Converting To All-Medium Hives (Sort of)

Someday I’ll start posting instructional beekeeping videos again, but these days I enjoy down and dirty beekeeping work more, just hanging out with the bees and talking out loud, saying whatever comes to mind. I did this a couple days ago while inspecting all seven hives in my little shaded beeyard. Most of it was junk, what I said and what I got on video, but I still think there’s something to be had from watching these kinds of videos where not much happens, because real life, real beekeeping, is exactly that 95% of the time. It’s grimy tedious work. Let’s see what happens…

00:00 — Time-lapse of me dismantling a hive that I’m converting to all-medium supers. This colony went into winter as a full deep and two medium supers. I worked some magic before winter set in and these bees came out of winter with an empty deep on the bottom and the two medium supers up top nearly full of honey except for maybe three or four frames. (That’s a good thing.)

00:29 — Digging into the frames, making some general observations about nurse bees holding on tight to the comb, finding lots of honey.

02:26 — Looking at the cluster above the top bars, talking trash.

03:07 — Digging into what is actually the top box, beginning by peeling off a protein patty and counting the number of frames that have bees. I’m also impressed by how much honey the bees had left in their hive. (The previous shots showed the bottom box which I temporarily had on the top.)

03:59 — Pulling at the frames again, talking about how the bees almost seem like they’re asleep because they’re so docile and not flying in my face. Feeling the weight of the frames and calling it, “That’s honey!” I found open brood but no capped brood (not shown in the video). I also say, “No SHINES of aggression.” That’s a first for me.

05:16 — More discussion about what I saw. Replacing a protein patty that the bees seem to be eating.

06:08 — A brief explanation of my technique for inspecting and moving a hive, how the foragers find their way back to the new location.

06:18 — Examining the over-wintered bottom board full of dead bees and other debris, including sugar the bees had no interest in. I’ll probably write about in this in more detail down the road, but I’ve noticed that no matter how I feed my bees in the winter, whether with dry sugar, sugar bricks or hard candy, the bees usually just toss it out if they have enough honey already. Another observation: Most of my hives had problems with moisture this winter and I think it was because I sealed up all the cracks with duct tape. I sometimes use duct tape here and there, but this year I used it on all of my hives and sealed up all the cracks, and I’ve never had so much moisture in my hives before. Coincidence? I don’t know.

08:05 — More discussion about methods for moving a hive.

08:31 — Close up shots of honey bees scenting so the foragers returning to the old location can smell their way back to the new location, with my explanation of how the bees crack the last segment of their bodies to release the Nasonov pheromone.

I don’t talk about why I’m painting all my hives black (which I know is a bit out there), and there is some bonus footage at the end.

Postscript (about an hour later): Here’s a photo of the kind of bottom board that I often find during the first inspection after winter:

A typical looking bottom board found in a hive after the winter. (April 2020.)

Well, what we’ve got here is a fairly light carpeting of dead bees, bees that naturally died over the winter months. Hundreds of bees die every day over the summer months, so this isn’t much.

The sugar is from sugar bricks I gave to the bees just in case they ran out of honey. They had plenty of honey, so they just chewed up the sugar bricks and tossed it all to the floor. Whether dry granulated sugar feeding or sugar cakes/bricks, my bees seem to toss it out if they have enough food/honey already. I wonder, would they do the same with fondant?

There is a tiny fragment of a pollen/protein patty in the middle of all that mess, and maybe some shredded parchment paper from the patty.

There is a lot of chewed off wax cappings, the stuff that looks like long piles of odd-coloured sawdust. As the bees chew through the wax cappings to get at the honey over the winter, the wax bits fall to the floor in these long piles between the frames.

There is some moisture and mould in the corners. This hive wasn’t tilted enough and a lot of melting snow from Snowmageddon seeped in and stayed in. The bottom deep, which was mostly empty of honey, seemed damp and a bit mouldy, but the bees got through okay.