Dumb Question
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Thread: Dumb Question

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    St. Stephen, N.B. Canada

    Question Dumb Question

    I'm watching my bees over the winter and they are near the center frames in some ( 2 deeps and super) but they move up but not out so much. Other hive clusters are a few frames to the left or right but again they are moving up but not lateral. And those poor buggers that are on the frames outside the central core are frozen in time. Why do we not have fewer frames like nukes but much deeper? Say like a 5 frame 18 inch deep nuke. Do they do something in warm weather that makes them go lateral or would they just go north/south like winter if that was the configuration????? Throw some rocks at me so I can figure this out in my head.
    On the border near 04619
    Zone 5B @ 29m

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Lake county, Indiana 46408-4109

    Default Re: Dumb Question

    "Throw some rocks at me so I can figure this out in my head" bees will bee bees and if you can figure out "why" they do what they do you will have done what no other man has done!

    I have watched bees move up in my observation hive in winter in my shop that is 55 degrees all the time and will starve at the top of the hive even when I have put a frame of honey in under them, some way the know when its time to move down and its not in winter
    Ed, KA9CTT profanity is IGNORANCE made audible
    you can`t fix stupid not even with duct tape

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA

    Default Re: Dumb Question

    I have observed this as well (I am in a cold climate z4b/5a).

    My colonies are in tall stacks (3 deeps plus a medium) and I find they move upwards steadily, and not so much laterally, so I expect to see at least a frame or two on the outside completely untouched. And these are hives that are arranged so they are touching each other with 2" of foam insulation crammed in between them, so that the interior ones are often six or eight feet from the cold outside air.

    Before I had hived bees, I had bees living in the cavity of one of my barn walls. This building built before the Civil war was intended to house horses so it has extra-thick interior plank walls (compared to the sheep or cow barns). But still, this cavity was barely 5 inches deep and 12 feet tall with just wood siding on the outside. And bees (not likely the same colonies) lived there continuously for more than 20 years. It was astonishing how much comb was there when the walls were opened during the cut-out.

    One of the reasons I think nucs seem to do so amazingly well is that the cavity dimensions are better-matched to the colony size, particularly if it is a double, or even triple, stacked configuration. I always arrange my smaller colonies (smaller because of age, or for some other reason) in reduced-cavity spaces for the winter that are the same height (3D + 1M) as my full sized stacks. In any given winter I might have 4, 5, 6, or 7 frames sets within my 10-frame equipment.

    The only advantage that I can see of using 8-frame boxes is that the column is more vertical than horizontal in the winter. But in uninsulated equipment I think that is outweighed because the usable space within that narrow column is more affected by the horizontal penetration of cold within the stack, leaving a smaller potential zone of warmth.

    In the summer I think the bees use the exterior frames more effectively because it allows the bees to spread out. I often have resting drones (and workers) on the outer frames.

    We often advise people to tilt their boxes up in late winter to assess available stores. But I think that can really overestimate what is truly available to the bees by now. Frames of honey and pollen in a box below where the cluster is might as well not be there until it gets much warmer. It's food in the overhead pantry that counts, IMO.


  5. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Pepperell, MA.

    Default Re: Dumb Question

    Interesting topic. I have a fairly new beekeeping friend who started on all 8 frames. We were chatting this past winter and I was telling him how my (10 frame) colonies are usually pretty high up early in the winter and stay there. His are spread pretty evenly up and down. I hadn't really given this much thought until Enj. posted above me. Makes sense now that I think it through.....
    "My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"

  6. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada

    Default Re: Dumb Question

    I think that conditions at onset of permanent cluster time will dictate where the cluster starts out. I am sure that the escaping cluster heat enables much easier movement upwards into warmer conditions. Probably impossible for bees to leave cluster to go down into the cold lower areas to recover honey they have moved above. In the spring of the year they can scrounge up some of the leavings though.

    This is purely extrapolation but I think the condition described as "stove piping" that leaves mostly empty frames in the center of the hive can encourage rapid upward movement to access stores and see the bees stranded at the top above unusable stores.

    I have always fed heavily enough that the upper deep has always been very near to solid honey across the box. If my wintering weight was less, the central frames in the upper box would have contained recently emerged brood that would not have time to be refilled with capped stores.

    If this were the scenario I was facing as cold weather was setting in, I think it would be an advantage to move capped frames from the outer walls to ensure that central area of upper box had solid capped frames.

    I believe Enj. uses slabs of foam replacing outside frames which would have the same influence on concentrating stores top and center. I have used this several times when I had only 12 or 14 frames to winter in two deeps.

    I prefer to stay out of the boxes as winter approaches but if it appeared they might be on the light side, it might be the lesser evil to do some re arranging if it appeared they were starting out high. Like I said, I have not actually experienced stovepiping as my fall feeding seems to prevent it, but it may be something to consider.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

    Default Re: Dumb Question

    A top brood with frames full with honey/syrup is what you want. Honey frames in outside positions in the bottom brood do not get used over winter. Far better to move full frames of honey up and centered.

    My observation is that bees move up in warmer temps and hang out in the feed shim. They hang from the underside of the inner cover. When temp gets cold they move lower into the frames. Is it warmer lower??? Can they form a tighter cluster using empty cells??? Is the cluster positioning on honey store in the comb??? On warmer days and warmer interior temps, I suspect bees move stores into the center to be used to cluster on in colder temps.
    Last edited by mgolden; 03-22-2017 at 12:31 PM.
    Zone 3b. If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got!


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