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Discussion Starter #1
Hi there,

So on my nuc colony (5 frame langstroth) I have 2 full deeps. About 3 weeks ago I added a 3rd deep (undrawn foundation) but to date they haven't touched it. I had been feeding them (syrup and pollen) hoping they'd draw it out and use but I stopped feeding them when I had a swarm from another hive that seems to be from overfeeding. I'd like to add a medium super with 5 frames of capped honey I took/froze from another hive before Apivar- but I don't know what to do about this 3rd deep. At this point, without feeding them, I'm sure they won't draw it out. But I'm gun-shy about feeding them for fear of backfilling/causing swarm behavior (like my other hive). Today I almost removed it- but it has a bunch of bees on the undrawn frames and the rest of the hive is so full of bees I didn't want to just knock them in below for fear of too many bees--> swarm. Should I just leave it on and maybe they're eventually draw or is it pointless/should just yank it?

thanks
 

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It would be interesting to know how many frames of capped honey the bee have in the bottom two boxes and how much empty cell area is available for the queen. It is doubtful you will get the third deep drawn but it does give space that may be needed till the aging foragers of summer disappear.

I think it is valid to be concerned about feeding if they dont have space to put it. I have had a few occasions when I had to tear down queen cells around this time of year.
 

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Agree with crofter. Be sure they have adequate space. This time of year they are focused on storing food, not building up. Depending on how full the brood chamber is, it might be beneficial to swap a few empty frames for honey frames.

But if they still have room for brood and there are no swarm cells, I would leave it on for a few weeks in order to give older foragers room to congregate, then if it is not utilized for winter stores I would put the box and empty frames in storage for winter, then let them build it in the spring.
 

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Be sure to take it off before winter, however. Leaving an undrawn box overhead for the winter is not a good idea. If you think they need space, then thaw and put the medium on if you have no other options.

The axiom of leaving things alone, while often valid, doesn't come into play here. Because you already failed to "leave things alone" by a) feeding in excess of natural nectar production and b) providing a very late season undrawn box (which they were unlikely to draw under most circumstances). Neither of these two things is inherently "wrong" beekeeping, but both produced interruptions to the self-sustaining, left-alone, bee-controlled colony arrangements. Once you start tinkering, you have to be alert to potential beekeeper-created mismatches.

You offered syrup and presumably they took it down (but I'd still be checking on that.) If they haven't much space left then you offered too much for the existing conditions, destabilizing the interior space equilibrium somewhat. The syrup may be in the process of being condensed down which will make more room. Slight crowding may inhibit production for a bit, but probably not in a seriously damaging way.

I would perhaps leave it on for a bit longer and cease feeding unless there are lots of empty combs in the lower two boxes. This will give you a bit of temporary parking space for the bees, and perhaps lighten any sense of crowding. But plan on getting it off in a few weeks.

If your hive needs more weight, then add the capped super under the now-empty deep.

This common dilemma for first year beekeepers illustrates why I try to get first year beekeepers to only offer one size of foundation - whatever they are using for the brood area. Adding extra boxes, if needed. That way all combs are interchangeable, and can be divvied up among the hives so all get full boxes at Fall close out. If you had the frozen honey in deep frames, you could harvest some and offer the wet drawn frames for refilling with syrup. And any surplus drawn but empty frames will be enormously useful next spring for anti-swarm manipulations in a way that empty super-sized (presumably these are medium frames) will not be.

A potential work around is to place drawn, capped, medium frames in the outside position of the lower box where they will provide some resource benefit, and cause the least amount of problems with comb made underneath them in the deeper box. Mark them and remove them as soon as possible next spring.

Before feeding: examine the combs for resources AND empty, unused, capacity, in addition to weighing the hives. If you don't have empty drawn combs to feed into, then you must adjust your minimum weight goals and make plans to provide any still-needed winter resources in other ways (dry sugar, winter patty or fondant). The amount of empty, undrawn comb is a dynamic one, so it may take more than one check to assess how it's changing.

You haven't done a terribly bad thing here, so don't think that. This is one of the most important, and subtle, lessons of beekeeping: You are managing the bees, but sometimes your ideas of what's going to be the best management is at odds, for lots of reasons, with what the bees actually need. Most of the time an attentive beekeeper will pick up on the error and correct it, but sometimes it can result in real trouble. Especially if, having messed around, you suddenly change tack and decide to "let the bees be bees" after you've made that too hard for them to recover from. This is particularly true at the end of season when time, temperature, and the natural cycles of a hive are winding down.

Nancy
 

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It won't hurt leaving it on until frost. I usually pull undrawn foundation around august-sept. If we get a hard dearth they'll.chew up wax foundation and strip wax off of plastic to use for capping brood.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
well Nancy, you were right.. this hive seems to have swarmed. I decided to leave that undrawn deep on since the bottom 2 boxes were chock full of capped honey, nectar and brood. Last week everything seemed to be going ok. Today I was gardening and noticed very few bees at entrance of this hive. So I took a look and though there are still plenty of bees, there's no queen, no eggs, +larvae and loads of capped brood. There are 5 capped QC's in the middle (2nd) deep. And.. absolutely no honey. All the heavy laden outer frames and bottom deep that was heavy with full honey frames are totally empty.

Now- I felt like in stopping feeding several week ago I was avoiding the swarming behavior that I think feeding initiated in the other 2 hives. After reading your response I checked again and didn't see a lot of empty space which is why I opted to leave that undrawn deep on top.

So-- for now I put the top feeder back on with some 1:1 (I had it already made- I suppose I'll switch to 2:1 next go around) and put a patty on.

Pretty bummed- this nuc was my walkaway split that I did early season. The queen was from a queen I got from California (my 2 other queens were from there too). Question: do you see some queen lines with more swarming tendencies than others?

This beekeeping stuff is hard! I remember as a kid my dad checked every now an again and then just harvested loads of honey. I think that will be my model moving forward- less is better. I tinkered too much and like you pointed out I then pulled back and perhaps they were already set to swarm?

Who knows. I just need to figure out now if I let them raise one of these queens, and the chances that she'll successfully mate (Eastern PA). Other options would be to order a new queen or just combine this back with the parent colony (would rather not do that). Hopefully now they'll pack this syrup away and have some stores. I do have enough frozen frames to give them a medium super of full honey- perhaps that is my best move (I was hoping to save this to put on late fall- be maybe this is needed now?).

As always, ANY input welcome and appreciated.

Brad
 

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This beekeeping stuff is hard! I remember as a kid my dad checked every now an again and then just harvested loads of honey. I think that will be my model moving forward- less is better.
Brad
I have a friend that is the one who finally convinced me to get bees. He was always fiddling with them, inspecting, requeening, etc and yet his hives seemed to have survival issues. Now his dairy business has expanded and he doesn't have the time to mess with them like he did. His bees are doing better now than ever and the bee inspector said he was surprised because the keepers in his area had really struggled this year.

You eventually find a balance between too little and too much attention. I think it's something that only comes with experience. I don't have much but it's working.
 

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Sounds to me less likely to be a swarm, than a queen loss with the bees making emergency cells to try and fix it. With some robbing during the process. Five cells is a small number of swarm cells, even in a nuc.

Since the beginning, you have had an above average number of queen losses, IIRC. That tells me you may need to pay closer attention to your manipulation techniques. You may inadvertently be rolling bees, including the queens, when handling the frames. It might be a good idea to find an on-site mentor to work with you to correct this. I can't tell you how often I have had to remind some of my beginning students about pulling frames straight up and out and handing the frames more gently. It is particularly difficult to do this when wearing leather gloves.

I think I recall that you use 8-frame equipment which has a generous amount of free space, compared to a 10-frame box. But if I am wrong and you use 10-frames, you might consider running with one less frame in the brood box to give you a bit more wriggle room when removing frames. Five frame nucs are tighter than the free space in eight frame equipment. Do you always keep the frames close together? Do you know how to safely clear the space between frames that have gotten separated, before snugging them back up?

Are your queens marked so that you can easily spot them and stow those frames in the safety of a quiet box while you look at the other ones? Do you use one of those infernal frame hanger devices for frames?

It would also be useful to keep a good record of when you went into the boxes, and study those dates in relation to possible the queen loss dates.

If you saw no open brood on the day you looked most recently, then you had a queen loss (for one reason or another, including a swarm) at least 9 days previously. If the queen cells were capped, but not opened, then the loss occurred no more than 13 days prior. If you were in the hive within a day or two of these dates, then operator error should be considered a strong possibility.

The other thing is that nucs are a very artificial arrangement for bees, so you need to be extra watchful about their status. You know you have the capacity to expand the too-small space, but they don't. Nucs are heavily promoted these days without I think much acknowledgement of how out-on-the-margin they are from the bees' point of view. And they are most successful when done by at least second year beekeepers with drawn comb resources, rather than as a first year project. Nucs are often treated as fungible gambles with space and bees instead of being treated as the small, and somewhat at-risk, colony that they are. They are the epitome of completely managed livestock in the world of bees.

Since this is a nuc, I would just combine it with another colony.

Nancy
 

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Discussion Starter #10
If I wasn't already beating myself up...

Certainly I recognize that this could be user error, and as a 1st year'er I'm sure that's a factor. However, that said, from the beginning I have been very very careful about meticulous vertical frame lifting/replacement, and clearing before moving frames back together. I even had my wife watch me to tell me if I was vertical. My practice lately has been when I do an inspection, see eggs/larvae and stores and see the queen, I close it back up, and actually keep eyes on the queen as I replace the frame. And, if I do need to continue the inspection I put that frame with the queen in a nuc box and close during rest of my inspection. Anyway, who knows, I can't say I haven't messed up. But I really think I've been super careful.

And yep, I keep notes on every inspection. Has been super helpful.

Anyway, I will certainly read your message again and try to implement, but wow, I feel like I couldn't be more careful and meticulous during an inspection. Hopefully next year it goes smoother.

Thanks for the input.

Brad
 
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