Pyramiding The Brood Nest When Adding Another Deep

SHORT VERSION: When adding another hive body (or super) to a hive because the population is expanding and crowding all the frames, I try to pull up two or three frames of brood to reduce the chances of the queen becoming honey bound. I also surround each brood frame in the original hive body with blank or drawn comb to encourage the queen to fill them with brood. All of which may or may not reduce the chances of swarming.

LONG VERSION: Whenever I add another hive box (or deep) to a nuc or colony that’s population is expanding, I pull up two or three frames of brood while I’m at it because, on her own, the queen won’t always expand the brood nest up into a new deep. The worker bees fill it with honey instead and the queen becomes honey bound (or trapped in by honey with nowhere to lay), which can trigger a swarm, not something most beekeepers want.

Bees crowding all 10 frames. Perfect candidate for pyramiding. (August 2, 2015.)

Bees crowding all 10 frames. Perfect candidate for pyramiding. (August 2, 2015.)


Some people call the pulling up of brood pyramiding or creating an unlimited brood nest. It’s also similar to checker boarding. But it all seems like a variation on a theme to me. Pulling up brood encourages the queen to expand the brood nest up (not just to the sides), thus reducing the chances of her becoming honey bound.

The first frame from the edge full of bees and nectar. (August 2, 2015.)

The first frame from the edge full of bees and nectar. (August 2, 2015.)


So let’s say your deep has six frames of brood. You pull three frames of brood from the middle and then put a new frame (drawn comb, foundation or foundationless frame) between each remaining frame of brood, thus providing space for the queen to lay between the frames of brood. (The bees will have to build comb first if the new frames aren’t drawn comb, but that’s not bad because it gives the bees something else to do — fill in space with new comb — instead of preparing to swarm.) Then you add another deep and put the three pulled frames of brood in the middle, with empty frames on the sides. This new configuration of brood is in the shape of a pyramid and now the queen has plenty of room to lay in the lower and upper deeps (or hive bodies).
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The Only Good Shrew is a Dead Shrew

One of my cats killed a shrew near my hives today.

Dead shrew. (June 27, 2015.)

Dead shrew. (June 27, 2015.)

I lost 62% of my honey bee colonies to shrew predation last winter. No one ever warned me about them and I never noticed much written about them. You can expect me to write a Masters thesis on them by the end of the year, though.

I will be covering all of my hive entrances with quarter-inch mesh this winter.

A Mouse in the Hive or No Honey Left in the Hive?

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON APRIL 28, 2014.

One of my six colonies either has a mouse in the hive that’s scaring all the bees to the very top of the hive, or the colony is completely starved for honey. Either way it seems like most of the bees (and they’re grumpy) are clustered above the top bars and living entirely off dry sugar I added about a month ago. The bees are so crowded above the top bars, they’re constantly walking in and out around the top entrance, as can be seen in this photo I took during my lunch break today:

13-12-23 Hungry Bees

I also noticed many dead bees in the snow in front of the hive:

13-12-23 Hungry Bees in Snow

Not that dead bees in the snow are unusual, but none of the other hives have many dead bees nearby, hardly any. This does not bode well.
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Ants Eat Hive Insulation

A word of caution to beekeepers who use hard insulation in their hives for any reason: some ants have an appetite for insulation. Check out this photo sent to me from a beekeeper in Indiana:

I doubt this kind of infestation would be an issue for beekeepers on the island of Newfoundland or in similar climates (though you might want to look around for ant nests). Ants are usually long gone and out of sight by the time we have to put on insulation in November, or take it off in April. I suppose that’s a benefit of living in one of the chilliest, wettest, windiest places on the planet.
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Winter Preparations – Part 1: Insulation and Stuff

It went up to a stifling 11°C yesterday (52°F), so I took the opportunity to insulate our hives for winter and staple on some mouse-proofing mesh. This is as simple as it gets.

Hard insulation installed over winter-positioned inner covers (minus the top covers.)

The inner covers are in the winter position (with the convex side up, a.k.a. the flat side, which is misleading because both sides are flat, but basically you know it’s the winter position because it gives the bees more head space than when the “flat” side is down; anyway…). A piece of hard insulation is installed flat against the top of the inner cover. It covers the hole in the inner cover and you don’t have to make a tunnel for the bees through the insulation or anything because the bees have no problem getting outside through the upper entrance notch in the inner cover. Some beekeepers put duct tape over the inner cover hole so the bees can’t eat away at the insulation, but I didn’t use duct tape last winter and the bees didn’t get hungry for the insulation once. And that’s all there is to it. (See Making Insulated Inner Hive Covers for more info.) Just put the top covers on once the bees get out of the way, and you’re done.

The only problem with this method of insulation is that it doesn’t leave much space under the inner cover for feeding the bees candy cakes or pollen patties in late winter. To make that extra space, all you have to do is install a two or three inch rim (or an eke) under the inner cover. That’s what I plan to do. There are more than a few ways to insulate the hives for winter (moisture quilts, etc.) — and more importantly, to prevent condensation from building up inside the hives. This is just one of them. Along with wrapping the hives, it worked perfectly for us last winter. There are also plenty ways to feed the bees over winter (candy boards, etc.), but I can only talk from my own experience. Okay, then, let’s take a closer look at what I did yesterday…
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Mould on a Honey Frame

We pulled four deep frames of honey from each of our hives this past summer to prevent the queens from becoming honey bound. We stored the frames in a cardboard nuc box and kept them in our house. Later in the fall we fed all but one of the frames back to the bees (see Feeding The Bees Honey Instead of Syrup). This morning I took a look at the remaining deep frame of honey stored in the nuc box and noticed it had mould growing on it.

Damn.
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Yellow Jackets Everywhere

We’ve had entrance reducers on all our hives for the past few weeks, and it doesn’t look like we can remove them any time soon because the wasps (a.k.a. yellow jackets) are everywhere. They’re constantly trying to get into the hives. Here’s a photo showing about six wasps blocking a ventilation hole (most of the screened holes in our ventilator rims are filled with wasps):

The next photo isn’t pretty. You’ve been warned.
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Screened Entrance Reducer (Prototype)

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

That’s right. I made a screened entrance reducer and it looks like this:

The wasps or yellow jackets hanging around our hives have become intense in the past few days. They’re constantly trying to get into the hives. I’ve added entrance reducers, but the entrance reducers also reduce the air flow (the hives don’t have screened bottom boards). The humidity builds up fast inside the young 2-deep hives when the sun comes out. So I made this screened entrance reducer from scrap wood, a piece of mosquito mesh, some duct tape and a piece of corrugated plastic from an old campaign sign I stole from a local politician who didn’t get re-elected. It’s just a prototype, but as you can see in the photo, the entrance has been reduced to about one bee-length while the bottom entrance space is still fully ventilated. Theoretically, it seems like a good idea. We’ll see how it works out.

UPDATE (Sept. 26/11): The screened entrance reducer works fine. Some of the bees get confused by the screen and it takes them a little longer to find their way back into the hive, but I doubt it holds them up any more than a solid entrance redcuer would. The general concept works. Now I just need devise as easier way to make them.