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Pre-winter advice - hive shutdown in winter for Gippsland, Victoria, Australia?


#1

Hi, we got out complete flow in November and our girls have filled out the brood box nicely and are working on filling the flow super (about 1/2 full at this stage). We are about to go into autumn in Maffra, Victoria, Australia and I was wondering how to go about closing down the flow hive for winter.

I know the flow is managed the same as a langstroth but does the queen excluder need to be taken out so the bees can access their honey stores and cluster without leaving the queen below in the brood box? If so how do you then manage any brood laid in the flow super come spring (especially done brood that wont be able to fit back through the queen excluder once its re-fitted)?
Most of those in our local bee group don’t use queen excluders but they over-winter with 2 deep boxes.

Thanks for any thoughts
Renee`


#2

Renee,

I am no expert on the Flow set up at all but the excluder will have GO or you will loose your queen. I know soon others with more Flow experience will jump in here n give you more great help n advice !

Gerald up Stateside.


#3

Thanks @Gerald_Nickel we only get a hand-full of frosts here each winter so wasn’t sure if it had to go or if it could stay. Hopefully someone with experience in a similar climate may have some idea. Thanks for the reply :slightly_smiling:


#4

Renee, no problem … Just never want to allow in your winter the queen to be left behind. Your colony would be doomed ! I am near Seattle n we can get in the near or below 0 dgs C off/on in December n January. Now we’re in February our night temps are about 5 dgs (had to convert). So our bees would move up n if we left an exclude our queen would be left behind n die.

Glad to hear you had a good season. I am also an amateur Weather hobbyist so have been watch the extreme dry n hot weather during your summer. How was it for you personally ? Gerald


#5

Wow, this is a fabulous question! You have quite a few options on how to manage this. I think your climate is a little cooler in the winter than our San Diego, California climate, but not too different.

  1. Take out the queen excluder and leave the Flow super on top of the hive. If your colony needs the honey in the Flow super and it gets cold in your winters, you don’t want the queen to die from isolation below the excluder if the colony cluster moves up in the hive to “follow the food” during the winter. I assume they will need the food - even in California, our colonies need about 40 lb (18 kg) of honey for the winter. I wouldn’t worry too much about brood in the Flow super next season. The Flow team have looked into this, and queens generally don’t like laying in the Flow box. If they do lay, it tends to be just a few drones. This would be the simplest option. Then next season, when you are sure the queen is in the lower box, put the queen excluder back, and when the lower deep is bursting, add a second deep above it before you put the Flow super back on. I think generally the Flow super is best taken off the hive over winter in cooler climates. If your area runs on double deeps over winter, you should do the same, and the second deep probably should not be the Flow super. OR
  2. Take the Flow super off now, drain it and feed it back to your bees when they run through their current stores. Stores in the brood box are usually on the outer frames, but also along the tops of the inner frames. This means you might need to open the hive occasionally during the winter to check on food stores, something you may not wish to do. I would keep the nectar frozen until needed (unless you know it is less than 20% water using a tester - less than 20% water makes it honey, and it won’t ferment, so it doesn’t need refrigerating), then feed back using a top feeder or an inverted pail. A bit fiddly, but you conserve the brood in one box.

Next year, you should do what the locals do, and set up a second brood box, but I think you already know that :smile: Meanwhile, I think you are asking all the right questions, and I wish you and your colony every success!

Dawn


#6

I’m not sure if it gets cold enough for our bees to cluster here @Gerald_Nickel, still a lot to learn. We get the occasional frost in winter but even our ‘cold’ days are up around 13oC. I bet your itching to get back to working with your girls, hopefully they come through winter happy and healthy :slightly_smiling:
We are in southern Victoria and have actually had a very wet summer. We had a lot of rain come in from the east which usually means we have at least a week of rain at a time. We have had a few 40oC days but not as many as usual and only the odd one here and there rather than weeks of it. Above the great dividing range in Victoria they have had very little rain and very hot weather so were happy we have had better conditions.


#7

Thankz Dawn. That’s some great info. All I knew the excluder had to Go ! I knew keeping it in was a death wise for the Queen. Cheers !! Gerald


#8

Thanks @Dawn_SD, we got a 4 frame nuc in November which we knew was getting a bit late to have an established colony before winter but the girls have done fantastically and drew out 4 frames of foundation and proceeded to fill them in about 6-7 weeks. They have waxed all the flow frames together and even have some honey in the outer window (un-capped and they keep moving it around so I assume its nectar) so they are travelling better than we expected (we thought we’d have to do a big autumn feed up to get them through winter).
I think this season as you said we will just take out the queen excluder and hope the queen doesn’t lay too much before it warms up and we can re-settle her back in the brood box with the queen excluder ontop. Maybe next year we can put another box between the brood box and flow super that will be the bee’s winter stores as you suggested - I don’t think they will have enough time to build one out this season.
Thank you so much for your wisdom :grin:


#9

Totally agree with that. Sounds like a great plan. Let us know how it goes.


#10

A thought,Dawn
After I have taken my honey I often have partly capped supers where the honey isn’t ripe. In the early autumn when the weather is stil warm and the bees are still flying I will nadir a super full of these frames and the bees shift the stores up into the brood box. Could you do that with a super full of flow frames?


#11

Take the queen excluder off, place the inner cover (provided it has a hole in the center) between the brood box and the flow super. Place the outer cover on the super. Usually, anything above the inner cover, the bees see as “outside the hive”. They will rob out the super and bring those stores into the brood nest which should be shrinking now anyway. Once it’s too cold for them to move nectar (under 55f or so I believe) take the super off, try to drain out the remaining nectar if any so it doesn’t ferment, and find a place to store it where mice and insects can’t get to it.

Many times the bees need to maintain a small brood nest through the winter, especially if you aren’t in a bitterly cold climate. You don’t want that brood nest in the Flow frames.

Next year, two brood boxes and if you’re unsure about whether there is time for the bees to fully cap a harvest, leave the Flow frames off.


#12

I suppose you could, but I think I prefer @Red_Hot_Chilipepper’s idea. :smile: Mostly because the Flow frames hold a lot of honey, and making the bees move it around from below could cause chaos in the brood box.

Dawn


#13

I have never managed to get my bees to rob a super through a crown board though I know plenty of people who swear by it. They will invariably move stores up in prep for winter.

Let us know how it goes…I’m very interested.


#14

It works great here and it is protected from a robbing frenzy :slightly_smiling:


#15

Yes that’s always a possibility but never happened to me.
I shall try your way…maybe reducing the top hole to one bee


#16

I certainly wouldn’t be closing down the hive at this time of year… there is still many more warm days with early Autumn flowering to be done…

a lot of gum trees haven’t flowered yet… you’ll see white/cream gumtree flowers starting to come out now which will run through March…

come April, perhaps late March, you’ll see things slowing down and cooling down…

this is when I would be thinking of taking action…


#17

Thanks everyone for the advice. @Andrew we won’t be closing down for a while yet I was just wondering how it all worked with the flow frames as they can’t be easily introduced into the brood box without upsetting bee space etc like normal lang frames can :slight_smile:


#18

no worries Renee, all the best :slight_smile:


#19

I like the thinking here Dawn, I would suggest to work with a double brood chamber and remove the flow frames for winter
Cheers
Benedict


#20

well said, but flow is not a given - hope we get some flow before autumn as its pretty lean in parts of suburban Melbourne, we have beekeepers feeding already as no stores have been put away due to drought last winter