Ready To Inspect

April 20, 1997

For the type of wraps shown in this picture, the hives were crowded together with only an inner cover on top. We also have wraps (not shown) which cover hives with telescoping lids on them and which the use auger holes in the brood chambers (see pictures) for upper entrances . Both styles seem to work about equally well.

The most significant factor for predicting wintering success is the health and vigour of the bees going into winter. There is absolutely no getting around that fact.

Once it is established that the bees are excellent, then the adequacy and quality of stores becomes important, as do other factors such as the condition of combs, amount and location of insulation, shelter, etc.

Bees that have not been well fed with both honey and pollen all summer and fall, and kept free of disease and mites will not winter with much, if any success -- even if all other factors are optimal. You cannot just feed up neglected bees at the last minute and expect success.

These hives weighed a minimum of 50 kilograms each (including floor & lid) going into winter. Many weighed 70 kilos. At present, some are honeybound, since they did not rear much brood during winter. The honey will go fast now, since the bees consume a great deal of honey and pollen building up to full strength for the honey flow.

To prepare for splitting, the hives must be spaced out on the pallets, given any attention they need, such as removing excess feed combs if they are crowded or by adding feed if they are light. Pollen patties and grease patties are placed on the top bars, and an insulating pillow covers everything before the telescoping lid goes on.

Queens are checked by a quick glance at a frame or two if there is any question after the initial glance, and if they are deficient, the hive is combined with a better one without searching for the queen. We simply find a weak hive with a good queen and place the single containing the better queen on top of the defective colony. No newspaper or spray is used. We do this when the bees are foraging.

Only in rare cases do we find such a hive worth requeening. To qualify, it must have lost its queen quite recently and still have a little hatching brood; old bees do not accept queens well. We figure that if the combining works out -- which it usually does -- we will split the resulting colony later without risk, and without labour intensive searches for queens.

We know from experience that in these cases, both hives are likely pretty poor, and consider ourselves lucky if we get a decent hive as a result. Time is too valuable to spend on hives that are losers; we must concentrate on the ones that will make us money.

If hives are dead on first inspection, we leave them sitting where they are unless the yard has suffered serious losses, in which case we remove any brood chambers beyond what we expect to need to a location where they will be required. The remaining boxes will be needed shortly for splitting, and robbing is not usually a major problem in the early spring in our area.

Wraps are rolled up, and usually left in the yards, in the shade if possible.

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