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Author Topic: Bees low on honey, going into winter  (Read 321 times)

Offline TheFuzz

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Bees low on honey, going into winter
« on: April 15, 2019, 02:17:23 am »
I checked up on one of my apiaries in December last year. The hives mostly have four supers on them, all 10 frames, all deeps except the top super which is a manley sized. They were completely full of honey. I wanted to do a honey extraction to clear up some space, but I couldn't get my spinning extractor to work, so I ended up only taking out a few good frames of honey in each hive, to clear up some space.

I then checked up on them recently, expecting to do a honey extraction as the bees usually store a good amount of honey during this time of the year. To my utter shock, the bees are incredibly low on honey. They only have a few frames of honey throughout the whole hive, except for one that didn't even have a single good frame of honey! I went to the hive that had the most amount of honey and took out a few honey frames, to give to the hive that was struggling the most. The bees were noticeably lower on population than what is usual, particularly the one that had little honey. It was pretty noticeable when opening the hive and seeing hardly any bees up top on the mat.

Winter will be here in six weeks time. I suspect the nectar flow mostly stops around this time of the year. I'm really concerned for them and not sure what to do.

Is it odd at all that the bees could go from having such a huge stock pile of honey, to be on the verge of starving in just four months? My other bees which are an hour away, are also doing terribly and didn't seem to bring in any honey either, but that's less of a surprise because they've never seemed to do well at that site.

I figure I'll have to check up on them in the Winter, and take lots of food to give them. What should I feed them? Just straight white sugar, or might it be best to make some sort of pollen patty? Should I make some sort of feeding device, I can I just put a lot of white sugar on their hive mat, with some water sprinkled in it so they know it's food? If so, how much sugar should I give each hive?

Would it be best to reduce the supers? The one that's doing the worst is four supers deep and it seems mostly empty. I'm concerned that if I remove supers, then wax moth will get in there over the winter and eat and ruin the comb, but maybe that isn't that big of a problem? Is there much of a benefit to reducing their supers when they don't need the extra space? It doesn't get too cold up there so not sure.

Offline max2

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2019, 04:26:20 am »
You need to tell us a bit more? I guess you are in a very dry spot - but were?


Offline TheFuzz

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2019, 05:43:24 am »
It is really quite dey and sandy where the bees are at. Mostly get potato and onion weed honey flow, alongside mallee when its rained for the trees to produce nectar. I'm not that good at identifying what's flowering and what the bees will like to harvest from.

But yeah hives are near the river land in South Australia.

Offline eltalia

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2019, 06:18:29 am »

But yeah hives are near the river land in South Australia.

Yeh, SouAussie has had a bugger of a year, even around Adelaide Hills usually a 'safe spot'.
I'll (only) put what to do next December as you indicate you have a grip on what to do now for
winter, and the feeding bit of needs working out amongst others as we have only ever fed honey
back.
December is well into the peak of hottest and often windiest days so from then on it would be
 wise to reduce numbers and hive volume in allowing plenty to forage yet not expect so much
 storage, that should come beginning March as temps drop and set those lower numbers up
for winter.
So pull your Spring honey off then allow the build through to December to then reduce the
stacks, either extracting the stores as feed or store the frames, complete... to add back if
needed. Empty frames can be kept in an open lit space with stores frames set to fridge/freezer
 or A/C if permanently on.
If by chance the Feburary/March flow is massive you can always add supers as seen fit.

Essentially what has happened here is the bees haven't reduced in number,  as a general
observation, consuming stores in survival. It is a management issue for the conditions
prevailing and one to note when looking at long term weather forecasts.

... back to you.

Cheers.

Bill

Offline TheFuzz

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2019, 04:25:13 am »
Thanks eltalia that helps clarify what to do.

Do you have any thoughts on Bacillus thuringiensis? I don't want all the comb to be eaten by wax moth when I remove supers. Do you think it might be worth it and safe to spray the comb I take off with Bacillus thuringiensis?

I have some hives in Adelaide Hills that aren't doing well, I've been wondering if bees in general from around this area are struggling.

Offline eltalia

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2019, 04:47:29 am »

 you have any thoughts on Bacillus thuringiensis?


.... don't know as we've never used it or know anyone who has.
Actually had to go look it up to see if it has been approved for use here yet.
We gassed our stored stacks with dry nitrogen trickle but for a few frames
it should be worth trying if  you have to put them in a box to store.
Every once in a while some areas have a bugger of a year, this last season
being SA's turn at the trough of circumstance. Next year...... ?

Cheers...

Bill

Offline sawdstmakr

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2019, 08:21:41 am »
I have used it. Works pretty well and it does not seem to bother the bees. You have to spray every frames both sides. Takes quite a while to do it.
Do you have moth crystals? You stack the boxes nice and neat 11 high. Put a small low rimmed bowl on top of the stack and pour in the crystals. DO NOT USE MOTH BALLS, they are leave a poisonous residue. Put an empty super over the top box and add a cover. The tighter the boxes are sealed, the longer it lasts. Some people wrap plastic around the boxes.
You must air out the boxes for a week or so before putting them in the hive. Running  a fan helps to clear it out.
Jim Altmiller

Offline eltalia

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2019, 06:04:24 pm »
Jim, much like you guys we have differing laws/regulations in States with
New South Wales known to be the least regulated. Generally all deny adding
any chemical to honeybee product/stock/equipment mainly I'd say for fear
of such getting into the food chain moreso than harm to any bees.
Just sayin' for yourself to know when contributing.

Cheers...

Bill

Offline Skeggley

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2019, 02:53:50 am »
I tried using nitrogen in a sealed tub with honey frames once, end of winter when I started building nucs I found the frames ruined by the moth larvae. The only success I've had is freezing then storing in the same sealed tub.

Here in the West winter provides however a week of solid rain can be disastrous for the smaller less stocked colonies. I'd imagine it'd be similar over there. Feeling the hive weight is my indicator.

Offline blackforest beekeeper

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2019, 05:35:15 am »
bacillus thuringensis I have used on cabbage. works very well there. it is allowed for organic agriculture here in Germany, it is allowed for organic beekeeping, too. never used it on combs, but am confident it will work well.

I just put some feed-combs into the freezer as I saw some larvae.
anyone know how long at what temps (C preferably) before taking them out again?

in unbred comb risk for wax moth is smaller. by far. but not gone.

you guys down under are a bit spoiled what your surroundings for beekeeping concern. but I am happy for you and your bees for that!

Offline TheFuzz

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2019, 06:10:23 am »
There's barely any rain out where these bees are. It's a scrub like desert. I've been told the eucalyptus mostly flowers when it rains, and since the bees are so low on honey I'm guessing there's been a drought in the area.

The comb that's in the hive is pretty black. These bees were abandoned at one point, and it looks like the managed to lay brood in almost every part of the hive. Is such comb worth saving? Or should I just scrap it and process it in my solar wax melter?


Offline blackforest beekeeper

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2019, 02:37:20 pm »
There's barely any rain out where these bees are. It's a scrub like desert. I've been told the eucalyptus mostly flowers when it rains, and since the bees are so low on honey I'm guessing there's been a drought in the area.

The comb that's in the hive is pretty black. These bees were abandoned at one point, and it looks like the managed to lay brood in almost every part of the hive. Is such comb worth saving? Or should I just scrap it and process it in my solar wax melter?

I would do that, yes.

Offline sawdstmakr

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2019, 07:17:45 pm »
Melt it down.
Jim Altmiller

Offline eltalia

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2019, 11:18:02 pm »
I tried using nitrogen in a sealed tub with honey frames once, .....

Any creature with a pulse relies on Air for survival, remove Air...?..it dies.
Dry nitro and CO2 are commonly available, with dry nitro being inert and
cheaper by volume has no hidden surprises for stored combs.

Cheers...

Bill

Offline sawdstmakr

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #14 on: April 18, 2019, 05:55:12 am »
Bill,
What type of container do you use for this? I have on average 40-50 supers that I need to protect from November to April.
Jim Altmiller

Offline eltalia

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #15 on: April 18, 2019, 11:14:59 am »
Bill,
What type of container do you use for this? I have on average 40-50 supers that I need to
protect from November to April.
Jim Altmiller

We actually had a coldroom/coolroom Jim, purpose built for the task like fitted with
trickle gas feed. I own those skills as part of the horticulture industry, no big deal
as it's basic carpentry just in metal clad stryo panel (50mm/2" wall).
We actually started with palletised stacks under plastic that worked for method
 just not practical where rats etc turned up whilst you wern't watching.

Buuut today if I had my time over I'd be modding some IBMs, far cheaper and
more flexible in handling as you could forklift whole stacks once again.
Great innovation those things... wish I'd had shares in that mob!

Cheers....

Bill

Offline Skeggley

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #16 on: April 18, 2019, 12:19:17 pm »
I tried using nitrogen in a sealed tub with honey frames once, .....

Any creature with a pulse relies on Air for survival, remove Air...?..it dies.
Dry nitro and CO2 are commonly available, with dry nitro being inert and
cheaper by volume has no hidden surprises for stored combs.

Cheers...

Bill
Yep and nitrogen is heavier than air so should have purged the other elemental vapours from the tub, thought I was on a winner. Then the weather warmed...
Perhaps it was more the cool room than the N Bill? Over here N is no longer dried, unless you want to pay a premium.
Regardless, it didn't work for me.

Offline eltalia

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #17 on: April 18, 2019, 01:02:31 pm »
Purge and forget can work Skeggs, depends on the application of
both numbers and environment/packaging. What I am on about is
trickle feed, absolutely going to kill whatever...including you if the
Missus takes a mind and slams the door shut behind you.
Dry nitro is used extensively in the earth-moving industry for
tyre stability so WA being our biggest exporter of iron ore I am
 surprised to read of scant accessability...???

Cheers...

Bill

Offline Skeggley

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #18 on: April 18, 2019, 07:22:24 pm »
To clarify, 20 yrs ago all bottled N was called 'dry' however now due to the expense, volumes and legality most industrial N isn't called dried. From memory pharma grade has around 60ppm moisture and high grade industrial has around 10 ppm, around 0.005% (yeah splitting hairs I know :) The suppliers quietly dropped the 'dry'. Only old schoolers calls it 'dry' nowadays. Most applications it's just not required and I think you'll find the same over there.

Perhaps it didn't work for me because the comb off gassed and trickling would mitigate this.
Apologies for going off topic.

Offline eltalia

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Re: Bees low on honey, going into winter
« Reply #19 on: April 18, 2019, 08:58:07 pm »

Apologies for going off topic.

Unless the OP objects I carnt see a problem so far Skeggs as it is benefical to grab info
on context around advice given..proofs out veracity, like. ;-))

In a past Life I used truckloads of DN as it is inert and so was(is?) used
extensively in gasline fabrication to deny scale form on the welds.
In the next Life I just adapted an ethylene trickle feed setup for fast ripening(fruit)
to suit stores archiving using DN. As put earlier that worked up until some pallets
got broken into requiring a next level of security in keeping critters out.
The same critters might well attack IBCs also, but worth a shot for a few boxes
over plastic wrap or building something substantial and critter proof.

Cheers

Bill