2012 Has Officially Begun

During the course of the last two weeks I have opened all of my hives.  I went into winter with fourteen, and have come out the other end with eleven.  The colonies that didn’t make it appear to have starved.  All hives were changed to a three deep configuration.  I am doing some experimentation this year.  Some standard boxes have been loaded with follower boards and only 8 frames.  Some hives were given top entrances.  I have read good things of both, but I must find out for myself.  Langstroth in The Hive and the Honey Bee speaks of duplicating other’s experiments.  I think it’s a good idea.

I will be posting progress and setbacks under Hive Reports 2012 in the header.  I will also be including Hive Obituaries for completeness.

This winter was mild, most of my colonies made it, so I should have nothing to complain about.  However due to the fact that I had fewer than expected dead-outs, I am very low on black brood comb.  I use it to load swarm traps.  Only ten frames from all three dead-outs were good candidates.  Several were rejected because the bees had not drawn the frames out well.  Two of the candidates were loaded heavily with old pollen.  I have read recently that pollen in combs is not a “good” forever.  Also I have read that old pollen may be a potential draw for small hive beetles.  Therefore I don’t want to take chances using them.

Swarm Trap Plans are nearing completion.  It has taken me too long.  I am still a novice at this.  Please bear with me.

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6 Responses to 2012 Has Officially Begun

  1. Sam Smith says:

    Nice, I’m glad you had lower winter losses then you expected. I think our season is just beginning as well, dandelions are almost hear, more importantly though the weather looks like it will be forage-able for the foreseeable future (10c day, 1-0c night). This is in line with our (eastern Ontario) seasonal norms. I am convinced (just an opinion so far) that a standard lang hive body is not an ideal wintering size (to large) and a smaller or narrower profile is better, will be interesting to see the results of your experiment. Most feral beehives I have seen are always in a narrow cavity.

    • Jason says:

      I would agree with you on the standard lang hive may be larger than optimal. That’s why I am using the follower boards in some hives and not in others. I will let them tell me what they like. I have seen one hive that did not follow the small narrow pattern. I wrote about it in my very first post. They were in an old whiskey barrel. Those combs were both wide and tall. I don’t know how they were able to keep them hanging with all of the weight. There are pictures .

      In a lot of old books they speak about hive constructions that allow for dead air space between the inside (where the bees are) and the outside. I feel that they may have been using more than what we call a standard Lang today. If you get on books.google.com and look for C.P. Dadant’s First Lessons in Beekeeping 1919 edition they have pictures of “outdoor cases” in the Outdoor Wintering section (Page 113). They also explain some other suggestions for helping get through winter.

      I will be posting results of my follower board experimentation. I also want to see if top entrances are all the rage that is reported on some sites.

      Thanks for visiting and good luck to you.

  2. Mil says:

    What kind of top entrances did you make? I drilled some holes in one hive’s box, but only because the girls had started using this hole in the back they enlarged as their main entrance. It was tricky to dodge bees and then a had a bad reaction to a sting received while walking through the girl’s flight path.

    Looking forward to hearing your swarm trap reports. There have been plenty of swarm reports around here even those it has been cold and rainy!

    • Jason says:

      The entrances are very similar to what Michael Bush has on his site. http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopentrance.htm The only difference is that I made mine so that you can put the telescoping cover over them. I hate leaving unprotected plywood out in the weather.

      I still don’t have drones flying here yet. I have been requesting time off in late April and in May so that I have time to not only catch bees, BUT WRITE ABOUT IT TOO!!! 🙂

  3. Mil says:

    Very good ideas from Michael Bush and the top entrances. I did notice that when Hive 2 had the extra entrance, there were able to bring in a lot nectar to the hive.

    Hope you get the time off to write about the bees. Very good reading here.

    Drones…None, yet?

    • Jason says:

      I still have seen no drones out flying around my hives. It was cold today and hive activity was very scant except for about a 45 minute window this afternoon. I am perplexed because I am getting reports of swarming from beesource as well as from the “beekeeping grapevine” in my area. I have reports of swarms 50 or 60 miles south of me. What I don’t know is if the people reporting that their hives are swarming have been feeding sugar and pollen substitutes to their bees. I believe you can MAKE them swarm if you do that. One of my mentors who now has left beekeeping described it to me as being like surfing. He tried to get his hives to ride a wave of being fed just enough to get the queen laying in early spring in anticipation for the main flows in our area, without allowing the wave to break (having his colonies swarm on him).
      I don’t feed at all. I would be afraid that if they swarmed too early the virgin queens left behind wouldn’t be able to find drones to make them productive.
      All that being said one thing is consistent with every beekeeper I speak with. EVERYONE is reporting that their hives are LOADED with brood and they have a lot of nectar coming in. I don’t know what exactly the bees are getting all of the nectar from, but they are accumulating appreciable amounts and pollen like crazy. The weather has been amazingly stable and unseasonably warm here. I would say that Dandelions have already peaked, which should mean that within two weeks or the black locust should be blooming. That normally doesn’t happen until the first week of May or so. All of my spring hive work is done, and I have supers on all hives that I think will make honey. It’s a crazy year we shall see.

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