Fondant fancies

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Joined
Apr 29, 2023
Messages
205
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110
Location
Northumberland
Hive Type
National
Number of Hives
100
Those of you who have been assiduously following this Forum this year better than I, may recall I was in a flither about finding fondant cheaply. Crossed that bridge. Only now the bees, in their infinite wisdom have filled their brood boxes full of stores and seem scarcely in need of the stuff, certainly not the quantity I've got, no matter how severe the winter. I've an awful lot of old frames need rotating out and was wondering if anyone's had any success doing a shook swarm of sorts (I'd keep perhaps 3 1-yr old frames with brood in most hives) using fondant as opposed to the usual syrup? Admittedly I'm lazily looking for a way not to have to make syrup from 100 12.5kg blocks, or if it's an utterly terrible idea. I'm obviously aware it'd be a slower process than using syrup, and am equally concerned that since I was planning on checkerboarding foundation with starter strips, I'm liable to end up with a whole lot more drone brood than I'd like. I've got circa 100 colonies and only 21 Swienty Ashforth feeders anyway. Wondered what everyone's thoughts were, thanks! Ror
 
Whatever the question is ... shook swarm is NEVER the answer.

Bees will draw out frames at this time of the year if you put one or two at a time either side of he brood nest and feed them... it matters not what you feed them .. be it syrup or fondant .. if they need comb to store it they will build it. Fondant will keep for years so even if you don't use it this winter there will be one when you do in the future.

You might want to add your location in to your profile as there's a world of difference in the UK between Northern Scotland and Cornwall and many points between. Has a bearing on answers you may get to your questions.
 
Whatever the question is ... shook swarm is NEVER the answer.

Bees will draw out frames at this time of the year if you put one or two at a time either side of he brood nest and feed them... it matters not what you feed them .. be it syrup or fondant .. if they need comb to store it they will build it. Fondant will keep for years so even if you don't use it this winter there will be one when you do in the future.

You might want to add your location in to your profile as there's a world of difference in the UK between Northern Scotland and Cornwall and many points between. Has a bearing on answers you may get to your questions.
Granted, shook swarms aren't something I've considered before but a modified version thereof, I thought, may be a halfway house? -Syrup would be ideal and I know Murray replaces combs and feeds syrup around now, but the wasps have been bonkers and I stupidly left the entrances too wide so I've lost colonies already so syrup isn't my friend at this time of the year. Brilliant spring and dreadful summer like a lot of people I imagine. I doubt most of my colonies are strong enough to draw comb now, they're not in fact, hence contemplating doing it in spring, probably just as they're starting to motor. I'm in Northumberland, at the foot of the Pennines, surrounded by sheep country and little else at my home apiary. Keeping the fondant indefinitely hadn't even occurred to me, that may be the best policy, cheers
 
shook swarm or 'variants thereof' are never the answer. Fondant is sugar so it will last forever. I don't use much fondant and I think the last time I bought some - some of which is still in the shed, was about five years ago
 
Granted, shook swarms aren't something I've considered before but a modified version thereof, I thought, may be a halfway house? -Syrup would be ideal and I know Murray replaces combs and feeds syrup around now, but the wasps have been bonkers and I stupidly left the entrances too wide so I've lost colonies already so syrup isn't my friend at this time of the year. Brilliant spring and dreadful summer like a lot of people I imagine. I doubt most of my colonies are strong enough to draw comb now, they're not in fact, hence contemplating doing it in spring, probably just as they're starting to motor. I'm in Northumberland, at the foot of the Pennines, surrounded by sheep country and little else at my home apiary. Keeping the fondant indefinitely hadn't even occurred to me, that may be the best policy, cheers
Yes ... they won't hurt being left on old combs over winter ... some of my brood frames are now very old and the bees either use them or tear them down and rebuild. There is a lot of nonsense talked about changing brood comb out every couple of years. When they look too black and crusty just slip a new frame in alongside the brood nest during the season and move the frames you want to change to the outwards and eventually, when they get to the outside of the box - remove them. Simples ...and much kinder and less stressful to the bees. During the season, if they need comb, they will draw it and the place they usually need it most is alongside the brood nest as the colony expands.

I'd be worried if you know you have weak colonies going into winter ... certainly in your, less than hospitable, winter climate (as an exiled Yorkshireman I KNOW what it's like where you are in Winter). It's not too late to be combining colonies to give them a good start to winter .. if they are weak now they will be dead in Spring. Consider reducing the box size - put them in a nuc or dummy down your boxes with insulation if they are not booming, at least it will mean they don't have as big a volume to keep at hive temperature. Do you have insulation on top of your crownboards ... if not, the best thing you can do for your bees is put 50mm of Kingspan/Celotex PIR Board under the roof and above the CB. Makes a huge difference to colonies over winter - they eat less, keep warmer and the queen lays well into the autumn and starts earlier in spring.

Do you treat for varroa ? Have you checked varroa levels ? Weak colonies are often those that are over-infested with mites and won't build up well for winter (I'm a non-treater but I'm well aware of the need to have low levels of mites at this time of the season - and we are still - just in the season).

Hopefully, you've already throught about all these things and I'm teaching granny to suck eggs but there are a lot of new beekeepers on this forum going into their first or second winters and this thread is great food for thought.
 
I have never carried out a Shook and see no need for it , though LBKA's or some still promote this outdated mode anually in their itinary for the year.
For clean comb use a bailey and feed in the spring or use a brood super with foundation.
For varroa simply carry and excelerated drop treatment or a 15 day O/A treatment.

Finished off my last 5 y/o pack of fondant this week and have now started on the nwere fondant from 2020.
 
Yes ... they won't hurt being left on old combs over winter ... some of my brood frames are now very old and the bees either use them or tear them down and rebuild. There is a lot of nonsense talked about changing brood comb out every couple of years. When they look too black and crusty just slip a new frame in alongside the brood nest during the season and move the frames you want to change to the outwards and eventually, when they get to the outside of the box - remove them. Simples ...and much kinder and less stressful to the bees. During the season, if they need comb, they will draw it and the place they usually need it most is alongside the brood nest as the colony expands.

I'd be worried if you know you have weak colonies going into winter ... certainly in your, less than hospitable, winter climate (as an exiled Yorkshireman I KNOW what it's like where you are in Winter). It's not too late to be combining colonies to give them a good start to winter .. if they are weak now they will be dead in Spring. Consider reducing the box size - put them in a nuc or dummy down your boxes with insulation if they are not booming, at least it will mean they don't have as big a volume to keep at hive temperature. Do you have insulation on top of your crownboards ... if not, the best thing you can do for your bees is put 50mm of Kingspan/Celotex PIR Board under the roof and above the CB. Makes a huge difference to colonies over winter - they eat less, keep warmer and the queen lays well into the autumn and starts earlier in spring.

Do you treat for varroa ? Have you checked varroa levels ? Weak colonies are often those that are over-infested with mites and won't build up well for winter (I'm a non-treater but I'm well aware of the need to have low levels of mites at this time of the season - and we are still - just in the season).

Hopefully, you've already throught about all these things and I'm teaching granny to suck eggs but there are a lot of new beekeepers on this forum going into their first or second winters and this thread is great food for thought.
Not telling ne how to suck eggs at all, thanks for so detailed and thought out a response. I've only been keeping bees since 2015 which isnt v long, though I'm not sure now what I did before! I've lost a bit of confidence this year more than anything, though i hope to always be a beginner and always learning. I HAD circa 100 colonies, but a back injury and mh playing up has meant I've neglected them once swarming finished and am now rather playing catch-up, the balsam and heather having failed to bring in sufficient stores for any summer crop to speak of. Got too many colonies in my home apiary too (was circa 70, will be less now) I'm afraid I do treat, am at least upto speed there. I also concur re combining and top insulation, always do it- most of my hives are poly, and most of those 12 frame Abelo's, which I've found overwinter v well with just fondant in the space between crownboard and roof. Thanks for all your v kind advice, other people just starting off now even would do well to read and heed it. Thanks again, Ror
 
I have never carried out a Shook and see no need for it , though LBKA's or some still promote this outdated mode anually in their itinary for the year.
For clean comb use a bailey and feed in the spring or use a brood super with foundation.
For varroa simply carry and excelerated drop treatment or a 15 day O/A treatment.

Finished off my last 5 y/o pack of fondant this week and have now started on the nwere fondant from 2020.
Neither have I, which is why I'm keen to try it - and some of the frames I have are so old that the propolis lining is really reducing the diameter of the cell, plus I've colonies with chalkbrood that I'm determined to clean up, with a new queen in the spring and fresh comb was to go alongside that approach. Several other beekeepers have told me their shook swarms built up better for the summer flow and I've no reason to disbelieve them, I only get one crop from my home apiary and that's mostly heather so a slow build-up isn't necessarily a bad thing for me. I'm curious, though I know there's a bit of a backlash currently against shook-swarming - just like there is for and against AMM bees, I like to try different things before I decide if it's for me or not though - beekeeping is a very local thing I think and some of the combs in nearly all need replacing so was thinking that doing them all in one year would mean I knew where I was as, back issues allowing, I'm going to double my numbers next year as I've been obsessed with beekeeping since I started in 2015 - find it really helps with my mh and autism to enter bee-time and be outside with nature.
 
shook swarm or 'variants thereof' are never the answer. Fondant is sugar so it will last forever. I don't use much fondant and I think the last time I bought some - some of which is still in the shed, was about five years ago
I hear you, you know more than me so I'll listen, cheers. I still like fondant for my winter feed though, it's so much less faff than syrup. Is your IPM/hygiene routine replacing 3 brood frames a year/as and when they're black? That's been my approach thus far tbh, largely assessing by eye and replacing more or less dependent on the state of them and the amount of minor brood diseases in the colony. I'm half contemplating moving to using second brood boxes as supers and just keeping my super frames for heather cut-comb.
 
Several other beekeepers have told me their shook swarms built up better for the summer flow
we've all heard that rubbish it's just something these cuckoos use as justification for using such an anachronous, primitive manipulation - the bees have no choice but to work harder because some clown has destroyed all their comb and brood and the poor buggers have to start from scratch.
It's a vile practice and no one in their right mind should do it, even to use it to address EFB only just scrapes justification
 
I still like fondant for my winter feed though
no problem with that, I once put a colony through winter on fondant - not trickle feeding it though, they took down almost a slab of it for winter stores in under a month in November.
 
we've all heard that rubbish it's just something these cuckoos use as justification for using such an anachronous, primitive manipulation - the bees have no choice but to work harder because some clown has destroyed all their comb and brood and the poor buggers have to start from scratch.
It's a vile practice and no one in their right mind should do it, even to use it to address EFB only just scrapes justification
Ha, but what do you REALLY think, Bryn? ;-p Fair enough, they were all people with one or two hives in the back garden whilst I've always seen the wisdom and experience in your advice. No signs of EFB breakouts so far, but I think I'd probably just cull the hive and frames if I had one - don't fancy any risk.
 
no problem with that, I once put a colony through winter on fondant - not trickle feeding it though, they took down almost a slab of it for winter stores in under a month in November.
Yeah, I like this idea a lot for my colonies away from heather - I'm a complete David Evans groupie and I like that the bees can take it as and when their brood nest shrinks down - Lawrence at BMH is great, but trickle-feeding is something I'm neither organised enough to do or could really be arsed with tbh. I loathe using syrup from July on, particularly since my hives are mostly poly - wasps seem to be able to smell it a mile off
 
Is your IPM/hygiene routine replacing 3 brood frames a year/as and when they're black?
I use Demaree for swarm avoidance so most of the older brood frames end up full of honey in the top box, after extraction the wet brood frames get sorted into clean virgin/hardly brooded comb, brooded but still usable and black/past its best. the past it stuff goes on the bonfire, the good stuff gets stored wet for use in next year's Demarees
 
Yeah, I like this idea a lot for my colonies away from heather - I'm a complete David Evans groupie and I like that the bees can take it as and when their brood nest shrinks down - Lawrence at BMH is great, but trickle-feeding is something I'm neither organised enough to do or could really be arsed with tbh. I loathe using syrup from July on, particularly since my hives are mostly poly - wasps seem to be able to smell it a mile off
My Abelo poly hives lend themselves readily to the use of 16 x 25 plastic electrical trunking appropriately butchered to make entrance tunnels. The bees took a couple of days to learn how to use them and over the last couple of days there's been stream of ivy foragers to-ing and fro-ing.
 

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I use Demaree for swarm avoidance so most of the older brood frames end up full of honey in the top box, after extraction the wet brood frames get sorted into clean virgin/hardly brooded comb, brooded but still usable and black/past its best. the past it stuff goes on the bonfire, the good stuff gets stored wet for use in next year's Demarees
Interesting, this was my first year with demarees and it was an absolute lifesaver - so presumably you spin the top box with no great blow outs? This was partly why I was contemplating plastic brood frames in a second brood box as demaree/super.
 

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