I am placing this post in Beekeeping 101 because I may have done something basically sound or basically very wrong. It was one of those "in the field" decisions that kept me from posting about it first. I did by phone ask some older beekeepers and definitely got more differing answers than questions asked! So, here is what I've done (or what has happened).
I started two colonies just this past Spring (March 26) ending up with a setup of 2 deep brood boxes. They seem to have done well over the summer despite our too hot, then too wet, then too hot weather (upper East TN). One colony has always tended to be a little stronger than the other, but both have checked out well during inspections. It is now the last day of August and I did a minimal inspection on Monday, August 26 (minimal meaning confirming presence of Queen, eggs, brood in various stages, did not go to bottom box). After attending a bee club meeting on Monday night, part of the discussion (from experienced guest speaker) included feeding and hive body reversal. In my specific location, there appears to be very little pollen or nectar for the bees to collect. The guest speaker is already feeding her colonies (she also has a commercial operation) and she is providing pollen substitute as well. There were mixed reviews amongst the members of the club concerning feeding at this time or providing pollen substitute at all. Ask 5 beekeepers, get 7 answers thing.
As we discussed the reversal of hive bodies, the general consensus seems to be that reversal is only to be done in Spring, however there were some who have found it necessary to reverse hive bodies at different times. Due to all this discussion, and FULL inspection of my colonies today, I concluded that the stronger hive would benefit from hive body reversal for the following reasons:
I placed the top hive body box on a little earlier than normal because that colony insisted on make Queen cells. My local inspector came out and took a look and we decided together that going ahead with the top box might give them extra room to deter building Queen cells or possibly swarming. It worked well...the Queen moved up fairly quickly and Queen cells disappeared, although that colony appears to have replaced it's Queen on it's own at least three times (but I have been able to SEE the Queen upon every inspection). The downside to adding the upper box early was of course it deterred the bees from filling out the foundation/comb on the outside as they want to move on up (this was expected).
Today, I checked the weight of the colony and it felt light. I proceeded with the full inspection (including all of the lower box). What I found was two frames of brood, capped and several but not excessive bees attending. There was "some" pollen, hardly any nectar and no honey stored in the lower box. In the UPPER box, I found brood, excellent pattern in at least 8 frames, maybe three or four cells with some pollen, no nectar and only two frames with a tiny amount of capped honey on the right and left upper corners. Therefore I have determined that either the girls have not stored anything for winter yet or have eaten most of their stores due to weather and lack of food sources.
I removed the frames from the lower box that had not even been drawn out and placed them in the next to last (outside) positions of the upper box. I took the two frames of capped brood from the lower box and placed them in the center of the upper box near the frame with the Queen on it. I then reversed the hive bodies putting the Queen back below with ALL her brood and all the daughters living right with her. That left in the upper box only outside frames not yet drawn out, some frames with minimal pollen and nectar, and also providing plenty of room for her to move back upwards! With even a little luck we should have AT LEAST 2 more months of decent flying weather (days above 55). We usually start getting light frost mid-end Oct. This should give the Queen time to move back up to the upper box (as the lower box is packed with brood) and also give plenty of room for the bees to start saving up their stores again for cold weather. There are no honey supers on the hives, I have started feeding them (they congregated quickly on the syrup to feed), and have placed a pollen pattie in a bird house on a hook about 10 feet away from the hives (to prevent small hive beetles from thriving on the patties INSIDE the colony). The bees have not yet investigated the patties throughout the day (Patties made from Megabee dry and local honey from a close friend and a few drops of HoneyBHealthey). Syrup is mixed 2:1.
Now...I know this is long and difficult to read, but I am asking anyone who's willing to point out whether I have helped my colony or caused a disaster. I do not have a mentor because whenever mentors are mentioned at bee meeting, all the old timers start looking at the floor and out the windows scared to death someone might ask them for help...so I had to make this decision on my own at the time of inspection today (I did not want to open the hives several days in a row toying with decision making.
I understand that I disturbed the "nest", but need to know if I made a sound decision.
Please critique my actions as honestly as you can. I am a fairly new beekeeper (this year) and rather than try to force honey storage for me to steal, my aim is to make my colonies as strong as possible for the coming winter.
As a side note, I left my weaker colony as is because they seem to have plenty of room to do what they do naturally (although they have no stores either). But I am feeding.
Thanks ahead to anyone willing to read all of this...and I will add or answer any questions to get a clearer idea of how to best take care of my bees!!!