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