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Author Topic: Newbie questions on natural beekeeping  (Read 248 times)
ragnar
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« on: March 09, 2014, 10:00:30 AM »

Greetings all. I'm another newbie beekeeper in search of wisdom. My wife and I have two hives that we started as nucs last spring. We are currently using standard size foundation in deep boxes. Each hive is composed of two deep boxes, although one hive appears to be stronger and more active than the other. I fed them both some bee candy a few weeks ago, and the strong hive didn't touch it. The weaker hive destroyed the candy in less than a week, so I gave them another block of candy shortly thereafter. Yesterday was up to 60 degrees, and there was a lot of activity around both hives. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but I think both might actually make it through the winter until spring.

A few weeks ago I started reading Michael Bush's website and have gotten most of the way through his first book, and am intrigued by the natural size foundation idea, and raising bees that don't require treatments. I have a few questions related to these topics.

If I plan to feed my bees with their own honey (after reading that sugar water has a PH that is conducive to pests, I want to stay away from it if at all possible), should my honey super be the same size as my hive bodies? i.e. should I use another deep body as my honey super? Or does putting a smaller frame of honey in the hive not create problems?

If I am going to try to regress my hives to 4.9mm foundation (was looking at the Mann Lake pf-100's), what is the best way to do this with an existing hive?  I assume I should not be taking out any frames that have eggs/brood in them; If that's the case, if during my first spring inspection there are no frames that are vacant, should I just add another deep body with the 4.9mm foundation?  Or do I steal honey frames and insert new 4.9 frames in the center? One thought I had was to put a new box of 4.9 foundation on the bottom of my hives, and use a queen excluder to ensure the queen stays in this box to lay in it. As the brood develops and emerges from the old frames in the boxes above, I could pull them out and insert the new frames in their places. And by default I would assume the old boxes would be used to store just honey until I removed the excluder. Any thoughts/opinions on this idea?

Thank you in advance to anyone who has any suggestions.
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Robo
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« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2014, 12:39:29 PM »

Only advice I can offer is don't assume regressing is the answer to "no treatment".   Many of folks around here keep bees on standard 5.1 foundation without treatment.  I'm going on 10 years now.   Also, others have had poor results using small cell.  Don't be deceived that small/natural cell is the golden bullet.

Rob....
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HomeSteadDreamer
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« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2014, 02:44:21 PM »

Congratz on making in mostly through the winter.  Michael posts on here a lot so hopefully he'll weigh in.  I agree with Micheal, I think leaving them some of their own honey is good for the bees.  I can't help you with the lang questions.  I believe it would be just fine if your super is shorter than the body.  One you just leave the super on for winter.  Second if you move a super down they'll build on the bottom of the frame. Mostly I've read they'll put drone comb there.  Removing it can be a help for naturally knocking down varroa as they prefer drone cells.  Small cell doesn't cure everything as posted but there is nothing wrong with it either.  I am foundationless, so my bees build what they like.  I started with a natural queen.  I am trying treatment free but right now I"m wrangling with varroa.  There is a natural forum too that is not as active but has a lot of good posts as well.

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chux
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« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2014, 03:33:53 PM »

If you are concerned about the best cell size, why not let the bees make their own cell size??? Go foundationless and rotate the old comb out over time. If you really want to use a foundation to keep things straighter, maybe you could make smooth wax foundation. Seems like I saw a vid on youtube of a beek who made his own foundation. He said that there was a time when he didn't even run it through a mill and put a pattern on it. That might be a good option for you.
 
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2014, 08:51:59 PM »

>If I plan to feed my bees with their own honey (after reading that sugar water has a PH that is conducive to pests, I want to stay away from it if at all possible), should my honey super be the same size as my hive bodies? i.e. should I use another deep body as my honey super? Or does putting a smaller frame of honey in the hive not create problems?

The only problems are management problems.  If you want to be able to take a comb of honey and put it wherever you might need it, then all the same size frames makes a difference.  The bees won't care what size a box is, but you will have issues putting shallow frames in deep boxes.  It will leave gaps and bees fill gaps with wild comb.

>If I am going to try to regress my hives to 4.9mm foundation (was looking at the Mann Lake pf-100's), what is the best way to do this with an existing hive?

Feeding them into the brood nest is the best.

>  I assume I should not be taking out any frames that have eggs/brood in them; If that's the case, if during my first spring inspection there are no frames that are vacant, should I just add another deep body with the 4.9mm foundation?  Or do I steal honey frames and insert new 4.9 frames in the center? One thought I had was to put a new box of 4.9 foundation on the bottom of my hives, and use a queen excluder to ensure the queen stays in this box to lay in it. As the brood develops and emerges from the old frames in the boxes above, I could pull them out and insert the new frames in their places. And by default I would assume the old boxes would be used to store just honey until I removed the excluder. Any thoughts/opinions on this idea?

You are on the right track.  I play it by ear.  Come spring you often have whole boxes of empty comb.  These are simple enough to take.  Once there is a flow of nectar and pollen, it's easy enough to steal frames of honey and replace with the PF100s.

Personally I'd use the opportunity to get them on all mediums.   That would mean buying PF120s and sell your deeps off to someone who wants them or cut them down.  Then your frames will be interchangeable.

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Michael Bush
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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ragnar
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« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2014, 06:43:33 PM »

Thank you all - I will wait and see what the first real inspection of the season brings and will take it from there.
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