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Author Topic: Wintering hives  (Read 7910 times)
Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #20 on: September 01, 2006, 12:27:46 AM »

>>Ventilation, and I think you mentioned a 3/8th inch hole to be adaquate. Would I drill the holes in the top of the top super or some other location? How many spaced holes?  

The closer to the top the better because you want the moisture to vent out of the hive not build up and condense on the inside of the inner top.  I use a different ventilation method that vents through the inner top and the out.  But if you want to use holes I's drill them in the Rabbet area between the frames--one on each end of the hive to create circulation.

>>(I do 1 gallon at a time) so that the bees are not strung out between the main cluster and the feeder.

I use 1 gallon paint cans--you can usually get clean unused ones at any paint store for a couple of bucks.  Use a 4d nail to perforate the lids.  Don't drive them through--just enough to make a pyramid the has the point open slightly.

>>And I'm not quite sure what you mean by "strung out". Is this simply a distance critera, to keep them from having to travel too far?

In the warmer temps of winter the bees can and will travel a short distance from the main cluster to open other stores or tap a feeder as well as do other interior hive house cleaning.

By the term 8 frame I assume you are attempting to use 8 frames in a 10 frame super.  Be aware that you should first have the frames drawn most of the way out with all 10 frames in place and then remove 2 and space the rest.  Putting only 8 frames of foundation in a 10 frame super is asking for a rats nest of bridge and burr comb.  Once the frames have drawn comb reducing to 8 or 9 frames is not a problem but I do not recommend the practice--if you want more honey per super shave the end pbars to 1 1/4 inch and add another frame.  
The only purpose of fewer than the designed number of frames is to get deeper comb, thereby making uncapping easier.  Over all (the entire super) you lose about 3 lbs of honey for every frame you remove, so if you're expecting 45 pounds of honey from a 10 frame medium super your actual yield will be 42 lbs with 9 frames and 39 lbs with 8 frames.  Adding an 11th frame, however, will increase the yield closer to 50 lbs.  You will have to use the uncapping fork more often with the larger number of frames.
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John Quixote
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« Reply #21 on: September 10, 2006, 04:00:53 PM »

Greetings from Utah. USA!

I don't have a whole lot of experience with wintering bees, or even beekeeping, and I've been perusing the posts here about prepping the hives for winter.

If I may give you all a little history, it may help provide more accurate answers.

I purchased two hive starts this spring after my last two hives died over the last winter.  These ladies have been working like gang-busters and at mid-August both hives were 4 boxes high.  Just this last week I harvested the top supers of each hive, each of which were nearly full.  I placed the extracted combs back on the hive for clean-up, and found that I have another super that I will harvest in another few weeks.

My bottom two boxes on each hive I have not touched, and I have a queen excluder between box 2 and 3, making the 2 top supers brood-free.

In moving my hives to a gravel bed (about 3 feet away) I found that there is a lot of comb build-up between box 1 and 2.  In fact I could not pull off box 2 without bringing out a lot of comb from box 1 (boy! Did THAT upset them!).  I've just left them alone since then.

Now, the questions:
1) Should I expect there to be enough honey in the lower 2 boxes to last the winter?
2) To be able to look in box 1 should I take a thin wire and run it between box 1 and 2 to cut the attaching comb?
3) What should I be aware of or cautious against doing when I start looking at the comb in the bottom 2 boxes?  (I'm expecting to see brood, drone, queen, and honey comb in these boxes.)
4) Should I do any re-arranging in these boxes, or trust that the bees actually know what they are doing?
5) I'm guessing that a queen excluder in the winter would leave all boxes above it untouched during the winter?  Or should I remove it and allow them access to some of the honey combs that are still there?

Sorry for so many questions, but I haven't found answers to these in the detail that I need in anything that I have read yet.

Thanks!

John
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John Quixote
thegolfpsycho
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« Reply #22 on: September 10, 2006, 09:18:14 PM »

I'm in SLC, the canyon rim area.  I winter my bees in 2 deeps.  I was told I needed to leave 70 lbs on them to winter successfully.  2 winters ago, they came through in fine shape.  The past winter was much warmer, and they got pretty light.  Kept brooding up then having a cold snap set them back, so they went through alot of stores  I pulled my honey last month and I gave them all a heft yesterday.  Some will definitely need to be fed to get them through.
Get the queen excluder out of there.  If they move up, they will leave the queen behind.
My bees are notorious for stuffing the bottom box full of pollen and very little honey there.  I pull the honey off, then leave them alone for about 3 weeks to reorganize.  Then I feel the weight, and feed if necessary to get them tp to about 100-120 lbs.
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #23 on: September 10, 2006, 09:32:44 PM »

>>1) Should I expect there to be enough honey in the lower 2 boxes to last the winter?

In ny conversations with beekeepers throughout the USA, I have found that 2 boxes are adequate even in Alaska.

>>2) To be able to look in box 1 should I take a thin wire and run it between box 1 and 2 to cut the attaching comb?

Not necessary, get in the habit of giving a slight twist (about an1/8 turn) to a box (even supers) when pulling them from the hive.  The twist will break the burr comb so that the box can be lifted off the hive without
pulling the frames from the box below it.  However, if, in your case, the frames have already been lifted out so they are more affixed to the burr comb than the super then running some wire through like a giant cheese cutter might be advantageous.  Expect the bees to get proddy when you do this as you'll be killing a number of bees in the process.

>>3) What should I be aware of or cautious against doing when I start looking at the comb in the bottom 2 boxes? (I'm expecting to see brood, drone, queen, and honey comb in these boxes.)

Work slow, remove one frame to better enable moving the others and work across the hive.  Don't put any frame back where the queen is close to the edge--she might get crushed--herd her back towards the center of the frame if necessary.

>>4) Should I do any re-arranging in these boxes, or trust that the bees actually know what they are doing?

The bees know what they're doing better than you ever will.  Man just tries to manipulate them to his advantage--that's called hive management.

>>5) I'm guessing that a queen excluder in the winter would leave all boxes above it untouched during the winter? Or should I remove it and allow them access to some of the honey combs that are still there?

Remove all excluders during the winter.  Consolidate the hive to the equivalent of 2 deeps (3 medium 10 frame or 4 medium 8 frames).  Anything more will force the bees to use their stores faster trying to keep a larger space warm and you will loose the hive from cold or starvation of both.

You are lucky in your use of a queen excluder--beekeepers refer to it as a honey excluder or a swarm generator (my favorite term) for good reason.  
Next year give your queens as much room as she needs, even if its into a 3rd deep super.  Use the excluder late in the season to force the queen back down to the bottom 2 boxes and allow the bees to backfill what was the enlarged brood chamber with honey.  That way the hive will build up faster, gather more honey quicker, and you get the most out of your bees.
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John Quixote
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« Reply #24 on: September 11, 2006, 12:47:38 PM »

Thanks so much for the replies.  This helps a lot.

Just to follow up:

Brian,

Since the bottom two boxes are full, and I'll need to place honey comb there (that is what I understood from your post, correct?).  What type of combs should I take out to make room for the honey?

As far as the queen excluder goes, there seems to be two camps about this device; "it makes no difference", and "it's more of a pain than it's worth".  I'll try that combination of the two next year that you suggested.

Thanks to you too, Psycho, for your advice!
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John Quixote
Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #25 on: September 11, 2006, 10:33:17 PM »

The hive will always maintain a small area for brood rearing.  As much of the frames as possible should be full of honey stores.  remove any empty  frames and replace them with full ones.  If the frames in the boxes already full then harvest any excess or freeze it (the entire frame, honey and all) and put them back on later in the winter or early spring--mid-february is a good target date.
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Zoot
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« Reply #26 on: September 11, 2006, 11:52:21 PM »

Brian,

I know I am in danger of belaboring this issue but here goes:

When wintering with four eight frame mediums how should one structure the composition of the 4 boxes? As stated before, my concern is the distance the bees may have to travel inside the hive from the cluster to the food stores at various times throughout the winter.

My prior experince was with the more traditional arrangement of 2 deeps and I never experienced any problems, always having left abundant stores with strong colonies.

Our excellent local beekeepers assoc. is meeting on Wed with an illustrious guest speaker (name eludes me at the moment) who will be addressing late fall management and wintering but I suspect he may have had little or no experience with using 8 frame mediums universally. Hence my deference to your knowledge. And MB's if he sees this.
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #27 on: September 13, 2006, 01:01:07 AM »

Generally speaking the bees will cluster in the center of a regular 10 frame deep and then forage out to all four sides to tap the stores during the "warmer periods" of winter weather.  the cluster as a whole seems to move from one side or the other as a result of the foraging excursion.  
(I realize this goes against most data on the matter. I also realize that using an observation hive as the source of data can give tilted information because it is a smaller mass and usually kept in a warmer environment than a regular hive.)
The cluster is continually turning over the bees next to the comb make their way to the outer edge of the cluster and then back in--this is how they generate the heat.  as a result of this continual churning and the foraging the cluster seems to swing from one side to the other within the chamber.
When the vast majority of stores in the lower box is exhausted the cluster moves up in the hve and repeats to foraging to the sides.  

In a hive where a medium box is used the same principle applies.  The bees will cluster amid the center frames of the bottom box and then move up in the hive as the stores at each level are used up.  In an 8 frame hive the cluster will be a little shallower and broader than you'd find in a 10 frame deep.  The cluster is egg shaped--more pointed end down.
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Zoot
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« Reply #28 on: September 13, 2006, 10:55:37 AM »

With those points in mind would it feasable to structure the frames with brood in the second box up from the bottom allowing the lowest to be a food source (as well as the upper 2) ? Or should one simply let the bees make that call?
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #29 on: September 14, 2006, 12:27:24 AM »

At the beginning of winter you want just the opposite--the brood frames in the bottom box.  At the end of winter the situation will be reversed with the brood area in the top box--this is why reversing the brood boxes is often recommended.
If you start with the brood chamber in the upper box the hive will use up stores on each side and then starve with the lower super completely full of untapped stores.
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thegolfpsycho
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« Reply #30 on: September 16, 2006, 03:05:21 PM »

I got a call from a fellow that has a couple of my hives at his place.  He built a new home, and there is an intense late summer bloom at that altitude. (still snow in the shady areas in mid to late June)  Anyways, he called to tell me it was snowing very hard, 8 inches on the ground already, and I better come get them outta there.  Well, I tried to get them this morning, but was unable to get them out.  After rolling around in the snow getting my chains on, I was cold, wet, and STUCK!!!!   Winters a long time going up that high, but I think I can get them out in a couple days when it will warm up into the 50's at his place!  bahahahahah.  Finski, I'll call ya on long winters and raise ya one early snowstorm!!  bahahahahaha
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BEE C
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« Reply #31 on: September 16, 2006, 03:30:17 PM »

No snow here in my area yet but getting cold.  I prepared my two hives for winter, reducing them to two boxes.  One hive had seven frames of brood.  Last week I had much more brood capped in this hive.  Finsky you said I need a one box wintering situation with this many frames of brood.  I had a hard time getting the bees into two boxes arranged like how you said in the above post.  ALL of the frames were covered with bees, so much so that they clung to each other off the bottom of the frame.  Then I had to pour/shake bees into the hive.  There are so many that there is a huge beard up the front of both boxes.  Is this normal? Could the brood from last week have hatched and now there is crazy amount of bees?  I've built an insulated box to go over this hive so that it has a warmer interior.  Should this be ok?
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #32 on: September 16, 2006, 11:21:32 PM »

when you consolidate the hive down during harvesting the supers the bees are crambed together.  This is why I leave a slatted rack on.  At this, post harvest, I still have one above and below the brood chambers.  In a few weeks I'll remove the upper one as I feed to fill in cells made available by the recently hatched brood.  The lower one is left on to act as a baffle or tehrmal layer above the bottom board and the brood boxes.  


right now it provides extra space for the extra bees.
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Dick Allen
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« Reply #33 on: September 16, 2006, 11:57:08 PM »

>,,,,,,I leave a slatted rack on,,,,,,

Brian, have you done that article on slatted racks yet? I'm interested in reading it for sure.
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #34 on: September 17, 2006, 12:18:49 AM »

Current article: Slatted racks at www.beekeepersvoice.com/articles/bray/  will get you to my cached articles--click on the one you want.
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Zoot
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« Reply #35 on: September 18, 2006, 10:29:41 AM »

Brian,

I wanted to comment on one further observation about our recent assoc. meeting. During our discussion of the now famous DuBray slatted rack, along with the praise and interest there was a lot of skepticism regarding the possibility of drafts in winter, particularly when mated with an SBB. You have eloquently covered this in previous posts yet it was interesting to hear a number of hardcore types insist that solid bottom boards were an absolute necessity here in the colder weather.
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #36 on: September 18, 2006, 07:56:49 PM »

That's a normal human responce to something new.  I still get that response when talking about hive ventilation.  Some don't want to change to new methods even when it might mean more mite resistent bees (SSB), more production per hive (ventilation), or reduce swarming (Slatted racks).  Good hive management requires all three concepts being used at the same time.  Keep an open mind.

Once upon a time there was a big debate in the USA about closing the Patent office because everything that could be invented could be invented.  This discussion went on despite the fact that Thomas Alva Edison was in his hay day.  Look how much has been patented since in the 1880's when that debate occurred.  

Those who don't want to change won't, those who want to improve beekeeping will pickup on the new innovations and discover more.
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John Quixote
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« Reply #37 on: September 19, 2006, 02:17:53 PM »

Brian,

Being a visual person, could you post a link to a photo of this rack?

Thanks!
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John Quixote
Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #38 on: September 19, 2006, 10:42:26 PM »

John Quiote,

Don't have one, I have never taken pictures of them and don't know how to post them here if I did.  Maybe Zoot could post a photo of the ones he made following my directions.  
How about it Jim?
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Zoot
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« Reply #39 on: September 19, 2006, 11:13:23 PM »

Working on it...I'm trying to resolve a glitch with my new scanner.
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