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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just checked my bees today and they are alive and well (and stinging, ahem). I only popped the top and the bees were in a top corner.

There is plenty of honey in the top box but I pulled a frame where all the bees were located and it had no honey in it, just lots of bees on it.

Now, do I need to go in a move the honey filled frames near the cluster as I have read some do, or can I depend on my bees to know what they need and move the stores themselves?

It should be warm enough to handle them the next couple of days but I don't want to fuss with them more than I have to.

Thanks!
 

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While you can start feeding for spring now in even
the higher elevations of VA, you might get a
serious cold snap or two later in the month.

I'd leave the frames alone, as the bees need the
empty frame to form a cluster around.

Think about it - if all frames were full of
stores, the bees would be isolated into thinly
spread groups between frames, and would be
unable to form a single cohesive cluster.

What happens is that some of the bees get into
the empty cells and thereby allow the mass of
bees to be "solid" from one side of the frame to
the other.

Of course, making sure that there are some stores
on both sides of the cluster area is never a bad
idea, but the easier thing to do is to slap on
a feeder, and let the bees put additional stores
where they want while it is warm.

Where in the mountains are you?
 

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Jim, that's fascinating! (how bees cluster) I had no idea...
 

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mister fischer ask:
Where in the mountains are you?

tecumseh replies:
having originated in west 'by god' virginia the answer shall always be.... the wrong side of the mountains. I think I may be gettin' home sick, just thinkin' about it?
 

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>Jim, that's fascinating! (how bees cluster) I had no idea...

Thanks for posting that, Jim. You're right. Bees need clustering space. When beekeepers say that they feed "until the bees won't take anymore," I try to explain about clustering space. That clustering space is a result of the last round of brood that hatched. The bees cluster in the cells, and between the combs. When every comb is full of feed, and bees can't cluster properly, the feed acts as a heat sink...robbing the cluster's heat. It's like a waterbed. Did you ever sleep on an unheated waterbed, with no pad? You wake up freezing cold. Same with the bees.
 

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Gosh, I had no idea that the point was so obscure.

But yeah... I've seen colonies take waaay too much
fall syrup (most often because we screwed up, and
fed too much due to miscommunication or ignoring
the colony records), filling most every comb, and
I've had to replace some of the combs with
precious drawn comb from honey supers, and that
comb is permanently demoted from "honey super" to
"brood" applications for obvious reasons. I then
have to put the "extra" filled comb in various
fall splits, "slow" to take feed.

I've also seen some folks with undrawn foundation
in their broodnests going into winter, which is
another way to prevent the cluster from forming
(or moving to that area of the hive), as a frame
of undrawn foundation has no cells for bees to
"nestle" within. That's not a good idea, either.
 

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>Gosh, I had no idea that the point was so obscure.

It is obscure. When people see patches of dead bees with their heads buried in cells, they assume they died trying to lick the last bit of honey out of the cells... when in fact, they weren't eating at all, they were clustering.
 

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Jim, I did not know that and I guarantee our bee club doesn't know it either! Thanks so much! I'm going to print this out and take it to our next meeting!

<I've had to replace some of the combs with
precious drawn comb from honey supers, and that
comb is permanently demoted from "honey super" to
"brood" applications for obvious reasons.> Why is that? Miticide residue? Or something about brood having resided in the cells makes it unacceptable for honey storage?
 

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OK, I get the message - I'll bang out an article
on this.

> Why is that? Miticide residue?

Yes. Also residue from other things that even
the all-natural, no-miticide, ganoloa-and
-Birkenstock beekeepers get in their brood
chambers, like (yeeech!) bee poop.

> Or something about brood having resided in
> the cells makes it unacceptable for honey
> storage?

Yes, that too. It at least darkens the honey
by several Pfund numbers, and this assumes that
the bees have been absolute Martha Stewarts
about cleaning out the cells.

But best of all, it means that honey supers
have never touched anything but nectar/honey,
and eliminates wide swaths of potential problems
before they can get started, such as spreading
brood diseases between colonies. The latest
and greatest word from the lab rats tends to
support a view that many bee viruses are
transmitted between bees via brood combs, so
even if one is not concerned about AFB risk,
one still has good reason to label and track
every box in your operation, and never use a
single comb in a honey super that has ever
been used in a brood chamber.

That's why I "demote" comb from honey supers
to brood chambers, or (more commonly) take
boxes of freshly-drawn combs, and use them to
replace combs that have been in service for
5 years in brood boxes.

Two combs per brood box are replaced every year,
so the entire box is re-cycled every 5 years,
and the only "tracking system" is a simple
colored metal thumbtack in each frame matching
the queen color of the year the frame was
inserted, so this spring, all the yellow-tagged
frames get pulled, melted, and recycled. Next
year, all the frames with red thumbtacks get
swapped out.

Call me paranoid, but comb is the only actual
asset a beekeeping operation can put a value on,
as woodenware slowly rots, bees have a short
lifespan, and equipment ages and breaks down,
so I manage my assets with care, and maintain
them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for your response, Jim. It make sense. I subscribe to the belief that the bees know more than I do. It will be cold here again. West of the valley is nothing like the rest of VA as far as temps go.

I live in the Allegheny Mountains in Highland County, very near West "By God!" Virginia (2 miles away actually). Few beekeepers out here...
 

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Thanks, Jim. So far I'm in good shape and haven't used brood comb in honey supers merely because my brood is in deeps and mediums painted white and pink and my honey is in shallows painted yellow. I plan to go to all mediums, though and love your color-coded filing system!
 
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