i noticed someone doing their first inspection today

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Lizbee 

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Thank you to everyone on this site, it is such a great way to learn and also to realise that being a beginner I am not alone in worrying I am doing the right thing. My two hives were both pretty small in the autumn although I don't really know what small is yet. Just in the brood box, no supers on top. I have been topping up fondant all winter, and have to say that on the nice days here in Kent they have both been busy with lots of coming and going and pollen going in. I'm in the group that says leave well alone if you don't have to interfere, so I'm just enjoying sitting watching them.
Could someone just explain the problems of too much fondant?
 

Murox 

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Thank you to everyone on this site, it is such a great way to learn and also to realise that being a beginner I am not alone in worrying I am doing the right thing. ......................................Could someone just explain the problems of too much fondant?
The beekeeping year starts in August, and the autumn is the time to ensure your colony has sufficient stores to see it through until the spring; that might mean giving syrup which they can use and store whilst the weather is still warm enough. (some people use fondant then instead and others invert). The idea of adding fondant throughout the winter has become rather fashionable and unnecessary. Feb/Mar. are the two months in particular when poorly prepared colonies seem to run into problems, so many people will simply add a quantity of fondant.
Issues with adding too much fondant (and when) are things like ~ the bees moving stored sugar/fondant up into the honey supers: the brood box being over full with stored sugar/fondant leaving little or no room for the queen to lay, which slows down colony development, or worse.
 

oliver90owner 

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The last time I opened a (live) hive in mid-February was 12-14 years ago(?) when the temperatures were in the high teens for a week (and my garden was well over 20 in the afternoons). Bees were flying strongly. No brood whatsoever, but they went on to become a productive hive. They were not checked again until March (those winters were remarkably warm) and there was brood in all stages.

Unless there is a very good reason to check at this time of the year, don’t do it. Weaker colonies may well be tipped over the edge, stronger colonies may only need feeding (there may be lots of pollen going in but there won’t be a lot of nectar). Easily checked by inspecting dropped cappings, if on OMF, or seeing bees collecting water from close by (a sure sign, at this time of year, of brooding while using up winter stores). Tightly clustered bees with little brood should not consume much stores at all - most is needed for spring expansion.

Most things can be worked out by simple observation, without disturbing the bees. This was the time (for me) for feeding 1:1 sugar solution inside the hive for encouraging early brooding - taking care that other requirements may follow before the weather warms naturally. Things like brooding space, isolation starvation and water shortage if the weather turns decidedly cold. Hive observation is an important part of beekeeping.
 

Amari 

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Just my two pennies worth - it the first year I’ve ever fed any quantity of fondant. No change in autumn prep with regard to syrup and timings etc but hefting over winter has meant about 40% of my colonies now have fondant on. There was no real Ivy flow here last year to top up on syrup stores (or a real main flow for that matter). Hopefully with spring around the corner any left will just get used with early brood production.
It's always a relief when a local beekeeper reports a situation similar to mine. I purchased and fed the same quantity of invert as previous years and avoided taking off honey after early August. I've only needed occasional fondant hitherto but this year had to panic-buy fondant from your good self!
 

Parsonage Bees 

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Did an early inspection on one colony a couple of years ago, 26th Feb, but only because I'd seen drones flying on any warm days through the winter. Just had a look at a couple of brood frames and there seemed to be sealed brood and a good population so left them alone.

By the full inspection at end March there were QCs. Failed to requeen unsurprisingly. They struggled on until end April when the queen eventually failed and disappeared and they were united with another colony.

Not sure the early check made any difference to the outcome. Just satisfied my curiosity.

This year I will probably visit a pub garden (12 April) before I see the inside of my hives.

. . . . Ben
 

Swarm 

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Way too early but becoming the fashion sadly, must be so confusing for beginners. The temps being 15 or more means it's ok, yet they were minus temps just the other day and we could easily get a freezing blast again before March is out.
 

Newbeeneil 

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I agree that inspections should only be done if necessary but I know I would probably have lost 2 colonies this year if I hadn't done a quick inspection recently. They both seemed a "bit" light so I popped the crown board to be greeted with 10/11 frames of bees which when I looked closer had very little stores. They obviously had brood and would need extra feeding over the next few weeks.
 

Little_bees 

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It's always a relief when a local beekeeper reports a situation similar to mine. I purchased and fed the same quantity of invert as previous years and avoided taking off honey after early August. I've only needed occasional fondant hitherto but this year had to panic-buy fondant from your good self!
Same here. I always take the supers off first couple of weeks of August, then Apiguard on and everything collected goes to winter stores. Home apiary has plenty of HB so almost never needs a syrup top-up. This year the bees were active very late into the autumn and used up much more stores than usual. In a mild panic I rang Chocolate Falls (recommended earlier by, I think Dani). Delivered next day so very relieved me (and I'm sure very relieved bees!)
 

polymath 

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Did light quick inspections on 6 full colonies, one double height nuc and 3 double height Abelo mating nucs. Varying strength here in Surrey, surprising thing was amount of Nectar they are bringing in at almost all colonies. As would expect couple of weak ones and some strong ones. Did not swap boxes out and feed liquid as gets very cold next week. But 15 degrees here, saw one queen supercedure as in new queen, but did not take out and mark as too cold for that with wind
 

Boston Bees 

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Could someone just explain the problems of too much fondant?
Don't be put off having fondant on now. Hives are dying left right and centre at the moment due to starvation. Better to be safe than sorry. If there are frames full of fondant when regular inspections start in April then you can take them out and use them for making nucs later.

I don't personally believe that fondant will lead to a queen being inhibited in laying space at this time of year - stores are being consumed too fast (and the forager force are dying too fast) for that to be a major concern.

The first priority at the moment is avoiding your bees starving before April.

Ideally, you would leave so much food on the hive in October that winter feeding isn't ever needed, but the bees can surprise you with how much they eat ...... in a similar vein, I take all possible measures to avoid my house burning down, but I still have house insurance.

Unless you are 100% certain that your colony has, I don't know, maybe 4kg (say 4 full super frames, or 2 full brood frames) or so of honey left, AND that this food is on the same side of the hive as the cluster, give them some fondant.

But on the flip side, if you can see tons of honey available to the cluster, don't give them fondant, of course. This is because a block of fondant sitting well away from the heat of the cluster can actually cause issues with condensation, as well as requiring space to be left above the frames unnecessarily. So in the cold months, use it if needed, but never have a block of fondant stranded on the top of a super which the bees haven't even moved up into yet.
 
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Cuckmere couple 

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i agree....you can pick up most of what you need observing the hive entrance and beneath
mine are all flying strongly with lots of pollen going in....so leaving them to build up is a good thing rather than disturbing them....cappings below hive so still stores being opened

mid march was my first entry in my hive record sheets last year and it was warm then...but was probably still a little soon as i didnt really need to know the info recorded until a couple of weeks later...most seemed to be on 3-4 frames of BIA mid march last year

'your benefit or theirs?' still rings in my ears
 

Lizbee 

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Thank you, much appreciated by me and even more so by the bees
 

Arfermo 

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My bees were bringing in pollen yesterday (snowdrops?) which suggest there is brood or eggs somewhere. Gave them half bag of fondant last week just in case and don't plan on looking again until well into March and think about supering them maybe.
 

Apple 

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I will come clean and admit that in one apiary site... due to an access ( COVID) problem, I only "inspected " twice in the season.
And that was because the SBI needed to check for EFB as we had a "BOB" collecting and selling swarms in the vicinity.... strange how the "BOB's colonies never fell foul of disease?

Appols Nige C but you gave a very apt description of the BOB!

Yeghes da
 

beeno 

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I will come clean and admit that in one apiary site... due to an access ( COVID) problem, I only "inspected " twice in the season.
And that was because the SBI needed to check for EFB as we had a "BOB" collecting and selling swarms in the vicinity.... strange how the "BOB's colonies never fell foul of disease?

Appols Nige C but you gave a very apt description of the BOB!

Yeghes da
That suggests to me that BOB is not the culprit however unpopular he, his actions may be.
 

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