Gone Again

The Idea

Hello Boys, I'm Back

Goodbye boys, I’m heading back east.

It’s the end of the Wyoming bee natural guy. At least the Wyoming part anyway.

Sound familiar? Same thing happened a few years ago when I sold my bees, motorcycle, house and moved to Florida.

Well, I’m leaving again. This time to South Carolina. And for many of the same reasons.

That Florida experience didn’t end too well. Hope I’ve learned something from it and won’t make the same mistakes this time.

The Bees

Unfortunately, selling the bees will terminate my observations on:

  • Mann Lake PF-100 frames
  • upper entrance skunk deterrent
  • natural broodnest approximations
  • upper entrance seasonal dynamics
  • upper entrance overwintering

Saw some interesting stuff. I’ll share the details below.

Fortunately, there’s a whole new beekeeping experience waiting. It will take awhile to settle in. But after that I’m eager to learn from some great beekeepers. And I’m especially looking forward to seeing Carl Chesick and the Ashville gang again.

The Details

Mann Lake PF-100 Frames

With these small cell 4.9mm sized plastic frames/foundation:

  • work great and are readily accepted and drawn out by package bees raised on large cell size comb
  • don’t affect overwintering
  • provide a cheap and easy way to go the small cell route without all the comb drawing hassled associated with beeswax foundation

Upper Entrance Skunk Deterrent

Upper entrances completely deterred skunks and raccoons from working over the hives. They even worked on a shorter double deep hive.

Natural Broodnest Approximations

A natural broodnest has a structure that facilitates seasonal colony dynamics. That natural structure is easy to maintain in a natural comb hive such as a top bar hive.

But that natural structure is impossible to obtain or maintain when using conventional frame/foundation equipment and management techniques which most beekeepers are familiar with.

Could it be possible to approximate a natural broodnest structure using conventional equipment? My previous small cell experience introduced the possibility. So:

  • a 4 frame broodnest core comprised of small cell sized Mann Lake PF-100 frames trimmed to 1 1/4″ width was set up
  • 3 large cell sized conventional 1 3/8″width frames of Dadant plasticell were placed on each side of the core
  • used a lower entrance
  • hives consisted of 3 deeps

Observations

Three years is a short test. But here’s what I saw:

  • no difference in behaviour or mite tolerance when compared to my beeswax foundation based small cell experience
  • all hives were mite tolerant and cleansed the broodnest spring and fall
  • bees readily accepted and drew out the plastic foundation
  • it wasn’t hard to maintain or work with 2 different kinds of frames in each box

But there were some drawbacks mainly based on my personal preferences and decades of commercial beekeeping experience:

  • in a pinch, it always seems that when one kind of frame is needed, only the other kind is available
  • mixing different frame combinations between boxes caused a vertical mismatch resulting in more burr comb
  • in some situations, usually with older comb, 10 frames are too tight to easily be worked
  • other situation 9 frames are too loose resulting in thicker outside comb which only fits there

Conclusions

A beekeeper could easily, quickly and inexpensively incorporate a small cell sized core, based on Mann Lake’s PF-100 frames, and achieve all the benefits of small cell beekeeping, without the small cell hassles.

But using two different kinds of frames in each super can be frustrating and irritating when a beekeeper is used to using only one kind.

My personal preference is to switch everything over to Mann Lake’s PF-100s. The bees readily draw it out. And a beekeeper used to the flexibility and convenience of using just one kind of frame won’t loose that advantage.

Upper Entrance Seasonal Dynamics

I just didn’t have a chance to watch how bees behave throughout several seasons with an upper entrance.

It’s possible that checker boarding could be replaced by the timely application of an empty super below the upper entrance, a much less invasive procedure.

Upper Entrance Overwintering

It can be summed up as many advantages. No disadvantages.

-bW

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