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Adding Supers

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  susan rudnicki 2 weeks, 2 days ago.

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  • #11316

    SIMON WAKLEY
    Participant

    I have a healthy 10 frame deep hive that has swelled to fill all 10 frames. Should I add a super of medium foundation for them to expand into or would it be best to leave them as is given that we are past the best of the nectar this year. Though I am seeing a lot of foragers going out and a lot of pollen coming in. Is there a specific downside to adding supers too early – I don’t think they’d swarm this late, but can anyone give me their best experience along this line. Thanks

    #11317

    susan rudnicki
    Participant

    Hi,

    you do not say your location, the source of the bees (package bees or feral survivor stock) or how long they have been in your care—“all beekeeping is local” is the old saw. Bees in Topanga or Malibu have much more difficult food supplies at this time than bees in the urban gardens of the city where there is a larger diversity of flowers for nectar and pollen.
    Package bees will often build up early and heavily (Italian bees are the most common variety sold) but unless treated with acaricides for their distinct mite weaknesses, they usually crash by Autumn and die out in a year.
    Bees in LA swarm at ALL times of the year. It has to do with crowding, not the time of the year. Please read up on the swarming impulse and how it comes about here, and keep in mind, Bush is in Nebraska, not LA, with our mild, year around weather—http://www.bushfarms.com/beesswarmcontrol.htm
    Adding a “super” with foundation is not going to make the bees move up. They could still swarm with that empty box of foundation on top. (I do not recommend foundation as the impressed cell size is too uniform or all the same size and bees do not build their combs with all one cell size. Foundation has been sourced from commercial beekeepers applying chemicals and setting their bees on industrial crops laden with pesticides, so the chemical residues in commercially made foundation are a added insult to your bees’ health. Foundationless frames are very much more healthy. Bush has it here—http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfoundationless.htm If you are using plastic frames and foundation—that is worse, in my opinion. Bees don’t live naturally on plastic) So, bottom line, your bees could swarm at any moment, unless you “brood up” a few frames into another deep.

    #11322

    SIMON WAKLEY
    Participant

    Hi,
    Sorry for the lack of data. This year colony from a nuc of feral bees from a local beekeeper. Had them about 2 months in Glendale CA. I have a deep brood box and don’t want to add another deep unless I am forced to. I will open the hive tomorrow (last looked 3 weeks ago) and if I see swarm cells – will checkerboard with another deep, if not I will add mediums with guide rails and foundation alternated. If I see swarm cells it may be too late and I will place swarm traps just in case.
    The hive is up on a low roof and I can look up into the hive from underneath and I can see the bees all the way across the box in the evening so it’s filled up in the last week – 10 days.
    Thanks for all the data, I read a lot of what was on that web site and I like the “lazy Beekeeper” approach as I reckon bees will do it better than me 95% of the time.
    I just bought a whole box of medium foundation and I don’t want to have to handle crosswise comb so I will compromise with 50/50 foundation and empty frames.
    Best
    Simon

    #11323

    susan rudnicki
    Participant

    I don’t understand your plan. As said previously, you can set them up to swarm by just putting on a empty medium—even if they are not in swarm mode now by presence of swarm queens. Reading Michael Bush’s link, he says this. To head off swarming, you need to MOVE UP some brood frames into another deep and put in empties down below. Keep the brood frames in the top box in the middle, together for thermoregulation.

    If there ARE swarm queen cells, adding another deep, and moving up brood frames won’t make any differnce. They are set to swarm and you can’t dissuade them. But you’ll have half as many bees. (by the way, the “checkerboarding” epithet is misused a lot. It was a term coined by Walt Wright, and involves setting alternating HONEY and empty frames above a congested brood nest to fend off swarming.)

    Not all bees swarm the same—some will swarm with just 7 frames filled. Just keep in mind, the need to lift a full deep almost NEVER happens. Once I have the brood nest established in box 1, 2 and 3 (all deeps) the upper reaches are going to be honey, since that is how bees structure their homes. Harvesting is by the frame, checking for drone brood that are sometimes upstairs. I am 8 years in, so I do very little digging around in the brood nest. Mostly, I will go to the top of the brood nest, go to the middle of the box where the eggs are most likely to show up, pull that frame, see eggs and tiny open brood. NOW, all done! They’re queen rite.
    If you find the upper one or two boxes too heavy, pull some frames, place to the side in a empty hive body, and then the box you want to move is lighter. MOST of the time, a well established hive will have mostly pollen in box #1, brood in box #2 and 3. (boxes are ALWAYS numbered by the order of occupancy—#1 is the first box they occupied–it’s a system)

    #11324

    SIMON WAKLEY
    Participant

    This is what I thought was checkerboarding:
    To head off swarming, you need to MOVE UP some brood frames into another deep and put in empties down below. Keep the brood frames in the top box in the middle, together for thermoregulation.

    Yes I did say that if there are swarm cells then I am too late and I’d probably better just do a split, but I doubt my ability to find the queen and a walk away split might end up with a swarm anyway. I guess I’ll figure it out tomorrow when I see what I have.

    One thing that is quite unsettling for newbies is the wide variance in strongly stated opinion in how to do this. The Localness of bee keeping is such a strong factor that there is no stable information for any scenario and one feels like you have to make it up yourself by trial and error.

    Just on foundation alone there seem to be widely varying opinions.
    Thanks,

    Simon

    #11325

    susan rudnicki
    Participant

    HI, Simon— r.e. “checkerboarding”—Yes, this is why I define where the term was originally sourced, because it DOES get misused from the original intent. Here is a good page to read on Michael Bush’s site (one I highly recommend for the learning of keeping bees)
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesswarmcontrol.htm At the bottom of the page is a description of the Walt Wright “checkboarding” method.

    I’m sorry, but all of us have to go through the same long, sometimes painful learning curve of not knowing and finding out the operations of Nature do not follow strict human guidelines of “this” or “that” You are right—there is ” no stable information for any scenario” because the craft of beekeeping has so MANY factors influencing outcomes. It is not like a math problem, where there is only one answer to 2 plus 2.

    The many factors have to be in your “mental toolbox” and accessed as needed when trying to remedy issues. You only fill your “toolbox” by making mistakes, reading a lot from bee literature (VERY important—online videos are not such helpful sources, in my opinion, since they are often poorly explained, and extremely local but failing to mention that) Two very good sources for treatment Free beekeeping that I have my students read are “The Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping” by Stiglitz and Herboldsheimer and “Save the Bees with Natural Backyard Hives” by McFarland. As well as Michael Bush’s book, which is completely available on-line—you don’t have to buy it. At the link I posted above about swarming.

    Regarding all the “opinions”—one thing I would encourage in thinking about beekeeping—this relates to foundation—is considering how Apis mellifera has persisted over millions of years without the “opinions” or “help” of humans controlling for pests, disease, or the arrangement of their combs. Foundation is a human invention for frontloading the drawing of wax, but the biology of the bee colony is that they DO NOT build a uniform cell size on any comb area, nor do they construct a wall of wax and build the cells off that. Large nectar storage cells, a bit smaller drone cells, and worker brood cells are ALL on the same combs. I always urge beeks to get deeper into understanding the biology of the superorganism called a honey bee colony. Here is a really fine book, full of photos, that speaks to this subject, NOT to the management of bees—
    “The Buzz About Bees–Biology of a Superorganism” by Jurgen Tautz. You will learn the very intricate feedback loops that guide the functioning of the colony decision making, the rearing and mating of queens, the thermoregulation of the nurse bees and care of the brood—SO many things that never come up in talking beekeeping with people—and things MOST beeks do not even know about the biology of honey bees.

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