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Discussion Starter #1
Hi,

I would like to winter my bees with honey, but cant find very much knowledge how it should be done. Here in finland i dont know anybody who is using honey for wintering. Actually all the books discourage this and teach that sugar syrup is the only safe way for wintering. I understand that in northen countries there is extra challence because bees are brooding till early winter when there is no nectar coming anymore. So the problem is that broodnest will stay empty even if there is lots of capped honey above. So how to get the broodnest filled with honey? Ofcourse i could feed them their own honey back after harvest but thats too much work because one reason why i want to winter with honey is that its too much trouble to bring feeders and make syrup etc. Could it be possible that if they have plenty of honey above that they could uncap the honey and backfill the broodnest with it? Or if they dont uncap should i uncap one box for them and give for feeding that way? So anyway if i have undertand correctly its not enough to just leave couple of boxes of honey above winter cluster. Anyone has experience of this? Especially nortern beekeepers help would be appreciated. You see im allready preparing to winter!!! Thanks.
 

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Well, I don't know anything about the honey flows in Finland, but I can tell you what I do.

We have a main flow that ends about the middle of July. Then, most apiaries experience a dearth until the Goldenrod flow begins about August 10-15.

My plan is to over-super for the main flow to keep the broodnest light. I want them to put the summer honey in the supers. I try to get the main crop off before Goldenrod blooms. At that pound I have to decide if each colony should be re-supered for the Fall flow. Colonies that are already heavy and approaching proper winter weight get a super so the colony won't swarm on the Fall flow. Light colonies don't get a super, and pack the Fall flow into the broodnest for winter.

That said, there are always at least some colonies that don't listen to the plan, or years when the Fall flow fails. Those colonies get fed syrup. I suppose I could always leave extra supers of honey…I already have a broodnest of two deeps and a medium…but then the broodnest would be located in the supers…certainly not what I want.

While this plan doesn't eliminate all feeding, it goes a long way toward wintering most colonies on honey.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Actually here we dont get any fall flow. Atleast forest area where i live. Practically after july there is no flowers of any kind but still november there is some brood.

So the basic idea is to get brood chamber mostly filled with winter fed so that bees dont need to rise to upper supers during winter?

How about if i put uncapped honey box to top of the hive at fall instead of feeding them sugar? Would it be that they then bring the honey from upper uncapped honey box to brood box?
 

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the only way your going to have the hive back fill the nest with honey is to have a flow on while the queen is shutting down for winter. It never happens. One of the reasons why we feed syrup in the fall. For what your trying to achieve, the best thing to do it leave them with enough honey over head, as they would have naturally. There is no reason why they would not move up to it and use it. Unless its that hard canola honey which sometimes turns hard as rock
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Ok so it should be no problem if bottom brood box is half empty and nees will rise to honey super during the winter?
 

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>I would like to winter my bees with honey, but cant find very much knowledge how it should be done. Here in finland i dont know anybody who is using honey for wintering. Actually all the books discourage this and teach that sugar syrup is the only safe way for wintering.

I don't buy that, but it may be the timing makes it difficult in Finland.

>I understand that in northen countries there is extra challence because bees are brooding till early winter when there is no nectar coming anymore. So the problem is that broodnest will stay empty even if there is lots of capped honey above.

It should be empty. They need somewhere to cluster.

>So how to get the broodnest filled with honey?

You don't.

>Ofcourse i could feed them their own honey back after harvest but thats too much work because one reason why i want to winter with honey is that its too much trouble to bring feeders and make syrup etc.

It is too much work. The only gain would be if you have no fall flow, honey being fed might cause another round of young bees to be raised before winter.

>Could it be possible that if they have plenty of honey above that they could uncap the honey and backfill the broodnest with it? Or if they dont uncap should i uncap one box for them and give for feeding that way?

They will uncap it when they need it. They capped it for a reason, which is to store it for winter...

>So anyway if i have undertand correctly its not enough to just leave couple of boxes of honey above winter cluster.

It is here... we may not be as far North as Finland but it's about as cold...
 

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Discussion Starter #7
So it seems i had some misunderstanding here. Broodnest should not be full of honey? Everybody here says that hive should be fully capped syrup or orherwise it will ferment and bees get sick. So broodnest should have some honey but not full and when its finished they will rise to second box? Wouldnt there be a problem with the gap between boxes? Or they dont care?

If its that easy to winter with honey i wonder why everybody are making huge endeavor to feed sugar syrup. Just for few $$
 

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honey is $2.50 Canadian per lbs. what does sugar sell for in Finland?
the reason why we feed syrup is totally about economics. (and for some other hard honey problems we have in Canada with our indoor wintering environment) Feeding syrup allows us to maximize our summer time honey yeilds, by leaning heavily on feeding in the fall.

The easiest thing for you to do is to figure out how heavy the hive needs to be to winter, and be sure you leave that much honey in the fall
 

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>So it seems i had some misunderstanding here. Broodnest should not be full of honey?

No.

> Everybody here says that hive should be fully capped syrup or orherwise it will ferment and bees get sick.

What they have should be mostly capped so it doesn't ferment. Feeding syrup late is often the cause of uncapped stores.

>So broodnest should have some honey but not full and when its finished they will rise to second box?

Yes.

>Wouldnt there be a problem with the gap between boxes? Or they dont care?

They will move up if they need to.

>If its that easy to winter with honey i wonder why everybody are making huge endeavor to feed sugar syrup. Just for few $$

Mostly the argument is always the money. But there are also some beliefs about bees eating crystallized honey (mine have overwintered on Goldenrod for decades and it's always crystallized by winter), or the belief that dark honey causes dysentery/Nosema (the only research I've seen quoted by any of the bee researchers showed dark honey causes less Nosema than light honey or syrup). Some people firmly believe they winter better on syrup.
 

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The one thing that I vaguely remember about Finland beekeeping is that a lot of the honey is made on canola/rape which crystallizes very quickly. If this is the case, you'll probably be better off taking off the honey and then feeding sugar syrup for winter stores.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thank you. Now i have to start experimenting with this. Maybe with couple of hives first. At my area there is no canola. Mostly rasberrys and some wild flowers later. Rasberry is the most important flower here.

In my thinking making syrup, taking it to hives with feeders etc is so big endeavor that with the same drouble i could have 1/3 of more hives that would make up the lost profit for not harvesting all the honey. Its just my thinking and im totally beginner so dont have much experience especially keeping bees as occupation.
 

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capped honey does not ferment. uncapped may or may not ferment.. you have thousands of experts that inspect and monitor each cell. these experts are so diligent it is as if their families lives depended on it. even if it does start to ferment the bees will deal with it and use it up.... on a nice day leave out a couple of fermented frames and watch it get robbed clean, fermented syrup or turned "green" honey is the same to the bees.
 

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Lehimainen- You are correct in your thinking. Bees make honey naturally, why not make sure they have enough
of it for winter and if they are short sometimes feed the honey back to them. Dr. Miller and Jay Smith refused to
feed the bees anything but honey when rearing queens. Good luck in a new season, coming soon we hope!
 

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Thank you. Now i have to start experimenting with this. Maybe with couple of hives first. At my area there is no canola. Mostly rasberrys and some wild flowers later. Rasberry is the most important flower here.

In my thinking making syrup, taking it to hives with feeders etc is so big endeavor that with the same drouble i could have 1/3 of more hives that would make up the lost profit for not harvesting all the honey. Its just my thinking and im totally beginner so dont have much experience especially keeping bees as occupation.
Yes, start carefully. Wintering with honey in Finland is a tricky thing, it has many variables:
- honey: it can be suitable or not suitable (crytallized)
- the lenght of winter: in 2013-2014 winter no problems, in 2012-2013 it would have ended in total disaster
- food consumption of your bees: hives scales from 2013-2014 winter show unbeliavable differences from 1kg/month to almost 3 kg/month, the more they consume the more likely hives are dead in spring if you use only honey
- other diseases and the disesase resistance of your bees: nosema kills stressed hives, wintering with honey in the Finnish climate is an ultimate stress
- just honey or honey and little sugar: the old way (1930´s when there was shortage of everything) was to give just a minimum amount of sugar, 5kg sugar, the rest honey, would be just fine and a good compromise and you will propably have living bees in spring no matter how long the winter was or what sort of honey you got
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks. What is the reason that honey would cause bees to die during long winter? Or why wintering with hone would cause stress on bees? Is it because bees would not naturally live at finish altitudes? Otherwise they have lived on honey for millions years with no problem.
 

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Thanks. What is the reason that honey would cause bees to die during long winter? Or why wintering with hone would cause stress on bees? Is it because bees would not naturally live at finish altitudes? Otherwise they have lived on honey for millions years with no problem.
Exactly, just like they are invaders in America, they don´t belong to Finnish nature. They were taken to Finnish territory from Estonia and Sweden in the era of enlightenment. The limit of natural occurace is however very close, near Stockholm in Sweden and in the northern parts of Estonia. Some people recon the natural border for honeybees is the same as hazels (pähkinäpensas in Finnish). There are hazel bushes in southern Finland, so it is propably the sea that prevented them to come over.

There are some people who have been overwintering with honey. Phone Kari Pirhonen 044-5337022 or Toivo Koskinen 040-7519334
It can be done, but requires skill and suitable bees.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thank you. I will start carefully with just few hives and i will also contact persons you mentioned.

You also said that it requires suitable bees to winter with honey. What do you mean by that? Do you mean that normal italians would not be suitable?
 

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Thank you. I will start carefully with just few hives and i will also contact persons you mentioned.

You also said that it requires suitable bees to winter with honey. What do you mean by that? Do you mean that normal italians would not be suitable?
There are no race barriers, many Italian strains can do it, if they have been selected in Finland for many generations. There are however lots and lots of recently from southern Europe imported Italian bees on the market, these have to be acclimatized first. Carnica bees are propably a bit better choise, but of course there is a lot of variation in that race too. There are lots of bad quality carnica bees on the market. The worst ones are on the appletrees brances before dandelion bloom and they can be angry like hell. These queens are usually originating from former Jugoslavia area. A study made by SML(Finnish Beekeepers Association) came once to the conclusion that Buckfast bees have the best overwintering results, but because the result was a bit annoying to the ones in power the result was explained by saying that these Buckfast beekepers are more educated... My varroa resistant stock is eating very little, but I cannot recommend them because of the high price ( 120e/queen).
 

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Discussion Starter #20
My queens are from janne leimi and they should have been many many generations in finland. Still i would be interested to try other breeds also but dont know who is sellng quality queens. Theres so many adds in magazine for queens but like you say many of them are inferior. 120e is over my hobby budget but if you have some contact info for quality queen breeders in finland that you know it would be appreciated.
 
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