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Author Topic: Lowest colony population to survive Winter?  (Read 3449 times)
Hemlock
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« on: October 12, 2011, 04:42:10 PM »

What is the smallest nuc (number of frames with bees that is) anyone has gotten through Winter. 

I'm in the Mid-Atlantic Region with moderate winters.

Thanks.
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2011, 08:50:41 PM »

I have bitter cold winters.  In a nuc (five to eight frames) grouped together for warmth with styrofoam top and bottom and feral bees which seem to winter better with a smaller cluster than other bees, I've seen a softball size cluster make it to spring.  By itself and not clustered together I do not believe they would make it and many of them that size do not make it.
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Michael Bush
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Hemlock
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« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2011, 09:04:31 PM »

Thanks MB.

I have a late swarm that i was planning to combine with another colony.  Turns out they are nicely productive and she's a good layer.  Might have some good genetics there (except for the whole late swarming thing).  Just toying with the options.
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Scadsobees
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« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2011, 09:32:15 PM »

My observation hive overwinters with 1/2 medium frame of bees.  Not well, but the point is if they are protected and warm enough even a small cluster can make it.
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Rick
FRAMEshift
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« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2011, 11:53:49 PM »

I have a late swarm that i was planning to combine with another colony.  Turns out they are nicely productive and she's a good layer.  Might have some good genetics there (except for the whole late swarming thing).  Just toying with the options.

Instead of a complete combine, you could just move a few frames of bees from another colony into the swarm hive.  That will give them the "critical mass" to get through winter without making you sacrifice a good queen.  Of course, this is IF you have some frames of bees to spare.

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BlueBee
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« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2011, 03:03:48 AM »

2 deep frames of bees with electric heat.

Downside is it takes a full season (or more) for 2 frames of bees to grow into a full hive.
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Finski
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« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2011, 05:53:14 AM »

.
One our  professional has met surely the smalles colony after winter: a queen and 5 workers.
He did not tell, how big was the hive in autumn.

It is not rare that you have one langstroth box full of bees in Autumn, and in April you have a coffee cup size cluster. Nosema or something else do that.

Last winter I had 2 frames of bees in the electrict heated nuc. Half of bees died  during winter.

Bad weathers killed bees more after cleansing flight. Finally it was not able to rear brood. 
i must take all workers from big hives to get the mini nuc to a normal hive before main yield.

Small nucs over winter makes only harm.

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Hemlock
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« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2011, 11:02:31 AM »

2 deep frames of bees with electric heat.
In Michigan no less.  Did they have a special setup or where they just out in the apiary?

...move a few frames of bees from another colony into the swarm hive....  Of course, this is IF you have some frames of bees to spare.
With five colonies i could but the bees are slow to put up stores this year.  Most beeks i talk to around here are complaining about it.  The next round of inspections i could look for a spare frame or two though.  I can put five frames of honey above them and a frame of honey on each side of them now in a double nuc.  I feel that would be to much space for them to heat and might kill them. 

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Finski
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« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2011, 11:20:48 AM »

.
Low in stores? - feed sugar syrup.
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FRAMEshift
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« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2011, 11:21:16 AM »


The next round of inspections i could look for a spare frame or two though.  I can put five frames of honey above them and a frame of honey on each side of them now in a double nuc.  I feel that would be to much space for them to heat and might kill them.  
We always equalize our hives before Winter.  We shoot for 7 frames of bees and 4 frames of honey in each hive.  As long as you can make the ratio of honey to bees that you need (you probably need more honey than we do)  and you have a critical mass for a good cluster, you will be fine.  If you move bees and honey at the right ratio at the same time, you have not damaged your other hives and you have helped your swarm hive.

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"You never can tell with bees."  --  Winnie-the-Pooh
Hemlock
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« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2011, 11:46:26 AM »

.
Low in stores? - feed sugar syrup.

Have been feeding for a month now.  Will check stores this weekend.

Hey Finski,  When do you go into endless night up there?
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Finski
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« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2011, 11:59:51 AM »


Hey Finski,  When do you go into endless night up there?

up or down, Mr Polar Bear?

South Finland is at same level as Anchorage Alaska.
We have not endless day here.

In the northest point of Finland, on the Norwegian border,  is 1000 km from south point. Thre enless day lasts 74 days from 16.5 to 29.7.

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Finski
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« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2011, 12:15:58 PM »


We always equalize our hives before Winter.  We shoot for 7 frames of bees and 4 frames of honey in each hive.


7 frames of bees?  my productive hives have in summer 50-60 langstroth frames
and in the end of summer I drop the number to 10 or 20.

i try to get big hives. An average they hives half has one langstroth box and half has 2 boxes.
Very seldom all hives start wintering in 2 boxes, but it happens.

All boxes are full of bees. In one box there are 10 frames of bees and in two box 15- 20 frames.

If one box is not full, I join 2-3  week or take one box from big hive when I bring them to home yard.

The strengt fo hives depends much, have they red clover pastures near hive in August.

Big hives are easy to over winter. They take care themselves.



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BlueBee
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« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2011, 01:24:10 PM »

One our  professional has met surely the smalles colony after winter: a queen and 5 workers.
He did not tell, how big was the hive in autumn.

A queen and 5 workers is enough to make heat to raise brood in the spring?
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BlueBee
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« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2011, 01:40:56 PM »

I like Frameshift’s and Finski's plan for dealing with small colonies.  If you have bees to spare, it really helps out a small colony to give them more frames of bees before winter.  I move around frames of brood in my nucs to boost the weak and throttle the strong.  Typically in September.  Triple check all frames you're moving to make certain you don't move a queen along with the bees.

If you want to try to winter a small colony of 2 frames outside, you need electric heat.  My apiary is my back yard, so I just run an extension cord back to the hive to provide electric heat.  Do a search on “bee heater” on this site and you’ll find a lot of my posts about using and making the things.  My nucs are insulated which retains more of the electric heat and makes them cheaper to run. 
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Finski
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« Reply #15 on: October 14, 2011, 02:06:47 PM »

Quote from: BlueBee link=topic=34986.msg290001#msg290001 d
A queen and 5 workers is enough to make heat to raise brood in the spring?
[/quote

even one frame is not enough.

That 5 workers were found in the hive. They are not capable even heat themselves.
But how they were ther?

It must be so, that odor of queen has not been strong enough and bees have moved to the next door hive. It has happened to me.

Quite often I have had twist size colony in spring. Nosema has killed the workers.

Last spring I had a hive with 4 frames of bees. There was one frame of brood. A month later thee was one frame of bees, the queen did not lay and no brood. It must be nosema which destroyed the colony in April. Unluckily I reared virginfs just from this hive.

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BlueBee
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« Reply #16 on: October 14, 2011, 02:18:09 PM »

Thanks for the clarification Finski.  That makes a lot more sense.
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L Daxon
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« Reply #17 on: October 14, 2011, 02:27:52 PM »

I overwintered a Sept. swarm, softball size, last year in a two-story five-frame medium nuc.  I did add a frame or two of brood along with way and fed, fed, fed.   The girls survived great, but we had a fairly mild winter and I kept them sheltered up on my back porch out of the wind.
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linda d
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« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2011, 03:05:45 PM »

2 deep frames of bees with electric heat.

Downside is it takes a full season (or more) for 2 frames of bees to grow into a full hive.
not in a 0.4K polyurethane foam hive... The differential equations of growth really do favour bottom ventilation and high insulation according to the bees I'm looking at right this minute.  Queened in August they fill the hive now drawing all frames
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If they increased energy bill for your home by a factor of 4.5 would you consider that cruel? If so why are you doing that to your bees?
BlueBee
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« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2011, 03:37:38 PM »

My bees must have flunked DE since it HAS taken a 2 frame spring colony a full season to grow to a full sized hive in real life in Michigan.  We’re talking 2 frames of adult bees here, not 2 frames of brood + adults.  

A deep frame has over 6000 cells each, so 2 deep frames would be over 12000 cells.  Filled 70% with brood that is 8400 new bees along with the existing bees if you’re talking about a summer split.  That’s about 11,000 adult bees in a nuc when the brood hatches.  Yes, THAT many bees can then build up fairly quickly.  My summer splits are usually 2 frames of bees (+brood on the frames) and grow to 8 to 10 frames by fall.  

However 2 frames of bees in the spring is more like 3000 adult bees and 3000 adult bees don’t raise 8400 cells of brood in their first brood cycle.  If you come into spring with only 3000 bees, you’re going to have a LONG summer ahead of you.  
« Last Edit: October 14, 2011, 03:57:45 PM by BlueBee » Logged
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