BBKA Forum

British Beekeepers Association Official Forum 

  • Large colonies

  • General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
 #9372  by MickBBKA
 29 Oct 2020, 01:08
Last winter I lost 4 of my biggest colonies. They eat themselves to death. 60lbs of stores + fondant and they just never made it. Working 6 days a week means I can't get to them to check stores every week. Super mild winters in my location in recent years means no brood break. Spring is a nightmare as its always freezing cold and lasts until mid May before the bees get chance to fly on a regular basis.

This year I have several stupidly large colonies going into winter, double brood and 4 supers crammed with bees. I know they are going to be in trouble come February no matter how much they have stored. What I need is advice on going forward is what to do next year as its too late now. Should I split them and unite parts to other colonies ? I was thinking of transferring a super of bees at a time.

What do you folk think ??
 #9377  by Patrick
 29 Oct 2020, 09:51
Wow, double brood and four supers! I am not sure my experience in deepest Somerset is transferable but for what’s its worth..

These extended warm autumns do present challenges if running by traditional calendars. Does the queen have the run of all the supers as well? I would expect double brood to be enough. A possible issue with such large hives may be isolation starvation and difficulties hefting accurately due to weight of woodwork. Fondant on top of four supers if they are clustered in the brood chambers may not be utilised.

I have fed after taking off summer supers and it’s all been turned into bees before autumn, requiring a re feed.

I would split if I wanted more colonies or sell some as overwintered nuc’s, otherwise maybe use the queen excluder to restrict the queens laying space from July/ August?? onwards which will limit the number of overwintering bees as the summer bees die off? It sounds a good problem to have however 😁.
 #9378  by AdamD
 29 Oct 2020, 16:01
Mick, I am sure that BIBBA would say that you should use small-colony British bees.
However yours do seem to have large appetites, are they of Italian extraction? Ligusticas have a reputation for having large brood-nests over winter.
 #9380  by Chrisbarlow
 29 Oct 2020, 17:46
Raise queens from stock that does overwinter successfully or stop replacing stock with bought in queens

Buy in New queens but from a different source

Equalise all colonies, so strip excess bees from strong colonies to weak. So they are all identical.

Make up late nucs with excess bees in September with bought in queens

Make up late nucs in August with your own queens
 #9383  by NigelP
 29 Oct 2020, 19:08
Those are quite enormous colonies MIck for going into winter with.
Not sure what I would do...
Are they still making brood? I get an occasional colony that does this and is out of stores by Xmas.
I'd be tempted just to stick a load of fondant on them.
Perhaps more Italians around Teesside than you know about :D
 #9400  by MickBBKA
 02 Nov 2020, 00:00
I have never bought in a queen ever. My queens are all black as can be and are open mated in my location. The queens do have the run of the whole colony once honey extraction and feeding is finished, QE removed and under supered.
My main concern won't be the brood size over winter its the amount of bees in the colonies now and how much food they will eat getting there..LOL
I am thinking of trying mountain camp boards this winter.
Just wish we could have a cold winter to slow them down and a warm spring for once.

Cheers, Mick.
 #9402  by Patrick
 02 Nov 2020, 09:36
The mountain method is a variation of the old dunking a bag of sugar in water and then simply putting it on the top bars within a spare super. An upturned Ashworth or similar tray feeder can also function as a deep eke. Be interested in how you get on.

It sounds like you have great local bees around you, which is a bonus. I still reckon you could dial them back laying in the summer by not giving the queen the run of so many boxes?

I think you have said before you don’t get a late summer flow so maybe the summer feeding is stimulating additional continuous laying during a time they would normally be slowing down. One of the effects of heavy autumn feeding on a couple of boxes may be restricting brood nest size but with the run of so many boxes this presumably isn’t happening. As I say, not a bad problem to have but I also wonder if protein (i.e. pollen) availability ever becomes an issue if you have rotten weather and late springs?
 #9403  by Chrisbarlow
 02 Nov 2020, 10:28
I had to Google mountain camp board.

Dry granulated sugar poured/tipped on a piece of news paper directly on top of the frames as a winter feed if any one else was curious.

It's named after the poster on beesource forum who posted it and got folk interested on that board. A chap called "mountain camp"

Why not Mick, I suspect in these warmer cold winters it would work a treat
 #9404  by Chrisbarlow
 02 Nov 2020, 10:38
Patrick wrote:
02 Nov 2020, 09:36
. One of the effects of heavy autumn feeding on a couple of boxes may be restricting brood nest size
About 6yrs ago I attend a new beekeepers apiary who was prepping for winter in September. They were concerned that there bees didn't have enough feed. They had them in a brood and a half. I popped round to assess the colony. I have never seen a hive so full of stores. I hefted it and thought I was trying to heft the stand which I thought was concreted in to the floor. I didn't inspect but suspected there would be no laying room. We took off the rapid feeders that was full of syrup.

I told them to leave it be and treat for varroa in December.

I suspected it would fail over winter due to no brood space. It came out of winter rammed with bees and swarmed early in the end.

I'm not convinced over feeding bees is an issue. If it is, I do suspect that an awful lot more beekeepers lose bees through starvation than overfeeding
 #9405  by Patrick
 02 Nov 2020, 16:08
Chrisbarlow wrote:
I'm not convinced over feeding bees is an issue. If it is, I do suspect that an awful lot more beekeepers lose bees through starvation than overfeeding
Absolutely right. I have never seen a colony die out from overfeeding but plenty from the opposite (frequently over optimistic assumptions about the amount of honey remaining by leaving (mainly empty) supers on.

In this case I was wondering if restricting the brood nest temporarily would achieve the same outcome of deferring Mikes build up a bit.