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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've read that the winter cluster will move its way to the top of the hive over winter. I have also read things that make me believe that an active brood nest pretty much stays in the same area. Is this true? I ask because I wonder how you would keep brood out of honey supers without an excluder. I'd rather not use one but I don't want harvesting to be a pain either.
 

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Yes, the bee cluster moves up as they use food stores during fall and winter. Some studies have shown that the cluster will also move down to stores, as well as sideways. Go to the Resources section here on Beesource and read the information on wintering.

Queen excluders are used during the honey production phase to keep the queen from laying in the surplus honey supers. The excluders are removed when the honey is harvested after being capped. No excluders remain between boxes during winter as this would trap the queen if the cluster moved up through the excluder. Surplus honey supers are usually not left on the colony after they have been emptied and returned to the bees for cleaning. They are removed, the comb treated for wax moths and they are stored away. Each beekeeper has their methods for dealing with supers, but usually they are stored in storage buildings/shops.

Wintering configuration is usually the hive bodies/food chambers only. The brood area is in the bottom box with the food chamber/chambers above. Most beekeepers will make sure the center frame/frames in the food chambers have an area of empty cells for the bees to move into so they may cluster. Here in Arkansas the bees will move directly to the top box and cluster. Usually we have cold snaps no longer than ten days before the weather will warm enough for the bees to take cleansing flights. When the weather warms, the bees move food up to the top box where the main cluster is. They move to the top to take advantage of the warm air in the top of the box. When brood rearing starts in January the queen moves between boxes to lay, if there are enough adult bees to warm the brood. The surplus nectar will not be coming into the colony before late April, then the surplus supers are put back on the colony along with the queen excluder.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
What about the active brood nest? Does it move or stay in place, more or less? If I reverse supers in the spring to get the brood nest at the bottom will they cruise for the top or stay in that general locale for the season?
 

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I put my bees to bed in the fall, double deep, top box full of honey, brood nest in the bottom. When I look in March, the brood nest is usually in the center of the top box, and the bottom box is empty, no brood, no honey, cleaned out completely. Some folks reverse in the spring, to get the brood back into the bottom. I did that with some of them this year, but it becomes a little academic, by some time in May, the brood nest fills two deeps, so, no point fretting about brood in top or bottom box, it'll be in both of them. If it isn't, then the colony has other problems, and likely needs to end up on the requeen or combine to cull list.
 

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The only way to keep the brood nest in the bottom super is by using a queen excluder. You would need to make sure the 10 frames in the bottom deep are as perfectly drawn as possible. The books say that 10 frames of comb is sufficient for a queen to lay in, but that is not my experience. The minimum number that a good queen can fill is more like 12 or 13 deep frames.

If you use a single deep hive body for the brood chamber I would add a second deep with drawn comb 4 to 6 weeks before the spring nectar flow starts. When the main nectar flow begins and you put on the surplus honey supers, find the queen and put her in the bottom box and put the excluder on top of that box. This will keep the brood below, and as the brood in the upper deep emerges the bees fill those cells with honey for food for the colony. After the flow ends and the surplus is removed you can rearrange the configuration as you see fit.

I think you will find beekeeping easier if you use 2 deeps for brood, or a medium and 2 deeps. If my wife has told me the truth about winters in Michigan, you will need that much space for brood and food, or you will need to do much feeding.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Your wife wasn't kidding!!! :O I'm going to use all medium 8 frames so I'll use 3 for the brood chamber. What I'm trying to figure out is how to get all those empty frames drawn out.
 

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If you use a single deep hive body for the brood chamber I would add a second deep with drawn comb 4 to 6 weeks before the spring nectar flow starts. When the main nectar flow begins and you put on the surplus honey supers, find the queen and put her in the bottom box and put the excluder on top of that box. This will keep the brood below, and as the brood in the upper deep emerges the bees fill those cells with honey for food for the colony. After the flow ends and the surplus is removed you can rearrange the configuration as you see fit.

AR Beekeeper- I am farther north than you and I am curious about the temperature needed to place the queen below a newly added queen excluder in spring. Is there a risk of the workers clustering around the old brood in the super and leaving the queen unattended below the excluder if temperatures drop? Thanks!
 

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>I've read that the winter cluster will move its way to the top of the hive over winter. I have also read things that make me believe that an active brood nest pretty much stays in the same area. Is this true?

I've had bottom entrances for 26 years and top entrances for 14 years. I wintered in two ten frame deeps for 29 years and, ten frame mediums for a couple of years and eight frame mediums for the last 9 years. In all of these configurations, the bees have always worked their way to the top by the time winter sets in and they stay there the whole winter. Talking to other beekeepers in the area they see the same.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
In all of these configurations, the bees have always worked their way to the top by the time winter sets in and they stay there the whole winter. Talking to other beekeepers in the area they see the same.
I get how the winter cluster moves, it's the active brood nest movement I don't get. Let's say I use 3 medium 8 frames as a brood chamber with a top entrance and in spring I reverse the bottom super(presumably empty) to the top. Will the brood nest stay toward the bottom or work it's way to the top again?
 

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>Let's say I use 3 medium 8 frames as a brood chamber with a top entrance and in spring I reverse the bottom super(presumably empty) to the top. Will the brood nest stay toward the bottom or work it's way to the top again?

I wouldn't reverse, but if you do, yes, the brood nest will expand up. If you don't, the brood nest will expand down. It's not a matter of it moving, it's a matter of it expanding...
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
So they will move down and fill the bottom w/ honey, brood, pollen? Then when that is about 80% full start supering? Once they have established the 3 mediums will the nest move up into the added supers or will you just get some stray brood in your honey supers. I don't want to use excluders but I don't want to deal with a ton of brood in the honey supers either.
 

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>So they will move down and fill the bottom w/ honey, brood, pollen?

If you don't add supers first, yes.

>Then when that is about 80% full start supering?

Yes. To be clear, I do what is the handiest for me. If I am digging down to the bottom board anyway, then it's handier for me to put the empties on top so I can monitor if they are full or not so I know when to add supers. If I am not digging down to the bottom board, it's handier for me to leave them and judge how full they are by the traffic and the number of bees, but this takes more practice... the bees don't really care, they move to where there is room.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
So, as a beginner on my second year, after all those empty frames have been drawn the year before and I'm not playing 3 card monte with them anymore :) , it would probably be advisable to reverse the bottom to make it easier for me to monitor their progress?
 

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>it would probably be advisable to reverse the bottom to make it easier for me to monitor their progress?

It makes it easier to tell if they are out of room, yes. But only if that bottom box was empty. If it has brood in it, I would leave it alone.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Using 3 mediums to winter in up here i'd think they'd only be in the top 2 but I know nothing. That said, does the bottom have to be totally void of brood? If so, can I shuffle with the outside frames of the other 2 boxes (presumably empty) to get a broodless super for the top? And wouldn't a few brood in the middle of the top super "bait" the nest? Or would it be too early for this?
 

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I only worry about the total weight in proportion to the cluster, not how it is distributed. The bees put it where they want it. I also don't worry about where the bees are. They've been sorting such things out long before I was born...
 
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