A performance comparison of three honeybee nucleus colony configurations in Massachusetts
This project compares the performance of three different honeybee nucleus colony hive configurations by measuring strength, winter survival, as well as the time and steps required to maintain them over a one-year period. The study, carried out in western Massachusetts, seeks to determine whether winter survival rates between groups are measurably different, and whether one hive configuration shows considerable advantages over the others. Our hope is that this study will result in a reliable, replicable model that beekeepers in this region can use for making increase with nucleus colonies.
In the spring and summer of 2015, a total of 60 nucleus colonies with queens of similar age and genetic lineage were established in three separate bee yards. The sixty colonies were divided into three groups based on hive configuration. Group A was set up as 20 single 10-frame colonies in deep frame hives. Group B was set up as 20 single 8-frame colonies in deep hives with an in-hive feeder. Group C was set up as 10 double 4-frame colonies in a single deep hive with a dual in-hive feeder/divider. With the groups thus set up in three different bee yards, colonies were inspected on a monthly basis from July through December.
During each inspection, the following data points were measured and recorded in an Inspection Sheet: presence of queen, swarming impulse, number of frames of brood with adhering bees, number of frames of honey, hive weight, hive health/presence of disease, as well as the nature and amount of time spent on hive management tasks. Towards the end of the production season, hives under 60 lb in gross weight were fed supplemental sugar syrup for overwintering purposes. Finally, in the late fall the experimental hives were grouped on pallets in blocks of four, wrapped with tar-paper and outfitted with a 2” rigid insulation above the inner cover as a wintering aid.
The winter of 2015-1016 will provide further data with regards to hive configuration as it relates to the ability of each nucleus hive in the experimental groups to survive the cold months of the year. This information will be gathered over the late winter and early spring of 2016, with results analyzed during the summer. Information sharing will begin in June 2016 and continue throughout the fall.
We recorded and observed the following results in 2015:
Group A (10-frames, 1 colony): of the 20 hives set up, 5 swarmed, 5 were combined because they grew too swiftly and 10 progressed into the winter as originally established (50%).
Group B (8-frames w/in-hive feeder, 1 colony): of the 20 hives set up, 1 swarmed, 5 were combined because they grew too swiftly, 2 died and 12 progressed into the winter as originally established (60%).
Group C (two 4-frame colonies in one hive with double in-hive feeder): of the 10 hives (20 colonies) set up, 5 swarmed, 9 were combined because they grew too swiftly and 6 progressed into the winter as originally established (30%).
From the summer management perspective, results point clearly toward Group B as being the optimal hive setup in terms of maximum summertime colony stability with the minimum investment of time in hive management. Hives in groups A and B grew too swiftly, resulting in a higher number of swarmed (lost) hives or combined hives.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
N/A at this point in time.
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