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When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

I've around 20 hives, all overwintered Northern "wild" stock hives that do well usually through the winter, but I've never understood how when they come to the top of the hive to feed on winter patties on a less frigid day how many of the bees are coming up.

Does the whole cluster typically break free and move up?

Behind my general question is if I quickly place a couple of patties on the top, what risk is there of the queen being up there and being squashed?

(Yes I understand I can take more time and avoid that, but warmer days here are usually associated with heavy rain so I'd rather be quick unless needed.)

Thank you.
 

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Re: When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

No. The whole cluster does not break to individually come up to the patties. This is the power of trophallaxis. Several nurse bees will venture out to the patties and return to the cluster with food that they will then share through trophallaxis transfer to the remaining cluster.

Obviously, we take risks of killing the queen every time we enter the hive. However, on a mild winter day, the risk of popping the top to insert a patty would be, at least in my opinion, pretty nominal.
 

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Re: When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

In Nebraska, in my experience and in the experience of any other beekeepers I've talked to, the bees spend the entire winter in the top box. This has been my experience since 1974 with bottom entrances and later with top entrances, with ten frame deep brood boxes, ten frame medium brood boxes and eight frame medium brood boxes. Usually they move up as soon as the nights start being consistently cold.
 

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Re: When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

...... the bees spend the entire winter in the top box. This has been my experience since 1974 with bottom entrances and later with top entrances, with ten frame deep brood boxes, ten frame medium brood boxes and eight frame medium brood boxes. Usually they move up as soon as the nights start being consistently cold.
This really points to poor ergonomy/energy profile of the equipment - be it the ten frame or the eight frame box.
That what really is, not a Nebraska thing.
They are trying to mitigate the best they can.

Compress them to a vertical stack of 5-6 frames, no more.
(more importantly - reduce them to a cross section of about 150-170 square inches - the frame N is less important).
Then watch the behavior and energy needs.
 

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Re: When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

I am reading the question differently. I understood the OP to be asking whether all individual bees are breaking cluster to come feed on the patties on milder winter days, not where they cluster in winter. If the cluster is in the top box (which is normal for winter), and even adjacent to the patties, does every bee in the colony break cluster on warmer days to feed from the patties?

("how many of the bees are coming up. Does the whole cluster typically break free and move up?")

If I am misunderstanding the question, please ignore my answer above.
 

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Re: When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

you people must have different kinds of bees than I do, I over winter in 3 deeps, and the only time I ever see bees clustered in the top is if they are out of food, or really small clusters that won't make it to spring.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Re: When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

I am reading the question differently. I understood the OP to be asking whether all individual bees are breaking cluster to come feed on the patties on milder winter days, not where they cluster in winter. If the cluster is in the top box (which is normal for winter), and even adjacent to the patties, does every bee in the colony break cluster on warmer days to feed from the patties?

("how many of the bees are coming up. Does the whole cluster typically break free and move up?")

If I am misunderstanding the question, please ignore my answer above.
You have it right, that is the question, and I still don't really understand the answer sorry!

What I am asking (poorly!) is if the bees are coming to the top (for whatever reason, and they come up and go back down all the time over the last few years with no ill-effects that I can see) IF they (ie a noticeable number in the hundreds at least) are at the very top does that mean it is highly likely the queen is there with them too/ Or is she more likely to be down a little bit for warmth? I'm only really asking because I want to be careful about not squishing a queen at the top with patties not super-carefully placed.

As above, I know I can slow it down, but typically when it is warm enough to to be up there, it is also raining cats and dogs.

So super-short queatioon - is the queen likely to be up top if ona warm day there are lots of bees up therre feeeding.

I really appreciate all the advice.
 

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Re: When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

It is my understanding that the queen is fed by attendants so would not need to access the patties herself. That is not to say she would not be on top but certainly unlikely.
 

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Re: When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

You have it right, that is the question, and I still don't really understand the answer sorry!

What I am asking (poorly!) is if the bees are coming to the top (for whatever reason, and they come up and go back down all the time over the last few years with no ill-effects that I can see) IF they (ie a noticeable number in the hundreds at least) are at the very top does that mean it is highly likely the queen is there with them too/ Or is she more likely to be down a little bit for warmth? I'm only really asking because I want to be careful about not squishing a queen at the top with patties not super-carefully placed.

As above, I know I can slow it down, but typically when it is warm enough to to be up there, it is also raining cats and dogs.

So super-short queatioon - is the queen likely to be up top if ona warm day there are lots of bees up therre feeeding.

I really appreciate all the advice.
Hi Mark, think of the biology of a winter cluster; she is completely surrounded by layers of bees keeping her warm and feeding her; she might be high in the box but I do not think she will be anywhere near where you will put the winter patties, she has too many bees around her. Deb
 

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Re: When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

Hi Mark, think of the biology of a winter cluster; she is completely surrounded by layers of bees keeping her warm and feeding her; she might be high in the box but I do not think she will be anywhere near where you will put the winter patties, she has too many bees around her. Deb
Deb, you got it dead on. Why would the most vulnerable, most important part of the cluster be on her own? she is guarded like the crown jewels and better.

Don't worry about adding patties if you want to. I ask the question why they would need it now, but your conditions are different then ours. I would never open a box now at 0°F.

I see dead bees being kicked out of the bottom entrance now, after fresh snow, doing this are the worker bees that look after cleanliness as the feeders look after food.

@MB, if they (the bees in the cluster) never go down, what is the reason to have store in B1?
 

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Re: When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

The queen is in the core of the cluster. The bees feeding are running an errand for food. The cluster (with the queen in the center) moves as needed; that could be up, over to the side, wherever they decide to go as a unit. No worries about the queen being squashed when adding patties at the top.

A cluster in contact with food is in good shape.

Hope that helps.
 

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Re: When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

On a “warm” day, bees break cluster and many take cleansing flights, some gather water, some remove dead bees and the op is concerned that the queen might venture up to the top of the hive and that he could damage her. Although there are no absolutes in this instance I would recommend he not worry and add the patties.
 

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Re: When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

you people must have different kinds of bees than I do, I over winter in 3 deeps, and the only time I ever see bees clustered in the top is if they are out of food, or really small clusters that won't make it to spring.
Same here in Portland OR. Mine are primarily in the deep box below, few in the mdium super above, still loade with honey; expect they’ll migrate up in the next couple months.
 

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Re: When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

In this island paradise (LOL) - today was one of those warm days you guys have been speaking of in mid-Winter (well, sort-of mid-Winter), which brought a few bees out for an early poop:



So I took the opportunity to VOA the whole apiary while the clusters are obviously loose. I usually VOA through the Crown Board (Inner Cover), and in every single case large numbers of bees were milling around between the top board and the frame top bars below it. Nothing to eat up there at the moment - that'll be supplied in the next few days.
LJ
 

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Re: When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

Oui !les abeilles cherchent la chaleur en haut de la ruche.
 

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Re: When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

@souficoufi, nous savons tous que
 

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I agree low chance of queen being on top bars. Only a few bees at a time go for food when cold. Over the course of winter it could be that the jobs shift but it does not seem like the carb gatherers switch out much on a given day. When it is cold and cluster is pretty tight I see the queen on one side of the frame in observation hive. Without it warming up enough to break cluster she goes to other side of hive. I have not seen her cross when it is cold so I don't know how much of an entourage accompanies her to the nearest hole. I also see her in the center of the cluster in the center of the empty brood best and also toward the edge of the cluster on capped honey. Of course not right on the edge but she is much more mobile and flexible than the literature seems to indicate.... However, if you feel they need patties go ahead and feed without worrying about it.
 

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Re: When in the depths of winter on a "warm" day bees come to the top to feed...

Bonjour
Grâce à la trophallaxie,les abeilles ne montent pas toutes en haut.Un certain nombre d'abeilles monte en haut mais la grappe reste toujours formée en hiver.
 
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