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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Anyone else here read to the books or watched U of M's "Beekeeping in Northern Climates"? Care to share some feedback?

We are newbies and have been trying to educated ourselves for the past couple of years. Trying to figure out which way we would like to go. We definitely want to use as little medications as possible.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the information, Michael! Very interesting indeed! I would love to go this route. I especially found the part about raising your own queens interesting. When would be the "appropriate time" to do a split and let the queenless colony requeen itself? At the beginning of the nectar flow?

We bought a starter kit with 2 hives which included the Pierco plastic frames and foundation. I will have to ponder this for a week or two before I start cutting holes in the foundation. Curious if I could do it to just a couple of frames to see what they take to faster.
 

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>When would be the "appropriate time" to do a split and let the queenless colony requeen itself?

Sometime between when they have built up well and the middle of the flow. At least that's what works well here..

>At the beginning of the nectar flow?

That could work. Just before if you have a hive that's likely to swarm anyway...

>We bought a starter kit with 2 hives which included the Pierco plastic frames and foundation. I will have to ponder this for a week or two before I start cutting holes in the foundation. Curious if I could do it to just a couple of frames to see what they take to faster.

Sure. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
 

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Anyone else here read to the books or watched U of M's "Beekeeping in Northern Climates"? Care to share some feedback?
I took the weekend short course at UMN several years ago. It was well worth it and would recommend it to people in the area. I ended up moving out of Minnesota shortly after taking the course, but the course was useful regardless.

The course is a basic introduction to beekeeping. The horizontal two queen method of hive management Marla Spivak and Gary Reuter teach in the course is a bit unusual. One of the goals of the system is to always have young queens, but there are others ways of achieving that goal. They do teach about disease treatments, but a big focus of their research is about breeding resistant bees and moving away from treatments - so you get a taste of their findings and how it might be applied to hive management.

Unfortunately, because of the timing of the course and the number of people there isn't any hands-on work with hives.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
One of the goals of the system is to always have young queens, but there are others ways of achieving that goal.
I am interested in ways to allow my hives to produce their own queens without swarming. Is it necessary to split hives in order to do this?

U of M also advocates using 3 brood boxes in northern climates on hives that you expect to survive the winter. Granted I am a newbie, but it does make sense to me that if we have problems with bees not having enough to sustain them through the winter that keeping more for them to use would be beneficial. ??
 

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You can force the hive into making an emergency queen by pinching the old one. That avoids making splits. Personally, I make splits. I've had bad luck getting properly mated queens - so if you make a split and a queen doesn't mate well you can always recombine the split.

I can imagine that three boxes could help if you have a cold spring and Italian bees. Clearly lots of people in the north use two boxes with decent results.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I suppose I didn't think of the new queen not mating well. There is just so much to learn and it is all so very interesting. Thanks for your replies.
 

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Keep in mind the point of the U of MN course (and video) is targeted giving new beekeepers the information they need to start hobby beekeeping in climates similar to Minnesota. It is not intended to be a recipe for beekeeping in all climates, for all people, and in all circumstances.

Spivak & Reuter make a point of asking students to use the U of MN method for 2 years, then make their own decisions from there on. There is a lot of information out there, much of it conflicting, based on the demands of commercial beekeeping, or coming from beekeeping practices that work in other climates. It is really easy for newbies to get confused ... it can be hard to find good mentors ... and so the course was born.

I took the short course this past weekend and was impressed at the information presented. The video covers the highlights, but being there in person was well worth the time and money.

Do I 100% agree with their point of view? No. But do I think as a newbie that I could be successful keeping bees with their method? Yes. The 3-deep brood chamber may seem (from what little I know about the subject) to perhaps be overkill for experienced beekeepers, but the method they teach to manage this brood chamber gives the new beekeeper a reliable, understandable way to let the bees build up their population in the spring and allow the bees to store plenty of honey for winter survival.

Just my 2 cents. --DeeAnna
 

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Keep in mind the point of the U of MN course (and video) is targeted giving new beekeepers the information they need to start hobby beekeeping in climates similar to Minnesota. It is not intended to be a recipe for beekeeping in all climates, for all people, and in all circumstances.

(snip)
Just my 2 cents. --DeeAnna
Spot on, I was there this past weekend too. Well worth the time. Being exposed to what AFB is was a rather pleasant surprise.

I think the promote the 3-deep brood to allow for a more successful split in the spring come May. That was my take on the matter.
 

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"...3-deep brood to allow for a more successful split in the spring come May..."

I do agree with you on that. I also know, having lurked here and elsewhere for quite awhile, that many newbies (including myself) ask "how much honey is enough to overwinter" and there are big differences in the answers depending on who you talk to, where they live, and how they are managing their hives.

My impression from the course is that a 3-deep hive will have enough volume inside to ensure enough stores for most Minnesota winters most years, given reasonable care. To repeat myself a bit, the advice and methods in the course are erring on the conservative side of "what works for Minnesota for newbie beekeepers", not for all people in all climates and all circumstances.

To comment on the issue of medications, the U of MN course (and video) do recommend treatment for varroa and nosemia, but ONLY after testing shows there's a problem at a level that requires treatment. I think their recommendations about monitoring and treatment will strike a good balance for most beginners.

I will most likely follow the course recommendations on this issue. I think the option to monitor and treat, if needed, is appropriate at this point in my beekeeping education. I think I will have my hands full learning the basics and not killing my bees from utter inexperience. I am not willing at this point to also go absolutely cold turkey on the option to treat.

The one thing that bothered me the most about the U of MN methods was the "depopulation" of the "parent" hive as it goes into its second winter. Meaning, baldly stated, the entire parent colony is deliberately killed in October/November or is allowed to starve over the winter. The hive is repopulated the following spring with a new queen and brood/stores from the former year's "divide" hive.

In its second year, the parent hive is basically used as a honey producing machine, and no provisions are made in its management for building stores for winter. Only the divide hive is managed for winter survival.

I find myself wishing there is an alternative course that is not so drastic.

In giving a brief rationale for this, Marla Spivak said their research has shown that very few queens -- perhaps 10% if I remember right -- survive to their third summer in Minnesota. What was odd to me is she went on to say that in other upper midwestern states and in Manitoba, the long term survival rates for queens are much higher. She didn't elaborate on the reasons.

But, even so, why kill the whole hive?

Some of the reasons given -- Harvesting honey from the parent hive is done at the expense of building enough winter stores, so kill the colony in fall. The stores left in the hive can be used for the new colony that will be created next spring. Get rid of the queen by killing the entire colony, since she is probably on her way out anyway. The hive can be repaired and cleaned if needed.

I would be quite content to harvest less honey, if the parent colony could be managed for winter survival. But if they modified the method, I suspect it might devolve into a muddle of too many "what ifs" and "maybe thens" to meet the goals of teaching Minnesota newbie beekeepers how to successfully keep bees. Dunno. <scratching my head>

Hey, FarmerJ, I agree also that the demo for the AFB was pretty amazing. I hope to never see AFB in my hives, but it is good to be informed. I thought the Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers did a great job with their other demos too. Nice group of folks!

--DeeAnna
 

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considering how it was done, it was pretty good. Too little demonstrators though for my liking. Standing in line to get to the front isn't my idea of fun.

But then again, I don't like crowds either. I would have thought they could have had an observation hive or two there, but that didn't happen.

I am hoping I can attempt to make a 3 -deep brood again out of the parent colony and winter it as well. Will see what happens.

I am giving myself 5 years to see how things go so will likely give this a try for 2 years and then start to push things out more to expand.
 

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I have taken both the beginner class and the "2nd year" class and found them to be an excellent resource for those of us raising bees in Minnesota. Gary and Marla present the materials (and their opinions) with an understanding of their material as well as their audience. Their advice is full of common sense. The DVD stands well on its own, but the book is best followed during the class. With that being said, I find myself going back to both the beekeeping and diseases and pests books often.

I understand the reasoning behind Dr. Furgala's method for honey production, but my operation is in 'growth' mode and every bee counts. Also, with winter mortality rates at or above 50% for many northern beekeepers, depopulating the parent hive(s) may no longer be practical.
 

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You wrote: "...I understand the reasoning behind Dr. Furgala's method for honey production..."

Would you care to expand on that comment? I'm curious to know your point of view. I felt this issue was glossed over somewhat in the newbie's class, very possibly for good reason, since it ~was~ a newbie "how to" class. Even so, I really appreciate knowing the "why" as well as the "how", especially on an issue this important. Thanks! --DeeAnna
 

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DeeAnna,

Once you split in the Spring, you can kinda sorta just manage the parent colony for honey production. Once the flow is done and you've removed the honey supers, you're pretty much done with that colony and can 'depopulate' it.

At the same time, you can manage the child colony for build up - get it good and strong so that it goes into (and hopefully) out of Winter in a position to allow a good, strong split to keep the process going.

I don't follow this procedure.

I'm still adding yards and putting my efforts into building up my colony count. My splits get moved to new yards. The colonies that do build up well in the Summer give me enough honey to sell. Any proceeds go right back into the business for new packages, sugar, and equipment purchases.

Hope that helps...:s
 

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as it was presented to us in class last weekend.

Year 1
Package bees are brought in and placed in a single deep body. This is allowed to build brood to about 70-80%. You can do an immediate release on the queen here as she has been with the bees for more than three days and she is a part of the colony.

Once you have done that, you add a second body and build it to 70-80%. Start this body by pulling the 10th frame from the first body and placing it in the middle of the second body. Again, with 10 frames.

Do this again with a 3rd body, again, pulling the 10th from from the second body and placing it in the middle of the 3rd hive body. Once you have about 70-80% brood, you would do a full reversal swapping the 1st and 3rd hive body positions. Come Sept, you would do a mite count and if you have a count of 6-7, you would be ok to not treat, if you have a might count of 10, you would treat. There are some treatments that are no longer effective and you would NOT use them. Studies have shown these products in the honeycomb as residue and the mites are resistant to them.

By the 1st of Nov, you would wrap your bees and let them over-winter. Come April, you would do a partial reversal on the hives and prepare to do a split in May.

To do the split, you would rotate the 2nd and 3rd boxes, placing a queen excluder between them. Wait 4 days and do an inspection to see where the queen is laying the eggs. That box is left on the "parent" hive. Take one box with no new eggs in it and place it on a new bottom away from the parent hive. This box would get the new queen.

Allow the split colony to "rest" for 24 hours and for the older bees to return to the parent colony. The new queen in the split colony is done in a slow release method. This is done so that the queen is accepted properly by the split. Build this colony up to 3 deeps like you did the package bees the previous year.

The parent colony is used to build honey. You do reversals on the brood each time you add supers. When the supers reach 70-80% filled, you would add 2 more supers. Those would go on just above the brood bodies.

The parent colony is allowed to expire and die off at the end of the season and is not over wintered. I guess they are trying to understand why, but it was explained that for some reason, 85-90% of the queens are not living through a second winter. That is the reason for the split in the spring and introduction to a new queen in the spring. You will have a young and new queen each year for the winter.


I may have missed some things here without referring back to my notes.

Mind you, this process is done with the intention of raising bees in a northern climate and they tell us this up front. So while it might work for us in Minnesota, it might not be so good in Texas or California.
 

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Nowthen wrote: "...Hope that helps..."

Wellllll, um, not really. Sorry! I don't mean to give offence or be annoying, I am simply puzzled about the resoning behind the instruction to kill the parent hive after its second summer. Perhaps it was just me, but I thought the whole auditorium got unusually still and quiet when that aspect of Dr. Furgala's method sunk into folk's heads.

I gather his method has been used at the U of MN for some decades -- at least since the 1980s -- so I imagine there is a good reason for this aspect of his method. Is it a health management reason? A "keep it simple for the newbies" reason? A "gee, in Dr. Furgala's day, bees were cheap so it's no big deal" reason?

I found a 1989 research paper by Furgala that compares three colony management systems, including the horizontal 2 queen system: http://www.tc.umn.edu/~reute001/pdf-files/comparison I.pdf In this paper there is a general description of the management methods studied, but, frustratingly, no discussion of theory. An unpublished document by Furgala is referenced in this paper, but apparently that document has never been published.

< still puzzled! > --DeeAnna
 
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