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rae 

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8 and 3 nucs...it's swarm time...
As a bit of a beginner, I have a question about feeding bees in the early spring.

Our two colonies have come through the winter quite happily, and are flying well - loads of bees and loads of pollen going in. We haven't looked inside yet as I don't want to get the frames out until it is warm.

One of the hives was starting to get lighter (we're new to this, so we really aren't experts in the art of hefting), so for the last few weeks we've been lifting the roof at the week end, and leaving a lump of fondant on the crown board. (One of the bee escapes has been removed)

In previous weeks, we've checked the fondant and there has been a bit left, so we added a small amount more. This week end, it was all gone, with hordes of bees on the crownboard hoovering up the remaining crystals.

I'm working on the basis that if the bees are hungry, they will take the fondant, and once nectar becomes available, they will ignore it. What I don't want to happen is for them to be taking the fondant and turning it onto honey!

In terms of flowers, we have lots of pollen (hazel, some willow) some crocuses, but I can't think of much in the way of nectar sources at the moment.

Are we doing the right thing here?
 

match 

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In terms of keeping the current bees going, then fondant is fine. However, it is the flow of nectar that stimulates the queen to begin laying brood in greater numbers.

You should aim to feed a liquid feed (1:1 syrup) some time soon (though possibly wait til after the snow and sleet forecast for this week!). This will stimulate the queen to start laying, giving you flying bees about 6 weeks later. If you know you have a particular plant that flowers strongly some time in June/July, you can try to aim to feed 6 weeks before that, so the bees have enough numbers to collect that source.

You can get away without a spring feed at all if the colony has enough stored food (although if they're taking down fondant, this doesn't seem likely), but they'll be weaker going into summer, and while they'll connect enough stores for themselves, they're much less likely to produce enough for you to take some :)
 

Midland Beek 

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I think you're doing the right thing. But it is at the point now where come the next warm spell you really need to go through each colony to ensure that they have enough food.

If you think one or the other is too light for comfort you might just want to make up a quantity of thick syrup and give them that. Or make sure they have fondant.

Fondant disappearing is no sign that your bees are 'hungry'. If it is warm enough they will take it away.
 

rae 

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8 and 3 nucs...it's swarm time...
Thanks. I was planning on going though them properly over the Easter w/e, but the forecast is pants! I am assuming that laying/hatching is happening because there seem to be a lot of bees, but the weather has been to cold to really have a look.
 

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Admins forcast for Berks on easter Sunday is 13c with sunny spells..
 

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Dont forget that water at this stage is just as important, thats why with a 50/50 mix of syrup they get a good balance.
 

Midland Beek 

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Dont forget that water at this stage is just as important, thats why with a 50/50 mix of syrup they get a good balance.
If bees are very low on food stores at any time of the season, then 2:1 is best. 1:1 is more of a stimulative, and the surplus water is said to help because the bees can dilute their food stores with it. No point in giving 1:1 if there are no/little food stores.
 

oliver90owner 

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going though them properly

At this time of the year, opportunity to make an inspection should be taken if there is a need for the information. If one is wanting to assess the stores, do it if possible - better to be sure they are not going to starve in the next two weeks whatever the weather - but don't dilly-dally around doing anything more than you need to find out. Plan ahead and decide exactly your requirements from any inspection.

You don't need to see the queen; you don't need to closely inspect the brood. Or likely you will be worrying, next time you go in, because there are dead larvae or a patchy brood pattern (caused by chilling). Damaging a queen at this time of the year can seriously damage your colony, so don't risk it, especially with only a couple of colonies. You need her laying strongly for the next three weeks.

Regards, RAB
 

rae 

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8 and 3 nucs...it's swarm time...
OK, merging a couple of threads the plan for Easter is (if decently warm and not pouring with rain)

1) Have a quick look in the super on top of the hive. If it still has stores, stop feeding fondant so that they clear the old stores.

2) If there is no brood in the super, just some stores, take the super off and put it under the brood box for them to clean out with a QX on top.

3) If there is brood in the super, leave it alone, put the lid back on sharpish!

4) No plans to go through the brood box - as you say, no need to find the queen, everything about both hives looks good - heavy pollen loads and shed loads of bees.

Edit - we have plenty of water nearby - a nice filthy ditch that they seem to love and the water butt by the back door that the like so much I think we're going to have to move it!
 
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Dont forget to remove the QE as soon as the stores are moved as you may have drones next month wanting to get lucky..
 

rae 

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8 and 3 nucs...it's swarm time...
Good point! I'll get the bait hive set up as well! Expect loads of more questions as we get into swarm control....
 

rae 

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8 and 3 nucs...it's swarm time...
So we took advantage of a bit of sunshine and had a look inside.

Colony 1 had a fair lump of fondant left. We had a look through the super, and 7 of the frames had brood in them - not a huge amount of stores, but some, and it all looked pretty new, rather than last winters. So we decided to have a proper look through, find the queen and get her back in the brood box with a QX on top. As we split the super from the brood, we saw that they'd packed drones in the bee space between the two. 7 frames of the brood box were also full of brood in various stages, with plenty of drone brood about. The queen was found in the super, and popped into the brood box, QX put in place, super dropped on top. So in 3 weeks or so, all of the brood will be out of the super and it will be ready for honey.

Rather more pressing (I think) will be swarm control. The hive was heaving with bees, no sign of queen cells, but clearly "full". We want to get them on 14x12, so the question is, given we have brood in the super, do I put the 14x12 box between the super and the brood box (big gap between both halves of the nest), or do I put the 14x12 on top of the super so that they start to draw it out, and keep both halves of the nest together? I think if I wait 3 weeks for the brood in the super to hatch, they will swarm.

Colony 2 was similar, but the brood only spread across 5 frames, and was visibly less "full". They did not seem to have a lot of stores, and had eaten all of their fondant, so got another lump. The queen in this hive was already in brood box, so the QX was simply put on.

So all good really - loads of bees, two queens and loads of brood. We used a manipulation cloth for the first time today, and it was very good - the bees were visibly calmer and easier to manage.
 

oliver90owner 

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Colony 1. Seems like she needs more space now, not a Q/E to restrict her.

You may wish to move a frame (or even two) of hatching brood to colony 2. That would give it more time before swarming is initiated. It is almost equivalent to a 14 x 12 already. Splitting the brood is likely to encourage supercedure cells upstairs, until the brood is too old. By then she is likely running out of space. I would remove the super and replace with a 14 x 12 brood box and let them start to draw.

Whether now is a good time to move them over is debatable, with the OSR flow getting closer. I would delay changing them over until later, but it is likely never the right time! It looks like a strong possibility of double brood and/or an early spit, straight into a part-drawn 14 x 12 broodbox!

Is colony 2 with brood in the super? Your post is not clear, or even contradictory!

I might be considering a brood over them with the idea of changing boxes shortly.

Good position to be in - rather too many, than not enough bees - so your options are plentiful.

Your bees seem as they are going to need more than a 14 x 12 (or equivalent) for a while.

Regards, RAB
 

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1/ Equalize colonies by giving sealed brood from stronger to weaker colony. No bees. Make sure you know where the queen is before moving frames about - you don't want to bump her off into the grass.

2/ Wait 3 weeks for brood in super of colony 1 to emerge before sticking on 14x12 box of foundation. When you put 14x12 box on, take away super and feed. You cannot expect bees to draw a 14x12 box of foundation without a large amount of 'income'.
 

MuswellMetro 

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i think you are in trouble with brood one, it wants to swarm by last week in april which is when spring expected to break becuase it has a large amounts of drones in it now . the bees are telling you something

also queen below the super brood will mean sudden drop in queen pheromones in the super, i bet they are building queen cups in the super this evening

i would take off QX and split a Nuc off from two super frames and two brood frames and use the super and brood as a 14x12 temp ,

let the nuc make queen cells and keep the last two made, should be warm enough fro mating flight fly by 15 days plus hive time

in the space of frames taken out i would indert insert two new 14x12 frames of foundation usung the super and brood as atemp 14x12 brod box ( you may get drone under the frames, but so what, you have already drone ), then swap out brood/super until you have all 14x12 frames, then swap to a 14x12 brood box when ready)

or do a bailey change now and feed feed feed
 
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rae 

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8 and 3 nucs...it's swarm time...
Is colony 2 with brood in the super? Your post is not clear, or even contradictory!
Colony 2 has brood in its super as well as the brood box - but only across 5 frames. When I say it is "not as full", it certainly isn't light on bees, I don't see a need to give it brood from Colony 1. We'd end up worrying about that hive instead!

Splitting the brood is likely to encourage supercedure cells upstairs, until the brood is too old. By then she is likely running out of space. I would remove the super and replace with a 14 x 12 brood box and let them start to draw.
Wait 3 weeks for brood in super of colony 1 to emerge before sticking on 14x12 box of foundation. When you put 14x12 box on, take away super and feed. You cannot expect bees to draw a 14x12 box of foundation without a large amount of 'income'.
Essentially, you're saying the same thing - the only difference is timing! If I take the super off now....then what do I do with the brood in there? I could put it in a different hive, but it has no queen. I suppose the thing to do is check them next weekend, and if there are queen cells, then transfer brood and queen cells to a nuc box or different hive. Or do I take the existing queen and put her in the nuc box/hive with the super brood? I'm a bit wary of risking a good hive by nicking its queen!

let the nuc make queen cells and keep the last two made, should be warm enough fro mating flight fly by 15 days plus hive time
Edit - and I see that the answer is to let the nuc rear their own queen..!

If I do allow the nuc to raise its own queen...and it fails, will queens be available by end of April?

n the space of frames taken out i would indert insert two new 14x12 frames of foundation usung the super and brood as atemp 14x12 brod box ( you may get drone under the frames, but so what, you have already drone ), then swap out brood/super until you have all 14x12 frames, then swap to a 14x12 brood box when ready)
I like this, but I'm worried about the practicality of inspecting the hive half way through the process - trying to lift a super with (say) 5 14x12 frames...and not lose the queen in the process.

Sorry for all the questions - I was somewhat shocked by the state of the hives this afternoon. I knew they were in good order, but I wasn't expecting quite the number of bees that we had!
 

MuswellMetro 

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Edit - and I see that the answer is to let the nuc rear their own queen..!

If I do allow the nuc to raise its own queen...and it fails, will queens be available by end of April?



I like this, but I'm worried about the practicality of inspecting the hive half way through the process - trying to lift a super with (say) 5 14x12 frames...and not lose the queen in the process.

!
1) recombine, if it doesn't go queenright, you have lost nothing, same beesand brood just some died of old age, rest have hatched

2) on inspection i would just take the 14x12 out first and put in a your new brood boxplus up turned roof or two suppers ( 300mm) and upturned roof ( 10mm) if you are drawing out your 14x12 brood and cover with a mapiulation cloth).
 

oliver90owner 

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If I take the super off now....then what do I do with the brood in there?

Sorry, thought you had put an empty super on top of #1. I was assuming there was only brood across 5 brood frames and not much upstairs in #2. Also your post indicated frames were count number, not area assessment (I thought).

I doubt you would get queen cells in adjacent boxes because of an excluder, but you would if the boxes were separated by another one being placed between them.

You have an enviable situation there. I would be giving them as much brood space as possible - as much as they might need - and monitor for swarm preparations. It is too early to be encouraging queen cells yet, IMO, what with the variable forecasts. Mating could be a problem this early. But your choice.

Also we don't know your plans - colony increase or honey crop? We don't know your queen type or origin. They may not swarm early with the equivalent of three standard broods. You may need extra supers, btw!

You have several options and I would not want to be prescriptive of what you should, or should not, do. Space, super, feed (if needed), watching for queen cell preparations,are all things o be doing or considering.

Another question might be: Are there any drones hatched in the hives yet?

Regards, RAB
 

MuswellMetro 

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threre are drones, the bees are telling him they want to swarm, it be warmer here, by the 21st april it will be spring weather in SE, if he takes achance and fails he can always recombine, he could recombine anyway if he wants just honey
 
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rae 

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8 and 3 nucs...it's swarm time...
Also we don't know your plans - colony increase or honey crop? We don't know your queen type or origin. They may not swarm early with the equivalent of three standard broods. You may need extra supers, btw!
We have two hives currently, we'd like to go to 6 - so the plan is to increase colonies gradually. It would seem we are going to expand faster than planned! We have plenty of supers.

Yes, both hives have a brood nest that is roughly centered on the top third of the brood frames. 2/3 of the brood is in the brood box, 1/3 is in the super. So colony 1 has 7 brood frames that are roughly 2/3 full of brood (off centre pattern) and 7 frames of super that are full of brood. Colony 2 is the same, but spread across 5 frames not 7. Both hives have drone comb - Colony 1 has a super frame that is pretty much full of drone comb.

Both colonies now have the super (with brood) separated (but adjacent to) the brood box with a QX between brood and super.

I have no idea of the real origin of the queens - we got the nucs last year from Mike the Bee. We thought colony 1 was Italian because they were very yellow, but they are much darker this year.

The weather has been warmer down here (I travel "up north" regularly, so I know how cold it is up there!), but it has been very wet, I wouldn't have thought it ideal bee weather.

So here's the slightly revised plan for Colony 1:

1) Let them run for a week, and let some of the brood in the super hatch (there is everything from eggs to capped in there). In the mean time, the queen will be busy filling out the rest of the brood box.

2) Inspect them, watching for queen cells. If we find decent sized queen cell, take out the relevant frame and put it in a nuc box with the remaining super frames with brood, and a brood frame (or two). Feed and hope the queen makes it and gets mated.... i don't think they are ready to swarm in the immediate future - we had a lot of drone comb, but we only saw one drone - so we've probably got a week or two!

3) As soon as the brood in the super has hatched (edit - or at least is all capped), remove the super and put on a 14x12 brood box with foundation. If there is no flow, feed so they can draw it.

4) Once the queen has established a good section of brood nest in the 14x12, remove the original brood box and split into two nucs.

Sorted! Of course the bees will do something completely different.............
 
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