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Low Population of a hive

 
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jsallington
Nurse Bee


Joined: 14 Jan 2014
Posts: 31
Location: Two Rivers, Wisconsin

PostPosted: Fri Apr 29, 2016 4:11 pm    Post subject: Low Population of a hive Reply with quote

I made it through winter with both of my hives in NE Wisconsin. One of my hives made it no problem. The other hive has seriously low numbers. Only enough bees to cover a comb or two. I found the queen (pretty easy with the low numbers) Do I have anything to worry about? Is there anything I should do? I'm getting two more packages of bees next week for two new hives I'm starting. I figured I'd ask my bee guy as well.
Thanks in advance for any replies
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1509
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Fri Apr 29, 2016 6:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi

I have one colony that is covering about 2 square inches on two combs at the moment, so yours might look strong by comparison.

If you have seen the queen and you know that she is laying....ie some worker brood then it's really a question of supporting them until they can start to build up numbers and that will happen when the temperature becomes warmer and more consistent day and night, and there is a nectar flow.
Ensuring that they have stores to tide them over until then is the key, so consider some supplemental feeding with syrup if they are low on honey/nectar. It will probably take them all summer to build up to a size that they can comfortably overwinter, so don't expect to harvest anything from them this season.

A conventional beekeeper will probably tell you to combine them with a stronger colony but if you are prepared to give them a chance, they should pick up, but it will most likely take until next year before they are strong.

Good luck with them

Barbara
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rmcpb
Scout Bee


Joined: 17 Jul 2011
Posts: 447
Location: Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

PostPosted: Fri Apr 29, 2016 10:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can you reduce them to a nuc so they can maintain brood heat? It also will help them to defend the hive from pests.

Cheers
Rob.
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jsallington
Nurse Bee


Joined: 14 Jan 2014
Posts: 31
Location: Two Rivers, Wisconsin

PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2016 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

They have plenty of honey, I've been feeding them but they haven't really made much of an attempt to eat it. Thanks Rob, it is in a top bar hive so I could move the end plate over to reduce the overall size of the area they have access to. They still seem to find little holes to get into the areas I don't want them in but that should help keep the heat in. Though it could encourage robbers getting into the back of the hive.
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rmcpb
Scout Bee


Joined: 17 Jul 2011
Posts: 447
Location: Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 11:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Even in a top bar you can make a nuc by either making a small hive or using the back board. If using the back board ensure you seal it up well to stop bugs invading the weak colony and to help it maintain the hive warmth.

Cheers
Rob.
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Wyvernleigh
New Bee


Joined: 07 Mar 2017
Posts: 2
Location: QLD Australia

PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 5:59 am    Post subject: Topbar in Australia not growing Reply with quote

I an in Australia with very mild winter and flowers available all year round..
I have a topbar with bees introduced 18 months ago.
They built comb like crazy and produced brood & honey that first season filling about half the box. I lost numbers in the spring possibly because of swarming. Since September 2016 numbers have been stable at about a third of the box but there appears to be no more growth. There is plenty of empty comb which has not been used since September. I am not sure if I still have a queen or what the problem might be.
There is cross building of comb so it is difficult to inspect all bars without major disturbance of the hive.
Any suggestions?
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AndyC
Scout Bee


Joined: 04 Jul 2014
Posts: 257
Location: Uk/Horsham/RH13

PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 8:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Are you sure you don't have some other problem here, JS?

For example if they have stores but are not taking them and you dont mention the history of the queen.

If she is aged and slowing down with laying viable eggs it might be more sensible to remove her and combine what's left of the colony with one of your new packages.

There is a body of opinion that suggests supporting the strong is a better use of resources than propping up the weak.
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1509
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

@AndyC

JS's post was nearly a year ago, so the situation has probably changed.

@Wyvernleigh

Hi

It is difficult to comment when I don't have experience of your climate and how the bees respond to it but I would imagine that there is still a seasonal ebb and flow of the colony albeit not as dramatic as we experience in our colder climate. I would therefore not be greatly perturbed by lack of growth as I would expect some shrink back as the days get shorter.
Are you seeing pollen being taken in? Do you see baby bees doing orientation flights on warm sunny afternoons? These are indications that you have a viable queen and brood is being raised.

Lot's of drones emerging and flying around at this time of year for you would indicate that you have a queen that failed to mate or laying workers, so watching the entrance can give you quite a few clues about what is going on inside.
Early next Spring (if they make it that far) would be a good time to correct that cross comb so that the hive is more manageable. In early Spring there should be less honey/nectar, which makes the job less sticky, there is less chance of robbing from wasps etc, the comb is less heavy and therefore easier to handle and reattach and there are usually less bees in the hive.
Research "rescue bars" which are blank top bars with chicken wire attached. The cross comb is cut off the original bars and embedded onto the protruding cut ends of the chicken wire and hung straight back into the hive for the bees to reattach. With a bit of preparation work to make these bars, the cross comb can be cut off and reattached in the correct orientation in minutes....it makes the job so much easier.

Good luck with your colony.

Regards

Barbara
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AndyC
Scout Bee


Joined: 04 Jul 2014
Posts: 257
Location: Uk/Horsham/RH13

PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 5:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Barbara, yes I see now, thanks, missed that.

Still interesting to learn if it had a happy ending.

I have decided not to support any stragglers this year . . . . And was interested to hear what the end of the story was.
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1509
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 8:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, it would be nice if people updated their threads so we know how things turned out, especially when people take the trouble to offer advice when it is sought. We can all learn from the outcome of such situations, even if the advice was not taken.

I also tend not to support "weak" colonies, other than perhaps a jar of syrup here and there if they are starving....I seldom combine with a stronger colony either.... but I am often surprised by their tenacity and ability to survive despite the odds. Sometimes it will take them 2 or 3 years to really pick up and take off. Sometimes it will take them a couple of seasons to dwindle and die. I very rarely lose a colony though, so most rally.
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AndyC
Scout Bee


Joined: 04 Jul 2014
Posts: 257
Location: Uk/Horsham/RH13

PostPosted: Thu Mar 23, 2017 7:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The combining scheme for weak colonies seems to me a bit of a two-edged sword and I have not really come to a definitive conclusion on it for my own apiary.

There is no doubt a larger colony is the immediate result and I have seen what two active colonies can do and its impressive.

But with the short lifespan of active bees in the season when the join is generally done, I wonder what actual benefit is gives to the resulting colony when the incoming colony is on its last wings, so to speak.

Also if the reason for the decline is not known, whatever caused it might cause the same in the 'new' colony..

The only advantage I can see is the removal of comb and any mites on them.

Maybe the hard hearted farmers attitude is actually better for the apiary as a whole?
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