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Colony growth and capped honey stores

 
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PeterH
House Bee


Joined: 18 Jun 2018
Posts: 10
Location: Leeds, West Yorkshire

PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2018 4:21 pm    Post subject: Colony growth and capped honey stores Reply with quote

Hi,
I've recently installed a good sized swarm into 44" (1 metre) hTBH, built to Phil Chandlers design.

After giving them large jar of 1-1 sugar syrup to help get them settled, i left the colony alone to 2 weeks, before inspecting them for the first time yesterday.

Overall, i'm very pleased with the results, from 1 frame of new comb which they'd started to build out on a National frame with foundation (cut down to fit my tTBH) the colony has now built another 5 full frames and 3 partial frames of nice straight comb.

All frames are full of brood on both sides, barring a couple of the partially constructed frames. The brood is capped and laid out in a solid pattern, with what looks like a good mix of workers and smaller amount of drone brood.

I also spotted and tried to mark the queen (only to discover my new pen wasn't working!). Quite a bit of pollen and a few isolated cells of nectar or capped honey (less than 5% of the frames).

My concern is that the colony is obviously about to expand significantly with all the capped brood, but capped honey resources in the hive seem fairly minimal.

At the same time the 500ml jar of nectar that I provided 2 weeks ago is still three quarters full.

Now, in addition to building comb i can see the bees are clearly feeding heavily on the nectar flow from the plants in my neighbours gardens, especially a huge fuschia that's still flowering well, tree catoneaster, raspberries etc, i'm in an urban area.

My question is - Is the relatively low amount of nectar and honey anything to be concerned about, considering how hard the colony is working.
I know colonies can crash earlier in the year, when they start to grow before there's enough forage, but at this time of the year i'm guessing they'll be ok?

Any thoughts or suggestions?

All the best
Peter
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1742
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2018 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi

The lack of stores is nothing to be concerned about at this stage. It may help to understand the needs of a new colony starting up from a swarm so that you can interpret what you see as normal....

First and foremost a swarm needs comb. Comb building takes a lot of nectar to produce because the bees expend a lot of energy in working wax. Once they have some comb, the colony needs to raise the next generation of workers because those swarm bees will have relatively short lives, so raising brood and continuing to build comb are still the main incentives. The brood also consume a lot of nectar, so the colony is more or less living hand to mouth in those first 4-5 weeks because there is so much work to do in the hive before the swarm workers die. Once that next generation hatch out, there will be less comb construction needed (usually you see a bit of a standstill re nest expansion), so the new bees can concentrate on raising more brood and bringing in surplus nectar to start storing it. Towards the end of the summer the brood nest will start to shrink and get back filled with honey as more of the bees will be foraging for stores for winter (collecting nectar for honey) instead of raising brood or building comb. Basically, they can't do everything at once, so it is the second and third generation of bees that gather in the stores for winter.

Personally I do not feed swarms unless they are small mid July casts and I do not have much/any comb to give them. Even casts in June should be able to manage without syrup unless the weather is really bad which it hasn't been this year. If the syrup you gave them is 2 weeks old it may be moldy depending on the dilution you made. I would remove it.

I am a little concerned to read that your colony is producing drone brood.... even a small amount. Are you sure about that? Raising drones is a drain on resources that a swarm setting up home can ill afford and might suggest the queen is poorly mated, unless perhaps the comb you gave them to start with had drone brood cells in it. It is best just to give them worker brood comb if you give them anything at all.

Regards

Barbara
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PeterH
House Bee


Joined: 18 Jun 2018
Posts: 10
Location: Leeds, West Yorkshire

PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2018 12:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Barbara,
Thanks for the detailed response, it really helps hugely, and is a distinct relief.

I'll follow your recommendation and get rid of the sugar syrup, especially as they don't seem to be using much of it anyway. I didn't see any mould, but it can only be a matter of time.

As for the brood and presence of drone cells. I must admit i'm not certain. Most of the cells are capped flat or slightly domed, while others seemed slightly more domed. But i wasn't sure whether that was just the natural variance or maturity of the brood, so was just guessing for the most part. I'll try to get some photographs at my next inspection, if i could impose on your advice again?

All the best
Peter
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1742
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2018 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

More than happy to help out Peter, whenever you need support.

Photos are really helpful as people can look at things and perceive and describe them very differently. Photos need to be hosted on another site and a link posted here.

I would change to an end entrance on the same side and slide the top bars with the colony on it, en mass, along towards that end, ensuring there is no comb attachment first obviously. They will be confused at first and you may need to leave both entrances open a single hole for a few days but they will get the hang of the new entrance location eventually. Keep a close eye out for robbing whilst you have both entrances open. It should just be a temporary measure for a few days to a week.
The benefit of having the colony at one end is that they like to keep the brood nest near the entrance and lay down stores behind it. In the centre of the hive, they will store honey on both sides. During the winter they cluster tight and slowly eat through the stores travelling slowly from the entrance from comb to comb. If you hit a cold spell when they get to one end of the honey stores, they can starve because they are unable to move back across the cold empty comb that is between them and the honey at the other end of the hive. Some people get around this by rearranging the honey combs in the autumn so that they are all on one side of the entrance, but honey combs are thick, heavy, lumpy things and it can be risky particularly in their first year when comb is more fragile and due to the varying thickness and undulation, the combs don't always sit together well once you move them. You don't have any of these problems with an end entrance and it is usually easier to harvest honey when the colony is more established and can afford it because if the honey is just at one end of the hive, there is less likely to be any brood on the combs at the back. Hopefully that makes sense. Of course it does make splitting the colony a little less easy but not overly difficult.
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PeterH
House Bee


Joined: 18 Jun 2018
Posts: 10
Location: Leeds, West Yorkshire

PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2018 4:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Barbara,
That's a fantastic tip, thanks for taking the time to explain it. It really does make so much sense when you think about it in those terms, and know how a colony will behave in colder winter months.

Looks like i'll be doing a bit of stealth drilling in the not too distant future!

I was joking with some friends last week about fitting a couple of webcams inside my hive so i could see what they were getting up to more easily, knowing that they gradually migrate through the hive during winter just makes that even more tempting.

All the best
Peter
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