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Will this work? or am I crazy?

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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, Castleton, VT zone 4b

Newish to beekeeping and I, though under-informed, think that feeding is not good for the long term success of bees and want to try to take over-wintering nucs to the next level and see if I can get them to survive without any feeding. I'll admit I'm way in over my head, and way to new to beekeeping to be trying fancy stuff like this but, I'm ok with the consequences if I have to try several times different ways with total losses until it works.

Here is my plan and would love advice and holes poked in the strategy.

1. Get three 5-frame over-wintered nucs from a local in Orwell, VT known for good winter surviving queens in June.
2. Give them a month to build up in 8 frame deeps with empty foundationless frames. (they will need to draw out 3 frames of wax/comb on their own with no feeding.)
3. Throughout that month, I'll rotate frames around and add a 2nd 8 frame deep and bring 3 brood up to the new deep in EEBBBEEE pattern. Goal is to get as much of that filled out with brood and honey by late July.
4. In 3rd or 4th week of July I want to take those three and split them into one of two options and maybe I'll mix and match to increase probability of success: a. 4 sectioned (2 frame each) queen hotel. and/or b. 4 frame split nucs stacked 2 stories high.
5. The goal would be that in the fall flow which is typically strong in vermont to get the queen hotel into four 4/4 nucs for over-wintering and the ones I went directly into 4/4 splits filled out with brood and honey/pollen for the winter.

Goal here is to do over-wintering nucs that don't need any feeding that can survive (or have a high survival rate) solely on their own foraging. Also, two important things to note. This will be done on a retired farm with 20 acres of wildflowers. Also, I don't plan to take any honey from the hives in question.


Now....what's wrong with this plan except that I have nowhere near enough experience to try this and there will probably be large potential error rates due to user error.

Thanks!
 

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First problem is not feeding. Second problem is not feeding during a dearth. Third is getting comb built without feeding. That's just three problems right off the bat which in the long run will result in a fourth problem.
 

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Man what is with us Tennessee boys answering this.... haha.

Bomo, you have an extremely short season. Your bees need comb. Even when you have a light flow going small hives cannot take advantage of it. Especially if they have a limited number of combs. Then you have a heck of a winter. You need a large cluster and decent stores to survive and thrive to produce bees and or honey. I am not knowledgeable about what you can or can't do in your area. Palmer is the northern guru and is in the same state.

You get what you pay for. Good luck
 

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Now....what's wrong with this plan except that I have nowhere near enough experience to try this and there will probably be large potential error rates due to user error.
Don't wait getting started on your plan immediately. Your plan needs to, and will, change. First, call Kirk Webster. Bring a picnic lunch and go meet and talk to him if you can. I live in north Louisiana, and I did that. He's practically your neighbor. Tell him your plan and ask for his suggestions. Take them.

Second, don't push the bees by moving their frames around. You are making more work for them. If you must move a frame of brood up to the upper box at some point in order to get the queen up there, okay. But they know more about how to arrange the hive resources than you do. Let the bees be bees.

Third, your plan over exploits the bees and does not let them get firmly established before aggressively splitting them. By not feeding you are choosing not to be able to aggressively exploit the bees. You simply aren't going to be able to get the bees to do what you are planning on them doing. You will, however, build a more healthy and solid base from which you will ultimately be able to expand more successfully than if you feed and split the hive aggressively.

Fourth, know that you may be actively discouraged by some for what you are doing. Feeders gonna feed. I don't remember the last time that I fed syrup. I would certainly put a frame of nectar or honey in an emergency with a new hive to keep them from starving. But I can't actually remember the last time I did that either. And I work with a lot of cutouts and swarms. But not feeding is an important part of a fairly large algorithm for me for keeping 40+ hives very successfully without ever having treated for varroa mites.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
@Tennessee, So the winter shouldn't make any difference as these will be proven winter survivors in boxes with other nucs for shared warmth.

@Riverderwent, thanks for the advice and recommendations. I have thought about the comb production and I don't want to use as any outside wax. That said I have some natural comb but not enough for all of them. So like I said it will probably yield pretty dismal results the first year. But second year if I give them combs maybe that will give a good extra boost.

@others, I appreciate your responses but the purpose of doing thisis not to feed and to see if there is a path back to self sustaining bees.
 

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ok the path to self sustaining bees is not to kill until you figure it out. if you don't split them they might build up enough reserves to make it through the winter. if you split them and don't feed them I gaurentee they will all starve. so your actions will kill 30 thousand animals for your experiment.
So take a step back and decide if numbers of hives or not feeding is your goal this year. cause you can't have both.
 

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I think you should do whatever you want to do... they're your bees. So long as you own up to the consequences... have at it. There are certainly some years where you never "have" to feed. But are you supposed to let your bees starve to death because the fall flow fails? I think there's the impression that some people are pouring syrup to their bees 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 7 or 8 months a year... this just isn't the case. Getting a colony established isn't the right time to put all of the chips down on Mother Nature being kind to your bees... Even a gallon of syrup can make a huge difference to the growing colony and all the bees that ate the evil syrup will be dead in a month or so more or less... so pretty much all the sin will have been purged from the hive by then.

I think that feeding is not good for the long term success of bees!
Can you cite reasons for this?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I understand your concern and number of hives is not my goal. I obviously won't split of course , if they aren't built up to do so. Just curious have you ever split a strong hive in July in NH and not fed? Curious if others have tried and failed. I'd be open to swapping a honey frame in from a super of another strong hive but in a good year I think it's possible to not feed.
 

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I am in Wisconsin, just north of the 45th parallel. The nucs that I make up in June do not need to be fed, the ones that I make up in July and August, do need to be fed. All other things being equal.
 

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Your getting your bees from somewhere. Ask to also purchase some drawn comb from those hives. Money shouldn't be an issue because you are willing to throw money at your experiment again next year if you kill them all. I am totally treatment free and feed free. Until they need it. NOBODY wants to feed their bees. Nobody wants to treat their bees. Some feed as a plan because the honey to them is worth the hassle of feeding and is cost effective. Feeding is what we do when we need to. Starving bees is just wrong. Plenty of swarms are going to starve out all over the US this year without you adding to the death toll.
So feed the ones that must be fed to survive. Be precise in how much you had to feed them and keep accurate records. Some will need more than others and possibly one will be your shining star. Sell the ones that needed feed to someone else next year and raise your next bees off of your successful hive. Or better yet if you have to feed them just let me know and I'll send you the feed and I'll be by to pick up my live bees in the spring and you can pretend they didn't make it and go buy new ones. This no treat, no feed, no nothing crap is getting out of hand. Probably feed the heck out of their dog or cat.Why?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Would love to hear more. How late into June do you split? Do you replace Queens. How established are the hives and have you taken honey that year before splitting? Also how do you split? 2 frame queen hotel then 4 frame 2 over 2's for winter? And what are your survival rates and how many do you do?
 

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You might also want to develop a plan to address the issue of varroa in the big picture.
 

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I understand your concern and number of hives is not my goal. I obviously won't split of course , if they aren't built up to do so. Just curious have you ever split a strong hive in July in NH and not fed? Curious if others have tried and failed. I'd be open to swapping a honey frame in from a super of another strong hive but in a good year I think it's possible to not feed.
If only every year was cookie cutter and perfect... One year it might work out for you in spades. The next year you might lose everything. Beekeeping is adapting to what the bees are telling you. If you want to listen it works well. If you're deaf to it just be prepared to reap the consequences.
 

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I understand your concern and number of hives is not my goal. I obviously won't split of course , if they aren't built up to do so. Just curious have you ever split a strong hive in July in NH and not fed? Curious if others have tried and failed. I'd be open to swapping a honey frame in from a super of another strong hive but in a good year I think it's possible to not feed.
No. If split that late AND they don't have drawn comb then they have to be fed. As said if you buy them as five frame nucs, add a second box and don't split they might store enough to make it. Imo far better for you to split and feed this year and play with the splits next year if they make it.
 

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You've got preconceived notions from the poll questions alone. Don't know what you've got against feeding but if you hold steadfast to this notion you'll eventually loose you bees to starvation. More importantly, what are you planning to do for varroa? If you've got the same preconceived notions against treating there you'll have an even tougher row to hoe. As a newbee it's best to learn from the mistakes of others.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
No. If split that late AND they don't have drawn comb then they have to be fed. As said if you buy them as five frame nucs, add a second box and don't split they might store enough to make it. Imo far better for you to split and feed this year and play with the splits next year if they make it.
Right, well I'd rather not feed and maybe just try splitting one strong one and then try the same course of action next year in June. Doing it with new Nuc's might be the initial flaw in the plan. (not saying the plan is flawless beyond that but that could kill the purpose)
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
You might also want to develop a plan to address the issue of varroa in the big picture.
Well that's part of the purpose of splitting. When you split it pauses laying so pauses mite reproduction and cuts off exponential growth of mite population and gives the bees a chance to fight them off naturally. The resulting nucs have become profitable but it's my understanding that the original reason to split was to fight mites/other diseases. I could be wrong in the origin but according to what I've read splitting is purpose driven.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Your getting your bees from somewhere. Ask to also purchase some drawn comb from those hives. Money shouldn't be an issue because you are willing to throw money at your experiment again next year if you kill them all. I am totally treatment free and feed free. Until they need it. NOBODY wants to feed their bees. Nobody wants to treat their bees. Some feed as a plan because the honey to them is worth the hassle of feeding and is cost effective. Feeding is what we do when we need to. Starving bees is just wrong. Plenty of swarms are going to starve out all over the US this year without you adding to the death toll.
So feed the ones that must be fed to survive. Be precise in how much you had to feed them and keep accurate records. Some will need more than others and possibly one will be your shining star. Sell the ones that needed feed to someone else next year and raise your next bees off of your successful hive. Or better yet if you have to feed them just let me know and I'll send you the feed and I'll be by to pick up my live bees in the spring and you can pretend they didn't make it and go buy new ones. This no treat, no feed, no nothing crap is getting out of hand. Probably feed the heck out of their dog or cat.Why?
Cat/dog are different, I don't send them out each morning to fend for themselves and get their own food for half of the year and then feed them the other half. I also in full effort of disclosure, feed my dog more meat based food and less grain/filler so there is a common theme, though your metaphor is flawed.

That said I feel your pain, I'm not looking to purposely kill bees for the sake of killing bees. See below someone from Wisconsin is doing this successfully and has suggested augmentation to the timing of my plan. So grateful for his feedback. Also the fact that swarms go out and starve should be your warning sign that there might be a long term problem with feeding sugar syrup/candy/fake pollen. That said, I'm not looking to condemn others or tell other people what to do. I'm not militant, and I don't necessarily plan to restrict feeding relentlessly until I kill every last bee if it's not working. I do however want to try, experiment, learn, ...wash, rinse, repeat. That's the only way progress is made or dead ends are found.
 

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Did you truly get an overwintered Nuc? Queen as well. Most advertise overwintered but they have a new queen. Is that the same thing? Were your overwintered bees fed the winter before you bought them? I wish you well. With all the challenges of getting started I dont know why you would want to add one more. What about Varroa? Whats your plan for that?
 
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