- All beekeeping is local and depends greatly on your own particular bees, weather, forage, and flow. All of these things greatly impact how your bees behave, so you have consider these factors. For example, are your bees swarmy? What is the timing of your flows? Do you get two big booms in spring and fall? Or do you get a steady trickle year-long? Do you have mild springs? Or do you get a lot of spring rain that keeps bees inside? The list of considerations goes on.
- What works for me may not work for you because of differing perspectives, goals, preferences, etc. For example, do you want splits or honey? Is beekeeping a hobby or business? How often are you able to check your hives? Is your approach more "conventional" or "crunchy"?
So bearing those things in mind. I'll share what I think works for me, but take it with a grain of salt depending on your own situation.
This year, I've come to the conclusion that although there are many Lang management techniques that can be applied to TBHs, some strategies don't work well for me. It all comes down to hive design and how that works in my area.
|Crikey, that's a tall hive! You can see how expandable a Lang is, though.|
People who keep Langs often have honey as a primary goal, and that's what the expandability of Langs is designed for -- super production. Many management techniques for this hive contribute to that goal. For example:
- Reusing comb after harvesting helps increase the amount of honey bees can make because they don't have to consume nectar to build comb.
- The ability to add boxes allows beekeepers to increase the hive volume, thereby manipulating bees into storing more honey.
- Building up the colony size in early spring and during summer dearth allows beekeepers to have large numbers of workers of foraging age when the main flows in spring and fall begin.
- Never allowing the hive to swarm keeps colony population maxed out, which in turn keeps the amount of bees available for work high.
|44" long. That's all the space I get.|
Some people super TBHs, but I'm just not into that.
It negates the entire reason I picked a horizontal hive.
In my locale, TBHs generally don't have enough volume to contain all of the potential honey from a good spring flow. In fact, my problem is that there is so much nectar in spring that the bees fill the entire hive with comb and nectar, but they don't have time to cure it, which means I can't harvest it and make room in the hive. That leads to backfilling of the nest and eventual swarming. If I incorporate practices meant to boost honey production -- like giving them empty comb to fill and feeding prior to flows -- all I do is speed up their mad race to swarming. This is great if you want more bees. It's not so great it you're out of space for hives and just want honey.
After a lot of thinking about how the flow works in my area & how bees respond to it, I've recently come to the realization that when working with established TBH colonies (as opposed to new packages or splits), things go better for me (i..e., I get less swarming) if I can slow the bees' ability to collect honey. Slowing them down includes:
- Letting them build new comb instead of providing empty comb -- Since they can't cure the honey quickly enough for me to harvest, I can't make more room. Therefore, it doesn't make sense to give them empty combs in order to increase the amount of honey stored. I might as well be ruthless in pulling old comb and let them build mostly new comb every year. In addition to slowing down the spring collection, new wax has the advantage of increased hive hygiene.
- Not feeding except in emergency situations -- Again, why bother having a huge build-up prior to the start of spring? They can't hold all the honey, and the population will explode on its own once nectar starts rolling in. Building up on nectar is better for them anyway. Of course, I would feed in an emergency, and I'd still feed a new split or package until they got rolling. I'm just thinking about established colonies now.
- Letting the colony take a break over the summer -- During a good year, my fall flow can be almost as productive as the spring. To avoid late season swarming, which is hard to recover from as I learned last year, I let the bees take a break from building up during the summer dearth. The break also gives them a chance to clean out the hive. It's also the time of year when varroa populations start to climb, so giving them fewer places to lay may help knock them down a bit. (That's a naive theory of mine anyway.)
This spring/summer, Elsa provided me with an ideal experience, and I've been processing what made her great compared with my other hives. Basically, I've hit on the idea that less honey collection (relatively speaking) and more building of both comb and brood in spring is a desirable thing. In a perfect world, it would be nice to have the hive completely built out by the end of the spring flow and full of honey without casting any swarms. At that time, I could take some honey for me and make some splits. Will I get less honey than if I were using Langs? Sure, but I would never be able to expect that much because my hive isn't expandable. In any case, if I've managed spring well (a big "if"), I can still expect 30-50 lbs of spring honey from a hive, which is more than enough for me. (That number doesn't include honey that would be left for the colony or used for splits or a fall harvest. It might also vary for you depending on bar size, number of bars, and local conditions.)
|This was pretty much from one hive during the fall flow last year. |
It was more than enough for me and to give away, so how much do I really need?
Deliberately encouraging the bees to make less honey seems counterintuitive, but I think it works. Swarming decreases the colony population and reduces overall productivity for awhile. Slowing the bees down actually results in more honey due to reduced swarming.
What do you think? Is this idea complete rubbish? What have you noticed in your established hives?