NZBF: Packing down for winter

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245
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Christchurch
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This will be my third winter with my bees. The first winter was a new hive so no honey supers. The second, last winter, i left honey super on for winter feed and so had a three box high hive. It got damp in the third box, got mouldy and needed to be removed.

I have seen multiple references to packing the bees down for winter. I am thinking of dropping my three box high hives back to two brood boxes.

The winter hive has less bees but if i pack down too early i leave too little space for honey frames and they are likely to eat their supplies before they reduce their size.

1. How do you judge when to pack down? When they boot the drones out? Now that the flow seems to be gone / tapering off?

2. How many honey frames left on? 4 per box? Plus honey surrounded brood? Swapping in honey frames from the stored super?

The girls are still bringing in pollen at present ... and did so all last year. Hard to tell when they are quietening down.
 

Sailabee

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This will be my third winter with my bees. The first winter was a new hive so no honey supers. The second, last winter, i left honey super on for winter feed and so had a three box high hive. It got damp in the third box, got mouldy and needed to be removed.

I have seen multiple references to packing the bees down for winter. I am thinking of dropping my three box high hives back to two brood boxes.

The winter hive has less bees but if i pack down too early i leave too little space for honey frames and they are likely to eat their supplies before they reduce their size.

1. How do you judge when to pack down? When they boot the drones out? Now that the flow seems to be gone / tapering off?

2. How many honey frames left on? 4 per box? Plus honey surrounded brood? Swapping in honey frames from the stored super?

The girls are still bringing in pollen at present ... and did so all last year. Hard to tell when they are quietening down.
If this is your third year, wouldn't you have two years records to compare where your hives are now as against at the beginning of your beekeeping - truth is that those records are particular to your location, and your bee stock, and therefore, with adjustment for this years weather compared to the previous two years, should be far more accurate than those of us far, far away.
 
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maungaturoto
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This will be my third winter with my bees. The first winter was a new hive so no honey supers. The second, last winter, i left honey super on for winter feed and so had a three box high hive. It got damp in the third box, got mouldy and needed to be removed.

I have seen multiple references to packing the bees down for winter. I am thinking of dropping my three box high hives back to two brood boxes.

The winter hive has less bees but if i pack down too early i leave too little space for honey frames and they are likely to eat their supplies before they reduce their size.

1. How do you judge when to pack down? When they boot the drones out? Now that the flow seems to be gone / tapering off?

2. How many honey frames left on? 4 per box? Plus honey surrounded brood? Swapping in honey frames from the stored super?

The girls are still bringing in pollen at present ... and did so all last year. Hard to tell when they are quietening down.
hard for me to comment because your in chch which is a lot different to here.
however you basically want to downsize well before the honey flow finishes. this way they pack as much honey has they can into the brood boxes. i would expect something like 16-18 frames of honey left in the hive.
of course reduction of brood room will mean hive population will reduce and that effects when you do mite treatments.

if season finishes earlier than expected, it would pay to feed them early so they can pack it away as stores while they still have high bee numbers and you don't work the winter bees.
 

Mummzie

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Local knowledge is gold, but also the starting point changes the decisions- how many frames of brood are in the hive?
Give a description of the hive makeup so those who know can offer suggestions for you @Wknz

If memory serves me - we were taught on FD boxes, and rule of thumb was one box for the bees and one box of tucker.

If your flow is over, they wont fill up any more. The challenge is how to get 3 boxes into 2 (assuming its not a 3 boxes of brood monster;))
 

Grant

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This thread is definitely showing the importance of having a hive diary and referring back to it. Make use of the forum logbooks with your next hive visits. Then you can point people to your latest ones so that they can see the trends and help you more accurately
 
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We shall see if it works, but my strategy for my first winter has been to let them keep filling up the super(with QE) above the 2 brood boxes. In autumn I will take the super off and fill up the 2 brood boxes with as much honey from the super, as I can fit, then lock them down.
 
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245
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Christchurch
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Beginner
My configuration is two brood boxes with 1 or 2 honey supers above QE. Full depth , 10 frames.

My first winter I had only just gotten the bees and it was a bit of an epic as they arrived and 16 days later there were bees with no wings on the concrete in front. It looked like that disease where they have deformed wings. Just munted stumps. Bayveroled them and added a top feeder for winter. Got them through.

After winter had them swarm and return twice.. The queen was dead or munted. Got a new queen hatched but she bred badly and ended up with a super aggressive hive. Killed the queen and requeened. Things got better but went into winter with 1 honey super that got mouldy. Took it off and used the frames for hive feeding. There were only a couple.

However it was a weird winter. They were collecting pollen all the way through, only dumped the drones later in winter than I expected and needed no extra feeding. That was a busy winter. Stores never dropped too low.

As a result my history gives me no real baseline for making really informed decisions. I now know that keeping the honey super is probably a bad idea for condensation and mould.

I picked up 3 more hives this season.

I now have 3 really strong and one okay hives. All two brood boxes deep. Supers above QE

The okay one is a rescued swarm from three months ago. Only put a second box on in jan. There was a dearth so ended up feeding them as stores were two frames honey and 8 solid capped brood frames.

My other two new ones were @CHCHPaul s queens. One was early in the season. Lovely girls unlike the mess I started with.

Other 1 of those hives is two 8 frame, full depths and a flow hive above. They were later in the season and were the hive with all the dead bees a month ago. Their stores are likely to be lower. Will see this weekend.

The piece I'm trying to figure is how soon to pack down. I'm inspecting this weekend with a view to deciding if I can pack them down or should pack them down.
They are still collecting pollen on and off. I have feeders so could feed them if required.

It's too late for them to swarm I think so will take mumzies advice and try I box of brood and one of food...obviously leaving honey on two outside frames at least.

I'm hoping this winter will be a normal winter...unlike last one which was warm and dry and weird. I'll requeen one hive next year...shes had two seasons.

I've been trialing apiary book app. It has some flaws but seems reasonable. I'll look at the diary here too. I tried using paper but as my wife will tell you I can loose paper work walking from the kitchen to my sunroom office.

Hope this makes sense. Thanks for the advice.
 
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245
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Christchurch
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We shall see if it works, but my strategy for my first winter has been to let them keep filling up the super(with QE) above the 2 brood boxes. In autumn I will take the super off and fill up the 2 brood boxes with as much honey from the super, as I can fit, then lock them down.
I did the same but my mistake was leaving the super on as I thought they would keep the honey maintained and take as needed. I hadnt realised about condensation and mould.
 
715
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The last three winters in chch have been mild and short. I have found over-wintering single brood boxes to be best with the least mould and mildew problems. Double BBs always have abandoned areas by the end of winter and they are wet and scungy. However, this winter is shaping up to be long and cold, so more stores than can fit in a single are the order of the day.

I’d ignore the pollen coming in. What you need is honey frames. I doubt you have more than eight brood frames atm, so just put them all in the bottom box with honey on the outside and above. If you have more brood... either wait a couple of weeks, or put two brood in the middle upstairs. Shake all bees down into the two FD BBs and shut them up. Reduce the entrance in a couple of weeks.
 

kaihoka

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I did the same but my mistake was leaving the super on as I thought they would keep the honey maintained and take as needed. I hadnt realised about condensation and mould.
i think it is really important to match the space that the bees are in to their number.
it is best to have a crowded hive to keep it warm and dry.
 
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Alastair

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My first beekeeping job was based in Leeston, near Christchurch. Bees in that area need less winter stores than in Auckland where I am now, because the bees up here remain so active through winter.

Back then anyhow, wintering down was done after the honey harvest and when things were starting to cool down and cluster size reduce. The hives were wintered in 2 FD boxes, and were given a minimum of the equivalent of 6 full frames of honey. We only ran 9 frames per box, so 6 full frames could be considered a 2/3 rds full box. The honey combs we fed were made in boxes run at 8 frames so were fat, and bear in mind that was the minimum, more is always good. We fed mostly honey but where not available we fed the needed equivalent of sugar syrup.

I have since discovered that feeding honey in a commercial outfit is not good practise as there is a risk of spreading AFB.

In spring, some of those hives would need more feeding but the majority did not.
 
Last edited:
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Hawkes Bay
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Keeping a diary is important but you have to remember that every year is different. I have always started to winter the hives about halfway through February but in the old days there wasn't the rush that there is now with varoa and some of the hives would not be shut down until late April or even May. I got the last of my hives down to 2 high today and also the last of the varoa strips in. Most of the hives I have been doing have been getting a little bit of fresh honey and with luck most of them will have a minimum of 15 kg but I don't care if they have more and will feed sugar if they have less when it's time to shut them down completely for the winter. This year most of the hives are reasonably heavy in the second box but some years they can have full honey boxes and almost no stores below. I remember one year when we re-queen some hives that had almost no stores and were doing nothing so we went back earlier than I would like after re-queening to give them an emergency feed to keep them alive only to find they had got onto a good late flow and were all absolutely chocka.
It is possible for hives in this area to gain a box of honey in March or even April but it doesn't happen very often and I believe it's much more important to treat varoa than worry about losing a bit of honey. I do however try and shut down hives that are doing the least, first.
 
245
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Christchurch
Experience
Beginner
I've shut two of my hives down for winter. They were 3 high and now are two.
Interestingly both hives showed signs of still building up honey or wax. 1 hive had the wets from extraction 4 weeks ago and have rebuilt the wax beautifully.
The other had a heavy honey super with over 8 to 9full frames mostly capped.

I removedthe honey supers and packed them to two high. My newer swarm hive has a queen who is laying flat out but less than 4frames of honey at best. I topped them up with two frames from the other hive (after checking for afb) and have left a two frame feeder in the top box which I'll top up with syrup (2sugars to 1water I'm told is ideal) .
The other I swapped top and bottom box as the top had two frames of honey to the sides so they should move down to that.
It's got about 8 frames of honey in total.
Adding baverol to both boxes. 1showed signs of varroa so got baverol in bottom box near entrance frames and will get more and complete on tuesday.
Thanks for the advice given. I suspect a colder or wet winter so getting packed now is probably ideal.
 
E

Earthboy

Guest
Always remove the QE when wintering so that the queen can access the stored honey later.

Earthboy
 


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