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Winter hive inspection?

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  • stoneridgesheepfarm
    I thought about the responses to my question about moving my hives. Since the bees were already out flying around I decided to do it at the beginning of next
    Message 1 of 19 , Mar 1, 2011
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      I thought about the responses to my question about moving my hives. Since the bees were already out flying around I decided to do it at the beginning of next winter, before there are any days warm enough for cleansing flights.

      But now, I'm not seeing any activity. Nice sunny days, no cleansing flights, no activity at all. I lifted the cover for about 5 seconds each and saw no bees through the hole in the inner cover. When is it okay to open the hive to see how they're doing? 50 degrees? 60 degrees? Higher?

      Bee packages are selling out here and I don't yet know if I've got to buy new packages or not. Its a balancing act. If I wait too long and find out my bees are dead, I can't buy more.

      Any suggestions?

      Thanks.
      Wm.
      www.stoneridgefarm.com
    • Kamil
      Hi, Have you tried to listen to your bees? I use a stethoscope to hear the humming. You can even use your telephone s recording function if you have a smart
      Message 2 of 19 , Mar 1, 2011
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        Hi,
        Have you tried to listen to your bees? I use a stethoscope to hear the humming. You can even use your telephone's recording function if you have a smart phone. It is usually easy to hear.
        Many hardware stores sell stethoscopes for listening to car-engines. They are cheap and will do.
        I hold it under the hive and can clearly hear through the bottom-mesh. If you do not have bottom hives with a mesh, try any opening or the hive-walls.
        Best,
        Kamil

        --- In Beekeeping@yahoogroups.com, "stoneridgesheepfarm" <StoneRidgeFarm@...> wrote:
        >
        > I thought about the responses to my question about moving my hives. Since the bees were already out flying around I decided to do it at the beginning of next winter, before there are any days warm enough for cleansing flights.
        >
        > But now, I'm not seeing any activity. Nice sunny days, no cleansing flights, no activity at all. I lifted the cover for about 5 seconds each and saw no bees through the hole in the inner cover. When is it okay to open the hive to see how they're doing? 50 degrees? 60 degrees? Higher?
        >
        > Bee packages are selling out here and I don't yet know if I've got to buy new packages or not. Its a balancing act. If I wait too long and find out my bees are dead, I can't buy more.
        >
        > Any suggestions?
        >
        > Thanks.
        > Wm.
        > www.stoneridgefarm.com
        >
      • stoneridgesheepfarm
        ... Yes, and I ve heard nothing. Its going to be sunny and almost 50 today so I ll go out again and listen. I found something on the internet with guidelines
        Message 3 of 19 , Mar 2, 2011
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          > Have you tried to listen to your bees?

          Yes, and I've heard nothing. Its going to be sunny and almost 50 today so I'll go out again and listen.

          I found something on the internet with guidelines on how much time one can open a hive in 30, 40, 50, and 60 degrees. I'm going to lift off the cover again today, prepared to put more pollen patties, if necessary. Those few seconds should give me an idea of the condition of the hive.

          I've got to place an order for new packages by next week if necessary. Or maybe I'll take this year off and start over next spring. Who knows? Maybe I'll find a tight buzzing cluster in each hive!

          Wm.
          www.sotneridgefarm.com
        • Kamil
          Good luck. I have heard that the bees are tougher than we think so some moments of cold air should be ok. Kamil
          Message 4 of 19 , Mar 2, 2011
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            Good luck. I have heard that the bees are tougher than we think so some moments of cold air should be ok.
            Kamil

            --- In Beekeeping@yahoogroups.com, "stoneridgesheepfarm" <StoneRidgeFarm@...> wrote:
            >
            > > Have you tried to listen to your bees?
            >
            > Yes, and I've heard nothing. Its going to be sunny and almost 50 today so I'll go out again and listen.
            >
            > I found something on the internet with guidelines on how much time one can open a hive in 30, 40, 50, and 60 degrees. I'm going to lift off the cover again today, prepared to put more pollen patties, if necessary. Those few seconds should give me an idea of the condition of the hive.
            >
            > I've got to place an order for new packages by next week if necessary. Or maybe I'll take this year off and start over next spring. Who knows? Maybe I'll find a tight buzzing cluster in each hive!
            >
            > Wm.
            > www.sotneridgefarm.com
            >
          • Dale Tongue
            Can you send those guidelines to us? Dale On Wed, Mar 2, 2011 at 6:22 AM, stoneridgesheepfarm
            Message 5 of 19 , Mar 2, 2011
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              Can you send those guidelines to us?
              Dale

              On Wed, Mar 2, 2011 at 6:22 AM, stoneridgesheepfarm <StoneRidgeFarm@...> wrote:
               

              > Have you tried to listen to your bees?

              Yes, and I've heard nothing. Its going to be sunny and almost 50 today so I'll go out again and listen.

              I found something on the internet with guidelines on how much time one can open a hive in 30, 40, 50, and 60 degrees. I'm going to lift off the cover again today, prepared to put more pollen patties, if necessary. Those few seconds should give me an idea of the condition of the hive.

              I've got to place an order for new packages by next week if necessary. Or maybe I'll take this year off and start over next spring. Who knows? Maybe I'll find a tight buzzing cluster in each hive!

              Wm.
              www.sotneridgefarm.com


            • Bill
              William, Yes, I have a suggestion: CUT IT OUT. Don t break into that hive, even by lifting a lid, when temps still drop below 60 on most nights. If the colony
              Message 6 of 19 , Mar 2, 2011
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                William,

                Yes, I have a suggestion: CUT IT OUT. Don't break into that hive, even by lifting a lid, when temps still drop below 60 on most nights.

                If the colony is intact -- they are clustered around the queen -- keeping her warm. If you've cracked the lid to "take a look inside," you've destroyed the propolis coating that the bees spent a month or more building to "keep the draft out."

                You'll find out later this summer if the hive survived the winter. And if it didn't -- my suggestion is this: forget about packaged bees. The packaged attempt rarely works with inexperienced beekeepers.

                I lost my first hive after the first winter. Don't know what happened to them. They were there one day. They were gone the next. By the time I finally realized my colony was gone, the time to purchased a packaged colony had come and gone.

                So -- I relied upon other beekeepers in my area to help me out. An experienced beekeeper was out trapping wild hives (new swarms) and gifted me with a new colony. This wasn't some man-made packaged thing. It was a nature -- natural sort of way of acquiring a hive.

                I'm proud to report that my hive has made it through one of the coldest and wettest winters on record here in Northern California. Not only did they survive -- they THRIVED. And I didn't do anything other than feed them sugar-water up until they started stinging me in October. That's when I quit bugging the hive. They've gotten along just fine without me.

                Later this spring, when the weather finally does warm, I will open the hive for a hive check, make sure the queen is OK, and I will start the process of honey production.

                Patience Wm., patience.

                Bill

                --- In Beekeeping@yahoogroups.com, "stoneridgesheepfarm" <StoneRidgeFarm@...> wrote:
                >
                > I thought about the responses to my question about moving my hives. Since the bees were already out flying around I decided to do it at the beginning of next winter, before there are any days warm enough for cleansing flights.
                >
              • Mike S
                ... propolis coating that the bees spent a month or more building to keep the draft out. I kept bees in Indiana, north of Indianapolis.   This was in the
                Message 7 of 19 , Mar 2, 2011
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                  --- On Wed, 3/2/11, Bill <billbird2111@...> wrote:  "Don't break into that hive.....   If you've cracked the lid to "take a look inside," you've destroyed the propolis coating that the bees spent a month or more building to "keep the draft out." "

                  I kept bees in Indiana, north of Indianapolis.   This was in the time before screened bottom boards.  I always ran my hives in the winter with shims between the inner and outer covers.  This was to provide a draft to carry away the moisture that might have collected on the bottom of the inner cover.  I never lost a hive during the time I did this.  I subsequently moved to the Houston area of TEXAS and quit beekeeping until I moved to Alabama.  I firmly believe that moisture is a lot more destructive to clustered bees than drafts could ever be.  Breaking the seal in the lids would never provide enough draft to create a problem to a healthy cluster with access to adequate winter stores.

                  Mike in LA



                • Alan Fox
                  Here in england west yorkshire the temperature is still low I ve had to open up my three hives to feed them and a good job too as one was low on food. Where
                  Message 8 of 19 , Mar 3, 2011
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                    Here in england west yorkshire the temperature is still low I've had to open up my three hives to feed them and a good job too as one was low on food. Where all feeding syrup now to build up colonies for the rape in April. One was weak so I've left some fondant on as well and sprayed them with syrup to help them on there way. Alan .


                    From: Bill <billbird2111@...>
                    To: Beekeeping@yahoogroups.com
                    Sent: Wed, 2 March, 2011 21:40:22
                    Subject: [Beekeeping] Re: Winter hive inspection?

                     

                    William,

                    Yes, I have a suggestion: CUT IT OUT. Don't break into that hive, even by lifting a lid, when temps still drop below 60 on most nights.

                    If the colony is intact -- they are clustered around the queen -- keeping her warm. If you've cracked the lid to "take a look inside," you've destroyed the propolis coating that the bees spent a month or more building to "keep the draft out."

                    You'll find out later this summer if the hive survived the winter. And if it didn't -- my suggestion is this: forget about packaged bees. The packaged attempt rarely works with inexperienced beekeepers.

                    I lost my first hive after the first winter. Don't know what happened to them. They were there one day. They were gone the next. By the time I finally realized my colony was gone, the time to purchased a packaged colony had come and gone.

                    So -- I relied upon other beekeepers in my area to help me out. An experienced beekeeper was out trapping wild hives (new swarms) and gifted me with a new colony. This wasn't some man-made packaged thing. It was a nature -- natural sort of way of acquiring a hive.

                    I'm proud to report that my hive has made it through one of the coldest and wettest winters on record here in Northern California. Not only did they survive -- they THRIVED. And I didn't do anything other than feed them sugar-water up until they started stinging me in October. That's when I quit bugging the hive. They've gotten along just fine without me.

                    Later this spring, when the weather finally does warm, I will open the hive for a hive check, make sure the queen is OK, and I will start the process of honey production.

                    Patience Wm., patience.

                    Bill

                    --- In Beekeeping@yahoogroups.com, "stoneridgesheepfarm" <StoneRidgeFarm@...> wrote:

                    >
                    > I thought about the responses to my question about moving my hives. Since the bees were already out flying around I decided to do it at the beginning of next winter, before there are any days warm enough for cleansing flights.
                    >


                  • work_drone
                    Bill, Surely this is a typo.... Don t break into that hive, even by lifting a lid, when temps still drop below 60 on most nights. Bees quickly re-form a
                    Message 9 of 19 , Mar 4, 2011
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                      Bill,

                      Surely this is a typo....

                      "Don't break into that hive, even by lifting a lid, when temps still drop below 60 on most nights."

                      Bees quickly re-form a cluster as nighttime temperatures drop.

                      Even here in sunny NoCal, where swarm calls have been coming in since mid-February, if we waited for 60+ degree nights we would NEVER open our hives. (August overnight average lows in SF/SJ are <55F.)

                      If your bees are happily flying and collecting stores, you will not do harm by opening the hive. Obviously, major brood disruption should be minimized until things warm up more, and wind/damp is always a factor.

                      I personally try to never open the hive when the _current_ temp is below 50F, but even at 50F it is better to chill a few bees than it is to unknowingly let them starve.

                      - AGM -


                      --- In Beekeeping@yahoogroups.com, "Bill" <billbird2111@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > William,
                      >
                      > Yes, I have a suggestion: CUT IT OUT. Don't break into that hive, even by lifting a lid, when temps still drop below 60 on most nights.
                      >
                      > ...
                    • stoneridgesheepfarm
                      ... Thanks, Mike. I agree. The problems in my hives started long before the cold started. Being a beginner is always hard, and surprisingly the local bee
                      Message 10 of 19 , Mar 6, 2011
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                        > I firmly believe that moisture is a lot more destructive to clustered
                        > bees than drafts could ever be.  Breaking the seal in the lids would
                        > never provide enough draft to create a problem to a healthy cluster
                        > with access to adequate winter stores.


                        Thanks, Mike. I agree. The problems in my hives started long before the cold started. Being a beginner is always hard, and surprisingly the "local" bee clubs are all just a bit too far for me to get to their Monday or Tuesday night meetings after work.

                        So I keep reading trying to compare what I see in my hives with what I read.

                        Last year we had a terrible year here in the northeast. Many of our gardens disappointed us or just failed us. The previous year was terribly wet, but last spring and summer seemed like the perfect combination of warmth and sun. But strangely enough, very few vegetables. I kept in touch with the people who sold me my bees throughout the summer and into the fall. They said it sounded like the hives just never produced enough brood, and put away enough stores to last the winter. At one point, I was thinking of re-queening, but didn't have enough experience to know if it was worth it.

                        By the time I thought of opening the hives to inspect, it was already several weeks of mild weather since the last evidence of cleansing flights. It was when the activity stopped that I got concerned. And yes, even before "breaking seal of lid" the bees were dead. Just too small a cluster and not enough stored honey.

                        I'll probably try again this year, but just one hive. I won't listen to the folks who kept saying: "no, don't feed them, bees have been taking care of themselves for thousands of years." Like someone else posted, what works for one beekeeper doesn't work for everyone. I just have to find the right mix of knowledge, experience, and good conditions.

                        Thanks for your reply.

                        Wm.
                        www.stoneridgefarm.com
                      • Alan Fox
                        Hi . If I d  had only one colony it could have been the colony that i have that is  the weakest one and didn t do too well last year, so I d try and get two
                        Message 11 of 19 , Mar 7, 2011
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                          Hi . If I'd  had only one colony it could have been the colony that i have that is  the weakest one and didn't do too well last year, so I'd try and get two so you have something to compare with .
                          I've been putting syrup on for the last two weeks as  the hives felt very light  . Alan
                           


                          From: stoneridgesheepfarm <StoneRidgeFarm@...>
                          To: Beekeeping@yahoogroups.com
                          Sent: Sun, 6 March, 2011 18:39:30
                          Subject: [Beekeeping] Re: Winter hive inspection? Breaking seal of lid

                           

                          > I firmly believe that moisture is a lot more destructive to clustered
                          > bees than drafts could ever be.  Breaking the seal in the lids would
                          > never provide enough draft to create a problem to a healthy cluster
                          > with access to adequate winter stores.

                          Thanks, Mike. I agree. The problems in my hives started long before the cold started. Being a beginner is always hard, and surprisingly the "local" bee clubs are all just a bit too far for me to get to their Monday or Tuesday night meetings after work.

                          So I keep reading trying to compare what I see in my hives with what I read.

                          Last year we had a terrible year here in the northeast. Many of our gardens disappointed us or just failed us. The previous year was terribly wet, but last spring and summer seemed like the perfect combination of warmth and sun. But strangely enough, very few vegetables. I kept in touch with the people who sold me my bees throughout the summer and into the fall. They said it sounded like the hives just never produced enough brood, and put away enough stores to last the winter. At one point, I was thinking of re-queening, but didn't have enough experience to know if it was worth it.

                          By the time I thought of opening the hives to inspect, it was already several weeks of mild weather since the last evidence of cleansing flights. It was when the activity stopped that I got concerned. And yes, even before "breaking seal of lid" the bees were dead. Just too small a cluster and not enough stored honey.

                          I'll probably try again this year, but just one hive. I won't listen to the folks who kept saying: "no, don't feed them, bees have been taking care of themselves for thousands of years." Like someone else posted, what works for one beekeeper doesn't work for everyone. I just have to find the right mix of knowledge, experience, and good conditions.

                          Thanks for your reply.

                          Wm.
                          www.stoneridgefarm.com


                        • stoneridgesheepfarm
                          Thanks Alan. Unfortunately its breaking my budget to start up again at all this year. But I ve been getting lots of encouragement and I want to try this
                          Message 12 of 19 , Mar 7, 2011
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                            Thanks Alan. Unfortunately its breaking my budget to start up again at all this year. But I've been getting lots of encouragement and I want to try this again. I'm just going to make sure that I keep feeding from installation through fall.

                            I've gotten more stories of bees up here in the NE going into this last winter with what seemed to be adequate stores, but still starved. I'm going to try again thinking it wasn't me, but rather the severity of the winter.

                            Wish me luck.
                            Wm.
                            www.stoneridgefarm.com

                            --- In Beekeeping@yahoogroups.com, Alan Fox <alan_foxy2000@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > Hi . If I'd  had only one colony it could have been the colony that i have that
                            > is  the weakest one and didn't do too well last year, so I'd try and get two so
                            > you have something to compare with .
                            > I've been putting syrup on for the last two weeks as  the hives felt very
                            > light  . Alan
                            >
                            >
                            >
                            >
                            >
                          • Mike S
                            ... I m just going to make sure that I keep feeding from installation through fall.  .....  I ve gotten more stories of bees up here in the NE going into
                            Message 13 of 19 , Mar 7, 2011
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                              --- On Mon, 3/7/11, stoneridgesheepfarm <StoneRidgeFarm@...> wrote: I've been getting lots of encouragement and I want to try this again. I'm just going to make sure that I keep feeding from installation through fall.  .....  I've gotten more stories of bees up here in the NE going into this last winter with what seemed to be adequate stores, but still starved.

                              As a stop-gap safeguard next winter you might consider installing a tray of fondant at the top of your hive but still under your inner cover.  A fondant tray consists of a two or three inch deep tray filled with fondant prepared especially for honey bees and then placed inverted above the brood chambers.  The bees won't utilize the fondant unless they move up through their winter stores and need extra feed to carry through to spring.   Check with other experienced beekeepers about this and get their opinions.

                              Mike in LA

                            • stoneridgesheepfarm
                              Would you suggest fondant over pollen patties (that s what I was giving them)? Wm. www.stoneridgefarm.com
                              Message 14 of 19 , Mar 7, 2011
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                                Would you suggest fondant over pollen patties (that's what I was giving them)?

                                Wm.
                                www.stoneridgefarm.com

                                --- In Beekeeping@yahoogroups.com, Mike S <mws1112004@...> wrote:
                                >
                                >
                                >
                                > --- On Mon, 3/7/11, stoneridgesheepfarm <StoneRidgeFarm@...> wrote: I've been getting lots of encouragement and I want to try this again.
                                > I'm just going to make sure that I keep feeding from installation
                                > through fall.  .....  I've gotten more stories of bees up here in the NE going into this last
                                > winter with what seemed to be adequate stores, but still starved.
                                >
                                > As a stop-gap safeguard next winter you might consider installing a tray of fondant at the top of your hive but still under your inner cover.  A fondant tray consists of a two or three inch deep tray filled with fondant prepared especially for honey bees and then placed inverted above the brood chambers.  The bees won't utilize the fondant unless they move up through their winter stores and need extra feed to carry through to spring.   Check with other experienced beekeepers about this and get their opinions.
                                >
                                > Mike in LA
                                >
                              • Bill
                                -AGM- Tis what I was told, and by more than one beekeeper in the Sacramento area. Then again -- as you know -- ask ten beekeepers the same question and you re
                                Message 15 of 19 , Mar 7, 2011
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                                  -AGM-

                                  Tis what I was told, and by more than one beekeeper in the Sacramento area.

                                  Then again -- as you know -- ask ten beekeepers the same question and you're likely to get 20 completely different answers, even if it's a "yes or no" question.

                                  My hive does not appear to be starving, but then again, I've got so many pollen sources in the neighborhood that are now in full bloom now, they have plenty to choose from...

                                  Bill
                                  *Who is keeping his fingers crossed*

                                  --- In Beekeeping@yahoogroups.com, "work_drone" <andrew.g.miller@...> wrote:
                                  >
                                  > Bill,
                                  >
                                  > Surely this is a typo....
                                  >
                                  > "Don't break into that hive, even by lifting a lid, when temps still drop below 60 on most nights."
                                  >
                                  > Bees quickly re-form a cluster as nighttime temperatures drop.
                                  >
                                  > Even here in sunny NoCal, where swarm calls have been coming in since mid-February, if we waited for 60+ degree nights we would NEVER open our hives. (August overnight average lows in SF/SJ are <55F.)
                                  >
                                • stoneridgesheepfarm
                                  ... The most recent beekeeper I spoke to asked me about the pollen supply in my area. He said, some areas just don t have much -- which surprised me. Before
                                  Message 16 of 19 , Mar 7, 2011
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                                    > My hive does not appear to be starving, but then again, I've got so
                                    > many pollen sources in the neighborhood that are now in full bloom
                                    > now, they have plenty to choose from...

                                    The most recent beekeeper I spoke to asked me about the pollen supply in my area. He said, some areas just don't have much -- which surprised me. Before I started I asked if the maple/oak forests surrounding my small farm would be able to support a couple of colonies of bees. I was told that early flowering trees are great for spring build up. I love where I live, but maybe its just not good bee country.

                                    I envy your setting.

                                    Thanks.
                                    Wm.
                                    www.stoneridgefarm.com
                                  • Mike S
                                    ... Those are two completely separate foods.  The pollen patties provide protein for body development, both in adults and in brood.  Honey provides
                                    Message 17 of 19 , Mar 7, 2011
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                                      --- On Mon, 3/7/11, stoneridgesheepfarm <StoneRidgeFarm@...> wrote: Would you suggest fondant over pollen patties (that's what I was giving them)?

                                      Those are two completely separate foods.  The pollen patties provide protein for body development, both in adults and in brood.  Honey provides carbohydrates, primarily used for energy.  Bees starve in the winter and early spring due to lack of carbohydrates, that's why fondant and granulated sugar is suggested for emergency spring feeding.  A lot of carbohydrates are also used in brood rearing, but that is more a combination of the two food sources.

                                      Mike in LA

                                    • Mike S
                                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollen_source
                                      Message 18 of 19 , Mar 7, 2011
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                                      • Bill
                                        It s dumb luck really. I live in the suburbs -- in a brand new cookie cutter subdivision. These things are landscaped with the cheapest plants that landscapers
                                        Message 19 of 19 , Mar 8, 2011
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                                          It's dumb luck really. I live in the suburbs -- in a brand new cookie cutter subdivision. These things are landscaped with the cheapest plants that landscapers can find -- and then advertised as "$15,000 in free landscaping!"

                                          As it turns out -- the cheapest -- most easily obtainable of plant life happens to be the pollen sources. Breath of Heaven for example is now in full bloom in front of every single home in the neighborhood and the bees are all over every single bush.

                                          There are miles upon miles of fields with mustard just now beginning to bloom -- and the bees are everywhere in those mustard fields.

                                          Rosemary is another plant that grows like a weed here. It's used for landscaping medians and other common areas. It is also starting to bloom.

                                          So -- yes -- in one respect -- I am lucky. But it's blind, stupid luck. I suppose you take it anyway you can get it.

                                          Bill

                                          --- In Beekeeping@yahoogroups.com, "stoneridgesheepfarm" <StoneRidgeFarm@...> wrote:
                                          >
                                          > > My hive does not appear to be starving, but then again, I've got so
                                          > > many pollen sources in the neighborhood that are now in full bloom
                                          > > now, they have plenty to choose from...
                                          >
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