Warre - feeding dilemma

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At the garden apiary (where the Warre is), the ivy flows were good, but not quite as strong. Even so, I quite agree that a colony here which is light on stores might indicate 'bad bees'. It's not just because I love them 😍, but, these are NOT bad bees (by any measure), and, in their mitigation, they were allowed to issue a large prime swarm (caught and being raised elsewhere) and presumably subsequent casts (not caught, unfortunately)... which meant they were only getting back up to something approaching full strength towards the end of the summer flows. Such is sustainable beekeeping. I am not managing this hive to maximise the honey crop.

Anyhow, to the point, I peeled back the hessian cover this morning (6 degrees ?), probably expecting to see a classic dense cluster at the top of the top box. What greeted me was as below, with some bees freely breaking-out, and no high cluster. Per the photo, it does not look like many bees, but, peering down, these were across most seams. I then removed the top box for weighing, which exposed the bulk of the cluster, which was pretty big, and between boxes 1 and 2. Unfortunately (as I have only 2 hands), I could not free myself to photograph this, but, please believe me ...

... a really good sized cluster ... but, more importantly to me, NOT at the top ... indicating that they had not yet even exhausted stores in the middle/upper-third of the stack.

So, to the weight. Well, I reckon that one of my boxes, with drawn bars, and c.a. 5,000 bees would weigh 3.5kg if otherwise empty. The top box came in at ~10kg ... meaning I have ~6.5 kg of stores in that box alone. Even if that's an overestimation, they should have ample. I think I am right in saying that bees at this time of the year will use ~1.5kg per month (per Seeley's studies on free-living bees). If it gets cold (0-5 degrees) their metabolism drops anyhow. I know the risk is more around the period where they are brooding (where both the colony's constantly expanding need for food and the bees' metabolic rate are higher). That (bees brooding) has been mentioned above, and is why March is so high risk a time. I appreciate that.

Basically, in my judgement, these girls are dark local bees, and they have more than enough.

Unlike a few preceding posters, I genuinely think this hive design has many advantages. It's walls are (relatively) thick; it more closely mimicks the 'shape'/dimensions of homes used by free-living colony in so many ways (entrance, verticality etc), and allows for drawing of, and cycling through fresh comb, drawn to the preferred cell sizes of the bees, humidity regulation via the quilt etc... etc...

Anyhow, I don't want to turn this into a debate about the merits (or otherwise) of Warre hives, but two random things which have occurred to me as part of this:
  1. With the Warre (it having a solid floor), I can't assess the cappings on an inspection tray to get an indication of whether they are uncapping food or brood.👎
  2. The hive dimensions (basically 30cm x 30cm) are such that I can not imagine isolation starvation. Unless a cluster is tiny, and the stores nigh-on nill, I cannot see that a cluster will ever really migrate out of contact with adjacent stores. Certainly the risk is lower. 👍
Anyhow, long post to say simply that I'm not feeding.

The bees will sort themselves. Of that I am sure.
The Warre, if it has the saw dust/shavings bag in the top, has a lower conductance than standard hives by quite a margin [1] so will the winter consumption be lower.
If you have ivy it can be dearth to glut in a week, causing bearding in October! All it takes is a wet week followed by a dry week in autumn and off they go, as the sugar content of ivy can surpass OSR in the right conditions[2]

1) Mitchell D. Ratios of colony mass to thermal conductance of tree and man-made nest enclosures of Apis mellifera: implications for survival, clustering, humidity regulation and Varroa destructor. Int J Biometeorol. 2016;60(5):629–38.

2) Garbuzov M, Ratnieks FLW. Ivy: An underappreciated key resource to flower-visiting insects in autumn. Insect Conserv Divers. 2014;7(1):91–102.