Winter Prep

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  • #2356
    Profile photo of lisa
    Lisa

    Hi,

    We received a new hive of bees at the end of July. We placed our super on the hive at this point as the hive was very full. We have fed the bees regularly since September but never removed the super. We are now left with cold weather, worrying about whether we should open up the hive to check what is in the super (eg. Does it contain a significant part of their winter supplies?) and concerns about whether we can expect them to keep as warm over the winter with the super in place.It would be great to get some advice from an experienced bee keeper. Should we remove the super for the winter? The books don’t seem to cover this situation.

    Many thanks

    Lisa

    #2357
    Profile photo of ThePath
    ThePath
    Keymaster

    Hi Lisa, and welcome to the forum!

    So you have never looked inside the hive since you got them in July (Im guessing you just have a pour in top feeder), is that right? Thats not good if true as you should have been checking on their progress throughout August and September really. You should also have squished some fondant on top of the frames to be sure of plenty of winter food.

    Was it a full hive of bees you got or a nuc? Was the super full of predrawn comb in the frames or just foundation? (sorry for all the questions)

    If it was a full hive you might be OK but you should really have treated them for varroa either way in September (if there is any).

    Also where about are you in the world? Is it getting really cold now? Is there any activity from your hive?

    Anyway a good way to test if your super is full is to try and lift the whole hive (should be a two person job). If its very heavy it mean you have a good cluster of bees and a good amount of stores. So to define very heavy: 45kg perhaps.

    If you can quickly lift the super and place it back down quickly it should weigh around 13-14kg if full (does depend on your hive/frame type of course).

    But you get the picture if you cant lift it then they should be OK.

    My guess if it was a full hive of bees going strong and you just put frames of foundation in they they probably managed to draw most of them out and put stores in. If it was a nuc hive then I doubt they have managed it but I could be wrong.

    So to the point, if it was me I think I would having a very quick look to see. If the super is say over half full then you could do a switch i.e. put the brood box on top of the super. If its nearly empty then remove it altogether. If its completely full then you dont really have to do anything (maybe squish some fondant on the top of the frames).

    Basically when the cold weather really hits the bees will cluster and move up to the top of the hive. If they are a strong hive they will be able to regulate the temperature easily, if they are still relatively small (nuc from that year) then they might struggle (again depends on how bad the winter is etc etc).

    Its a difficult one to call really thats why preparation for the winter should be done in the mild Autumn. But if you get a sunny day over the next fe days then you could be OK to go in quickly.

    If you answer my questions above I should be able to give you a better answer.

    Hope that helps Dude


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    #2358
    Profile photo of li mian
    li mian

    Thanks for your reply,

    Sorry, I should have given more detail about our actions so far. We received a full hive and checked them regularly over the first few months to ensure all was well. As of September there was very little drawn out comb in the super and no honey. We started feeding in September using a top feeder.

    As it is sunny today and they are flying I will check the super, place it under the brood box if it is full and remove it if it is empty.

    Many thanks

    Lisa

    #2359
    Profile photo of ThePath
    ThePath
    Keymaster

    No probs Lisa, all sounds well. Remember to put fondant on the top of the frames especially if your remove the super and they only have the broodbox.

    Because its a full hive and by the sounds of it a healthy one there is less risk the colony will fail. Just make sure the hive is atleast 30cm from the ground and away from heavy vegetation so to avoid damp. Also make sure you have your mouseguard on :)


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    #2360
    Profile photo of barrypaton
    barrypaton
    Member

    Lisa,

    Did you treat for Varroa at some time? I hope so. if not then you’ll need to consider it in December/January. Check back for advice.

    How much did you feed? You do need to know how much went in or how much stores the hive has.

    If the hive is not heavy (you can just lift one side to see – it’s called hefting) then candy or fondant may well be required. It’s best to remove the queen excluder so the queen doesn’t get trapped below it if the bees move upstairs to get food however its really too late to do aything now in my view. FWIW – for next year – Here’s what I do.

    http://www.norfolkbee.co.uk/be…..reparation

    #2361
    Profile photo of li mian
    li mian

    Hi Adam, thanks for your reply. We’ve been feeding regularly since September. They have had about 15 litres of ambrosia and were still feeding last week. The hive and super were both very heavy and I could see the frames in the super were fat with comb even without removing them. I checked just one, 3 frames out from centre just to check it was capped honey.

    I did, as our collegue in Perth above suggested, and swapped the brood box and the super so the queen excluder is now below the brood box. I hope this is ok. I didn’t treat for varroa as we are in the far north of Scotland and, fingers crossed, varroa is not such a big problem here. We tend to treat only if we see evidence of the problem, (I’ve used an icing sugar shake followed by a count up technique).

    Thanks again for your useful link to help me get things done at the right time next year.

    Best wishes

    Lisa

    #2362
    Profile photo of ThePath
    ThePath
    Keymaster

    Hi Lisa, I agree, no need for the queen excluder to be present at all over the Winter. Luckily its been quite mild in Scotland over the past week so you will have gotten away with the late manipulation me thinks :)


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    #2363
    Profile photo of li mian
    li mian

    It is truly odd! I’m still picking sweet peas and the sunflowers are just opening :-)

    I’m hoping the extra feeding time at this end of the season gives the bees the best possible chance of survival over the winter months.

    Lisa

    #2364
    Profile photo of ThePath
    ThePath
    Keymaster

    It is weird, especially when you consider we were knee deep in snow around this time last year! The bees have been out everyday in my area for this whole month, except for the really wet days. Like you say hopefully they are finding some late nectar and pollen as Ive no doubt the snow will come and temps will plummet.


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    #2365
    Profile photo of barrypaton
    barrypaton
    Member

    Lisa, if you haven’t stopped feeding syrup you should have done by now. Feeders should be off. If the super and brood are both heavy then you should be fine. The q/ex should be out to allow free movemenrt throughout the hive.

    Fondant/candy should be fed during the winter until early March if it is needed.

    I have concerns about varroa if not treated.

    #2366
    Profile photo of ThePath
    ThePath
    Keymaster

    Not much Varroa up in the North of Scotland though. Hardy hairy highland bees you see 😉

    Plus Lisa has had the tray on for a while and no mites found even after icing sugar dusting.


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