Winter stores weights & fondant decisions

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Following advice on the Forum, I bought a luggage scale. Spent most of yesterday visiting apiaries, weighing hives and Nucs, which I did by lifting each side, double checking, then adding the 2 measurements together. With a couple of polyhives and nucs I was just about able to lift the whole thing, as well as each side & came out with very similar weights, so adding the 2 sides together seems to work well.

I then set up empty versions of each hive configuration in the garage with empty drawn brood & super frames & estimated the weight of the bees to deduce the amount of stores left. Was a long old process due to different hive and Nuc configurations. Whilst it hasn't resulted in any different decisions to the hefting I’ve done the last 3 seasons, I’m now clearer on the weights of each & pleasantly surprised about how frugal some colonies are compared to others (mostly I have black bees). Thought I’d share what I’d found bearing in mind I live in Yorkshire, rather than the balmy south & also ask a question about how you decide when to add fondant:

At the end of September each colony was at their ‘target’ weight of between 40-50lb (18-22kg) stores; with single 6 frame Nucs at 25lb (11.3kg), from a detailed visual inspection, well before I had the luggage scales

Interesting results by Apiary:

Site 1 out-apiary, edge of town, 190m above sea level. On average hives have consumed c15lb (7 kg) stores since end Sept. This is far more than last year when they consumed 23lb (10.5kg) stores the whole winter, end Sept - end March; the colonies are similar in size yoy. Colonies have on average 25lb (11.5kg) stores left, with 2 polyhives down to 17-20lb (8-9kg), so I put fondant on both of these. Removing these 2 ’outliers’, colonies have 30lb (13.5kg) stores left.

Site 2 out-apiary town centre, 110m above sea level. On average hives have consumed just 5lb (2.2kg) stores since end Sept, so clearly have better access to autumn forage. One hive has put on weight. The 6 frame Nuc has 17lb (7.7kg) stores & the full colonies (WBCs and double nucs) now have 41lb (18.5kg) stores left

Site 3 home, 320m above sea level, 3 degrees colder & more wind & rain, Bronte country! On average hives have used just 1lb stores since end Sept, with on av 48lb stores left each. Can't quite believe the results but have triple checked. Maybe I just under estimated what they had at the end of September, guess what's there now is more important.

In the past I’ve hefted once every couple of weeks. Think I’ll continue to do this & get the scales out every other time, as definitely takes longer, or maybe I’ll get quicker & slicker!

So for the question, if you also weigh your hives, at what weight of net stores do you decide to add fondant? Or don’t you think that much about it & just add for insurance re isolation starvation, if we have a really cold spell? Seems I don't need to worry too much about 2 of my apiaries yet, but hives are using much more in one apiary.
Be interesting to hear your thoughts please.

Thanks
Elaine
 
Following advice on the Forum, I bought a luggage scale. Spent most of yesterday visiting apiaries, weighing hives and Nucs, which I did by lifting each side, double checking, then adding the 2 measurements together. With a couple of polyhives and nucs I was just about able to lift the whole thing, as well as each side & came out with very similar weights, so adding the 2 sides together seems to work well.

I then set up empty versions of each hive configuration in the garage with empty drawn brood & super frames & estimated the weight of the bees to deduce the amount of stores left. Was a long old process due to different hive and Nuc configurations. Whilst it hasn't resulted in any different decisions to the hefting I’ve done the last 3 seasons, I’m now clearer on the weights of each & pleasantly surprised about how frugal some colonies are compared to others (mostly I have black bees). Thought I’d share what I’d found bearing in mind I live in Yorkshire, rather than the balmy south & also ask a question about how you decide when to add fondant:

At the end of September each colony was at their ‘target’ weight of between 40-50lb (18-22kg) stores; with single 6 frame Nucs at 25lb (11.3kg), from a detailed visual inspection, well before I had the luggage scales

Interesting results by Apiary:

Site 1 out-apiary, edge of town, 190m above sea level. On average hives have consumed c15lb (7 kg) stores since end Sept. This is far more than last year when they consumed 23lb (10.5kg) stores the whole winter, end Sept - end March; the colonies are similar in size yoy. Colonies have on average 25lb (11.5kg) stores left, with 2 polyhives down to 17-20lb (8-9kg), so I put fondant on both of these. Removing these 2 ’outliers’, colonies have 30lb (13.5kg) stores left.

Site 2 out-apiary town centre, 110m above sea level. On average hives have consumed just 5lb (2.2kg) stores since end Sept, so clearly have better access to autumn forage. One hive has put on weight. The 6 frame Nuc has 17lb (7.7kg) stores & the full colonies (WBCs and double nucs) now have 41lb (18.5kg) stores left

Site 3 home, 320m above sea level, 3 degrees colder & more wind & rain, Bronte country! On average hives have used just 1lb stores since end Sept, with on av 48lb stores left each. Can't quite believe the results but have triple checked. Maybe I just under estimated what they had at the end of September, guess what's there now is more important.

In the past I’ve hefted once every couple of weeks. Think I’ll continue to do this & get the scales out every other time, as definitely takes longer, or maybe I’ll get quicker & slicker!

So for the question, if you also weigh your hives, at what weight of net stores do you decide to add fondant? Or don’t you think that much about it & just add for insurance re isolation starvation, if we have a really cold spell? Seems I don't need to worry too much about 2 of my apiaries yet, but hives are using much more in one apiary.
Be interesting to hear your thoughts please.

Thanks
Elaine

Any difference between wasp prevalence in the three apiaries? As I've posted elsewhere, I've had my worst year ever for wasps. All colonies in my main apiary have lost weight much more than usual. The queens in this apiary also seemed to go off-lay for about a month Aug-Sept = fewer bees to defend the hives maybe.
 
Any difference between wasp prevalence in the three apiaries? As I've posted elsewhere, I've had my worst year ever for wasps. All colonies in my main apiary have lost weight much more than usual. The queens in this apiary also seemed to go off-lay for about a month Aug-Sept = fewer bees to defend the hives maybe.
Seen a few loitering about & the odd fight outside the hive, but don't seem to get wasp or wax moth problems up here. My queens go off lay for about a month mid -end Aug. Some queens restart in a small way in Sept but never been through the nest after end of Sept.
 
Good god that sounds like hard work. As to what you are saying colonies have consumed it’s also relative to what’s come in, does the 1 site have more ivy available than the others? Scales are fine but learn to judge as you have been by hefting. Don’t think there’s a magic number as some will consume more than others and at different times. Be proactive and check, add to the lightest you won’t go far wrong. On Nucs I ensure they all get a lump anything left the end of winter it goes in the syrup bucket. Ian
 
I have a much simpler approach, though I do heft the hives. I keep black bees so they tend to have stores in the brood box when the supers come off. They get a quick four pints, then I leave them to work the late Balsam and Ivy. Generally the most they get is another eight pints thymolated, this year the Ivy has been hit and miss so they had another four pints, so a total of two gallons per hive. That should be more than enough unless Spring takes ages to kick in, when I might add 1kg of fondant.
If they need more than this they are the wrong bees.
 
Good god that sounds like hard work. As to what you are saying colonies have consumed it’s also relative to what’s come in, does the 1 site have more ivy available than the others? Scales are fine but learn to judge as you have been by hefting. Don’t think there’s a magic number as some will consume more than others and at different times. Be proactive and check, add to the lightest you won’t go far wrong. On Nucs I ensure they all get a lump anything left the end of winter it goes in the syrup bucket. Ian
It was a bit, but a good learning exercise. Will save all the weights for future years so I don't have to go through it all again! Site 1 does have ivy at the back of the apiary and across the road, so I thought that could be a key factor. Interesting how the weights at home with no ivy haven't shifted much too. Interesting how each apiary has it's own microclimate and different forage. Part of the reason I set up all 3, to learn from the different situations.
 
I slapped fondant on when I removed the Apivar in September, with the thought that they'd eat it when they needed it. My double brood which was heavy at the time has eaten the lot, seemingly in preference to their stores. They are not as heavy so I wonder if the current warmish weather means that,as a large colony, they are eating their larder.
 
I slapped fondant on when I removed the Apivar in September, with the thought that they'd eat it when they needed it.
Another one of them beekeeping myths I'm afraid, you slap it on, especially that early and they will just take it down and store it.
 
They don't just eat it a different rates. If the microclimate is conducive to brood rearing i.e. forage giving pollen then they will use it for brood rearing.
 

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