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Stores and cluster arrangement for Winter

 
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mal
Nurse Bee


Joined: 11 Jul 2013
Posts: 44
Location: Rutland, Leicestershire, UK

PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2014 10:39 am    Post subject: Stores and cluster arrangement for Winter Reply with quote

Hi,

I took a look at my first yr tbh (populated with prime swarm in May) and everything looks fine - happy activity, laying, stores, pollen coming in nectar etc.
The current arrangement is something like :
End of hive, Follower, 3 fullish bars honey, 4 bars brood, 3-4 part bars honey, 3 bars comb in progress, Follower, space available for expansion.

a) Hive is located rurally so lots of wood/hedgerow/ivy - should I be concerned about feeding now, or assume that they will boost stores enough ?

b) Possible issue of split stores over the Winter ? I'm sure I have read that the cluster will work one way and may not get back to the remaining stores at the other end of the hive, in which case should I rearrange bars to put brood at one end ? The periscope entrance is located where the brood currently is.

Thanks

Mal
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 586
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2014 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ha ! I think this will start an argument Smile. I would say leave them be and they should be OK. I'm sure other people will disagree.
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trekmate
Golden Bee


Joined: 30 Nov 2009
Posts: 1125
Location: UK, North Yorkshire, Bentham

PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2014 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ooo you're a hard man Adam! Very Happy

I'd rearrange the bars so the stores are furthest from the entrance but all together. I've seen isolation starvation - doesn't make you feel good!

Mal, many of us now favour entrances at the end of a long side or or in the hive end to eliminate the need to re-arrange.

Only two different answers in two posts - not bad! Shocked
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 586
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2014 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a hive with central holes and I have never re-arranged before winter. To start with this was from ignorance ( no-one told me you were supposed to ) but it's becoming more of a conscious habit now. Last year they survived with a smaller colony than Mal has but more honey.

In a way the central holes act as a kind of super. Everything to the left is for the bees ( they always go left, I think because it gets more sun ) and I take a lot of the honey on the right in the spring. I could probably take it in Autumn for all the difference it makes.

One factor is that Mal has a periscope entrance, so it's not as if the wind and rain is just blowing in. So the temperature at which the bees will still cross the entrance to top up the honey supplies immediately above the brood might be a little higher than it would be in my hive, which just has a circular hole.

Mal, do you have an observation window in your hive ? If so, you could watch where the cluster was relative to the three bars of honey, and perhaps just take a look to see if on warmish winter days the bees could get to the main honey stores.

For a prime swarm in May, this does seem like quite a small colony to me. This does make me wonder how much forage there is around you. Did it take a while to get going ? Do you know when the main flow is around you ? I would expect a prime swarm in May to have more or less filled a TBH by this time of year, but then for me the main flow is the Himlayan Balsam and other things in August until mid September.

Adam the hardman Smile.
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1581
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2014 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adam, as you point out, this colony does not have a huge amount of stores and I think that is the big difference. If they have plenty of stores on both sides, then there isn't a real worry about rearranging them, but my feeling, like you, is that this prime swarm from May should have done a lot better and I'm wondering if they perhaps swarmed again later in the summer and hence do not have the stores that you would expect.... or they are in an area of poor forage, but from what the OP says that's not the case.

The 10 day forecast is for this good weather to continue and there should at least be plenty of ivy in the woods, so there is the opportunity for them to bring more nectar in yet and ripen it off, but my inclination would be to remove the first 2 full combs and move the follower board up, so that you have 1 comb of stores, 4 of brood, the part filled stores and then the full stores before the empty comb. I would remove the partial empty combs to behind the second follower as it is too late for them to build them and fill them and you want to keep them compact and make sure they backfill the partial combs and broodnest rather than working on those combs.

The only reason I am not suggesting moving all 3 full combs is that almost every hive I have come across likes the brood nest to have some honey at each side, so I would leave 1 full comb there.

Personally I prefer end entrances, so that rearrangement is not something I have to worry about or using centre entrances but only allowing them to work in one direction, but that means, when the colony gets big, you have little room to work at the honey end, which is of course where the comb is more likely to be braced and overlapping and you need more space to release it.

Good luck, whatever you decide to do. I think they probably will have enough to overwinter without feeding, especially if they are still foraging strongly and the good weather continues.

Regards

Barbara
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mal
Nurse Bee


Joined: 11 Jul 2013
Posts: 44
Location: Rutland, Leicestershire, UK

PostPosted: Sat Sep 27, 2014 9:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks very much everyone.
It's interesting to me that there is consensus that the colony hasn't developed as strongly as it should have [though I remain defiantly proud of their efforts!]

After due consideration I think that I am going rearrange the bars as suggested by Barbara on the next suitably warm occasion.

Thanks again for all your advice.
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mal
Nurse Bee


Joined: 11 Jul 2013
Posts: 44
Location: Rutland, Leicestershire, UK

PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 12:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

General question on winter feeding an HTBH.
I'm guessing the hive has built up 'enough' stores for the winter - the weather was pretty nice in Oct and bees were all over the ivy.
I don't particularly want to open the hive now to check it - is there any reason I wouldn't leave a slab of wrapped fondant on top of the top bars now ?
I am thinking that this would a) give them a reserve if they were short of stores, and b) allow me to see that they needed the reserves without opening the hive.

I was also thinking that if I did put fondant in, it should be at the 'far end' away from the cluster now on the assumption they will move through the hive, get to the end of the stores and then have access to fondant if required ?

Thanks
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mannanin
Scout Bee


Joined: 25 Feb 2009
Posts: 259
Location: Essex. UK.

PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you guess they have enough stores then I agree with you, so lets both be happy they will be fine and come through the winter. I take it you are thinking insurance policy, so you want to throw in some fondant just in case. Maybe I missed something, but how are they going to access fondant if you leave it ' on top of the top bars'? Or do you have some sort of access port. Your description of the overall comb layout would give me confidence that they will be fine without feeding. You will get differing views of course. I know the best insulation for bees, is more bees, but I alll I would do for winter in your case, is put a big slab of wall insulating board on top of the roof and leave it well alone until March.
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CeeBee
Foraging Bee


Joined: 16 Jun 2013
Posts: 104
Location: UK, Cambridge, Milton

PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I looked through the window on each of my two hTBH last night - around dusk on what was forecast to be the coldest night this winter so far (down to 1 or 2 C). It was the first time I'd seen my bees 'clustered'.

These two hives were populated by large swarms (it seems one prime, the other with a virgin queen) in May this year.

#1 - 22 bars total, cluster on bars 5-11, rest pretty much full of stores.

#2 - 21 bars total, cluster on bars 4-10, rest pretty much full of stores.

I have centre-entrances, but in both cases the cluster is to one side (in my case, it's to the right - the end which gets most sun). I'm happy leaving them alone like that, and I can watch developments through the window. Weighing hives a few days ago suggests about 25kg of bees/comb/stores in each.

I harvested about total 5kg from these hives during the season (3 combs from one, 1 comb from the other), which is a fairly small amount compared to what they have.
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mal
Nurse Bee


Joined: 11 Jul 2013
Posts: 44
Location: Rutland, Leicestershire, UK

PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 6:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Mannanin,
Yes I am thinking purely in terms of insurance - but if they do have enough stores does giving them access to fondant [placed on top of a drilled topbar] have any negative aspects ?
Would the fondant cause the bees to 'do something' even if they already had enough stores, or would it truly sit in reserve until they really needed it ?

My understanding at present (browsing of course) is that the bees generally feed from it, rather than storing it, though I havent seen reference to whether they would feed from it in preference to using stores.

Thanks
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mannanin
Scout Bee


Joined: 25 Feb 2009
Posts: 259
Location: Essex. UK.

PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 4:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Mal,
Your insurance policy sounds fine. I think your plan is sound and I can't think of any problems that may arise. It should work as you intend it, just as an emergency feed. Good luck and hope they kick on fine when spring arrives. Just four months to go now.
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