Commencing Spring Feeding

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jamesriverbeekeeper
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Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by jamesriverbeekeeper » April 4th, 2017, 7:16 am

Hi all, I have just joined Allens Forum. I see that this Wednesday and Thursday (April 5,6) look like temperatures up in the mid teens.

I would like some opinion on commencing Spring feeding this week and beginning treatment for mites etc.. Is it too early or is it a good idea to start?

Thanks!
Gord

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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by Allen Dick » April 4th, 2017, 9:52 am

This is an ideal time to start. Just be careful not to disturb the bees too much or chill them.

Earlier is better for mite control since there is less brood. What do you plan to use?
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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by jamesriverbeekeeper » April 4th, 2017, 11:37 am

I plan on using Apivar, Allen. I thought this way we could be done with the mite medication in time for dandelion season. All my neighbors and ourselves really like the flavour of the dandelion honey.

Also I was going to start with pollen patties. I have the Global 15% patties fresh.

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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by Allen Dick » April 4th, 2017, 12:36 pm

Yes. Apivar needs 6 weeks, so time is a wastin' if you want dandelion honey.

You can feed some syrup, too. Leave them wrapped, though.
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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by Countryboy » April 4th, 2017, 4:05 pm

It all depends on where you are located. I'm in Ohio. I put Apivar in hives back in February, and I am pulling them out this week since this is the 6 week mark.
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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by Allen Dick » April 4th, 2017, 5:22 pm

Exactly. Although Apivar does require some circulation of the bees around the strips, meaning that really cold weather might slow the action due to tight clustering,

in Alberta, March is an ideal time to insert strips due to the fact that splitting begins mid-May and in March, brood areas are still relatively small and replacement bees are being raised.

The strips can go in before it is time to begin stimulative feeding, which should not start until a month to three weeks before the first reliable pollen.
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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by jamesriverbeekeeper » April 4th, 2017, 5:25 pm

Thanks very much Allen! Next year I will take advantage of a warm day and put the Apivar in earlier than this year.

I will also treat for nosema with the syrup. It sure looks like everything is early so you may be correct we may have to forego the dandelion season and let the bees dine on the honey. I sure hope not but I will definately give the Apivar it's needed time. I will leave them wrapped. There still will be some chilly days ahead.

Just for curiosity Countryboy when does your first honey flow begin? Always interested in different areas!

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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by Countryboy » April 4th, 2017, 7:56 pm

That's a really good question, but I can't give you a good answer.

A few years ago, we had almost a week of 70 degree weather in February. The bees brought 20-30 pounds of maple honey in.

So I would have to say that my first honey flow is in February, however it is usually too cold for the bees to be able to gather it.

Right now I see quite a few crop fields that are solid purple covered with henbit deadnettle, and the bees are bringing in a little pollen from the henbit. (But bees are currently bringing in more pollen from maples still.) I don't know how much nectar they get from henbit.

I'm seeing a few dandelions starting to bloom, but the main dandelion bloom (when fields and yards turn yellow) isn't here yet. Give it a week or two. Today, a few blooms on my pear tree opened, and my apple tree is pushing buds. Usually fruit trees bloom April 20-25.

Most of what my bees gather this time of year goes to broodrearing. But if we get the right weather, it's not uncommon for the bees to put up a little honey even this time of year. Some springs, I am not sure where the bees are finding nectar, but they are bringing it in from somewhere. Other springs, it seems like the end of May before the bees start finding any nectar. But usually, if it is warm enough for them to fly starting in February, the bees can find some nectar.

When is my first honey flow? Who knows? Who cares? I don't. I approach my beekeeping season a little differently.

The earliest swarm I have ever got was April 15. But usually, May 7-10 (plus or minus a week) is the main swarm season when I am getting swarm calls left and right. That means I need to have bees supered at least 3 weeks prior to help stop swarming. That's April 15. Apivar needs to be in for 6 weeks, which means I need to put it in by March 1. (Keep in mind that I run singles, so I don't have to worry about the cluster moving away from the Apivar strip. If I ran doubles, and the cluster moved away from the strip, I would need to move the strip and leave it in another 2 weeks, which would mean I would need to put Apivar in mid-February if I ran doubles.)

So I approach my beekeeping season like this...
Mid to late February, if we get a warm day[s], I put Apivar (or sometimes Apistan just to mix things up) strips in my hives. 6 weeks later, somewhere between beginning to mid-April, I pull the mite strips, put an excluder on, and a couple supers. (All in the same visit.) From the end of April to mid-May, I will pull a couple frames of brood and bees from strong hives to lessen the swarm impulse, and I use these bees and brood for nucs.

Usually, around April 8 I am seeing purple eye stage drone larvae, which means I can graft queens. But I usually wait until mid-April (or the 3rd week) to start grafting queens. I don't graft when it is below 60 degrees, so I need a nice day for grafting, and I also look at the extended forecast to make sure I have some sunny 70 degrees forecasted in the 2 weeks after the queen emerges. (Supposedly, queens won't go on mating flights if it is below 72, but I have had queens get mated when the high temps only got in the mid-60's. But I prefer my queens have nicer weather for their mating flights. I suspect a queen has a better chance of getting mated better if the weather is nicer.) I make nucs by taking frames of bees and brood from stronger hives, and I use these nucs as mating nucs for the cells I grafted.

I don't split hives after June 1.

Usually by the end of May, I will have bees with a shallow or medium of honey ready to be harvested. If I am running low on honey, (or running low on supers of drawn comb) I will start extracting then. Or I just keep stacking on empty supers. And by the end of June, I have to start extracting.

I developed this system back when I was running 25-50 hives. It works for me. Now, I will be running about 100 hives this year.
Farmers markets start Saturday, April 29, and a week later my Tuesday and Friday market starts.
I supply 10 stores with honey year round.
I have 1/4 acre of thornless blackberries that I need to prune and tie up real soon. (and am in the process of expanding to 1/2 acre.)
I have a few hundred pounds of garlic in the ground.
I also took on a big project of tearing down an old church built in 1866 to salvage everything. So I have been working at that getting it ready, and I have an Amish crew that is going to dismantle it for me, probably sometime in June. What I don't have orders for, will get stacked in my pole barn and who knows when I will have time to do stuff with the lumber. Maybe after I retire.
I have a couple other projects I am working on too.

So when does my honey flow start? I don't know. I just try to make sure I get empty supers on the hives before a heavy flow starts. And if they have honey for me the next time I come around in a month or so, I will take what they have.
Last edited by Countryboy on April 4th, 2017, 8:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by Allen Dick » April 4th, 2017, 8:06 pm

> That means I need to have bees supered at least 3 weeks prior to help stop swarming.

I hope everyone read that.
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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by Countryboy » April 4th, 2017, 8:17 pm

Don't fool yourself into thinking I have things running flawlessly. Things can get really hectic sometimes.

The season usually starts out pretty good, and things go good until they don't. When that happens, I am instantly in over my head, and I just keep going trying to keep everything from falling apart and doing the best I can to do whatever is the most important right then.

That means swarms go bye-bye sometimes.
That means I may be late doing my rounds to pull honey, and the hive didn't have enough supers and got plugged full. (And if they plug the broodnest full, even if they don't swarm, they won't make much honey the rest of the season.) For some reason, giving them 2 shallows in April isn't enough room to store honey for all season. Oops, I forgot to come back and give them more supers.
Or something unexpected happens. (A few years ago, I broke 3 bones in my foot the end of September. Luckily I had most of the honey pulled, but I did all my fall feeding while on crutches. It took me longer than normal to feed that year...I wonder why. And have you ever tried to move 5 gallon buckets of honey around while on crutches, or deliver honey orders to stores on crutches? I know how to do it.)

You plan out how your beekeeping year is going to go. Plan A never works out the way you anticipated. You just have to roll with the punches and have Plans B and C ready to go when Plan A falls apart.
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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by Allen Dick » April 4th, 2017, 8:23 pm

I used to just go out and put *all* my supers on as soon as the weather was warm enough, then went back and moved them around from hive to hive (bees and all) if one was working and another wasn't. Foundation, too.

Later, when taking stickies back out, |I only supered as required.
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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by Countryboy » April 4th, 2017, 8:30 pm

> That means I need to have bees supered at least 3 weeks prior to help stop swarming.

I hope everyone read that.
I have always heard that if you find a hive that is getting ready to swarm, you are 3 weeks too late. Supposedly, swarm prep starts 3 weeks before a hive swarms.

I don't do springtime stimulative feeding (but I will feed syrup if they are in danger of starving) and I don't feed spring pollen patties. I try to let the bees have a natural buildup. Even going with natural buildup, I run out of time. If I fed syrup and patties, I suspect my bees would buildup even sooner and make scheduling and management even more hectic. Single management is hard enough as it is, no sense in trying to make it any more chaotic. Yes, I might be able to make a little more honey if things worked out right, but I can live with 60-100 pound crops. I have a system that works good for me, and I don't want to try fixing it if it ain't broke.
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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by Countryboy » April 4th, 2017, 8:36 pm

I try to make sure all hives have at least 2 shallow supers (and usually 3), and then will make another round later adding supers to hives that need them. I do worry about adding too many supers to a single if it is still cold. (IIRC, you said in the diary once that you would lay a sheet of newspaper between supers. It would help hold the heat down, but if the bees needed the space they would chew up the newspaper. I have never bothered to use newspaper when supering though.)

And you are right - bees won't store any honey in boxes that are still stored in the barn. Get them on the hives.
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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by Allen Dick » April 4th, 2017, 10:18 pm

Newspaper works, but once the cluster gets to a certain size, even without, the advantage of having extra space available out weighs any imagined disadvantages. It seems the bees know how much space they have and plan on it weeks ahead. Just as a swarm will seldom take cover a cavity that has not been there for weeks, bees can be slow to enter new spaces added except when very active.

Beekeeping is funny in that what was wrong last week is mandatory this week when development reached a point and when the season point arrives. At equinox, the changes are most rapid and one day can make a huge difference, especially if a big hatch is happening, starting typically three weeks after the first hot day with a flow.
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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by jamesriverbeekeeper » April 5th, 2017, 8:00 am

Allen, as far as the "doseage" of Apivar. With the reduced population this time of year is placing two strips in the top super enough? I'm just thinking I don't want to disturb or possibly chill the bees by having to take the top super off to place strips in the bottom super.

Thank you for your patience!!

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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by Allen Dick » April 5th, 2017, 8:38 am

How big is the cluster in the morning before they spread out for the day?

Is the cluster up against the lid shaped like a salad bowl, or is it like a basketball or volleyball located down lower?
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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by jamesriverbeekeeper » April 5th, 2017, 9:06 am

I haven't opened the hives up since we put them to bed in the Fall. I'll have to see when we open them up this afternoon. I'm hoping it will be warm enough. If it is not nice and sunny and warm I'll defer until Thursday or Friday.

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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by Allen Dick » April 5th, 2017, 10:29 am

You can't assess a colony well in a warm afternoon. In afternoon,if the day is warm or the hive is wrapped heavily, the bees spread out making assessing cluster size difficult.

You don't want nice and sunny and warm for a quick hive assessment. You want calm and above freezing, and all you do is lift the lid, take a picture and close it up.

If you decide you need to do work, then schedule that for the nice day, but do it in the morning so the bees are not yet too active to work and so they have the rest of the day to re-settle.

The time to glance in is morning. You can do this in almost any weather. I even do it in January if the day is calm and above freezing.

As for inserting strips, if you can guess where the brood is, you can quickly insert strips anytime, but push them down slowly so as not to cut bees with the leading edge.
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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by jamesriverbeekeeper » April 5th, 2017, 10:44 am

Thanks very much Allen!! It's still cloudy and only plus 4 so I'll have a look this morning and check.

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Re: Commencing Spring Feeding

Unread post by Allen Dick » April 5th, 2017, 10:51 am

Take several pictures with your phone at various angles so you can see the frames and assess if they are capped and if they have feed.

Have the flash on to illuminate the spaces down between the combs.

If you send them to a cloud, post links or thumbnails here if you like.
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