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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Olmsted County, MN USA

    Default "Demoralized" bees

    I've read about bees getting 'demoralized' when you put an empty brood box before they're ready for it...but when someone actually said it out loud at our club meeting last week, it sounded downright strange.

    I'll assume that when one says "demoralized" they actually mean that it is somehow detrimental to the colony to put an empty brood box on top of a small colony. If you keep the entrance reduced until the colony is strong enough to defend it's turf, how could the presence of an empty brood box up top be, um, demoralizing?

    It can't be a 'keeping warm' thing, since bees stay warm (when necessary) by clustering. it can't be a "more space to defend" thing if you have an entrance reducer in place.

    When a swarm moves into new space, it obviously moves into space that is, at that moment, far larger than they can use. How is putting on a new brood box 'prematurely' any different?

    Maybe I'm missing something??

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Santa Monica, CA, USA

    Default Re: "Demoralized" bees

    I had a similar story. When I was trying to introduce entirely empty box (foundationless!), bees just did not know what to do with this. They gathered inside the box doing nothing. That pitiful box was so unlucky - I put it at the bottom, in the middle at the top - all the same result. There were technical reasons why box was totally empty from my side and I guess, bees had an issue with that box also. Since I am completely foundationless, introducing new totally empty box/frame is a little bit challenge at the beginning. Once colony is established - I just add frames between drawn frames.

    I had a similar situation when I was trying to move bees from the Lang box into KTBH via adapter - bees crowded in the Lang box and did not expand into empty and welcoming (from my view) KTBH. They finally heavily swarmed but refused to live in the KTBH.

    Серёжа, Sergey

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Default Re: "Demoralized" bees

    My personal experince and testing shows they do better with less space. But I don't think they are demorilzed. I think the reality is 2 fold. they keep the space warmer, at less then 90 deg they are adding heat. and the have DIRECTION. I think this is the real key. its like a construction crew working on 2 ends of a 30 mile bridge... resources are split (but in 3 dimensions) when they are focused in one direction only they seem to build faster. As such I always put my empty frames on one side unless the hive is just booming.
    every notice that when you put on a new super they start right in the middle and work a sphere outward.... when they do that normaly the outside corners almost never get reached....... Just my 3 cents worth...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Evansville, IN

    Default Re: "Demoralized" bees

    Two problems with adding space before the bees need it for expansion:

    They are unable to build comb unless there is a good flow or or you are feeding heavily, and if you are not feeding pollen or pollen supplement, they cannot support more brood either. Result: they do not utilize the new space.

    If there is too much space, especially if there is considerable drawn or partially drawn comb, pests can get established because there are not enough bees to patrol the comb. Wax moths in particular can do considerable damage, and in the South, small hive beetles can destroy a hive in days under these conditions.

    There is also an issue of getting the bees in the correct place to use the new space as well. Bees do not build up as a general rule, they make comb from top to bottom. Therefore, if you add empty space, particularly empty foundationless frames, they have to be enticed to cluster at the top of the frames to get them to build comb. If there is a large flow on in the spring, they will jump right on it, but any other time, until you provide them a bridge of some sort to the top of the frames, they will treat the bottom of the frames as the top of the hive, just as if you put an empty box on top of the inner cover. A couple drawn combs or even a couple frames with foundation, and you will get bees going to work right away, all empty and nothing will happen.

    I've had a swarm ignore a box full of foundation -- turned out they were superseding their queen, and thus had no need for more space. Once the new queen got to laying and the population of bees increased, they reluctantly moved up, and didn't really get going until I added some apple cider vinegar to the 1:1 I had in a hivetop feeder. Then they took 9 gallons in 6 days and filled a medium for me.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Great Falls Montana

    Default Re: "Demoralized" bees

    It is indeed a keeping warm thing! The problems all arise because the bees are not adequate to keep the area at the desired temperature. Adding that room prematurely is just like putting on the brakes. I did it lots before I figured it out and we are sometime forced to do it so the bees don't overcrowd and go into swarm mode. Follower boards help.


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