Wednesday, April 15, 2015

HIVE MANAGEMENT QUESTIONS by beekeeper Fred

The past few warm days I have been out cleaning the bottom boards on my surviving hives.  Saw the usual dead bees and sugar particles from my winter emergency sugar cube feed.  It appears that all surviving hives are now raising brood and I think they will continue to survive.  The final count for my apiary was 79% survival over the winter.  In the last week I lost another hive by robbing by a neighboring strong hive.  This work also got me thinking about several hive management techniques. 

REVERSING OF BROOD CHAMBERS

While destacking the hives to clean the bottom boards I noted that the bees in the stronger hives were utilizing both the upper and lower brood chambers.  In a few of the weaker hives I deliberately searched for the queen.  In several I noted the queen had voluntarily moved down to the lower brood chamber.  It seems that the task of reversing the brood chambers in the spring may not be the mandatory task that has been recommended in many “how to” books.  Comments from club members and blog readers would be appreciated. 

TWO VERSUS THREE BROOD CHAMBERS


I have seen recommendations that three brood chambers are superior to two brood chambers.  This of course requires additional equipment.  This recommendation was made for two reasons.  One, in northern climates the third brood chamber provides the bees with additional honey for overwintering.  This is the recommendation of the University of Minnesota Extension Service.  The third chamber reduces or eliminates the need for fall feeding with sugar syrup.  Wisconsin’s winters are very close in severity to Minnesota’s.  Two, the third brood chamber results in a higher overall hive population, which then yield more honey per hive.  With the high number of winter starvation hive failures a third brood chamber has some merit.  Comments from club members and blog readers would be appreciated.  

2 comments:

Gerard Schubert said...

Interesting topics Fred. Things I've wondered about too.

I reversed my deeps about 6 weeks ago because I read that spring reversing is the thing to do, and I've done it every spring so far. But Bee Culture had an article by Phil Craft and he said he had pretty much abandoned the practice with positive results. So I'm thinking of abandoning the practice too. Why break up a possible brood nest? And I think I might have lost a colony in part due to reversing. Maybe. The hive had major losses over winter but had a small population when I reversed the deeps. Last week I checked on them and they had died of starvation, with a full deep below them. The one that had been on top. They died inches from honey that was in the box they were in, so maybe I would have lost them anyway. Got a lot of honey, but I think I'll just clean out the bottom boards in the future.

I won't be doing 3 deeps for sure. If I was using medium bodies, yes, but two deeps seems plenty good. My two strong survivors had no trouble and had food left. I put out a community syrup feeder as soon as the temps hit the mid-40's and those two colonies took in a gallon and a half a day. Over 150 lbs. of sugar so far. Still are. I put a medium super on each hive last Saturday with 3 drawn frames and 4 foundation frames (8-frame equipment with 7 frames in the supers)because they're so strong and I've been concerned about them swarming. Today I'm adding a second super with 7 foundation frames because the frames I gave them last week are all drawn out. So I don't think three deeps are necessary, but mite control certainly is. The colony I mentioned earlier, and my 4th colony, had a mountain of dead bees develop outside of the hive over winter. Both went into winter the strongest of the group, and I didn't treat them for mites because their mite drops were light. I will be treating all Carniolan colonies in the future.

Fred Ransome said...

I assume you have stopped feeding them now. Otherwise you will have a super full of sugar syrup.