got to be grinning ear to ear.
Another shot i see. Do you guys ever give up or take a break. Hope I can be as sharp when I am in my 80"s probably not gonna happen as I am not that sharp now :)
 

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Another shot i see. Do you guys ever give up or take a break. Hope I can be as sharp when I am in my 80"s probably not gonna happen as I am not that sharp now :)
But Grasshopper...with great study and patience one day you may achieve the level of all knowing 5-gallon bucketfu as the feathered one has. Patience, Grasshopper,...patience...
 
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