Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lesson 119: How Much Honey To Leave On The Hive? 217-427-2678

Lesson 119: How Much Honey To Leave On The Hive?

JesseExtracting8I am constantly telling new beekeepers that winter preparation starts in the spring. Do not wait until October to try and prepare a struggling hive for winter. It’s usually too late. It’s too late to deal with varroa in October. Varroa mites must be dealt with all season minimizing the mite load going into winter.
JesseExtracting2In the north we have long winters. I grew up in Memphis so I realize that our southern states only have about 12 hours of winter (ha ha). Here in central Illinois we usually have a solid three months of winter.  Depending on how hard your winters are, you’ll need to adjust what I’m about to say. Typically in the north a hive needs 60-80 pounds of honey in the hive to survive the winter. However, as I teach in my advance class, a colony also needs pollen in the hive during the winter as well. A pollen patty can go along way in providing essential winter nutrition for the hive.
Many beekeepers keep bees for one reason, honey. Therefore, most of us have been guilty of removing too much honey from the hive, leaving the colony to perish from starvation during the winter.
Another common mistake is to think that a surplus of honey stored in supers guarantees there is plenty of stored honey in the brood nest area. This is not always the case. A colony can use two brood boxes to raise brood during the summer and store their winter surplus in the upper supers. Then, as late summer and fall approaches, the colony will move the honey from the supers down into the upper deep.
If a beekeeper removes all supers filled with honey without inspecting the brood nest area for stored honey, the hive could go into winter with very little stored honey.
JesseExtracting6If your goal is for your hive to overwinter with plenty of stored honey, inspect the hive before removing any honey. Make sure there are at least 8-10 deep frames full of honey in the brood nest area, below the extra supers. The idea arrangement is to have most of the brood area in the lowest deep, and mostly stored honey in the upper deep in late fall. Place one half pollen patty between the two deeps and the other half on the top of the upper deep.
So if you inspect your hive in late July or August wishing to remove your honey supers, but find there is very little stored honey in the two deep hive bodies, it is best to leave the honey supers on and see if the bees will move the stored honey lower into the hive, preferably into the upper deep hive body. This is often the case. However, impatient beekeepers are quick to remove the supers without inspecting the amount of honey in the hive. Or we remove the honey supers and hedge our bets that the fall flow will be enough to get the bees through the winter.
A technique that has become very successful for us is the use of candy boards. For the last two years we have made and sold candy boards and our customers swear by these. We do to! Due to the heat, we do not start shipping candy boards until September.  We have found one candy board on a hive can greatly increase the hive’s winter survivability should they run out of food storage. We include pollen powder in the candy mix. With the use of candy boards I am less concerned about leaving excessive amounts of honey in the hive for winter. I’ve over wintered 5 frame nucs on candy boards.
In summary, before removing honey supers determine how much stored honey the hive has in the two deep brood nest area. Do not remove honey supers until you can see 8-10 deep frames in the brood nest area full of honey. And remember to remove honey supers that are fully capped.
TipJarThanks for joining us for another lesson in beekeeping. We have a growing number of students who have learned how to keep bees based on these free lessons. It’s our hope that if you find these lessons of value, you’ll consider making a donation so that we can continue our research, experiments and communicating to you the best practices in keeping bees. Click on the tip jar to make a $30 donation or go to:
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David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
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