Inspecting and Moving a Hive

I did a full inspection of Hive #1 today, the first inspection of the year. I also moved the hive to a new location a couple feet away, further from a small walkway that cut too much into the bees’ flightpath.

That’s the hive on the left and the new location on the right. I didn’t use a smoker or a sugar spray bottle. The bees were disoriented but calm. It’s possible I could have done without my veil or gloves. But I’m not that lovey-dovey with the bees just yet. I’ll explain everything after the video.

Part 1: Inspecting all 20 frames and placing them in a new hive next to the old hive. Total time: 7 minutes.

The frames from the original top brood box were filled with capped brood or open brood, with a few frames full of honey and pollen. They were placed in the bottom box of the new hive. The virtually empty frames from the original bottom brood box were placed in the new top brood box. Thus, the brood boxes were effectively reversed, which supposedly helps to prevent swarming, the logic being that the queen prefers to move up into empty frames to lay her eggs. I’m not convinced it makes any difference. In nature, the queen will expand the brood nest downwards, not up. I reversed the brood boxes so the empty frames are on top only because that’s what most of the experienced beekeepers I spoke to told me to do. I’m still not sold on it, though.

    Update (May 06/11): For the record, here’s what I found on each frame from the top brood box: 1) Honey. 2) Honey, pollen and open brood, by which I mean uncapped larvae, little grubs curled up at the bottom of the cells. 3) Capped brood. 4) Open brood. 5) Open brood. 6) Capped and open brood. 7) Drone comb on a foundationless frame, moved to the edge of the box. 8) Honey on a foundationless frame. 9) Honey and pollen. 10) Honey and pollen. The comb from the frames in the bottom brood box were mostly empty. Some frames didn’t even have drawn comb on them.

Besides looking for evidence of a healthy queen — which I found in several frames of solid brood at various stages of development — I also kept an eye out for swarm cells, or queen cells hanging off the bottom of the frames. There were none. Empty frames are often placed on the edges of the brood nest (the middle area of the hive where the queen lays her eggs) to prevent swarming. The empty frames, once comb has been built on them, will give the queen more room to lay eggs. And as long as the queen has enough room for laying, she won’t even think about swarming. I didn’t place any empty frames on the edge of the brood nest because the entire top box is full of empty frames. That should keep her happy.

I didn’t enjoy trying to stuff in the tenth frame for each box. It was a tight fit both times and I can easily see how the queen could get rolled (and squished) between the frames in that situation. I plan to install follower boards to free up some of that space later this summer.

Other thoughts about the inspection: Nothing. It all went smoothly. One half of the brood chamber (consisting of two deep boxes) was full of brood, honey and pollen. They’re off to a good start. I wasn’t surprised by the number of empty frames in the bottom box because the colony was started up late last July and barely had enough time to build and fill in all the comb they needed to survive the winter. The colony would have been dead if I hadn’t fed them candy cakes in January. There was no sign of pollen patties or candy cakes left in the hive.

I plan to feed them through a hive top feeder possibly for the rest of May, depending on how cold is stays and how many flowers begin to blossom. Then they’re on their own for the rest of the summer.

To be continued in… The Aftermath of Moving a Hive!

2 thoughts on “Inspecting and Moving a Hive

  1. I didn’t explain everything, but for those even more new at this than me, the photo shows the hive with a jar feeder installed over the inner cover. The whole thing is normally sheltered inside a super with a regular top cover on top.

    The first part of the video shows the inner cover full of bees and burr comb. Burr come is usually built under the cover when the cover is in the winter position. The last part of the video shows me installing the inner cover in the spring-summer position — that is, with the flat side down.

    I installed a hive top feeder over the inner cover afterwards. But I didn’t record that. The camera had shut off on its own by that point. I added only a litre or two of anise-flavoured syrup to one side of the feeder at 1:1 water-sugar ratio, maybe ever more water than that, to emulated the light nectar that comes in during early spring.

    I think that covers it.

  2. Thanks for the video, I enjoyed watching it. Great to see such a strong colony. When putting boxes/covers on place someone taught me that smoking the tops of the frames a little will make the bees go down very quickly so you avoid squashing them. You could also use a wedge like a door stop to gently lower the boxes into place before pulling the wedge out, I met a bee inspector who did that.

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