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I split my hives more severely than I normally do, while in SC, in order to get all of my pallets filled up. And now the largest orchard that I pollinate is complaining about the number of bees seen flying. And he is upset about the price too. I don't blame him, I don't like the strength of the colonies either and the price is negotiable.

So my questions, after doing this for 15 years or more, are:
What are the ideal numbers of frames of brood and frames of bees for a 1 and 1/2 story pollinating colony and a 2 story colony?
What is best for the apple orchard and what is best for the beekeeper?
Are they the same?

Am I wrong in my belief that a colony that swarms while in the orchard doesn't contribute much to pollination? My thinking is that if a colony swarms while in the orchard it doesn't have room for pollen or honey, so there won't be much foraging going on.

Is there a bees per minute flying formula that says whether a colony is a good pollinator?
 

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Some things to consider"
The number of frames stated in your contract.
The frames of sealed brood that emerges within 7 to 10 days that will increase the frame count.
The temperature that the bees are flying at the time of inspection.
A natural swarm is a better pollinator than a divide because of their attitude. A swarm has no brood to care for at the start and they will have a much higher number of bees to forage.
Wind conditions at the time of inspection.
Keep a weather log for your own documentation
Are the hives shaded or in the open. Full sun is ideal.
You might drop the price and place more hives in pollination.
You may have to balance the bees by taking frames of brood from the stronger hives and giving them to the less strong hives.
Or, bring in some hives to cover the contract and do not balance the hives.
Good luck,
Ernie
 

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I

Is there a bees per minute flying formula that says whether a colony is a good pollinator?
I bet there is a different answer for every crop..... probably more the better - but then there is that swarm question.

One of our yards is fairly visible from the road and we were splitting as hard as we could and had not gotten to that yard. The bees in it were ridiculously dense.... one of the blue berry growers called me one night and wanted to know why they could not rent those bees. Well I tried to explain, but to no avail - within a day or two we were over there trying to catch swarms - poor way to make splits - good way to calm a yard down.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
A natural swarm is a better pollinator than a divide because of their attitude. A swarm has no brood to care for at the start and they will have a much higher number of bees to forage.

You might drop the price and place more hives in pollination.

You may have to balance the bees by taking frames of brood from the stronger hives and giving them to the less strong hives.

Or, bring in some hives to cover the contract and do not balance the hives.
Good luck,
Ernie
I meant a colony that has swarmed while in the orchard, not a swarm collected.

Will when I can. The truck is in the shop.

Did that w/ a number of them. Replaced the light ones that the orchard manager pointed out w/ ones which he liked.

Thanks Ernie.
 

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Oregon State University came out with a book entitled, "A guide to Managing Bees For Crop Pollination" several years back.
Here is a paragraph from subsection" Colony Standards for Pollination" :

"For orchard pollination a colony should have a minimum of 8 deep frames completely covered by adult bees (20,000 bees) and 5-6 frames of brood in all stages of development.
Brood combs usually are not completely filled with brood, so a more accurate measure is the actual area of brood in the combs. Oregon's regulations require that Grade A colonies for orchard have at least 600 square inches of comb occupied by brood. this measurement is equivalent to 5 frames with 50% of the area occupied by brood"
 

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On the bc Apiculture website, the industry standard is said to be 8 frames of bees w/4 frames of brood and a laying queen. I think there are as many beeks as there are growers that don't know this or perhaps the beeks do know but don't care what they use for a pollenation unit. If a grower doesn't look in the hives or what to look for at the entrance, they could get burned by other beeks who would move in delaptated colnies of 2 or 3 frames of bees and that gives other beeks a bad name.
This year I made 3 way splits (6 frames:2 honey and/or pollen and 4 frames brood for each split) and i was feeling bad that I had to use these for my pollenation units but looking at them now, they are a full box of bees.
 

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I usually pollinate with two story deep hives that have 7 frames of brood and a total of nine frames of bees. They have the opportunity to grow into the second hive body while in the orchard and there should be no danger of swarming. This year my hives came out much heavier than when I put them in.
 

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Mark, you know I pollinated Chazy apples (northeast NY State) for 20 years. The rule of thumb that I always followed was a 5 frame minimum, with bees to support it. Always had good pollination...weather permitting. I don't figure there should be any difference in 1 1/2 or 2 story colonies. If your 1 1/2ers are really just South Carolina spring splits, then maybe the grower is right. What is best for the grower is best for the beekeeper...strong colonies means a good reputation and pollination jobs next year.

A colony with 5-7 frames of brood in a double isn't likely to swarm in the orchard. Hence equalizing brood, reversing, etc, before you go in.
 
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