Starved Buckfast colony

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Beebe 

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Being a bit of a smartarse, (what do you expect? I'm a beekeeper!) I've been quite selective in the range of accepted beekeeping practises I have adopted. This has resulted in the demise of my colony of Buckfast.
They went into winter with an eleven-frame, BS deep with a matching shallow of honey stores above. There was a bit of brood on a couple of those shallow frames at the last time I checked inside, which was late September/early October. I have been hefting them quite frequently but I think I've been deceived by inexperience as the hive has felt heavy throughout winter; now dismantled, it feels very light. :banghead:

I had since decided that feeding was not one of my gambits (mind now changed @Earthboy ;) ), but at that time the colony did get the benefit of lots of sugar syrup. This was from a late June nuc, so I didn't take off any honey. Our ivy crop is ridiculously late, so I suspect they also missed out on that. I mentioned on here a couple of weeks ago that the Buckfast had been trying to get into a neighbouring hive; I now realise that was because they were starving.

A couple of days ago I had a pile of dead bees in front, showing symptoms reminiscent of CBPV and my suspicions were increased when I had a quick peep into the top and could see bees with shivering wings. By this morning they were dead. Between the lot of you, if I'd listened properly, you could have saved me from this. But the problem is that I put together the jigsaw of advice and experience in a way that looked right from the back, but turned over.....the picture didn't! There was zero brood, pollen or honey...this had been declining for ages.

Conclusions:

1. Buckfast are very hungry and although I feel the loss, now I will stick to my "locals" and caught swarms.
2. Maybe it's not so smart to let bees build up as much as I did by going excluderless with double brood or brood and a half; in future it will be one deep with a QE.
3. The worry I have about having sugar in next season's honey is probably over-concern....there'll certainly be no sugar in it now!
4. If they can starve, even without removing honey stores, they obviously benefit from being stuffed with sugar in the Autumn and maybe during winter.
5. My bees are very insulated; going back to a thread the other day, I think it was @gmonag who said he believed insulated bees consumed more stores...that seems to be the right assumption. I think the bees carried on multiplying until very late in the season and consumed a lot of their stores.
6. I'm staying positive, using some dirty old frames which came with the original nuc as the basis for bait hives. I also now have some drawn frames for nucs and honey supers.

If you've read this far you'll see that I have learned something from this disaster so I would appreciate not being beaten up. But any addditional observations or advice are welcome. :)
 

Earthboy 

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Understand we are not dealing with esoteric philosophical mumbo jumbo here but practical beekeeping, but the following quote strikes me as relevant here:

"In a philosophical dispute, he gains most who is defeated, since he learns the most." Epicurus

Another one: "No good should go unpunished." I believe information and knowledge can come by reading books or listening to others' experiences, etc. But overtime, you're building your own *wisdom and keen insights* as to what works and what did not according to your *local specification." Hence, everything "depends" on so many variables, as you have astutely observed the other day. And then using that wisdom you can experiment to improve upon what you have gained.

It really hurts to lose bees in the spring; I will take any fall losses. But you have now gained what to do in a similar scenario. Like agriculture, or maybe life, the only thing constant is crap happens unexpectedly. But I trust more beeks who had failures than the one succeed all the way without a single failure. Life ain't so.
Swarm2010 003.JPG

When you catch your swarm in that handy-dandy bait box, we will have a virtual toast. Send me a bottle of Glennfidich. ;)
 
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Earthboy 

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On a serious note, in US (and probably else where), starvation occurs about right now (March through April), for flow is not consistent. They did OK through the winter, but realizing the incoming flow, bees have expanded the brood, exhausting most of the winter stash by now, living on the thin line between plenty and paucity. In our case, there is a lull or a gap in flow right around blackberry bloom, as if the flow takes a breather, which can kill a strong colony that has over spent its cash at Amazon?
 

Erichalfbee 

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Conclusions:

1. Buckfast are very hungry and although I feel the loss, now I will stick to my "locals" and caught swarms.
2. Maybe it's not so smart to let bees build up as much as I did by going excluderless with double brood or brood and a half; in future it will be one deep with a QE.
3. The worry I have about having sugar in next season's honey is probably over-concern....there'll certainly be no sugar in it now!
4. If they can starve, even without removing honey stores, they obviously benefit from being stuffed with sugar in the Autumn and maybe during winter.
5. My bees are very insulated; going back to a thread the other day, I think it was @gmonag who said he believed insulated bees consumed more stores...that seems to be the right assumption. I think the bees carried on multiplying until very late in the season and consumed a lot of their stores.
6. I'm staying positive, using some dirty old frames which came with the original nuc as the basis for bait hives. I also now have some drawn frames for nucs and honey supers.

If you've read this far you'll see that I have learned something from this disaster so I would appreciate not being beaten up. But any addditional observations or advice are welcome. :)
1. SOME Buckfast. You have to choose your Buckies well.
I have Buckfast from BS Honey Bees, Hivemaker and Peter Stöfen. They are all through the winter.
I also have “local” bees and Amm and they are through as well.

2. Depends on the bees. Confine a prolific queen to one deep and they will simply swarm early.

5.Wrong. Insulated bees consume fewer stores and it’s a tad annoying that even in the face of much research beginners are being fed this line over and over.

6. Is a good thing. We all lose colonies. Don’t beat yourself up about it. As long as you learn from it.

By the way. I very much doubt your bees had CBPV. They simply starved
 
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Antipodes 

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2. Maybe it's not so smart to let bees build up as much as I did by going excluderless with double brood or brood and a half; in future it will be one deep with a QE.
Hi Beebe,
I see you saw some brood in late September/early Oct. but I just wonder ....did you get enough really good looks into the hive to fully see what brood was there through late summer/autumn (how many eggs etc.) as well as things like pollen stores, honey stores and how many of the frames were being used and so on?
 
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rolande 

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In my opinion, and I really don't care how many experts disagree with me, hefting is a pointless task. If you have the time to heft you probably don't have enough colonies to notice if one is losing weight quickly.

The only way to actually know the store situation is to crack the crown board. If that doesn't suit then perhaps make sure they've got contact with a decent block of fondant.
 

Erichalfbee 

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In my opinion, and I really don't care how many experts disagree with me, hefting is a pointless task. If you have the time to heft you probably don't have enough colonies to notice if one is losing weight quickly.

The only way to actually know the store situation is to crack the crown board. If that doesn't suit then perhaps make sure they've got contact with a decent block of fondant.
I'm hopeless at it even after 13 years of keeping bees. I weigh my hives with luggage scales
 

madasafish 

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Anyone who claims insulated bees consume more stores than uninsulated ones is perpetuating a load of rubbish.

(I write from personal experience)

Since we are talking basic biology and physics, I assume anything else they may claim may be of a similar value.
 

Earthboy 

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In my opinion, and I really don't care how many experts disagree with me, hefting is a pointless task. If you have the time to heft you probably don't have enough colonies to notice if one is losing weight quickly.

The only way to actually know the store situation is to crack the crown board. If that doesn't suit then perhaps make sure they've got contact with a decent block of fondant.
That "technique" must have originated from a big operator who cannot afford to crack open all, say, 200 colonies. I heard them telling me that looking at the very presence of bees working at the entrance, such as the number of sorties, for them, is good enough for a quick "inspection." Not a big operator, but I could at times tell/sense the reduction of sorties, forcing me to open up and see in fear of Q failure, rather common these days, another potential topic.
 

Erichalfbee 

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That "technique" must have originated from a big operator who cannot afford to crack open all, say, 200 colonies. I heard them telling me that looking at the very presence of bees working at the entrance, such as the number of sorties, for them, is good enough for a quick "inspection." Not a big operator, but I could at times tell/sense the reduction of sorties, forcing me to open up and see in fear of Q failure, rather common these days, another potential topic.
Do you never sleep?
 

Earthboy 

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Anyone who claims insulated bees consume more stores than uninsulated ones is perpetuating a load of rubbish.

(I write from personal experience)

Since we are talking basic biology and physics, I assume anything else they may claim may be of a similar value.
Not directed at you at all, Mad. and no offense but the parenthetical comment hit me with what another yankee said: "Never argue with stupid people; they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with [ their personal] experience!"
--Mark Twain
 

Beebe 

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When you catch your swarm in that handy-dandy bait box, we will have a virtual toast. Send me a bottle of Glennfidich. ;)
... another swarm-trap going up today; this time, in my home location. The chances of a swarm bottle of Glenfiddich increase. :)
 

Beebe 

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Wrong. Insulated bees consume fewer stores and it’s a tad annoying that even in the face of much research beginners are being fed this line over and over.


By the way. I very much doubt your bees had CBPV. They simply starved
The original bees were from a company which has been in the news a lot recently. They were bought as UK stock but experience makes me doubt that now.....all academic anyway.

The bees definitely starved! It's just that their final behaviour matched descriptions of the disease.

Until the day before yesterday it made sense to me that bees would use less food if well insulated. As I respect yours and the experiences of other, I'll retain that opinion; I certainly had no intention not to insulate in future. The suggestion I'm making is that the cosy conditions maybe retard the winter slowdown of brood- rearing, making extended feeding (an idea I had po-poohed) more critical.

But be assured, I'll have some plump little puppies going into next winter. :)
 

The Poot 

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I agree with @rolande that it makes sense to ensure they have access to fondant, regardless of apparent heft weight.
My colonies are taking in huge amounts of pollen, but seemingly very little nectar at present and they are consuming fondant at an alarming rate. If they don’t need the fondant I can just remove it, if they store it ( which I doubt) I can remove the frames for nucs.
 

rolande 

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That "technique" must have originated from a big operator who cannot afford to crack open all, say, 200 colonies.
If an operator has no confidence in his prewinter prep then cracking the cover once or twice will take much less time and effort than hefting regularly right through the winter but yes, I do know the kind of person you refer to - always making work for themselves by taking shortcuts over rough terrain.

Edit for clarity: I'm definitely not taking a cheap shot at Beebe here.
 

drex 

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Feeding is a balancing act. If they are " stuffed with stores" there will be little space for queen to lay the important Spring bees. However starved bees are dead bees, which will not produce anything. At my last inspection of the year I will even out stores between hives. If in spring they are getting near the knife edge, they get fondant.
Getting the balancing act right does take some experience ( and I can still get it wrong) .
I used to use luggage scales but now simply heft, and I find that good enough.
 

jenkinsbrynmair 

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Not directed at you at all, Mad. and no offense but the parenthetical comment hit me with what another yankee said: "Never argue with stupid people; they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with [ their personal] experience!"
--Mark Twain
won't argue with you there.
 

gmonag 

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5. My bees are very insulated; going back to a thread the other day, I think it was @gmonag who said he believed insulated bees consumed more stores...that seems to be the right assumption. I think the bees carried on multiplying until very late in the season and consumed a lot of their stores.
Point of order Mr Speaker.
I never said that. My assertion is that active bees consume more that clustered bees. I make no claim for insulated hives either way.
 

Ian123 

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Beebee the best advice is roll with the punches and be adaptable. Bees vary greatly as do the seasons and weather. Look at posts on the site saying it’s x month what do I do. It’s like how longs a piece of string weather colonies strength and location all play a part. All colonies are different it’s a case of judgment. As for Buckfasts they can produce big colonies I have some with the queen laying in multiple bb but May winter in a single. I also last weekend removed stores from some buckfasts in poly Nucs to give laying space they’ve wintered well with minimal stores consumption, and that’s common for me this time of year. As to hefting it’s a great way for me to judge stores, and yes if there really short I’ll look in. Hefting just gives an indication it’s more often than not all that’s required. Start at the end of the season you’ll soon no what’s a heavy hive. A friend who ran beginner courses many years before they became trendy would place an empty hive along side 1 filled with bricks, great for giving people an idea. If you’ve got late sources like ivy brood rearing can continue right into December and in good ivy years it does in my area. It’s a real bonus in terms of bees condition. But keep an eye on stores. They may be bringing in pollen but little else late on. For those that pack up early it’s easy to find them running short. Ian
 
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