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ferretgirl 

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Hi Guys, my name's Nicky and I'm a new beekeeper! I just got my very first colony about a month ago! I got it as a double brood hive, with mesh floor, crown board and roof, and that's how I've left it!

I checked there was no queen excluder on so the queen doesn't get left at the bottom in the cold!

I've just put a mouse guard on (hope it's ok to do that now, not to early or too late?)! When I first got them I saw various stages of brood, but didn't see the queen, but I put that down to me being new and not as good as spotting her staight away!

During the summer I did a bee keeping course with the Stockport Beekeepers, so have a little bit of hands on experience!

My question really is, I've read that during the winter you shouldn't go in the hive because the bee's will get cold and very very annoyed, so I haven't been in for a couple of weeks! Should I still go in and have a look? Or should I just leave them now??

I was planning on feeding them on monday just to be sure they don't run out of food! Is that correct, or too soon??? Or should I feed on Monday and check again next monday and possibly feed again??

Love the forum by the by, been lurking for a while!
 
T

Tom Bick 

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Lots of questions one can ask
OK the person you got the hive off did they mention that they had fed the colony feeding should really take place in September.
How heavy was the hive when you moved it should have being heavy if it was full
 

grizzly 

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Hi Nicky
Welcome to the Beekeeping Sanitarium, here you will get lots of help and assistance in coping with your affliction.

Dont give them any syrup, if you are unsure as i mentioned in another thread perhaps place a slab of fondant over the crown board, if they need it they will take it down, if not then its there just in case.

I wouldnt go opening them now.

Others may disagree, but you will at least get a good balance of opinions to help you make up your mind.

Cheers
Andy
 

ferretgirl 

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Thanks for your replies!

When we picked it up it took 2 of us to move it! It was pretty heavy! The guy we got it off said he'd left them loads of honey but it was for us to decide if they needing feeding or not!

I did read the thread about the fondant, seems easy enough to make, will make some on sunday and like you say, just drope some on the crown board!

There's been dead bee's pushed out of the entrance, but that's normal isn't it? Bee's die all the time and have to be removed from the hive??
 

Finman 

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'before you feed the hive, it is better to look inside what is there, how many frames of capped food.
 

Hebeegeebee 

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Some dead bees outside is not a problem - normal in fact. I would expect that the hive can go unmolested until Spring, unless you wish or need to give them some Oxalic Acid as a Varroa treatment at Christmas time. The donor of the hive will tell you if they have been treated for varroa as they should have been and you can decide after that about treatment (ask here if you are unsure!).
As you hive is heavy, there should be enough feed. The time when they can run out of stores is towards the end of the winter rather than the beginning, and as Andy says, it should be fondant, not syrup in the winter months. It really won't do them any good opening them up at this time of year so you will have to be patient and wait for a warm day in March or April.. Winter is a good time to read up on what you should be doing next year.

Don't worry about not seeing the queen. Some are elusive - and you may not see her for several weeks in a row in the summer - not a problem if eggs are there as you know she has been about in the past 3 days. You can look and look and then one day she will present herself on a comb right in front of you. Is she a marked queen do you know?

Adam
 

oliver90owner 

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Hi Nicky,

The first thing I noticed was the hive make-up. No mention of a quilt for top insulation.

At the very least you can (and need to) reduce the heat losses from the colony, through the roof, by insulating below the roof and above the crownboard. It may need to fit around /over the fondant, if fed. That will considerably reduce stores consumption during the winter and helps keep the top of the hive warm and hopefully dry.

Your Stockport BKA is a good place to be for local advice and possible help, if needed in the future. Local help is often much more useful than a distant guess over the internet as there are so many variables to take into account.

Is this a double brood or a brood and a half? Some considerable difference, but as you have done a course I expect you are meaning double brood.

You should be checking for varroah mite drop on a continuing basis to be able to assess the hive loading from counts, and observations at future inspections.

If it is a large colony in that double brood you will likely need to be thinking of supers/frames/foundation for early in the spring. And another brood box, for early swarm prevention, could be needed. Always cheaper options available in the winter sales.

That side of the Pennines is probably a little warmer than further east (but probably wetter!) so the hive may need no, or little, floor restriction, other than avoiding draughts, unless the weather turns particularly nasty.

Probably don't need mouse guards - just position one of your ferret boxes under the hive. That should warn them off!!! OK just joking - mouseguards should be fine fitted now.

You seem to have everything else sorted out, and as the others say - leave them alone unless it is really warm and they are actively foraging. There should always be a good reason for disturbing them (inspecting), whether it be winter or summer! The boxes need to be a good fit together and the bees have probably filled any small gaps with propolis since your last visit.

Take note of Finman - the resident local expert from afar. I would not feed syrup this late in the year, just candy from now until they are once again active in the springtime.

When that might be one can never tell. I was hunting through a colony in mid-february this year, looking for the queen (total absence of brood) as they were flying strongly and taking in pollen (like it was going out of fashion!) in the very warm weather shortly after that one month of cold/snowy weather. Times and dates are relatively unimportant. Needs and opportunities are the important factors.

Regards, RAB
 

milkermel 

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rab you may well joke about the ferrets, but if hers are anything like mine, Mice beware!! When I trap them around log store and also under my hive at home they are a real treat for my girls, shame I can catch enough to give them one each, the fights are noisey! Wonder if hive was put near ferrets if mouse guards would not be needed???
 

ferretgirl 

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Some dead bees outside is not a problem - normal in fact. I would expect that the hive can go unmolested until Spring, unless you wish or need to give them some Oxalic Acid as a Varroa treatment at Christmas time. The donor of the hive will tell you if they have been treated for varroa as they should have been and you can decide after that about treatment (ask here if you are unsure!).
As you hive is heavy, there should be enough feed. The time when they can run out of stores is towards the end of the winter rather than the beginning, and as Andy says, it should be fondant, not syrup in the winter months. It really won't do them any good opening them up at this time of year so you will have to be patient and wait for a warm day in March or April.. Winter is a good time to read up on what you should be doing next year.

Don't worry about not seeing the queen. Some are elusive - and you may not see her for several weeks in a row in the summer - not a problem if eggs are there as you know she has been about in the past 3 days. You can look and look and then one day she will present herself on a comb right in front of you. Is she a marked queen do you know?

Adam

Hi Adam, the previous owner did say that he's treated them already, think he said he did it in August/September time. Will I have to treat them again over winter or just leave until spring now??

He wasn't sure if the queen was marked or not, he thought maybe she was marked yellow but couldn't be positive (he had quite a few hives, some queens marked, some not). I think I'll leave her till spring and maybe ask a more experienced local beekeeper to give me a hand in spotting her! On the course I did I could never spot the unmarked queens...........it obviously comes with experience!


Hi Nicky,

The first thing I noticed was the hive make-up. No mention of a quilt for top insulation.

At the very least you can (and need to) reduce the heat losses from the colony, through the roof, by insulating below the roof and above the crownboard. It may need to fit around /over the fondant, if fed. That will considerably reduce stores consumption during the winter and helps keep the top of the hive warm and hopefully dry.

Hi RAB, Someone did mention to me about getting a sheet of Kingspan (and I read on a thread here too) and putting it on top of the crown board with a hole cut in the middle for the fondant. They said to put an empty super on top of the crown board to house the kingspan and then stick the roof on top of that, is that what you'd suggest? Is it advised to actually wrap the hive in a quilt too?? Or was that a stupid dumb question.....am I misunderstanding "quilt"??

Is this a double brood or a brood and a half? Some considerable difference, but as you have done a course I expect you are meaning double brood.

Definately double brood.

You should be checking for varroah mite drop on a continuing basis to be able to assess the hive loading from counts, and observations at future inspections.

I shall slide the varroa floor in on Monday. Is it ok to just leave a varroa floor in over winter with the open mesh just......open?? Will it not be too draughty for them??

If it is a large colony in that double brood you will likely need to be thinking of supers/frames/foundation for early in the spring. And another brood box, for early swarm prevention, could be needed. Always cheaper options available in the winter sales.

I have all those ready.......I bought it all thinking when I eventually got a colony it would be in a nuc........but I got a whole thing pretty much.......so all the other stuff is waiting, ready for the busy year to come (touch wood)!

That side of the Pennines is probably a little warmer than further east (but probably wetter!) you got that right, god the rain does get boring over here! so the hive may need no, or little, floor restriction, other than avoiding draughts, unless the weather turns particularly nasty.

Probably don't need mouse guards - just position one of your ferret boxes under the hive. That should warn them off!!! OK just joking - mouseguards should be fine fitted now.

Ha ha ha, nice one! I tell you, my girls would have a great time if I left them at the hive, it's housed on a farm, plenty of small furry things to "play with"!

You seem to have everything else sorted out, and as the others say - leave them alone unless it is really warm and they are actively foraging. There should always be a good reason for disturbing them (inspecting), whether it be winter or summer! The boxes need to be a good fit together and the bees have probably filled any small gaps with propolis since your last visit.

Oh god yeah, I'm thinking of buying myself a jackhammer to get into the hive come spring!

Take note of Finman - the resident local expert from afar. I would not feed syrup this late in the year, just candy from now until they are once again active in the springtime.

Then that is what I shall do! Will start "trying" to make some this weekend!

When that might be one can never tell. I was hunting through a colony in mid-february this year, looking for the queen (total absence of brood) as they were flying strongly and taking in pollen (like it was going out of fashion!) in the very warm weather shortly after that one month of cold/snowy weather. Times and dates are relatively unimportant. Needs and opportunities are the important factors.

Regards, RAB

rab you may well joke about the ferrets, but if hers are anything like mine, Mice beware!! When I trap them around log store and also under my hive at home they are a real treat for my girls, shame I can catch enough to give them one each, the fights are noisey! Wonder if hive was put near ferrets if mouse guards would not be needed???
Oh goody, a fellow ferret keeper :cheers2: ! I take it you work yours properly? I want to get into working my girls, but haven't got any permission yet.........the quest continues......one day! I feed them dead (frozen reptile food) mice and rats and they go frantic for them........can only imagine what they'd be like if they found one alive!
Cool idea for alternative eco friendly mouse guard though, ha ha ha!


Thanks again to everyone for your thorough advice and warm welcomes, much appreciated, I think I'm going to enjoy it here!:party:I'm loving the smilies by the way!!!!!!!
 

oliver90owner 

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Hi ferretgirl,

am I misunderstanding "quilt"??

Err, yes! A beekeeping 'quilt' is not quite the same thing you may have on your bed. Same use though - keeping heat energy underneath. They are of all sorts of designs for beehives, from a glass 'coverboard' (not very useful except for observing the bee activity) to 420mm square carpet tiles on the crownboard. I simply fit a sheet of expanded polystryrene over the coverboard or use a block of same in a super. The suggestion sounds OK by me.

Do you actually use your ferrets for rabbiting? Lines, purse nets, digging equipment and plenty of time, etc! Oh, and don't forget the twelve for any runners. Ok, read the bottom of your resonse

'Seeing the queen' - I only look for her if there is a definite need to find her. Too much time wasted, brood chilling, disruption, etc. if you do hunt for her every time! Recognise eggs, laying pattern, etc and you would probably find her near where you would expect her to be, laying up recently vacated (hatched-out) cells.

with the open mesh just......open??

Answered in next para. Mine are mostly open all winter. Just avoid draughts, but leave plenty of bottom ventilation. It is damp that usually harms bees more than the cold (if cold they just consume a lot more food, but survive, if a strong healthy colony with adequate stores). I only reduce the free area in very cold weather, but take steps to minimise, or at least reduce, draughts.

As regards winter varroah treatment, I only treat if I deem it necessary. There are risks with oxalic acid trickling (or other) in the middle of winter. Those risks need to be balanced against the infestation suspected, of course. Regular mite-drop monitoring and experience (other detection methods, really) is the way to assess the need for a winter treatment (or at any other time, for that matter). You probably need a mentor now, the experience will follow...

You come across, from your posts, as a thoroughly 'at home with nature' practical kind of person. You should cope easily with your new hobby/pastime/venture. Taking on a double-brood as a newbie may be interesting in the springtime, if their temper is not completely docile, but I feel that you will do just fine.

Regards, RAB
 

cstroud 

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Hi Nicki,
I am a relative newbee- 3 years under my belt. Your double brood box- I have always kept mine on single broods and it is only now that I feel confident enough to try brood and a half, because I bought a queen from KBS and they recommend it.

There are a number of potential problems with anything bigger than single brood;
-as a beginner you may feel overwhelmed with a huge colony which a double brood may produce. In my opinion it is better to start with small colonies.
-Also if the queen is unmarked and has the run of a double brood you have little chance of spotting her in the main season.
-You will find it difficult to check for swarm cells etc, which it takes time to get used to as a beginner.

Is there any way you can keep them on a single brood from Spring onwards, or is it a strain that needs more room below?There is a lot to take in as a newbee, and you should make your manipulations as easy as possible.

I am just thinking of you and giving you a good start. Some may agree, some may not, I can just speak from personal experience.
:cheers2: Chris
 

oliver90owner 

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cstroud,

As I said, it might be interesting, but I am confident ferretgirl will cope.

The colony is a full one. That is perhaps not best for a beginner but I started with four full colonies of not so good tempered bees. A full colony cannot be squeezed into one brood if it is prolific - all that would do is encourage swarming anyway. There is not often a need to find the queen - just look for eggs and don't disturb the whole colony. It is methodology that helps with locating the queen. It is not that hard when you know how.

Swarming is often evident with QCs on the lower frame bars of the top box - not infallible but a fair chance.

The double brood will give every chance to increase and get a decent honey crop. After all two colonies or more are easier to manage than one (just more time needed) and some honey in the first year is a bonus.

FG is keen, confident and, I reckon, well able to cope. After all she is not frightened of ferrets!

Regards, RAB
 

Dave /Oscroft 

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questions and answers

What a interesting set of questions and also answers, I am also a newbe here and have just learned a lot from this posting, keep em coming !

Cheers
Dave W
 

cstroud 

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Hi Oliver,
I have often made the mistake of being 'too keen'- which I think can be a problem when keeping bees! Opening up the colonies too much etc.

I think you were very lucky to start off with 4 colonies, and not have any major problems. Did you have a beekeeper who helped you? I think in the majority of cases 4 would be too many for a beginner. I know that beginners in my association usually start with one or two at the most.

Chris
 

oliver90owner 

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Chris,

I was going to start with two and made an offer which was accepted. I was going to rely on help from within the local BKA which I had joined previously. The other two colonies were then offerred by the owner as he was needing to give up for health reasons. He was vastly experienced and assisted me in getting going in that first year and more.

Apart from more time, 4 colonies is not so difficult. You only need open one at a time, after all. The 4 colonies were at three locations, so I immediately had 4 locations, as possiilities for bees. There was absolutely no problem when one hive went queenless at the end of August, that first year.

Certainly nothing to do with luck. Why should anyone have to be lucky if they were to start with more than one colony?

I had 4 colonies to compare to each other, so easy to know what a poorer one should be like. Easy to swap a frame of brood to bolster that queenless colony late in the season. Yes, I had some problems but that was experience. With more than one colony it is easier to increase and collect some honeycrop.

The following year I expanded and learned some lessons re wasp attacks. It was a bad year for wasps, felt worse than this year and colony numbers contracted rapidly - but I know better now, hence no wasp infiltration this year, for instance, in my colonies.

I would always recommend starting with at least two colonies if possible. Beekeeping is so much easier that way.

It was in my third season that I realised what docile bees could be like - after I collected a swarm. Shirty bees can be a pain, but if one knows about it one just takes the appropriate precautions - be well protected and keep them away from home (residential housing estate garden).

OK, I was probably not your typical starter-beek type like we are probably getting this last couple of years. I regard myself as able to do most things practical, as long as it is not too technically precise or artistic. I lived on a farm for my first 25 years - and that was over 35 years ago now.

No, bees are not difficult to keep. Wish now I had started much sooner. It is all mainly common sense and recognising signs, symptoms and disease and taking the appropriate steps to avoid same. The only thing you need for more colonies is more time to care for them, service their needs and process the products. Oh, and a lot of extra kit!

Regards, RAB
 

cstroud 

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Oliver,
thanks for your reply. I was interested to read about your experience. I have made many mistakes in my few years and also have experienced fierce bees and the gentle kind (a swarm this year in fact). I certainly agree that it good to start with two hives, which is what I did.

Once you get going and understand the principles of what its about it does easier. I think that it is important that the newcomers into the hobby get plenty of support and advice (which is why the forum is so good).
:cheers2: Chris
 

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