Are colonies shrinking or growing?

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Do224 

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Presumably colonies naturally get smaller throughout the initial part of the winter when they are broodless.

I’ve seen a few people mention that there is likely brood in most hives at the moment. So will many colonies have turned the corner and be starting to grow in numbers rather than contract now? Or will the death rate still be exceeding the rate of emerging bees?
 
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IMO bee numbers will still be dropping at the moment, much will depend on the current season. Brood rearing really steps up with the availability of fresh pollen sources.
:iagree:

This image (from a Canadian beekeeper who winters hives indoors, but the rough shape will be applicable to our climate too) shows it best. Population probably fairly static at present though if anything declining - small levels of mortality and small levels of brood rearing offsetting each other.

The important lesson, I think, is to look at March and April - look at that population decline as the winter bees finally give up the ghost but the queen is only just entering full laying mode (which also means that stores start to be used up at a frightening rate) - that's the make or break period where hives can run out of food (and foragers) and starve very quickly if not monitored. He calls it the "spring turnover" but I quite like "the death zone" as an alternative".

Picture1.png
 
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jenkinsbrynmair 

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I’ve seen a few people mention that there is likely brood in most hives at the moment. So will many colonies have turned the corner and be starting to grow in numbers rather than contract now? Or will the death rate still be exceeding the rate of emerging bees?
Don't take notice of those who, after seeing the sun shine for more than an hour proclaim that spring has sprung, It's still midwinter, we certainly haven't turned any corners, although most hives will have some brood now (always the case, however cold the winter) it's the next month or two that's usually the make or break time for colonies. Over the years I've almost always found that any colonies who don't make it to the spring tend to 'look OK' in the weeks after Christmas
 

Sanntos 

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:iagree:

This image (from a Canadian beekeeper who winters hives indoors, but the rough shape will be applicable to our climate too) shows it best. Population probably fairly static at present though if anything declining - small levels of mortality and small levels of brood rearing offsetting each other.

The important lesson, I think, is to look at March and April - look at that population decline as the winter bees finally give up the ghost but the queen is only just entering full laying mode (which also means that stores start to be used up at a frightening rate) - that's the make or break period where hives can run out of food (and foragers) and starve very quickly if not monitored. He calls it the "spring turnover".

View attachment 30138
I am sure the picture is made by Randy Oliver, not Ian Steppler, he only lent it. Are colonies shrinking or growing?
 

Do224 

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:iagree:

This image (from a Canadian beekeeper who winters hives indoors, but the rough shape will be applicable to our climate too) shows it best. Population probably fairly static at present though if anything declining - small levels of mortality and small levels of brood rearing offsetting each other.

The important lesson, I think, is to look at March and April - look at that population decline as the winter bees finally give up the ghost but the queen is only just entering full laying mode (which also means that stores start to be used up at a frightening rate) - that's the make or break period where hives can run out of food (and foragers) and starve very quickly if not monitored. He calls it the "spring turnover".

View attachment 30138
that’s a really interesting chart, thanks
 

mbc 

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Crossover - when there're more new season bees coming through than old season bees expiring- usually occurs towards the second week of March for colonies of native bees around here( lower teifi valley), saying that I heard frogs croaking in sexual effort last night and they're rarely wrong, once they've layed some spawn it would be unusual for us to get any hard frosts. Time will tell.
 

Troutdog 

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A main factor most overlook is the solar length of day.
There is some brood rearing occurring now but imo its just not going to match the mortality rate.
Darker bees brood up later than others. They are not fooled by an early flow such as maples in my area (NE. USA) Not fooled by a warm February. Acclimated bees know when the real forage begins. It is the minerals and compounds of the early nectar and pollen that inspire the royal jelly making in the workers which gets the queens geared up and going stronger. She will only lay what they think they can keep at temperature. Out trend lately has been warm March cold April and dodgy May. So my Italian crosses are full on going into April, which means I'm feeding. My carniolan stock is rarely fooled by this and in fact look pathetic compared to the Italians by April 1. By June 1 they are equal or better.
So in a nutshell I hope your queens are laying just a few at this point. And I hope your watching your beebread frames. As soon as they start producing royal jelly from their own vitagellin fat body they will only last a few weeks. This how we lose a lot here in late March. Sometimes we think its too cold to open them or there's more than .5M in snow and can't really carry that much food on snow shoes. I use shims just for this reason and try to have them loaded up by March. I can do this @2c or above. The equinox in March is when the darker bees start. I like to be out there before that adding carb and some protein.
I fear I rambled a bit.......Best of luck this season.
 

oliver90owner 

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Timing of cross-over point will always be dependent on the season/weather - not the calendar date! Averages are great but reality is what matters!

In a strong, well provisioned, healthy colony in a sensibly insulated hive, nearly all the bees should go through the winter - until brooding starts in earnest. That is when things can easily go wrong (the weather again!)

Most colonies go into winter with ‘around’ ten thousand bees - it matters not how big the physical hive might be. Those bees consume their stores, basically to keep themselves warm, until brooding accelerates. After that the nurse bees will have a finite lifetime.

If, for any reason, brooding is interrupted after starting to accelerate (too little pollen (protein)) for larvae development, insufficient honey stores (possible starvation or isolation starvation), no access to water due to a spell of freezing weather) those colony numbers/imago:brood ratios will change in an unwanted manner.

Then there is the varroa side of things to consider. Those that have a high percentage of winter bees that have been compromised by varroa (particularly at the pupation stage) will lose those winter bees much faster than a good sized, strong, healthy colony. There are other factors, too.

Under-sized colonies, going into winter, fare far worse than strong colonies - for obvious reasons when you think about it. It is why we, as beekeepers, treat nuc-sized colonies with special care (nuc-sized boxes, for a start). ‘Under-stored’ colonies need feeding to get then through the winter. Etc, Etc. Even mini-nucs can be safely over-wintered with careful management.
 
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