Dead Bees and High & Low Clusters

More dead bees are showing up on the bottom of the foundationless hive, enough to nearly clog the entire bottom entrance. (I first noticed the dead bees on December 22nd.) Most of the them appear to be drones.

Are drones fed like the queen, or can they access and eat honey on their own? I don’t remember. If they rely on the workers to be fed, then my guess is they’re deliberately being starved out of the hive. I’m surprised so many are still around.

I’ve also noticed that the bees in the foundationless hive are clustering heavily in the bottom box. This is what the edge of the cluster looked like a few days ago during the Dry Sugar Feeding (I fed them even though I don’t think they’re running low on honey):

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Nucs: How We Raised ‘Em Well

PREFACE – SEPTEMBER 21, 2015: I originally wrote this post after only a year of beekeeping with less than four hives. That’s not much experience. If I rewrote this post today, it would go something like this: To build up a honey bee colony in Newfoundland from 4-frame nuc in July, I usually feed it sugar syrup and don’t stop feeding it until the end of October when it’s too cold for the bees to take down any more syrup. Even then it’s unlikely that all the frames will be fully drawn out. I don’t think it makes any difference how the sugar syrup is mixed. I always use thick syrup, but many people use a thin syrup early in the year and a thicker syrup near the fall. I use frame feeders, but as long as insert feeders aren’t used, most feeders will do the trick. I insert an empty frame between frames of brood every 8 or 10 days to help expand the brood nest. I add a second deep box once the bees have filled 7 or 8 frames (it takes about 4 weeks). I move a frame or two of brood from the middle of the brood nest to the top box at the same time (some call this pyramiding). A single-deep colony doesn’t need much ventilation except for an upper entrance. Too much ventilation while the brood nest is small can chill the brood. I’ll put a ventilation rim over the inner cover after the second deep is added, but I don’t think it’s a huge concern unless I see excessive fanning. Ventilation is more crucial in the winter and with fully established colonies packed with bees. I continue to feed and insert empty frames until the end of October (usually). If the bees fill all the frames in the top box with honey / syrup, I’ll pull a capped frame and insert an empty frame into the middle. Capped frames of honey / syrup can be added back to the hive later. Some people don’t feed a nuc pollen patties. Some people do. I feed pollen patties for the first couple weeks when the small colony doesn’t have many foragers, and whenever the bees are hive-bound because of bad weather. I keep the bottom entrance reduced to a couple of inches until I see the bees crowding the entrance, usually sometime in August. I’ll reduce the entrance again if I see too many wasps or robbing bees trying to get in. That’s about it. I’ll write a more details post sometime in the future. Now onto my original post…

I mentioned in a previous post that this year’s nucs are way ahead of the nucs we had last year. (I call them nucs even though they’re living in full sized hives. They’re young colonies that aren’t yet strong enough to make it through the winter. Until they get over that hump, for me, they’re still nucs.) Each of them had a frame feeder installed in the top box until a few days ago. We had to remove the feeders because there is so much honey in the top boxes of each hive that we’re concerned the queens could become honey bound. We even had to remove a frame of honey from one of them.

Frame of honey from one of our nucs. (August 28, 2011.)

Frame of honey from one of our nucs. (August 28, 2011.)


We filled in the remaining space with a couple of empty frames with plastic foundation. Hive #4 now has a full 20 frames. Hive #3 has 18 frames — nine frames along with two dummy boards in each box. Hopefully the empty frames we added will provide the queens with more laying room once the bees have drawn comb on them. We’re still giving the hives pollen patties, but we may not need to feed them syrup again while the weather is still warm. At the rate they’re expanding, we might even be able to add honey supers to them. Last year’s nucs didn’t even have all their frames drawn out by October, and if we hadn’t fed them candy cakes over the winter, they would have died from starvation. Why are this year’s nucs doing so well?
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Discovering a Leaky Winter Hive

It went up to 2°C today and a few bees were flying around, so I quickly opened each hive and gave them what I have decided is absolutely their last feeding for the winter. I got it all on video but was by myself and didn’t have time to take any careful photos. All I got was this — Hive #1 after adding another candy cake and another pound of pollen patties:

Hive #1 was crowded with bees on top (both of them were). It seemed to have plenty of sugar left, though not much pollen. Hive #2 wasn’t a pretty sight when I opened it up. I’ll talk about that after the video.
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Adding Pollen Patties

I added some pollen patties (and one candy cake) to our hives today. Here’s the video, and then I’ll talk about it and show you some pictures.

UPDATE (Feb. 19/11): We don’t like to smoke our bees, but if we could go back and do it over again, we’d smoke ’em first. A few good puffs of smoke through the upper entrance may have driven the bees down below the top frames. That would have made it much easier to slip in the pollen and sugar — and it would have prevented me from squishing a clump of bees between the pollen patty and the inner cover when I put the inner cover back down (possibly squishing the queen).
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