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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    279

    Default Cluster at the very top

    I took advantage of a little sun and very still day to check on my hive this morning. The cluster is at the top of the top super right under the inner cover. The hive is still pretty heavy, but I put a couple of pounds of sugar in a la Mountain Camp. I am concerned that the cluster won't move down to use the resources below it. Any thoughts? Typically will a cluster move down to use honey reserves below it? Should I be checking on them again in a couple of weeks?

    The hive consists of 2 mediums and a deep with a top entrance.

    Thanks,
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    3,819

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    We have a lot of cold in the north country and the bees will not be able to use that bypassed honey until the interior of the hive warms up enough for them to warm that honey up and pull it into their location. You need to put a shallow super box on or a 2 1/2" feeder rim on, wet a news paper directly on the top bars and pour on most of a ten pound bag of sugar. You don't want to be repeatedly entering with little dabs of sugar and DO NOT put sugar on the top of an inner cover! Too far from the bees if it gets as cold as it probably will. The coldest part of the winter in just starting. Just get it done on a warm day and if a warm day isn't coming, a still day.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
    Posts
    2,817

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    This is just a guess, but I would think that if the bees were out of food at the top of the hive because they chimneyed straight up, and the outside temperature permitted it, they would move sideways or even down on a diagonal to get to new food, but maybe this is just hopeful thinking. John

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,288

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    In my location it seems as soon as it gets really cold they all move to the top, I assume because heat rises and it's warmer there. Mine spend the winter there.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    279

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    Thanks for the responses. I have a 2" rim on already and put as much sugar as I could fit on top of the newspaper. I was trying to disturb the cluster as little as possible and didn't want to put the paper over top of them. Unfortunately this limited how much sugar I could put in.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Palermo, Maine, USA
    Posts
    731

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    Mine spend the winter there.
    Do they break cluster on warm days and bring honey up from below, or do they have to survive on the top medium of honey?
    Like us on facebook This is the place to bee!
    Ralph

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,380

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    It may be related to the top entrance too. Since I converted to top entrances a few years ago most of my colonies stay near the top over winter, heavy or light. Lighter ones have newspaper and sugar on the top bars.
    To everything there is a season....

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts
    1,973

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    I have been watching my bees with periodic checks through glass sides (in top bar hives) for three winters. In all cases, the bees cluster at the top - right away; as soon as it freezes - near the entrance end, and stay in one place all winter. The bees must move to get food and return to the cluster during warm spells.

    Last year, I had one hive that maintained two clusters - one smaller than the other, all winter.

    From what I've seen this year in my langstroth hives, it's the same. The bees went right to the top to cluster and have stayed there.

    Adam

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Pepperell, MA.
    Posts
    3,735

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    Mine are nearly always up the top by the end of December and pretty much stay there all winter long. Most of the time, when I get a dead out due to starvation the honey in the hive is all gone. Even when they start out on top I rarely get a dead out because they didn't (or couldn't) move. It's because they ate more than they had even if it was below them. Most of my starve outs occur in the late winter when the bees are getting warmer and start to consume their stores more quickly. I rarely worry about bees up top in the winter unless I know the hive was light to begin with and then, I worry no matter where they are.
    "My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
    Posts
    2,817

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    When I had tbh's with observation windows the bees always stayed on the front 7 or 8 combs all winter long when hive had about 25 bars in it. Right now with my Lang's about half are at the inner cover hole and the rest are down lower than the top box, can't really tell how far down though without taking the inner cover off which I won't do with it this cold. From past winters some hives get to the top much sooner than others, the ones that get there in December stay there the rest of the winter with no additional food from me and come through just fine. You have to be confident that the top box was full of food though in the fall so that you don't worry too much! John

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    3,819

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    Quote Originally Posted by zhiv9 View Post
    Thanks for the responses. I have a 2" rim on already and put as much sugar as I could fit on top of the newspaper. I was trying to disturb the cluster as little as possible and didn't want to put the paper over top of them. Unfortunately this limited how much sugar I could put in.
    Just put the paper over them and wet it so when the bees chew thru, the dry sugar won't cascade to the bottom of the hive. Then slowly pour sugar so you give the bees a chance to move. I am wondering now too if the top or in my case upper entrance does indeed result in the bees at the top. Some clusters are still well down in the column the last time I looked.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Wisconsin rapids Wi USA
    Posts
    41

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    I have 2 deeps,in early dec I checked the top one and it was full of honey and pollen all but frames 1 & 10 so I added 2 frames of really old honey,and they have been working on those frames every since. the way I know is I have a sbb that I pull the tray and the outside is where most of the debris is.it's been cold here,below 0 some nights and highs from teens to 30
    I have a quilt on top with a1 1/2 by 1 1/2 inch opening that has a 5/8 in hole for top enterance and vent . the bees are up in the opening every day and if I put my hand over the hole they do fill the hole with bees right away and they are not happy!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Lemont, Il U.S.A.
    Posts
    118

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    Well I had 29 live December 21st. I finished wrapping the hives on that date. Most of them were at the top but still heavy. I'm Slovenian by heritage first generation born in this country and since Slovenians have a highly respected history in beekeeping I read their sites. The Slovenes put supers
    of honey under the cluster during late winter inspections claiming that the bees stay at the top where the warmth is. They just put a piece of newspaper over the top frames to absorb moisture. I've fed dry sugar in the past just to find it packed in supers later. I think if they are at the top it's ok. I'm with Bush on this one.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    4,236

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    interesting. i have a single deep with a single medium on top. mine are mostly in the deeps, but going up to get honey in the medium above and moving it down.

    they have begun brooding recently. i am guessing they are needing to replace the aging and dying winter bees they made back in september, and getting ready for the first blooms due here in about a month.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Olmsted County, MN USA
    Posts
    71

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    first blooms due here in about a month.
    Sigh

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,288

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    I worry about hives that are light, not about where they decided to cluster. Worry about things you can control. You can give sugar to a light hive. You can't really rearrange a hive in winter without causing more problems than you solve.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Rome NY USA
    Posts
    104

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    I live in central NY and just looked at a few of my hives they all are heavy with honey, some of the bees are at the top and some are at the bottom, I believe they move up and down the hives following there stores of honey.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Fort Wayne, IN
    Posts
    908

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    Interesting discussion as I ran into the same issue a few weeks ago when doing my final pre-winter check. What I found confusing is when 4 hives are adjacent to each other and 3 are below and 1 is clustered at the top. I am with Michael in not trying to fix it by rearranging things. Just put on the newspapre and some sugar and left them alone. If they die from clustering in the wrong place best to get them out of the gene pool.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    4,236

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    took a quick peak in two today. one was in the top, and one was down below.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    1,306

    Default Re: Cluster at the very top

    Picking up at squarepeg's post, think I'll inject a southern perspective into this northern discussion. May take me all day to type it. First off, recognize that a part of the bee's fall format (instincts) is to regulate population to be proportional to stores and cavity size. The effects of that regulation often has the colony with substantial brood volume when field forage is shut down by freezing temps. That would be the colony that perceived too few bees to be proportional. When that happens, there is no field nectar to backfill the broodnest when the brood hatches out. They "know" they can't winter over empty cells -need feed inside the cluster to have fuel for warming during wintering. About first freeze, or when the brood hatch-out is complete, the cluster is relocated upward onto solid capped honey. Sometimes happens overnight on a milder weather break between colder periods. Note that the colony did not "eat" their way up there - relocated as a unit.

    Many different factors affect the ratio of population to cavity volume/stores going into fall preps, but it seems to be associated primarily with the seasonal forage pattern. We had two different seasons here where a substantial percentage of colonies relocated up on honey. They "normally" get the broodnest backfilled here, and reliably winter in the bottom. Being further from the source of cold air masses, our fall season is more gradual and the bees get it done. Not so in more northerly areas where fall is shorter.

    Walt

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