View Full Version : Empty Frames Going into winter

09-10-2013, 07:42 AM
I am a first year beek and have had trouble getting my two hives up to winter weight, I am feeding 2:1 and they are filling the two brood boxes (deeps), I am concerned they may become sugar bound, but they are not building much new comb in the third box (med) currently they have only 4 - 5 frames partly built and are starting to fill those. I am using foundationless frames. It looks to me that we are past the fall flow here and we can expect a hard frost anytime. My question is if they do not fill up the third box, how do I manage the partially filled boxes? Leave it with some open frames or remove the whole box and loose the stored syrup and pollen? If I had to decide today I would combine the two medium boxes and put the partially full one on one of the hives, (the largest one?). I am 60 miles north of Duluth, MN and the winters are long here. I do plan to make a fondant board for each hive (When do I want to put those on?). Thanks for taking time to answer. Tom

Rader Sidetrack
09-10-2013, 08:51 AM
> I am concerned they may become sugar bound

This is not likely to be an issue. Virtually no brood is raised in winter. By the time spring is approaching and they want to raise brood, they will have eaten enough to have open cells.

> or remove the whole box and loose the stored syrup and pollen?

If you do remove some frames, you can freeze them to preserve the contents for future use.

09-10-2013, 11:44 AM
I agree with radar. Don't worry about it, your first frost is not too far away.

If the box is not totally filled, I would leave on or transfer to another hive with less stores.

09-10-2013, 02:12 PM
I had the same situation last year. And although I tried to avoid it, have a few hives as well this year. Problem is they need a bit more room at the tail end of the flow, but don't draw out all the frames by fall.
Not the best overwintering scenerio, but it worked out just fine. By insulating the top well and two sides with foam, they overwintered just fine in a full 10 frame deep bottom and the center of a 10 frame medium. (The three outside frames on each end are empty-no comb) I put a sugar brick on top the colony and you can see how they worked it.
Of course if you have extra frames from other hives to insert, that would be easy. I assume in this situation, ther are no frames of drawn comb available.


Even though the hive had plenty of stores and weight. All the hives ate out the brick just like this. They all had open syrup in cells near the cluster at all times during the winter. I assume the condensation from the cluster melts or softens the brick that is directly over them and they can't help but take it up. My hives overwintered very well and were actually quite honeybound come brood rearing time in early spring..

My temps here are fairly mild..Winter average is about 40. But we get in the low teens for a few weeks at times.

I use 2" rigid insulation between hives and push them tight together. 2" allows me to use telescoping tops



Sugar brick recipe is:
-25# cane sugar
-1 quart cider vinegar
-Mann Lake pro health or other essential oil scent of choice
-1/2 tsp electrolytes with vitamins
Mix a little at a time with drill and large paint paddle. Mixture will be very soft to the touch, not wet.
Scoop in a shallow pan, roll and compress with rolling pin.
Leave in a dry place for a week to harden or overnight in food dehydrator. Be sure to cut the mix into brick sized your top cover will accomodate while the mix is soft. You can't cut it after it hardens up.
I sprinkled mine with dry brewers yeast or protein sub. last year. I won't do that this year though. I just feed them patties when the time is right in late winter.






09-10-2013, 03:49 PM
Thanks for sharing your recipe...:) :) How much essential oil did you add? Would the electrolyte powder I give the horses in hard work be OK to use?

I did try some uncooked bricks..made 2 mistakes (maybe more that I am unaware of)..

first..I added some essential oil supplement (HBH) interesting that yours did not do this..? how much did you add
they were as thick as a cake pan

I did not put them in the dehydrator...I will have to see if mine still fires up it has been ages since I used it

They started to firm up but after several days still cracked apart when handled. I used them in boiled syrup for candy board type brick and those with a bit of essential oil still tended to break apart...usable but not great.

Do you the approximate weight of each individual brick?

09-10-2013, 05:18 PM
Very cool Lauri. I love the look of your boxes. Are they charred and coated in polyurethane?

Rader Sidetrack
09-10-2013, 06:13 PM
More on Lauri's hive finishing technique here:

09-10-2013, 06:46 PM
More photos and recipe's on my facebook page, pinned to the top
Also photo of the electrolyte brand I use from Valley Vet.com


09-10-2013, 06:56 PM
Thank you very much. Sorry to get off topic. The boxes look great, very unique looking.

2 more questions
1) Durability wise how does wood hold up over the years. Versus a good quality exterior pant like valspar duramax?
2) I have a can of Bona Hardwood floor oil based polyurethrane left over from redoinging the floors, do you see any problems using that instead of a marine grade?

09-10-2013, 07:00 PM
I actually now stain the box first with walnut Watco stain. I let it soak into the wood well and dry well before the urethane coats. The burned wood looks good, but surprisingly fades fairly rapidly in the UV exposure. The walnut stain has lasted for three years and looks great. of course you can use any color you want. I like the dark colors for my cool climate.

Exterior paint will always be longer lasting. Any interior product should be tested for durability. I assume it will have no UV resistance.

09-10-2013, 07:26 PM
Thanks everyone for your thoughts, I am still concerned about having a medium box on top the two brood boxes with only a few filled frames, seems like it might keep the bees from clustering on them or getting to the fondant or Lauri's sugar brick that will be on top. I was wondering what Michael Bush would advise, since I try to follow his methods.
Also, Lauri I was wondering about why you put insulation between hives when you push them together, I thought you wanted the shared heat between the hives, I was thinking of only insulating the outsides of the hives when they are pushed together.

09-10-2013, 10:03 PM
Less work and better for the bees is giving them back some of their own honey and use shaved wax cappings to prevent drowning.


Harley Craig
09-10-2013, 10:41 PM
I am having the same issue with my top boxes where I had stuck empties. Between brood combs earlier this summer trying to get them to draw them out and they didn't so what I did right wrong or indefferent was move all of the drawn comb to the middle , this will be my first winter and I have not read to do this anywhere so take my advise with a grain of salt. What I have done is listened to the bees, numerous times I have seen empty frames toward the outside wall in more established hives of my mentor and friends hives and even Ferrell cutouts and can only assue they want the dead air space so that is what I gave them my theory is they will still be able to cluster in the center this way and make it to a candy board if need be and if we get a good fall flow they may just end up drawing them out if I'm lucky

09-10-2013, 11:04 PM
I don't get your rationale. There is open comb all over the hive at the end of winter. Slide the drawn out combs to the center, they are probably already the centers ones anways. They will be fine. The other option is to harvest the honey, pull the super and feed it back to them, that is if you have nothing better to do. Wast of time imo

The hives in boxes set next to eachother are sharing little if any heat. Wood is a pretty good insulator, EPS is even better. Its more or less a wind break, insulation to keep the cold out and heat in. Get it!!