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Author Topic: Overwintering in cold climate, loading new hive from deep nuc  (Read 2442 times)
windfall
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« on: December 08, 2010, 05:05:11 PM »

Hi Folks,
My family and I are going to be starting out with beekeeping this spring. We have spent a lot of time over the last year researching our options, and had decided to go with trad lang hives to begin with since the most advice/experience/equipment was available for that set up. But over the past few months of continued research I keep finding myself drawn back to TBH and their variations, most notably the long/horizontal hive (TTBH?). We plan to take a pretty natural/ organic approach. The more reading I do, the moreI am sold on Using natural comb. And Although I could do a lang hive that way it seems at that point TBH may make more sense.

A bit of background before my intial questions:

Max honey production not important to us. Learning and hive health/longevity are
Wax is almost as usefull to me as honey
the hive(s) will be located at home and I work from home. So frequent inspection/management not a problem....actually kind of desirable
Plan to make our own hive whatever route we go. I build wooden boats and furniture for a living so skills/material and equip are a non-issue for most hive types
we live in the mountains of northern VT. Zone 4. -20F common at some point most winters and below is not all that rare (although seems to become rarer this decade)

I know people are successfully doing TBH in the north. What if any special management or construction techniques are being employed?
Almost all the plans I see are utilizing 3/4 dressed lumber. I commonly have 4/4-8/4 white cedar stock lying around. Would there be advantages in building the hive with thicker stock? I would think it would offer some buffer for those nights when the big arctic highs slide in and temps drop fast? But conversely an see where our summers of warm days and cool nights might not like the thermal lag the extra insulation/mass would provide.

We are starting out with a nuc from Kirk Webster. He is breeding "survivor" bees and he is working very locally to us. The nuc comes as 8 deep frames. I had been thinking of building a long hive set for deeps and just loading the frames in. Further research has indicated this to be a bad idea as several people have mentioned comb collapse on frameless set up of this depth. My next thought was hive set at standard width and either sloped sides or square at med depth. Then super the nuc on one end to get things going. But with this arrangement I do not see a good way to rotate the nuc frames out to honey and then out of hive so as to begin the regression process.

We hope to build to two full hives and possibly a couple of nucs for back-up/trade each winter. Accordingly Alll will be built to be at least interchangable with themselves if not with others equipment.
 
Solutions and suggestions are much appreciated as I continue to determine what hive style and design we will be working with come spring.

I have a number of other questions (of course) but want to start with these before I get ahead of myself.

MAny thanks for your thoughts


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« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2010, 07:52:50 PM »

I don't see a problem with long deeps. The comb collapse can be avoided by wiring your frames. Just run your cross wire and crimp it as if you were going with foundation. The bees will build their comb right around these wires as long as they get started on the right track and the hive is level. They often will start at both the wire and top bar and meet in the middle. If the hive is level everything will line up.
There is a thread over on beesource where a guy is buildling and selling a 22 frame exactly as you describe.
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« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2010, 08:02:18 PM »

Just keep in mind that it is easier for the cluster to move up the stores during a cold winter than it is horizontal.
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2010, 09:34:01 PM »

>I know people are successfully doing TBH in the north. What if any special management or construction techniques are being employed?

Not really other than getting them to one end at the start of winter and I think some kind of way for the moisture to get out the top.
http://bushfarms.com/beestopbarhives.htm#management

>Almost all the plans I see are utilizing 3/4 dressed lumber. I commonly have 4/4-8/4 white cedar stock lying around. Would there be advantages in building the hive with thicker stock?

No.

> I would think it would offer some buffer for those nights when the big arctic highs slide in and temps drop fast?

It won't make enough difference to buy 4/4 lumber, but if you have it laying around, I would use it.

> But conversely an see where our summers of warm days and cool nights might not like the thermal lag the extra insulation/mass would provide.

Yes.  But I'm sure that evens out in the long run.

>We are starting out with a nuc from Kirk Webster. He is breeding "survivor" bees and he is working very locally to us. The nuc comes as 8 deep frames. I had been thinking of building a long hive set for deeps and just loading the frames in. Further research has indicated this to be a bad idea as several people have mentioned comb collapse on frameless set up of this depth. My next thought was hive set at standard width and either sloped sides or square at med depth. Then super the nuc on one end to get things going. But with this arrangement I do not see a good way to rotate the nuc frames out to honey and then out of hive so as to begin the regression process.

You can do foundationless frames in any box made to take Langstroth frames.  You can use top bars only in any long Langstroth hive.
http://bushfarms.com/beesfoundationless.htm
http://bushfarms.com/beestopbarhives.htm#ttbh
http://bushfarms.com/beeshorizontalhives.htm


We hope to build to two full hives and possibly a couple of nucs for back-up/trade each winter. Accordingly Alll will be built to be at least interchangable with themselves if not with others equipment.
 
Solutions and suggestions are much appreciated as I continue to determine what hive style and design we will be working with come spring.

I have a number of other questions (of course) but want to start with these before I get ahead of myself.
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Michael Bush
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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"Everything works if you let it."--Rick Nielsen
windfall
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« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2010, 10:18:43 PM »

David,
I guess I had been thinking of the deeps as frameless, just top bar. What you say makes sense, and while building the full frames is a bit more work I don't mind that much....just set up and run a batch of 25 or 50. Certainly it would be the easiest way for me to install the nuc. And being compatible with "standard" equipment has obvious advantages. I assume running full frames also helps reduce/eliminate sidewall and bottom attachment. Does a simple top bar offer advantages besides simplicity?

I know Michael Bush has mentioned running all mediums...and I assume he has his reasons. But I am not clear on what they are.


I have had some time this afternoon to read through older threads on this forum (I had bumped into some here and there doing searches but never just scrolled back through the "archives") and realize that my questions have been asked and answered before. It seems that most folks are recommending cut outs for installation. I have to admit I am a bit intimidated to go that route as a beginner with what will be a rather pricy 8 frames. If I had some established hives to pull frames from I would be more open to that method.

Robo,
I have seen multiple references to the ease of vertical movement over horizontal, and it makes a certain amount of intuitive sense to me. Does the winter cluster move centrally up through the hive....are the margins left untouched? If the entire store is consumed as the cluster moves up it would imply that they are moving horizontally as well. Unless the cluster itself fills the cavity wall to wall? If the lang/warre vertical orientation of hives really does ensure better odds of cold climate winter survival it is the way I need to go. The horizontal arrangement is just so attractive in terms of ease of access. I feel that if I can take "frequent" quick looks in on the hive I will learn more faster. Short chunks of time are super easy for me to come up with. longer undisturbed blocks much harder.

I am still very much interested in folk's opinions on wall thickness of the hive regardless of type, I find very little reference out there.  Certainly if someone is building many hives working with standard 4/4 stock will be easier and cheaper (as well as lighter for verticle arrangements) But my situation eliminates costs as an issue (stock under 6' is essentially scrap to a boatbuilder), and if set horizontal weight is not a concern either....besides white cedar is mighty light stuff to begin with.
In terms of imitating a "natural" hive, most hollow trees I have cut have wall thickness in the 2-4 inch range. But this is a question perhaps better suited to a different category in the forum.

Michael,
Your reply came up as I was composing this. Thanks for the input. I have spent a fair bit of time at your site the last few weeks and it is quite helpful.
Certainly I agree that bumping to 4/4 would be insignificant...I was thinking more like 8/4 or even 10/4....yes I have short drops of stuff like that lying around... but if there really is no advantage I have thinner stock as well.
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« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2010, 10:49:37 PM »

A frameless/top bar deep is going to have "handling" issues. The comb will be more prone to breakage due to width and depth of comb. It will require very careful handling being sure to never try to tilt the comb to the flat plane. I would also expect to see more side wall attachment with comb of that depth. I've never run a top bar hive but from reading it seems those that run deep top bars tend toward the kenya variant with the tanzania tending to shallower depths.
You seem to have deduced something inherent in the vertical lang design. It can be a little to wide for the winter cluster and stores can be left on the sides as the cluster moves up. Of course alot of this depends on the size of the cluster and how much overhead is available to move into. The smaller warre better adresses this.
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2010, 03:38:52 AM »

>I know Michael Bush has mentioned running all mediums...and I assume he has his reasons. But I am not clear on what they are.

Actually I do like mediums but even better are eight frame mediums.  With boxes it's mostly weight, but they also winter better with a box closer to the width of the cluster and a depth that leaves more communication between the frames.

If you are talking top bar hives, I like the mediums because the combs are less fragile and hard to handle.

>I am still very much interested in folk's opinions on wall thickness of the hive regardless of type, I find very little reference out there.  Certainly if someone is building many hives working with standard 4/4 stock will be easier and cheaper (as well as lighter for verticle arrangements) But my situation eliminates costs as an issue (stock under 6' is essentially scrap to a boatbuilder), and if set horizontal weight is not a concern either....besides white cedar is mighty light stuff to begin with.

I think the lid being insulated is the main thing.  The walls are not that relevant.

>Certainly I agree that bumping to 4/4 would be insignificant...I was thinking more like 8/4 or even 10/4....yes I have short drops of stuff like that lying around... but if there really is no advantage I have thinner stock as well.

The advantage to thinner wood with a typical hive is weight.  The advantage on a long hive which you can't pick up by yourself anyway, is probably nothing.
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Galactic Bee
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« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2010, 09:00:56 AM »

Robo,
I have seen multiple references to the ease of vertical movement over horizontal, and it makes a certain amount of intuitive sense to me. Does the winter cluster move centrally up through the hive....are the margins left untouched? If the entire store is consumed as the cluster moves up it would imply that they are moving horizontally as well. Unless the cluster itself fills the cavity wall to wall? If the lang/warre vertical orientation of hives really does ensure better odds of cold climate winter survival it is the way I need to go. The horizontal arrangement is just so attractive in terms of ease of access. I feel that if I can take "frequent" quick looks in on the hive I will learn more faster. Short chunks of time are super easy for me to come up with. longer undisturbed blocks much harder.
Of course there is no definitive rules when it comes to beekeeping.   Yes they can and do move horizontally to some extent, but I believe it is much more weather dependent, requiring a "break" in the weather than vertical movement.   All I can say is that I have never had a hive starve that had stores above it.  I have had hives starve with stores across from it.

Quote
I am still very much interested in folk's opinions on wall thickness of the hive regardless of type, I find very little reference out there.  Certainly if someone is building many hives working with standard 4/4 stock will be easier and cheaper (as well as lighter for verticle arrangements) But my situation eliminates costs as an issue (stock under 6' is essentially scrap to a boatbuilder), and if set horizontal weight is not a concern either....besides white cedar is mighty light stuff to begin with.
In terms of imitating a "natural" hive, most hollow trees I have cut have wall thickness in the 2-4 inch range. But this is a question perhaps better suited to a different category in the forum.

I can't specifically speak to the benefit of wall thickness when it comes to wood.  But I can tell you I switched to the polystyrene brood boxes a few years back and see a 25-30% reduction in stores used compared to the normal 3/4" Langstroth wood boxes.   Funny you should bring up the hollow tree analogy,  I've yet to see a feral colony around here that didn't completely seal up all cracks and crevices except for the entrance hole,  which is it total contradiction of the beekeepers claim that upper ventilation is needed to remove moisture.
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windfall
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« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2010, 01:46:59 PM »

well, this is all a bit of food for thought.
David ,
that was my understanding of frameless deep as well. What was helpful in your earlier post was reminding me that I could do natural comb on framed deeps.

Robo,
30% is a marked change. If you are seeing that kind of reduction over multiple seasons It would seem to indicate that increased r-value does have advantages. I would be inclined to assume that there would be a smaller but corresponding drop in the need for ventilation. As I understand it most of the winter moisture is metabolic waste...less consumption, less waste...less need to ventilate,further increase in thermal retention...lower consumption of stores to heat hive....seems like it might make a pretty nice positive feedback loop.
I simply can't believe that others have not tried thick walled hives in the north...I just need to keep digging for info.

Michael, are you finding that your vertical hives winter equally well as your horizontal hives, or just that the horizontal hive winter adequately well.....more precisely do the vertical seem to have an advantage in that regard?

Has anyone tried rearranging the hive in the fall? I know folks shuffle the bars in TBH to get the brood/cluster to one end prior to winter. If indeed vertical arrangements are advantageous for cold climate overwinter, it would be a simple enough thing to take a long horizontal deep; move the cluster to the front, stack a few empty deep boxes on top of that, and then shuffle the remaining frames into those. The back of the bottom could be closed off with a following board. In spring things could get laid back out when any remaining honey is harvested.
Sure this would be a huge chore if someone has a bunch of hives, but for one or two it seems quite manageable....if it will provide an advantage.
The question would seem to be how would the bees respond to a sudden orientation change.

Michael, you mention that he finds bees wintering better with medium depth as a result of better communication between frames. How significant to you feel that effect is? Have others noted it? It wouldn't take much to have a step in  a tanzanian style long so that the front could be 8-10 deeps and the remainder mediums. Then the re-stacking vertically could run at the shallower depth. This kind of tweaking obviously dumped the "simplicity" of the TBH hives out the window but that was not what drew me to them. Nor am I trying to reinvent the wheel as a rank beginner...just looking for options that are viable for me...and I can't help trying to tinker and problem solve..so maybe I am trying to reinvent the wheel just a little bit.
I am wishing I had asked Kirk if he could have provided the nuc in medium depth when I got on the wait list last year!

You folks with a pile of hives have to remember it is much easier for you to swallow and recover losses than us with just a few....even small improvements in survival rates become worthwhile. Extra labor doesn't add up so fast at this tiny scale.

Thanks again for your time in replying
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2010, 07:53:55 AM »

>Michael, are you finding that your vertical hives winter equally well as your horizontal hives, or just that the horizontal hive winter adequately well.....more precisely do the vertical seem to have an advantage in that regard?

My vertical and horizontal hives both winter fine.  I see no difference.

>Has anyone tried rearranging the hive in the fall? I know folks shuffle the bars in TBH to get the brood/cluster to one end prior to winter. If indeed vertical arrangements are advantageous for cold climate overwinter, it would be a simple enough thing to take a long horizontal deep; move the cluster to the front, stack a few empty deep boxes on top of that, and then shuffle the remaining frames into those. The back of the bottom could be closed off with a following board. In spring things could get laid back out when any remaining honey is harvested.

I see no purpose in this.  If you have boxes and want to lift boxes and rearrange boxes, then you may as well run a vertical hive.  The advantages of a horizontal hive are mostly not lifting and you've just done a lot of lifting and doubled your equipment.

>Sure this would be a huge chore if someone has a bunch of hives, but for one or two it seems quite manageable....if it will provide an advantage.

I see no advantage.

>The question would seem to be how would the bees respond to a sudden orientation change.

Probably they would be confused by it.

>Michael, you mention that he finds bees wintering better with medium depth as a result of better communication between frames. How significant to you feel that effect is?

It probably has the largest effect when there is a sudden cold snap after it was moderately cold and the cluster very suddenly contracts.  Then you find little clusters of dead bees on the other side of a deep frame where I don't with the mediums.  If you don't have any sudden cold snaps, it may not make any difference at all.

> Have others noted it? It wouldn't take much to have a step in  a tanzanian style long so that the front could be 8-10 deeps and the remainder mediums. Then the re-stacking vertically could run at the shallower depth. This kind of tweaking obviously dumped the "simplicity" of the TBH hives out the window but that was not what drew me to them. Nor am I trying to reinvent the wheel as a rank beginner...just looking for options that are viable for me...and I can't help trying to tinker and problem solve..so maybe I am trying to reinvent the wheel just a little bit.

I think you're making it too complicated.

>I am wishing I had asked Kirk if he could have provided the nuc in medium depth when I got on the wait list last year!

Probably...
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Michael Bush
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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"Everything works if you let it."--Rick Nielsen
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