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Do224

Drone Bee
Joined
May 27, 2020
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Location
Cumbria
Hive Type
National
I did a quick walk around of my four hives this morning and had a think about how they’re each doing and how I can best prepare them for winter. Is there anything else I should be aware of/thinking about? Also, how do they look strength wise?…I’m very conscious that one of them is far stronger than the others, but I’ve no idea what is ‘normal’. Are three of them actually weak or is it just that one of them is unusually strong?

 
A strong hive should be stuffed with bees and the queen should be laying. Some colonies have a brood break in late summer but most should be back by now as winter bees are made in September October.
When did you last look in?
 
one of them is far stronger than the others
The reflection in the CBs of trees above the hives suggests that location is too shady and may be damp in winter. Not an ideal apiary.

Three are weak: be prepared to winter them in 6-frame poly nucs: the box - of whatever size - must be rammed with bees to overwinter well.

The 2022 swarms may have held onto old queens and superseded & swarmed this year to replace them. Next year, aim to be proactive with swarm management: clip the queens as a back-up, but check for QCs every 7 days.
 
I wouldn’t judge a colonies strength from just looking through the crown board. Plenty a time you see all the bees on top of the frames and not much underneath and the reverse is also true. How many frames are covered by bees, brood, stores? A frame of brood will give 3 frames of bees so the hive may fill up. The ivy flow is on so weather permitting stores should build. Most importantly what are the varroa levels & have you treated?
 
They seemed to have a brood break during the horrible weather but they never completely stopped laying. The strong hive however was rammed with brood throughout. I went into them all about 10 days ago and they all had at least a few frames of brood. Don’t think there’s anything to be gained in going into them again this year? They’ll all be well insulated with insulation board ‘cosies’ over the top during winter. I gave them their first vape this morning and will do at least two more. Trickle feeding until first week of October then heavy feed of 2:1
 
The reflection in the CBs of trees above the hives suggests that location is too shady and may be damp in winter. Not an ideal apiary.
Yep, I agree but it is what it is. The first site is only under a single tree so alright I think. It’s also on the edge of a large village.

The second site is in a small wood, but only about 20 metres from open ground. It’s in open countryside surrounded by agricultural grazing land so not sure how good the forage is.

I do much prefer the first site.
Three are weak: be prepared to winter them in 6-frame poly nucs: the box - of whatever size - must be rammed with bees to overwinter well.
Are they really weak or just a bit average? I’m still holding out hope that the bee numbers will go up pretty dramatically as they did have a bit of a brood break during August.

I’ll be insulating the hives well for winter with 150mm insulation board on top and 50mm on the sides. Hopefully this will be as good/better? than a poly nuc…

The 2022 swarms may have held onto old queens and superseded & swarmed this year to replace them. Next year, aim to be proactive with swarm management: clip the queens as a back-up, but check for QCs every 7 days.
I’m going to go double brood next year…hopefully this will help
 
I wouldn’t judge a colonies strength from just looking through the crown board. Plenty a time you see all the bees on top of the frames and not much underneath and the reverse is also true.
I’ve found the view through the crown board to be a pretty good indicator of bee numbers in my (limited) experience.

I think if you are taking a look after removing a solid (non see through) crown board then it may be less reliable as the bees are inclined to come up (or head down) when they experience the disturbance of the crown board being removed
 
anything to be gained in going into them again this year?
wouldn’t judge a colonies strength from just looking through the crown board
Yes: although all seems rosy it's not a good plan to judge a book by its cover.

What were the weights like when you hefted the hives? Trickling now + ivy nectar should keep her laying, but what will you feed in October? Syrup at 2:1 will give them a lot of work to do, to remove water when the workforce is diminished & temps lower, so consider a big block of fondant or invert syrup, which has a water content of only about 23%.

weak or just a bit average? I’m still holding out hope that the bee numbers will go up pretty dramatically
Laying may not accelerate at the speed you hope and it would be better to keep options open for a few weeks, and check if in doubt. No need to go through the whole box, but a quick look at nest combs - where the bees congregate between frames as you look down on the box - will give a better reading.

should be stuffed with bees
This is your target; significantly less than that - using Eyeman's recipe at post 4 - will determine the size of winter box.
 
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