Monday, November 25, 2013

Think Spring: How many bee hive boxes do I need? Should I get a bee hive kit?

My beekeeping kit :D. I am trying to get a handle on how many boxes I am going to need come spring.
 
Today, the high is only 26F. Old man winter is here. This is the time old and new beekeepers alike get all their equipment ready for our busiest time - spring.

If you've taken your bees through at least one main flow, you know what to expect. However, if you started your bees late or if your package or nuc suffered a major setback, you are pretty much in the dark about what to expect.

This past season, I was able to get 2 full deep supers out of each of my honey producing colonies. My rule of thumb is to have as many supers ready as my biggest harvest to date plus one extra box just in case. For the 2014 season that would be 3 deep supers with frames and foundation (or drawn comb) per colony going into honey production. If you don't know what your colonies are capable of producing, you can still get a good estimate by looking up the average honey crop for your state here:
http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/current/Hone/Hone-03-18-2013.pdf
The average honey crop for Ohio is reported as 66 lbs. per colony. This ends up being a little bit more than a full deep super, so adding a spare should get you to my number of 3 deep supers per colony.

Additionally, you need to take into effect swarming. There are various techniques to reduce swarming, but to be on the safe side, I would like to have an additional complete hive set (bottom board, brood boxes, inner cover and migratory cover) for each hive going into honey production.

This winter, I am trying to overwinter 19 colonies, 5 in a standard double deep setup, 5 in a single deep and 9 in 4 frame nucs. According to the Bee Informed survey, the average colony loss for last winter (2012/2013) was 45.1%. If the same scenario plays out for me this winter, I would have about 10 colonies to put into honey production this spring.

So, let's put all of the above into numbers. To get 10 colonies into production, I will need 5 deep boxes each (2 hive boxes for the broodnest and 3 for honey supers). In total, I am going to need 50 deep boxes to house my surviving colonies. I have 15 deep boxes currently occupied by bees and 26 spare boxes (out of which only 16 have drawn comb or foundation) for a total of 41 deep boxes. I will need to build 9 more boxes to accomodate the bees and the honey production. I will also need 10 more hive sets (or additional 20 deep boxes) in order not to lose bees to swarming. I will also need to assemble and wire 390 deep frames and foundation.

Of course, all of those numbers assume only half of my honey bee colonies make it through and make no allowance for rapid expansion. I may end up needing as many as 45 extra boxes.

Do you plan to grow next year? How many boxes do you think you're going to need?