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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Marquette, MI, USA
    Posts
    63

    Default To reverse or not reverse, that is the question.

    I am following up on some advice I received earlier this spring.

    I am uncertain on reversing my hive bodies after over-wintering my 1st colony here in Upper Peninsula, Michigan.

    I know I have some time living at this latitude.

    I have read the recommendations about leaving the colony to naturally expand the population downward to the lower hive body. However, I am concerned that something screwy can go on and they will want to swarm (biology is the science of exceptions--my mantra as a fisheries biologist). Is that likely or do they almost always move downward before they would approach swarming?

    Thanks,
    Shawn

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    unionville,mi, USA
    Posts
    60

    Default Re: To reverse or not reverse, that is the question.

    Hello Shawn,

    I live in the thumb of michigan, I checked my hives approx. 2 wks. ago when the weather was so warm. Some of the hives were laying in the top hive body (those I reversed), some were laying in the bottom (those I left alone). Really all you want to do is make sure that are not confining themselves to the top box. Wait until the next warmer day without too much of a breeze and see where they are at. On a different note, where did you go to school. I went to LSSU for Fish and Wildlife Managment back in 97-2001. I know NMU also has fisheries classes though.
    Last edited by joshk; 04-05-2012 at 01:35 PM.
    Your inferiority complex is better than mine.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    2,308

    Default Re: To reverse or not reverse, that is the question.

    Joshk is on target. When queen and brood is upstairs, reverse. It is a swarm control measure. And they will want to swarm.
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Asheville, North Carolina, USA
    Posts
    552

    Default Re: To reverse or not reverse, that is the question.

    Do you think the bees aren't smart enough to move down when they need more room for the queen? Who reverses them when they are in a tree? Just my two cents.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Winhall, VT
    Posts
    1,066

    Default Re: To reverse or not reverse, that is the question.

    Quote Originally Posted by jadell View Post
    Who reverses them when they are in a tree?
    Mother Nature reverses them. It is called a swarm.
    Raising Vermont Bees one mistake at a time.
    USDA Zone 5A

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Asheville, North Carolina, USA
    Posts
    552

    Default Re: To reverse or not reverse, that is the question.

    Care to explain how a swarm reverses the hive in a tree? Never seen that!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Brown County, IN
    Posts
    2,034

    Default Re: To reverse or not reverse, that is the question.

    I think reversing in the spring is something beekeepers do in order to convince themselves that they are "helping". During the rest of the year, the queens move between brood boxes without me having to re-arrange them, so why should I in the spring?

    That said, I occasionally reverse, but it's sort of a side effect of a spring inspection and culling old brood frames.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,441

    Default Re: To reverse or not reverse, that is the question.

    I've found that swarming seems to be reduced in the spring when the bees are expanding the brood nest "upward". They will expand downward if they are in the top box, but I seem to run into more swarming situations when this occurs. When doing a spring inspection, if I find an "empty" box below I'll move it above the brood nest and give them room to expand upward. It doesn't always work, but it seems to help.


    Do you think the bees aren't smart enough to move down when they need more room for the queen? Who reverses them when they are in a tree?
    jadell,
    Yes, they are smart enough to move the brood nest down. But then instinct will trigger them to backfill brood cells with nectar and prepare to swarm - usually multiple times if they are in a tree cavity. This early spring instinctive swarming behavior is what we are trying to interrupt or slow down in managed colonies with reversing. The bees could get by just fine without our help, but reversing or other brood nest manipulation techniques serves the beekeepers goals - swarming colonies give us a reduced honey crop.
    To everything there is a season....

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Marquette, MI, USA
    Posts
    63

    Default Re: To reverse or not reverse, that is the question.

    Thanks for advice and insight from all. Didn't want to cause more controversy!

    -- it would seem that if carefully performed, moving the hive body with the colony downward, and the moving the empty hive body to the top may diminish the likelihood of swarming.

    -- If reversing is done, when is a good time to do it? the daytime temps are in the 40s-50s F (30s-40s F at night) and I think the colony is still only in the upper hive body (There are only 2 deeps for my hive, they did not fill out a honey super last year). Pollen has been coming in, they are drinking the water I put out (when warm out), and finishing up the candy board I installed in Jan.

    Thanks.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,441

    Default Re: To reverse or not reverse, that is the question.

    I don't think you created any controversy, everyone is simply explaining their opinions based on personal experience.

    I would think it's probably time to do a reversal considering we are two or three weeks ahead on the calendar with this exceptionally warm spring weather we've been having. 50's are kind of cool to do a thorough inspection, but you could still do a quick reversal.

    If you think the brood may all be in the top box then you may want to remove it and take a look in the bottom box. If you find no brood and some empty frames then reverse boxes. If there is some brood in the bottom box then I don't think it's warm enough to try to reverse because you may split the brood and that could set them back too much. Can't hurt to take a quick look and then button it back up.
    To everything there is a season....

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Marquette, MI, USA
    Posts
    63

    Default Re: To reverse or not reverse, that is the question.

    Just a follow up report. We've had a streak of cold temps since I posted-- 30-50s in the day and down to the 20s at night.
    It finally got warm yesterday and I checked the colony.
    --The upper hive body (deep) has lots of bees and I did not pull the frames.
    -- I checked the lower hive body, and there are larva in the middle frame of the lower deep already. So I did not reverse. Still some cold temps predicted into next week (Snow Monday).
    --there is still candy on the candy board I put on. Looks to be a little honey on outer frames too. They are bringing in pollen and drinking water when warm.
    -- I did not reverse hive bodies since there is already brood in the lower hive body and there are still cold temps predicted for the next week.

    Any suggestions on what to look for or do on my next hive inspection, when it warms up?

    Thanks

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,441

    Default Re: To reverse or not reverse, that is the question.

    Next visit you will probably find many more frames of brood and more bees in both boxes. It should be time to start adding supers to give the bees plenty of room. Keep an eye on the brood nest area and make sure they don't start backfilling the brood nest with nectar in preparation to swarm. The next 4-6 weeks it will be important, watch closely for backfilling and swarm cells.
    To everything there is a season....

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Marquette, MI, USA
    Posts
    63

    Default Re: To reverse or not reverse, that is the question.

    Cool. Thanks for advice. There are dandelions out, and there is still some of the candy board remaining. Should I pull the candy board? It is forecasted to snow next Monday. I am more in a forested area--no agricultural fields, so mostly native wildflowers. I think the only thing blooming are trees and dandelions at this point.
    The swarm thing is of concern--is there any harm in putting my supers on early (mediums--with only foundation)?

    Thanks

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,441

    Default Re: To reverse or not reverse, that is the question.

    If you decide to add a super then take your candy board off. Can't hurt to leave the board on until then. Next inspection will give you a better idea of what to do. It may be just a bit early to add a super with just foundation, they will most likely ignore it right now anyway. See what things look like in a week or two.
    To everything there is a season....

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Millbury, MA, USA
    Posts
    1,890

    Default Re: To reverse or not reverse, that is the question.

    I worked 15 hives today... first real day to work hives IMO. I reversed 3 and left the other 12 in their configuration - deep, deep. It depends on the brood and the bees. A couple of the hives needed supers worse than reversing.

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