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Trigger Points

Most of what I had read or been shown in my early years were nothing more than cheap sleight of hand tricks designed to make the bees do something for the beekeepers' benefit. Rotating boxes, feeding supplements, swarm prevention, etc, all seemed like such great ideas as a beginner, a bucket list of manipulations to enhance my control over the wee beasties. Hymph!.
Let's look at classic responses to action initiated by beekeepers.

First food in brood out ..... no brainier, but we can mess this up easily but not recognizing the hive conditions such as population. do you have enough bees to warrant the additional food. A good rule of thumb is do not add pollen unless you have 6 frames of bees in the spring. Summer not as critical, but fall can be tricky as well. I really like free choosing the pollen supplement. Let em take what they need.
In Fall if I donut like what I see from the late start nucs I will brush drawn combs with pollen or substitute to make sure they have at least 3 lbs of it for winter rearing. This is important. The bees will sacrifice their fat bodies and revert to short-lived bees to make the royal jelly for the larvae. Often seen in March as a dead out, with no explanation.

Checkerboard........ The only guy who delivered a proper explanation of his way,  how, why, and when to apply the method was Walt Wright, some good vids on u tube. Yet as with everything in beekeeping, the opposing view from Honey Bee Honey checkerboarding ll.  My Own usage of checkerboarding is to try to make some room quickly in the brood nest to either keep them from swarming or to draw out new frames. As a swarm prevention technique, if you have drawn comb and bottom super that, works pretty well, if no drawn comb available, moving some drawn frames up or down and replacing with foundation in the brood nest.  This can lead to them drawing out the existing drawn frames into the space where the new comb should have been extracted. This seems to happen later in the season after the main flow when resources are tighter.
Wax building is something bees do not like to do unless absolutely necessary. It is best to get them to do it on their terms during a flow. It takes a lot of nectar to fill up 10 frames of drawn comb, a lot of adolescent bees as well. So look over your situation carefully and make sure you have to right combination of flow, nurse bees, adolescents, room, etc. As per swarm control, if you get no action on your wax building...... they are writing postcards and it will happen soon.

The classic action -response screwing over of the hive  The Walk Away Split.
Trigger....... hive made queenless   Response.......  Hive stressfully makes emergency queen cells from existing 0-48 hr hatched larvae.  We all have to make an emergency queen from time to time,  in my experience they tend to be less than average, bordering on poor performers. If you do have to do one at least notch the appropriately sized larvae for them.

Trigger...... smoke blown on bees     Reaction......... run for the honey there's a fire

Trigger .....too many bees for the size of colony  Reaction..... swarm preparations

Trigger...... reversing or inverting boxes       Response.....  rapid growth with room to expand, based on queens preferable desire to move upwards, slow swarm impulse.
HoneyBeeHoney great vid on it.

Knowing triggers, responses, you can be helpful to your colonies and yourself.  Blindly doing stuff cause someone said it at the club is foolish, and you get what you get. TRIGGERS ALWAYS CAUSE SOME LEVEL OF STRESS. So if you are going to do any of the above, I recommend feeding as an offering of sorts that will reduce their stress.

Now let's look at normal triggers in the hive not inspired by the beekeeper.
Triggers in the hive are mostly pheromone-based.
1. queen mandible pheromone. This is like the data collection point for the hive. The queen is fed directly from the incoming food source during the season. The strength and subtle changes in the QMP are a trigger for the foragers and nurse bees to adjust behavior.  When these pheromones emissions become weak or change their values the workers respond accordingly. examples of this are behavior a sudden decrease in brood rearing or even egg removal. Often we can have so much nectar that the QMP is recognized as being weak in protein component and the field force goes to pollen collection. The weakening of the pheromone due to excessively large populations sharing the 'queen scent" can cause swarming, certainly, supercedure preparations. A healthy Carniolan queen has a strong enough pheromone for about 60 thousand bees. after that its usually swarm time, here in my apiaries.

The nurse bees are fascinating and respond exclusively to pheromones given off by the larvae. It is the pheromones that identify the age and therefore the necessary mix for the larvae. Day 1 royal jelly is different from day 5.
It is the pheromones that tell the nurse bees when to cap the cell.
In queen cells, I have sen workers protect 1 cell over another so that the early released virgin will not harm that cell. For some reason, that cell had the stuff and the workers were most adamant about saving it. often times we can hear the muffled quacking emitting from the queen cell.  You will oftentimes see where the workers have chewed the wax off of the tip of the cell so as to allow a faster exit for that particular queen. Reading this sign is a good indicator that would be the cell you want to leave in the hive, and dispatch the rest.
I have seen dysfunctional hives making a supercedure cell or an emergency cell along with a swarm cell in different boxes in the colony. Clearly a lack of pheromone and obvious reaction to something the beekeeper did. Two response's to one action.
Other triggers I have seen, in the swarm leaving the hive you have lots of nurse bees who have no idea what's going on and rely exclusively on nasonov scent. A cute trick is to make a noise like with a drum or a stick on a box and before you know it the curious ones landed to investigate, ones you get a few..............nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd. This is why TANGING or drumming works. I also believe it is part of the keeper and bees relationship. Beekers have an amazing power of mind and bees can respond to it (sometimes).

Other triggers are perhaps not important at all but nonetheless are fun to observe at bee clubs............natural vs conventional. Amitraz vs formic.  Treat or not treat. Package or nuc.  sometimes its fun to go a tanging at the clubs to see the triggers and responses. Not recommended but definitely trigger points.

I look back at the whole process at the end of each season, seeing what worked and what was an area that I could improve upon, and that which I would never do again.  The latter taking up as much space as the positive. Such a conundrum. So many variables within an apiary and between apiaries.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. The bees will force you to try new things, not the right equipment on hand, this that or the other thing will keep you dancing, using whatever you can.

This is the root of accidental beekeeping. Not knowing enough about hive mechanics and still trying to apply fairly advanced techniques to a not so advanced situation or person. Trigger points are merely an action to create a reaction. Food in brood out. Remove queen, new queen raised. Etc etc etc.

I believe I reached a crossroads in year 3 knowing that the way forward was not with packaged bees, and that led me to the next thing. Once I got comfortable with making increase, the next test was figuring out management. It took me a long time to get to 25 colonies. I suspected the bees knew I didn't know enough to merit their assistance.  Seemed like years 4 and 5 I struggled to get past 15 or 20. Then I guess, I figured some things out. No longer accidental, but with a deeper understanding of their process and needs. I think one thing that stands out as a definitive turning point was being more involved in the nuts and bolts of the hive, queen rearing.
I think to this day, that when you are making increase and queen rearing you are imprinting the bees with your frequency. It is recognized by them. You are an anomaly but generally well-tolerated guest. I think this is where it becomes different, better and the link like in avatar happens. This is the most important thing I learned, and here is where it became personal.

Trust is the best word. You trust the bees, and the bees in a way trust you. This trust becomes a bond, and that bond is a promise to do no harm, a promise to maximize their potential. Potential is tricky. The old guys used to say if you take care of your bees, they will take care of you. Classic adage. The potential I am referring to is seamlessness in my actions and timings with their needs and desires. Anticipation, intuition, dumb luck, call it what you will but sooner or later you will get tight with your process, which is not yours but theirs.

A really really really good queen rearing breeder blew me away when he said to me after 35 years of beekeeping, all I want to do is become a better beekeeper.
WHAT? Kidding me right? I have thought about this almost every day since. Every day after working in the yards, I recognize my shortcomings, my successes, and their forgiveness, and my own gratitude for them and the fact I can have access to this world, inside the hive.

I am that I bee. I bee that I am.  The ultimate trigger point is our love, their need for help, and our co-joining, our appreciation, their love and the dance between them and the plants which is forever unknown to us, save from a tiny exterior window.  So again the botany of desire, only this time recognized and embraced that's my Trigger point and the beginnings of being with bees.


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