When frosts become severe

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Breeding bees in winter especially in northern part of Russia with long and frosty winter is an urgent and not resolved problem. Bees successfully survive through winter when they arrange their nest in such a way that their instinct of self-preservation tells them without beekeeper's interfering. Bee families derived from the mother family are exceptions. These families won't be able to hibernate on their own. In order to provide successful hibernation of bees a beekeeper should:

know climatic peculiarities of the region, foresee the complications that winter conditions may cause;

determine breeding bees at liberty or in other conditions;

provide bee families with sufficient amount of feed for winter;

bees breed should fit the climatic conditions of the region;

found out the influence of the number of frames and their size on (435mm wide) on hibernation of bees.

Now we are going to discuss these points.

Although climatic conditions in non-chernozemic regions are severe but bees have already adapted to them. In the same way they have adapted to extreme weather conditions that can occur in winter. Honey bees breed have been selected under the influence of natural selection. If they happen to live in different from those they have been accustomed to climatic conditions they again became adapted to new conditions of life. And these properties become hereditary.

Keeping bees at liberty or in other conditions have been proved by bees themselves who have been kept at liberty for hundreds years.

Honey for bees is life, that's why having a sufficient amount of feed in winter is vitally important to them. A beekeeper can only help bees to regulate microclimate in the hive. It is very important for this reason to determine the conditions in which bees using minimum of feed could discharge maximum of energy and minimum of moisture. The practice of using minimum of feed suggests an idea: the necessity of feeding bees in autumn. Earlier and nowadays there exist a supposition that using the energy of old bees for processing syrup, the family becomes free from old worker bees, which may not survive through winter and not participate in growing young bees. G.F. Taranov writes: < old worker bees play an important role in the family- they take a considerate amount of job of heat -production, sitting on the periphery and providing a better surviving through winter and helping young bees to keep their strength for growing brood in spring>. All this will provide a good hibernation of bee families at liberty.

Bees breed is very important for successful hibernation. It must fit the climatic conditions of the region. Middle Russian or Carpathian bees are better bred in non-chernozemic belt. Middle Russian bee breed is well adapted for local flora and is hardy for long and severe winters. But we should admit that this breed is very aggressive, but these are not bees to be blamed, but the conditions of their keeping ( frame technologies in Dadan-Blatte hives and in many-frame hives), when the breach of the nest is possible.

The size of broodnest cross section and vertically is crucial for successful hibernation. The size of cross section should be equal to the size of the broodnest, that live in natural conditions. According to data, bees in the suburbs of Moscow and other regions northward weight about 2.5 kg before hibernation. This amount of bees in cluster can fill partially only 8 frames of Dadan. 150 mm of frames (out of 435mm) near the back wall are left without bees family temperature control. Through this space cold air penetrating through the bees entrance wrap bees from above, from behind and from below. The cluster of bees doesn't' cover the whole broodnest space and this makes it possible for cold air to pass in to the parts free from bees, and cool the broodnest and feed stores. This leads to losing a great amount of cluster's warmth from the surface of the cluster. In order to compensate the loss of warmth bees have to use more feed. The increase of using feed leads to the increase of humidity in the hive. A liter of water is exuded after consuming a kilogram of honey. This leads to increase of humidity in the hive. In order to prevent the hive from dampening, beekeepers ventilate their hives. They are sure that it is not frost that can destroy bees, but humidity and they open lower and upper bees entrances, turn up the linen above broodnest and put exhaust tubes and diaphragms and other facilities in winter. Ventilating of hives in order to prevent them from dampness again can lead to increased heat loss from the cluster surface. Everything begins from the beginning. Such condition may lead to bee family death or to their weakening. In the course of long evolution development bees have chosen to form the size of the cluster which provides to the maximum preserving heat and feed economy. Thus reducing the size of the frame from 435 mm up to the size of the cluster we can help bees to make through the winter without serious losses. In order it do this we should disassemble a winter broodnest in a hive 8-2 or Rozhe-D elon. Their cross sections are almost equals. In a hive 3 cases are left for bees' hibernation. Inner 8-2 hive parameters are: 15*315*220 mm. The upper chamber is completely for honey -18 kg. The middle chamber has honey only along the edges of a broodnest. All the rest space (9 frames) are occupied by bees family. At the bottom of the hive there is the rest of bees and a round bee entrance is open. In combined bottom a slot bee entrance is 20-30 mm open. Broodnest bottom is situated downwards. It enlargers the space under supers near the front wall and prevents bee entrance from stopping it up by feed.

After honey collecting is over there are 5 chambers in a hive. In every chamber there are about 1 kg of bees. It means that at the beginning of August there are about 5,5 kg of bees. A part of them will disappear. After taking the upper honey chamber of honey extracting and reducing the broodnest ( by removing the lower chamber not occupied by bees) the family concentrates in three chambers instead of five. If the family выкучивается, then the space under cases should be enlarged. To do this the broodnest bottom is lowered. In September-October after the rest of the brood has developed into bees the family has already chosen a place for hibernation. In the hive of Dadan or in many-chambered hives after the weather has become cold bees form a cluster, leaving the side frames and vacating frame space near the back hive wall, whereas in the hive 8-2 bees form a cluster partially vacating honey frames of the upper chamber, and also empty combs in the lower part of the hive. If in a hive with frames 435 mm wide a winter cluster will have a spherical form (near the front hive wall), then in the hive 8-2 ( frame parameters are 300*218mm) a cluster will have a form of vertical ellipsis (egg-like form). With temperature fluctuations during winter months the cluster may compact in vertical direction and take a spherical form. Preserving the main vertical parameters of the cluster doesn't allow cold air to penetrate to the upper part of a broodnest. Small amounts of cold air may get the upper part of the brood nest only by the angles of the hive. But this doesn't influence much bees hibernation. Due to such cluster arrangement bees consume less feed and consequently the humidity of the hive doesn't increase. Heat energy evolved by bees cluster is used with utmost efficiency. Bees are less worn out by supporting hive microclimate. Inconsiderable fecal burden leads to reduction of diseases such as nozematoma and others.

The following is worthwhile mentioning. Feed stores which are isolated above the bees cluster from cold air, have the temperature that makes them good for eating, and they are kept from crystallisation during winter period.

In natural environment bees store pollen which is fermented by the secretion of their glands in those parts of the broodnest where it is stored better and where it is convenient to use it. The author leaves it up to bees to decide where and how to store pollen in the hive 8-2.

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English translation © Irina Yelsukova