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TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?

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charentejohn:
Thought I would pose this question as mine are started in this year (May from 5 frame Nucs) and are basically Warre format.  My first year keeping bees.

I keep reading about TF hives not making it through winter in their second year.  Set me thinking this may be related to larger hives and honey harvesting as much as TF.  What triggered it was a new keeper posting on FB showing the small amount of honey in the supers since may.  I thought I am sure that these should not have been expected to produce supers of honey in year one. 
This tied in with the number of new keepers failing over their second winter which can be put down to inexperience.  They weren't TF as far as I know but shows a potential problem.

I can see starting with a swarm that has been treated and now is going 'cold turkey' is not the best start.  However putting them in a larger hive and regularly messing with them would not help.  In the second year people will expect a harvest so will mess with them again and may misjudge stores etc.  As a result they just have one too many hills to climb and fail.

Regardless of hive size I would guess that year one TF would be install and leave them alone.  Minimal checks to see they are building up ok then leave them to it.
Spring of year 2 they will hopefully swarm, brood break new drone blood etc, and they can start the year nearly new.  Having been allowed to swarm they may then produce enough to harvest but play that by ear.

A keeper near me has had the same (or similar) set of bees cycling themselves round in his Dadant brood box for over 7 yrs.  He just adds supers as and when and harvests, otherwise he has never removed a frame or messed with the main hive.  So this obviously can work as he gets his bees from swarms, and has been doing this a while.

Just wondered what advice or thoughts such keepers on here had on this.  Basically how to make sure they make it into year 3 and onwards.     

The15thMember:
I'm not a non-intervention beekeeper, but I am an organic/mechanical only treater and I am entering my third winter.  I'm sure there are those hives that suffer from overzealous harvesting in year 2, but I think in a lot of cases, it's simply the fact that the mite load really maxes out then.  If you start off in your first year with a swarm or a package, even a nuc in some cases, the hives just doesn't get large enough to cause the mite/bee ratio to become a real problem.  But if the hive is successfully overwintered and enters year 2 at a decent size, now the mites are off to a good start too.  The mite problem in the second year can also be compounded by the fact that hives sometimes aren't strong enough to swarm their second spring.  I think that the hive's performance with regards to mites in its first year can give new beekeepers a false sense of security, which causes hives to crash in the second year when keepers assume that the situation will be the same as the first year.  In my area with my bees, I must do something about mites, or I'll lose too many hives.  I sincerely doubt that anything but consistent losses and breeding would get me to the point of total non-intervention, and depending on what surrounding beekeepers were doing, maybe not even then.  Just my two cents though.  Just because it would be hard for me, doesn't necessarily mean it'll be as hard for you.   

charentejohn:
Good point of not swarming year 2 as not sufficiently strong.  I may have one of each, both doing well but when I got them one had 3 frames covered and starting the others, the other nuc was 5 frames built solid. 
Next year I will nadir another warre box to make 3 in all and remove the dadant to warre adapter.  Basically acting as a 3rd warre box at the moment.  Doing this may make them less likely to swarm so I will check regularly.  I am and will continue to do sticky board counts just to see any trends, next year will be especially important.

So far, despite asian hornet harassment, they are doing well, mite count of 20 or so / day is ok so winter should not be a problem.  Winter should be the usual not too bad affair, no snow and mostly above zero temps.

It is just that I see the, TF fails yr 2, cited lots of places like it is certain.  I am realising with bees there are few definitive answers as so many variables.  That said there must be some things to avoid, as an example leaving them unmolested in one box until yr 3 if TF may be one?
Experienced keepers must have seen this.  Like Scot Mc Pherson said a lot of TF keepers probably fail due to lack of help with the basics (like when not to harvest) from more experienced keepers of all persuations.         

Bob Wilson:
This thread is thought provoking because I am TF and about to enter my 2nd winter.
My hives are long lanstroths, foundationless from the beginning. I have not treated, and do not even check mite count. I know that it may seem irresponsible, but I decided at the onset that I would be completely TF or not keep bees at all. Even so, my hives are better off than feral colonies in the wild. I supply room and oil traps for SHB. They certainly are no worse.
I plan on continuing to leave them all the honey they need, and so reduce or eliminate the need for feeding, but i can do that as a hobbyist.
It will be interesting to see what happens this winter.

charentejohn:
Bob, thanks for that on two levels.  One is that it is good to find someone running a year ahead of me and so far so good.  Second is knowing there are others doing this when I am tempted to give in and do something.
There are a couple of new keepers like myself here in france that I am a year ahead of, they will have TF bees next year.  So I am their Canary in the coal mine.
On the mite counting I am doing it for the first year, and maybe second, just so I know what is happening.  The count would have to be someting massive to worry me and counting once you have confidence in your bees seems unnecessary.  The voice of reason on such things is Scot McPherson (also ok facebook)  As he says some people need to count but others don't.

I had a load of bees in a bird roosting box for 7+yrs, which is what got me interested, and they had no problems.  Local mixed stock, what David Heaf calls 'very mongrelly mongrels'. The box they wer in was way too small and made of 14mm (1/2") ply so they can survive most things. Box size is not a direct problem more 'overtaxing' them by messing them about in the early stages ?
One thing we are spared in France is SHB, we just have Varroa and Asian Hornets.  I think Scot mentioned he moved from US west coast to east coast and from SHB to varroa as main problem.

My current mite count is under 20/day so not worrying me.  I did consider a one-off treatment just in case as they are bees previously treated but only when necessary, I really don't want to as they are active and busy. One good thing about sticky boards is I found some things other than varroa.  I found some 1wk+ pupae they had ejected, tubular open floor, so obviously they had a problem with them and sure more went out the entrance.  May or may not be hygenic behaviour but tending that way ?
I use top bars with a 7cm (2.5") foundation strip between two end dowel rods, well I did have.  They took a dislike to it and ripped it all out which is something I applaud :) Was worrying at first to see the huge pile of shredded wax under the hive.   Since the bird box bees made it and likely they came from a local keeper I hope these will with a little help and encouragement.

   

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