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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Coatesville, Pa, USA
    Posts
    837

    Default Upper entrance question.

    So I'm using upper entrances on my hives. (I now have 6) and my largest is in 4 deeps now. The question is. . . It seems that the queen is using the upper boxes to lay in. The second box down is full of brood even though as I added them I pulled 1-2 frames of brood and stores up checkerboarding them. Now I have the upper box (all 10 frame deeps) w/ only 7 or 8 frames spread out to allow them to use this one for me to harvest from later. In doing a more complete inspection it seems that the upper 2 boxes are brimming with bees and every cell is full while the box just below it has empty frames with few bees. They are bringing nectar in and joining frames together at the top, but aren't storing it below or aren't moving the brood down. Is there a reason to this? My thought was that they put the honey above the brood, but they have a few frames of capped below (which were there when I chekerboarded ealrier) What would you all do with this? Should I seek to add a mid entrance also to help them move down?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Chickamauga, Walker County, Georgia
    Posts
    392

    Default Re: Upper entrance question.

    Could you perhaps just take away those lower boxes and let "the base of the hive" be the one that they've for whatever reason chosen? It might not be what you had in mind for them to do, but wouldn't "what they decided to do" ... work? Can you change your plans to accommodate them, given that they seem to really prefer it "upstairs?"

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Coatesville, Pa, USA
    Posts
    837

    Default Re: Upper entrance question.

    mrobinson, I understand this and thanks for the thought, but I figure if I would take the two boxes away then they'd swarm for sure. There's really not any room for anything else in the upper 2 boxes. It just seems that as I have added and put empty's inbetween the drawn frames they have drawn them, filled them and continued to move up. Perhaps I'm totally missing something here. This is my first year with a full hive. Last year I only had hives in single deeps and this year they absolutely shot up.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,217

    Default Re: Upper entrance question.

    If you are worried about it you can always move the empty boxes to the top, but the natural order of things is that during the spring buildup they are not storing nectar they are burning it up rearing brood. Once they start storing nectar seriously, it will be above the brood nest which will push the brood nest down. This is how a colony in a tree progresses in the spring. It starts at the top, builds up, then when the flow starts it is pushed down as the honey is stored overhead.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Coatesville, Pa, USA
    Posts
    837

    Default Re: Upper entrance question.

    Michael Bush and others I thank-you for your replies and thoughts. One thought just occured to me today as I was working. Could ventilation cause this? I have painted my boxes a light brown color to help with overwintering. The thought was to not need to wrap in the winter. The other thing is I have solid bottoms on the hives. I drilled 2 or 3 3/4" holes in the bottom and put window screen over it to keep other bugs out. Would this be a possible problem? It seems that the queen is still in the upper box (the only place I see eggs and any brood) and they are filling the second one and third one down with nectar. The problem is as they fill it with nectar they are totally messing the frames up because they're drawing the honey cells deeper and therefore I have comb going from one frame all the way on the other. I thought of putting dividers into the box to help them get it right, but is that a good solution? Is there any other way to help them get drawing correctly?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,217

    Default Re: Upper entrance question.

    The closer (down to 1 1/4" anyway) the frames the more even the surface will be. Especially if they were drawn as brood combs. A brood comb will be drawn the right thickness for 1 1/4" centers with correct beespace so the honey will not be fatter. A 1 3/8" spacing will be drawn thinner for brood and slightly thicker for honey. If you put 9 in a 10 frame box you'll be at about 1 1/2" spacing and will get very noticeably thicker honey comb than brood comb.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesframewidth.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Coatesville, Pa, USA
    Posts
    837

    Default Re: Upper entrance question.

    Michael, Thanks for your thoughts. The issue I have is I'm using foundationless frames. Before they start drawing the frames the one next to it is already under the top bar causing them to push the comb out farther away from the comb guide. One frame may be Ok, but by the time the second one gets drawn it's often spanning 2 frames. It starts on one and ends on the other. I had to totally tear a couple frames up last week because of this. I don't have drawn comb to give them at this point to help them get it going correctly. When they filled the second deep I then took the frames and checkerboarded them (keeping the brood together) and tried to get them to fill it all in. This is where I got into problems.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,492

    Default Re: Upper entrance question.

    Foundationless is much more trouble with some bees than with others, and wide spacing will ALWAYS cause trouble with comb size. You may only get good comb if you put empty frames between fully drawn ones, and if you don't have a good guide on the frames, they will still do things like use the edge of the frame instead of the center for a starting place. Kelley's foundationless frames really need a pointed guide glued to the center, the bees don't always use the flat part in the middle as a place to start.

    I suspect you are adding boxes too fast for your bees, and that your extra wide spacing will make things worse.

    I'm not sure what to tell you to do, I would put foundation in a few frames, remove the empty boxes and put the brood on the bottom, leaving them only two deeps. I'd trim the comb down to standard size and keep the frames all pushed tightly together -- you will have to scrape the propolis off the sides of the end bars at this point to do that, and sacrifice the honey storage at the tops of the frames. Once they have the brood nest back to normal and have drawn all the frames in those two boxes out properly, I'd add smaller boxes with tightly packed frames above for honey. I don't know how strong you are, but I have absolutely no intentions of trying to heave 100 lb deeps off a tall hive, I'd end up flat on my back for a month with more back trouble than I have now! Mediums or shallows are a much better option, even a shallow full of honey is a pain to lift up with those cutout fingertip recesses.

    Use foundation as a guide until the bees are making nice comb, and keep the frames in the honey supers pushed together this year. Once they are drawn out fully on both sides (and even better, you've uncapped them and extracted), you can space them wider and allow the bees to make fat comb, but if you put empty foundationless frames up there, you will probably get very uneven, very fat comb on random frames instead of neatly drawn ones. Bees naturally space storage combs a bit wider than brood combs, but not as wide as 9 frames in a 10 frame box.

    There is a reason foundation was immediately popular when it was invented -- it greatly reduces comb drawing issues, although you can still get bees that do pretty much what they want and not what you want!

    Peter

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Coatesville, Pa, USA
    Posts
    837

    Default Re: Upper entrance question.

    Thanks for that Peter!!! I understand the thought that I was adding boxes too fast for sure. This is my first spring with wintered hives and I have read that you give them double the room as they fill it up. They filled the second deep in about 2 weeks which is why I then doubled that. In the upper box I spaced frames out as they already were. There were several frames that they had drawn under another top bar, but they wern't attached yet. So I let them do this and just put all of the "wider" frames spaced with the comb a bee space away. I think there's 8 frames in that 10 frame box on top. I thought that would help them curb the urge to draw the other frames wider. I was wrong!!! I will take your thoughts and advice and plan on cutting them down. I know that they won't be able to use the honey, but what I've found is often the comb that's wider is capped already so I will be trying to take that honey for myself. That could be interesting for sure. What do you all think about using dividers in an empty box? If I put an empty box under what they're already using, and put perhaps 9 frames with 1/2" dividers inbetween them so there's 3 sets of 3 frames together. Will that work? My thought was that if they do draw it out well then once things are capped I can remove the spacer and add that last frame somewhere between 2 capped frames or open brood. Any thoughts on that? Thank you all for your help!!!!!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,492

    Default Re: Upper entrance question.

    Get good comb drawn at normal spacing before you do anything else. The bees will fill the available space with burr comb, bridge comb, and very wide honey storage at the top of brood combs if you let them.

    Typically a hive will use the equivalent of two deeps for the brood nest in whatever boxes you use, so don't expect them to make more brood than that. Once in a while you will get a very active queen that lays more, but most won't do more than 2000 eggs a day and that's about two deeps. Everything else is honey storage, and if they don't need it for storage, they will move the brood nest up, which is why you have empty boxes under the brood nest, or boxes with partially drawn empty comb.

    If you don't have a big flow on, they will keep moving up into the top box of three deeps as they don't need storage space. When and if you get a nectar flow, they will move down, but my feeling (aside from refusing to lift very heavy boxes) is that they are less likely to use shallows or mediums above the brood nest and putting a deep on top is asking for deep that is half honey and half brood. Wait until they are filling storage and have completely drawn and are using two deeps or the equivalent. Half drawn with bees walking around on it is not in use, wait until it's full of honey and pollen or brood. Until that time, adding space will just result in the brood nest moving up. I made that mistake last year myself.

    If you add boxes under the current ones, all the rules about spacing still apply, and you need to make sure you have good comb building guides if using foundationless frames, else they just put comb anywhere.

    The point of adding extra space on top is to get them to store honey, and I wouldn't have added two deeps for honey storage. Most hives here won't produce that much for spring anyway unless on clover or something, and if you have no drawn comb, it will take them much longer to get it all ready. Easy enough mistake, but remember that very few people use all deeps, they are just too heavy, and they are talking about putting two drawn shallow supers on if the bees are actively using the two most people start with. That's one deep per pair of shallows.

    Don't mess about with frame spacing -- the 1 3/8" compromise in standard boxes is already too large for brood nest comb and too narrow for drone and honey storage as actually measured in wild hives, and random wide spaces will result in wild comb filling it to leave only bee space between combs. Nothing wrong with that until you try to get the frames out, when you find that they are unwieldy and you get lots of rolled bees, including squished queens. This is bad, for obvious reasons. The bees will also draw comb from the cover in those spaces, or from frames above the gap, and will do that before filling frames.

    Langstroth hives have been standardized for well over 100 years, you aren't going to discover anything by messing around other than that someone else figured it out before your grandparents were born. Narrow frame spacing (1 1/4") is something to try, but it's hardly a new idea.

    Keep all frames pushed tightly together, it makes life much easier when you need to get into the hive. The only exception is previously drawn comb in honey supers, were it will be more or less evenly extended into the extra space, making it easier to uncap the frames when extracting. Empty frames or frames with only foundation are likely to be drawn wild rather than evenly if they are spaced out instead -- typically one frame will be drawn very wide and the next completely untouched. You won't be able to get the honey filled combs out of the box without crushing the comb, making a mess, getting bees in your honey, and wasting honey. Even worse, they may draw portions of several frames differently, resulting in wavy oversized comb.

    You may, of course, do whatever you want, but the results of deviating from Langstroth standard conditions are very predictable.

    Enjoy your bees!

    Peter

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Coatesville, Pa, USA
    Posts
    837

    Default Re: Upper entrance question.

    Peter. Thank-you so much for your time and post. I'll have to read that over a few times for sure. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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