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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay, it has been a sad year off. Not just because of no bees for a season, but COVID, losing some family members and all the rest of the goings on. But I have 2 nucs coming next month, I am building equipment like a madman, soon I will try to buy some syrup and I am raring to get back to bees. I do miss them.

Here are my strategies and goals coming into this:

1. Have more than one colony

I shall start with 2 and hopefully they build up fast enough, I will split whenever the opportunity presents itself.

2. In the past I was trying to maintain a single colony, no splitting, no increasing, attempting to stop swarming, and possibly re-queening every year or two.

My intent is to have as many colonies as the bees themselves will allow. I will split as often as they provide the opportunity and I have enough bees to support it. I am not opposed to introducing additional new queens or queen cells if I can find them locally, but I would prefer to have them create their own.

3. New keepers are told not to expect honey the first year.

I have noticed that if they abscond or lose out to the robbing war after a swarm, I can take what is left. But that doesn't seem like the best way of keeping. However, I do want something from the first year, and I will settle for "drawn comb". Lots of it! I know there are splitting strategies that will maximize comb production, I am just not sure what is the most efficient one.

4. Mite counts and treatments.

I am committing to doing mite counts and treatments. No less than monthly. In addition to that I will use green frames to cull drone cells and hopefully mites that go with them.

5. Feed sugar and pollen substitute.

Since I will not have bees until at least mid April, I will be preparing to feed both sugar syrup as well as pollen patties as they need them.

6. Small hive beetles.

These suckers have been the bane of my existence all 5 of my previous years. I am still at a loss. I have used the NeverWet on the flashing strips with some success. The swiffer sheets with some success. I have also used the beetle traps that fit between the frames. I don't think I can afford to try nematodes at this point. I don't have much confidence on the screened bottom board, so I will be using solid ones now. So any below traps will either require a hole in the bottom board, or something that exists attached to the bottom board. My hopes is that if I can keep the colonies strong and active there won't be as much room for the beetles. But I don't want to depend on "hope" alone.

7. Traps.

I have made 3 bait hives. I will put one up in a tree within my yard. I have a friend that is letting me put one on his property, and I am still looking for a third location. They are in the design that looks like a 5 frame double deep nuc. I don't really have much old comb, but I do have some old propolys that has been sitting in everclear, and I have some recovered wax that will soon be filtered through some paper towel, so I will have the remaining slumgum from that. Unfortunately, it was mostly rendered and the water tossed at least once. So I probably won't get much. I have LGO, and Rose Geranium oil, and Litsea Cubeba oil. I will come up with some of them to add to the traps. I have never pinched a queen so I don't have any "Queen in a Bottle" to add to the mix so I will rely on essential oils and what little waste I have for trapping this year. And will take care to maintain stores of such things that might help in the future.

8. Frames.

I have purchased a case of tripple waxed frames from Pierco. I have a mix of other frames, some of which are probably Acorn and others are either wood with plastic foundation, wood with wax foundation, or wood with no foundation. I am going to try to use a mix of frames to see what does best. I only have a package of shallow foundation left, so if I re-do foundation on the empty frames, I will simply cut them down and do starter strips. I will try to get at least a few "foundationless" going by checker boarding them between some well drawn comb. In addition, at some point, I will be making some frames myself. The few I made in the past seemed more like an exercise in discipline than anything enjoyable, but if I can figure a way to batch them up I will make what I can.

9. Hive bodies.

I have moved to all deep bodies. I am standardizing on 8FD but each new body I am making will have a slot for a splitter so that they can also be 4x4. However, I have made some pairs of 3FD nucs that fit 2 under an 8FD if I want to try that, or I can use them as small mating nucs if the opportunity presents itself. Or I can stack them up 2 high or whatever. They are "expensive" nucs since they still require the 2 long sides. It may be convenient to move them around independently, but I would just as soon, have an 8FD that I could split into two, or just use half of it at a time.

10. Other hardware considerations.

I am trying to standardize as much as possible. I am moving to all solid bottom boards, and no porches (landing boards). They will have a permanent split down the center for a splitting board and 2 moveable and 2 permanent entrance reducers so that it can be used with one entrance or two on opposite sides of the box.

I will build a few more telescoping tops, but I want to move away from them in favor of migratory tops. I am also debating the inner cover as opposed to feed sack or Reflectix.

I bought some frame feeders to try.
I have a 4 jar top feeder. I also have a top syrup feeder. I like the idea of the hamster style top feeder with the small tube attached to the mason jar. I may give some of these a shot.

I moved my old hive stand to the side yard (no-mans-land) and I will rotate nucs or splits through that area to give them a little distance from the main "yard". I got some cinder blocks and 6' 4x4's laid up in the original area, which seem like they will hold 4 or possibly 5 hives especially if one of them is nuc sized.

11. Brood and wintering strategy.

I intend to overwinter in connected nucs, and single deeps. I intend to keep the brood nest to a single deep, although I am expecting that they will need 2 at buildup. Hopefully I can effect multiple splits rather than tall stacks.

12. Final first year goal.

I intend to come out of winter with no less than 2 viable colonies. Anything less I will consider abject failure. It is my hope that I can do so with 5 even if they are all nucs. Anything more and I will learn a new dance move. :)

Based on what happens between now and spring 2022 I will come up with a new set of goals and strategies.

So I have shared them out loud. You can follow me and hold me to them or find out why I have abandoned any of them for something else. I am certainly not opposed to any advice in the areas I have laid out (especially the ones I don't have 100% formulation on the plan like additional stuff for the stupid beetles :), better feeder ideas, and comb drawing and queen rearing and splitting strategies )

BTW, before you suggest "Go find a mentor", that's not happening. Between certain specific issues, and COVID there will be no opportunity for an in-person mentor that I am aware of. There may be some opportunity for a single day here or there from someone, but that is unlikely to happen. I am involved with the local association, but as of yet, I don't know when their meetings will start back up. And I am currently in the process of reaching out to the state association.
 

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It seems that you've done considerable reading about beekeeping......good for you. But it sounds like you haven't had good luck with your bees.

You have two nucs coming this spring......and hoping to catch a swarm or two this year (good luck).

My suggestion to you is to try to achieve your #12 goal for the year without trying to make increases by splitting etc. Just sit back and learn how to interact with the bees, learn their habits and how they react to what mother nature has taught them about survival.

(12. Final first year goal.
I intend to come out of winter with no less than 2 viable colonies )


When you achieve this goal, then set another goal to increase your apiary to your desired size.
 

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2. In the past I was trying to maintain a single colony, no splitting, no increasing, attempting to stop swarming, and possibly re-queening every year or two.
I am by far an expert, but I have two neighbours, along with myself, who thought that this scenario was possible. They have had to buy bees every year, one for the last 3, and one for longer than that. Last summer was my first time getting bees so I thought that I might have to as well. After reading on this forum the general consensus seemed to be that a person needs at least 3 of not even 5 to be self sustaining for most years, and even then you may lose them all so to that end I went into winter with 3 hives. Winter is far from over here and I have yet to see which, if any survived.

I am sorry to hear of your family losses, I hope this next year brings you less sorrow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
It seems that you've done considerable reading about beekeeping......good for you. But it sounds like you haven't had good luck with your bees.

You have two nucs coming this spring......and hoping to catch a swarm or two this year (good luck).

My suggestion to you is to try to achieve your #12 goal for the year without trying to make increases by splitting etc. Just sit back and learn how to interact with the bees, learn their habits and how they react to what mother nature has taught them about survival.

(12. Final first year goal.
I intend to come out of winter with no less than 2 viable colonies )


When you achieve this goal, then set another goal to increase your apiary to your desired size.
I do fear that if I have no increase, I have no room for loss. I also live in a huge Italian Bee area... So I have found that when a swarm happens, it is almost immediately followed by robbers. I am of the opinion, that without splitting I will not overcome the urge to swarm, and not go into the winter strong enough, or out of it. I don't know if I can split them and get them to successfully make their own queens, but I can try, or I can split them and possibly buy queens. But pretty sure I would like to see at least one 8FD and four 4FD nucs go into winter. I could certainly still loose them all, but I would feel like I had a fighting chance :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I am by far an expert, but I have two neighbours, along with myself, who thought that this scenario was possible. They have had to buy bees every year, one for the last 3, and one for longer than that. Last summer was my first time getting bees so I thought that I might have to as well. After reading on this forum the general consensus seemed to be that a person needs at least 3 of not even 5 to be self sustaining for most years, and even then you may lose them all so to that end I went into winter with 3 hives. Winter is far from over here and I have yet to see which, if any survived.

I am sorry to hear of your family losses, I hope this next year brings you less sorrow.
It might very well be a possibility, it just hadn't been in 5 years for me :) I have some ideas and strategies of how it might work, but it still involves splitting and simply offloading the colonies.

The thing I like about the split over the swarm, is that if I split them I am also reducing the size of their container whether by using a board, or smaller nuc boxes. I think... (Though I am still open to being wrong) that this causes 2 smaller but still strong colonies. This should keep the robbing at bay, and introduce some brood breaking. It is also part of the strategy for getting some comb drawn.
 

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I had to chose, let them swarm or split. They had built at least 5 queen cells under my inept swarm management, and so I was faced with losing them and ending up with one smaller hive, or having 2. This was from a nuc bought May 16th, and by July 14 my hive was 'spitting' bees so I did an even split. I am not sure whether the original swarmed anyway, but they were both strong colonies by fall.

I am just trying to make my small bee operation as self sustaining as I can so this means I need to have more than one hive. This year I am researching overwintering nucs to replace my losses in the spring.
 

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I do fear that if I have no increase, I have no room for loss. I also live in a huge Italian Bee area... So I have found that when a swarm happens, it is almost immediately followed by robbers. I am of the opinion, that without splitting I will not overcome the urge to swarm, and not go into the winter strong enough, or out of it. I don't know if I can split them and get them to successfully make their own queens, but I can try, or I can split them and possibly buy queens. But pretty sure I would like to see at least one 8FD and four 4FD nucs go into winter. I could certainly still loose them all, but I would feel like I had a fighting chance :)
Get or build some robber screens.
If you do split to gain increase don't be afraid to re-combine some of them in fall so you can go into Winter with strong colonies. It is possible to over Winter in 5 frame nucs.
Strong crowded colonies can control SHB, especially with a little help from their keeper.

Good luck,
Alex

Edit; I would also dispense with the EOs.
Drone trapping for mites, in my opinion, is a high resource cost to the bees for getting rid of some mites. I believe it is also the cause of unneeded disturbance to your bees. If you want to kill mites, use an innocuous treatment such as OAV.
Feeding is important, but overfeeding can greatly increase swarming tendency and also deprive the Queen of space to lay making build-up slower than it should be, often leading an over-thinking well- intentioned keeper to look for some other non existing problem leading to further disruptions and mistakes.

Alex
It is possible to help your bees too much.
 

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Since I dont know where you are it is hard to know if you can produce a crop the first year. Many hear that shibboleth and let their colonies swarm for lack of room because in many places a nuc can produce well in excess of a hundred pounds of surplus honey for the beekeeper. I too urge you to not split your colonies into oblivion. Why don't you feed your colonies and draw comb and if a honey crop is avaailable take it. Winter your bees heavy with honey and pollen and you can split in the spring when nature does the same. Your attitude on controlling mites is laudable. Now that we can use oxalic legally during the honey flow. a couple series a year performed correctly should go a long way toward controlling them. I try hard not to requeen a successful queen of good temperment. During swarm season, my swarm control is taking the queen and a small split and moving her above the supers over and excluder with another excluder over the queenless brood boxes below. The bees below build a fine emergency cell and about 80% of the time a new mated queen. The queen above benefits from rising heat and nurse bees unemployed below looing for brood to care for. That small split is soon a booming colony that may need its own super for surplus honey. The two supers placed above the queenless mother colony get filled as bees store nectar instead of feeding brood below. In a month I check the bottom colony and if it has successfully requeened, I give the now booming single above its own bottom board and second brood box if appropriate. Or just pile on supers, extract them and then feed that drawn comb back full of sugar syrup. Lots of ways of doing things and this works better for me than spending money on mediocre spring queens.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Get or build some robber screens.
If you do split to gain increase don't be afraid to re-combine some of them in fall so you can go into Winter with strong colonies.

Edit; I would also dispense with the EOs.
Drone trapping for mites, in my opinion, is a high resource cost to the bees for getting rid of some mites. I believe it is also the cause of unneeded disturbance to your bees. If you want to kill mites, use an innocuous treatment such as OAV.
Feeding is important, but overfeeding can greatly increase swarming tendency and also deprive the Queen of space to lay making build-up slower than it should be, often leading an over-thinking well- intentioned keeper to look for some other non existing problem leading to further disruptions and mistakes.
Certainly recombining may and will certainly be necessary, I can't have weak colonies for long here.
I do have at least 1 robber screen, and may build more, or use just a little different mechanical tool.
Not sure on th eEOs. Are you suggesting they not be used in trap lures? Or did you think I wanted to use them in the hives?

I have not paid any attention to drones in the past. I had an opportunity to get the green frames, so I thought I would give it a try.

I intend fully on using OAV, lthough I am considering something like the Gas-Vap as I am not liking my 20 minute process using the 12 volt battery and the long wand. The Gas-Vap looks/seems like it would be pretty quick to make, especially since I haven't seen it available in the states anywhere. But if nothing else, I will continue with my wand and battery. "Alexa, set a BEE timer for 10 minutes" :D

Definitely not ready for the Provap price though. Perhaps there is something else possible.
I have used the MAQS in the past with some success, but they are kind of messy.

Feeding or not, I will be an OCD manager of the hive. Once they even think of back filling the brood next, I will be pulling resources for nucs and replacing with empties. They can spend the effort drawing comb instead. :) Frame of feed, couple frames of brood, extra shake of nurses and let them figure it out on the other side of the yard. Or something like that. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Since I dont know where you are it is hard to know if you can produce a crop the first year. Many hear that shibboleth and let their colonies swarm for lack of room because in many places a nuc can produce well in excess of a hundred pounds of surplus honey for the beekeeper. I too urge you to not split your colonies into oblivion. Why don't you feed your colonies and draw comb and if a honey crop is avaailable take it. Winter your bees heavy with honey and pollen and you can split in the spring when nature does the same. Your attitude on controlling mites is laudable. Now that we can use oxalic legally during the honey flow. a couple series a year performed correctly should go a long way toward controlling them. I try hard not to requeen a successful queen of good temperment. During swarm season, my swarm control is taking the queen and a small split and moving her above the supers over and excluder with another excluder over the queenless brood boxes below. The bees below build a fine emergency cell and about 80% of the time a new mated queen. The queen above benefits from rising heat and nurse bees unemployed below looing for brood to care for. That small split is soon a booming colony that may need its own super for surplus honey. The two supers placed above the queenless mother colony get filled as bees store nectar instead of feeding brood below. In a month I check the bottom colony and if it has successfully requeened, I give the now booming single above its own bottom board and second brood box if appropriate. Or just pile on supers, extract them and then feed that drawn comb back full of sugar syrup. Lots of ways of doing things and this works better for me than spending money on mediocre spring queens.
Hey Vance, I am in Mooresville, NC. When I say I am not expecting honey crop, that doesn't mean I won't happily accept it :)

You have also taught me a new word "shibboleth". At first I thought you might have said something naughty, and the software corrected it to a nonsense word, but it felt real enough to look up. It is quite apropos.

My primary intent for the splits is to prevent the actual swarm from happening. Swarms have been devastating for me here. So if I have traps out, and I split them soon/often enough I am hoping that will prevent them from getting to the point of doing it on their own accord. It is not the goal to take 2 nucs and split them into 100 or some such nonsense. It is less about the increase (though I won't complain about increase) as it is swarm prevention and brood breaks.

I have read several different techniques for how to actually do splits. I will have to add yours to the list now. It sounds simple and efficient, both of square footage as well as resources. I may have to re-read it a few times to completely digest it though.
 

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Certainly recombining may and will certainly be necessary, I can't have weak colonies for long here.

Not sure on th eEOs. Are you suggesting they not be used in trap lures? Or did you think I wanted to use them in the hives?



Definitely not ready for the Provap price though. Perhaps there is something else possible.
I have used the MAQS in the past with some success, but they are kind of messy.
Many people report success with LGO for swarm trapping. I thought you may be adding it to your syrup or using one of the commercially available feeds that can invite robbing.

A more reasonably priced band heater type vaporizer can be found here.

Alex
 

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This is a good video about equalizing colonies to help prevent swarming. Cutting out queen cells once every 7-10 days is the gold standard to prevent swarming.
Adding supers early to give the bees more space will help as well.
 

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Hey Vance, I am in Mooresville, NC. When I say I am not expecting honey crop, that doesn't mean I won't happily accept it :)

You have also taught me a new word "shibboleth". At first I thought you might have said something naughty, and the software corrected it to a nonsense word, but it felt real enough to look up. It is quite apropos.

My primary intent for the splits is to prevent the actual swarm from happening. Swarms have been devastating for me here. So if I have traps out, and I split them soon/often enough I am hoping that will prevent them from getting to the point of doing it on their own accord. It is not the goal to take 2 nucs and split them into 100 or some such nonsense. It is less about the increase (though I won't complain about increase) as it is swarm prevention and brood breaks.

I have read several different techniques for how to actually do splits. I will have to add yours to the list now. It sounds simple and efficient, both of square footage as well as resources. I may have to re-read it a few times to completely digest it though.
That is why I used the word shibboleth! All those words to use other than FXXX it is a shame not to use them. My method would serve you nicely for swarm control. And about a quarter of the time the hive fails to requeen and then you just reverse the stack and you may not have another colony, but you do have a honey crop and they didn't swarm themselves to death
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
That is why I used the word shibboleth! All those words to use other than FXXX it is a shame not to use them. My method would serve you nicely for swarm control. And about a quarter of the time the hive fails to requeen and then you just reverse the stack and you may not have another colony, but you do have a honey crop and they didn't swarm themselves to death
So let me see if I understand this correctly. So I have a working brood box, and I put a super on it. I then put a QX on top of that and add another box with the original queen and perhaps some resources, capped brood frames, and maybe some empty drawn comb or just foundation. The bottom box is far enough away from her pheromone to consider themselves queenless and will start making cells. And I can let them bring one of them to queenhood, and she go out for a mating romp and start laying below. When I see eggs, I can move the top colony to a new bottom board and I'm done.
Did I miss anything?
 

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For small hive beetles I use a combination of "Beetle Barns" and a ground soak of permathrin mixed in a watering can and sprinkled around the entrances and about six inches to the sides of the hives. The permathrin ground soak kills the small hive beetle larva when they drop out of the hive to burrow into the ground to pupate. The Beetle Barns get the ones still crawling around inside the hive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
For small hive beetles I use a combination of "Beetle Barns" and a ground soak of permathrin mixed in a watering can and sprinkled around the entrances and about six inches to the sides of the hives. The permathrin ground soak kills the small hive beetle larva when they drop out of the hive to burrow into the ground to pupate. The Beetle Barns get the ones still crawling around inside the hive.
And the permathrin is safe to use around bees?
 

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I believe so or I would not be using it. It is sprayed onto the ground soaking into it. Under normal circumstances bees are not going to crawl on the ground. It is used in various concentrations in animal husbandry and also an ointment rubbed onto ones skin for treatment of scabies. The military requires troops deploying to some locations such as Iraq to have uniforms soaked in a solution prior to deployment and reapplications periodically throughout the deployment.
 

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First off- I love your enthusiasm and heartfelt desire to do well. I would keep it simple, very simple. I would also order at least one more nuc. Hopefully your supplier has great stock. The quality of what you put in the box cannot be overstated. Statistics points to 5 as a sustainable apiary. Instead of splitting I would focus on live bees in the spring. 1) mite treatments- OAV personal fav (without treatments they will die) 2) proper nutrition 3) over wintering config. Leave the more esoteric skills like treatment free or queen rearing as advanced techniques. University of Guelph has great videos on YouTube. Highly recommend Comb Building.
 
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