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Author Topic: Newbee in northern Wisconsin advice needed on my first winter  (Read 1311 times)
Snowdogs
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« on: September 22, 2012, 06:33:22 PM »

Hi, I need some advice going into my first winter, now feeling like I'm at square one with knowledge again!
 How could something so small as a honey bee be so complex!?
 I have two colonies, both are in BeeMax hardware and Pierco plastic frames, one from a nuc this spring (the only wooden frames), the second is my first swarm catch from the first colony, about mid July. Both have BeeMax screened bottom boards and slatted racks on 6" hive stands, sitting on pavers, facing south. Both colonies have two deep boxes, the parent colony has two medium supers above an excluder. The swarm colony has no supers above, only an inner cover and outer cover.
 The parent colony has been vigorous all year, combing out all frames in the two deeps and 12 frames of honey above. I have seen no SHB in my traps or Varroa. I have not and will not use chemicals.
 I have used entrance feeders on both colonies with organic raw sugar and Optima most of the summer, along with some brood-builder patties. Both colonies have rock-lined water bowls 5' from each hive that get much use.
 The swarm colony has been lethargic from it's start, and has less than half of it's 20 frames combed. Even though there is good activity on hot, sunny days, in the evening there is no "porch" activity like the parent colony, which has many bees cooling, etc. I don't know if the queen is on the backside of life, or it's too late in the season for alot of activity. There is brood, pollen, and honey stores in the frames.
  The parent colony went through a month or so of quite a bit of drone activity, but none to be seen in the swarm colony.


My questions are-
  1. Should I put all the populated frames(about 10) in the swarm colony into one box for the winter?
  2. Should I put some of the capped honey frames from the other colony into another medium on top of the swarm colony? Or does that colony need all 10 frames for themselves?
  3. Should I bring the swarm colony into my 50 degree during the winter shop and build a screened box over it and feed them? The flip side of that warmth is that they will be more active and consume more stores.
  4. When should I remove the excluder in the first colony? (It's in the 40s here at night) Will the queen lay brood in my honey super before I can replace the excluder in the spring?
  5. I have 2 gallon pails I was going to use for winter feeders inside of an empty box, is this a good idea, and if so, what would be the recommended mixture?

Thanks in advance
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BlueBee
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« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2012, 09:34:37 PM »

1.  I would consolidate to a single box in this case.
2.  Itís a toss up rather or not to throw one of your supers on the swarm hive.  On the one hand, your parent hive doesnít need 2 deeps and 2 supers to winter so you have spare.  On the other hand, adding a super to the swam hive increases the volume of the hive reducing the effectiveness of your insulation by a modest amount.
3.  Everybody talks about bees consuming more stores when theyíre warm.  That has not been my experience in Michigan winters.  All my hives are super insulated and one winter I heated the hives with electric heat to boot.  The bees have never run out of food.  The bees keep the cluster well above the ambient outside temp all winter long.  The bigger that delta T, the more energy that is required, the less the delta T, the less energy that is required.  Energy = honey in the bees world.  So if they have to maintain a larger delta T (Wisconsin outside wood hive), theyíre going to consume more honey.   If they have to maintain a lower delta T (your garage or insulated hives) theyíre going to consume less honey.   Where the analysis runs into problems is if the bees starting flying.  Flying is a high energy activity and if itís warm enough to provoke the bees to fly, then they will consume more honey and youíll lose more bees to attrition.  It sounds like your swarm is probably 6 to 8 frames worth of bees?  I think thatís enough bees to survive in the insulated beemax hives without putting them in the work shop.   
4.  If you leave the honey supers on, thereís a good chance theyíll brood some up in the spring.  A good way to start all medium hives if you want to try that. 
5.  If your bees have 2 deeps + supers you donít need pails for winter food IMO.  If the bees have 2 deeps filled by winter, you should be all set; especially with an insulated hive.
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Snowdogs
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« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2012, 11:45:42 PM »

Thanks for the insight.
Yes, the swarm has about 8 frames. I think I will consolidate them to one deep and put up a three-sided windbreak and let them go with that.
How about adding to medium frames of honey to fill out the box?

So, in your opinion, a colony with 2 deeps completely full of brood, pollen, and honey, is enough for a full colony to survive the winter without 10 medium frames of honey stores? Maybe saving them to put on top as soon as they are flying in the spring, or is that too late for early brood?

Do you think additional insulation is necessary besides windbreaks with beemax hives?
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BlueBee
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« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2012, 12:31:30 AM »

Iím on the fence with regards to adding the super to the swarm box.  It sounds like some of that honey is sugar water, so maybe putting it overtop the bees is a good use for it.  I donít think it would hurt as long as the super is full.  You just donít want gaps of missing food as the bees move up in the winter.  I guess I would probably throw in on  Smiley

In my opinion a well insulated hive can easily winter in Michigan in 2 deeps.  I winter my Jumbos in 1 box (my jumbos are really about 1.5 langs); nucs in far smaller boxes.   Northern WI is colder than here so maybe somebody colder will chime in.  I would worry about a double deep in a pure wood hive where you are.

The bees will start brooding up in late winter in an established hive if they have pollen stored.  If they are lacking in pollen they will hold off until spring supplies are available.  Thatís one of the reasons you want your splits to get established before Sept; so they can properly prepare for next spring.

I have not had any food shortage problems with my insulated hives so Iím not sure what to tell you about your extra supers.  I donít use candy boards, or any extra winter food.  2 full deeps in poly hives is a lot of resources.  The warmer hives allows the bees to move around more IMO and get to more of the stores.       

My guess :  if your beemax poly hives are filled up with stores, that is probably a good setup.  Some of this stuff just takes some experimentation to find out what works best in your local climate.  Since this is your first winter, I might error on the conservative side and wrap another inch on insulation around your swarm box since it will have less bees (making less heat) than your other hive.  It may turn out to be over engineering, but at least youíll know what will work in your climate for the NEXT winter.
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Finski
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« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2012, 03:57:36 AM »

.
Too much food is worse than proper much food.

If one box is enough to the colony, extra space only  makes the hive colder than a tight space.
So bees must use more stores to eat the vempty space.

I can see that when beginners have unextracted super, they want to put it on the hive. That is a mistake. A right place to honey is a carage or what ever, but not on the hive.

.
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Snowdogs
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Location: Northern Wisconsin


« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2012, 01:10:31 PM »

Thanks Bluebee and Finski, I believe I will consolidate the swarm to one deep, leave the strong colony with their two full deeps, and just windbreak and insulate with one layer, with mouse guards and ventilation holes near the tops. With the only thing questionable, like you said Bluebee, is whether to add the super to the swarm.
 Finski, what do you have for temp ranges where you are? We can get 3 weeks plus of 0 degree weather in January, with the nights at 10 below F.
 Both colonies have been bringing in pollen all season, with the largest concentrations in the last two weeks, it was dark brown to black, with an occasional orange, and I've seen multiple frames with all pollen in the strong hive.

As I'm thinking about this, would it be smart to be using all boxes of the same depth so as to be able to mix-up or consolidate frames in a weaker hive for wintering?
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derekm
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« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2012, 01:33:22 PM »

Thanks for the insight.
Yes, the swarm has about 8 frames. I think I will consolidate them to one deep and put up a three-sided windbreak and let them go with that.
How about adding to medium frames of honey to fill out the box?

So, in your opinion, a colony with 2 deeps completely full of brood, pollen, and honey, is enough for a full colony to survive the winter without 10 medium frames of honey stores? Maybe saving them to put on top as soon as they are flying in the spring, or is that too late for early brood?

Do you think additional insulation is necessary besides windbreaks with beemax hives?


Wisconsin -  gets quite coldfor quite a time... you need to think how to increase the distance from the cold without increasing the volume. The  insulation of a beemax hive is just the foothills.
This more like it



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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?
Finski
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« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2012, 01:45:41 PM »

.
I leave at the level of Anchorage in South Finland.

Just now tree leaves are falling down. After 2 weeks trees are naked.

Coldest  month is February.  temp seldom goes under  -15 F.
Snow melts away in the mid of April. Willows start blooming  1.5

i have used polyhives 24 years. They are marvellous. I use wooden boxes as super.

The most important thing in wintering is the bee strain which has adapted to local year course.

I have kept Italians 40 years. They are best. But they are many. Tens of strains.

Polyhives have good spring buildup. Hives are earlier to forage surplus.
.

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Snowdogs
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Location: Northern Wisconsin


« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2012, 03:51:02 PM »

Nice insulated box derekm, I'm going to build insulated, windbreak covers with roofs for mine.
Our trees are just about in full color, with leaves on the ground already.
Thankfully my Italians are from local strains.

Just consolidated the swarm colony, thankfully it's sunny today. But the yellow jackets are trying to rob, this is their time of year to be pests.

I had my escape board on for the last couple of days on my strong colony, pulled the super off.

What do you do with a few frames that are only partially capped?
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Snowdogs
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« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2012, 04:05:51 PM »

I guess the better question is it nectar or uncapped honey? It will not run out of the cells if shaken.
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