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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I notice that there seems to be a don't touch attitude towards hives after October/November.
I am not suggesting a frame by frame inspection but just pop the top and make certain the cluster is in contact with food. I have been doing this for the past two winters and just went through and made certain the clusters were in contact with honey and/or a fondant patty. This means that where called for I took off an empty super and reduced the hive space to min size for the current cluster, I do this all winter. I am not disturbing the cluster and try to do as much as possible when they are flying if possible. I do like to look on cold mornings to see where the cluster is located and if they have empty frames between them and food plan on changing things at the next opportunity. If the cluster is in contact with food I do not care if it has empty frames under it.
I feel that last winter this saved me a few hives as it was a warm winter right up until the bottom dropped out for a few weeks. Lots of hives starved because they had small patches of brood and could/would not leave it to move up to food. All of mine had sugar bricks located right on top the main cluster as I had checked them and moved what needed moved a few days before the cold snap hit.
So why the big just leave them alone attitude? In my mind if I loose/kill a few bees moving things around its better than losing an entire hive due to a gap between the cluster and the next frame of food.
 

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If what you do works, then keep on doing it.

I don't hesitate to take a peek inside and move/replenish sugar bricks, but I don't like to break apart boxes because I feel it will unseal the bees winter prep and introduce drafts. I don't move frames because I don't want to risk injuring a queen. I get in and get out as quickly as possible, trying to disrupt them as little as possible. I don't want to stir them up, have a bunch of bees venture outside and end up freezing.
 

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Removing empty boxes above cluster should have been done before it gets too cold. Doesn't hurt to pop top and make a quick look on nicer winter days. Removing boxes, etc? Not us. If you have them fed up you don't need to worry about even checking them till March. We do add pollen patties starting in January so feed is real important due to increased brood activity.
 

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until you try, you just don't know...I have not had the courage to be hands-on during winter. I worry that my "tender ministrations" will result in the hive moving around a lot and then too many bees being too far from the cluster to re-cluster. Then they die. Right? I am guessing that scenario is actually pretty rare, and that usually the bees have the reserves to handle the banging and popping that will happen when anything beyond the lid is pried apart on a hive.

Thanks for sharing your experience; I will be more proactive about looking at the cluster through the winter now. I wanted to use a stethoscope to check their position but it's too hard to really pin down where they are and how big it is that way!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Remember I am not pulling frames out to inspect them. I am simply looking to make certain that the cluster is in contact with food. This may not mean a super is empty but the cluster has shrank back from their stores to keep brood warm and cant reach them without abandoning the brood.
 

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If the bees have shrunk back from stores what management steps do you take?
 

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A speaker at our club said it takes 3 - 4 hours for a hive to recluster after being disturbed. As long as there are enough warm hours left in the day after manipulating the hive to allow them to regroup, there shouldn't be a problem.
 

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I notice that there seems to be a don't touch attitude towards hives after October/November. I am not suggesting a frame by frame inspection but just pop the top [...] So why the big just leave them alone attitude?
Well, that's me for sure ...

Why ? Well, for me the core principle underpinning successful beekeeping is to observe and learn about the bees' natural behaviour, and then - as far as practicable - incorporate this into one's own beekeeping methodology.

When bees are placed into a beehive, one of the first things they will do (much to the beekeeper's annoyance) is to seal-up any cracks around the top. That should tell us that this is - for whatever reason - of great importance to the bees. And yet beekeepers, in their 'wisdom', provide beehives with upper entrances and other means of supplying the beehive with upward ventilation.

One of the most influential advocates of the quilt was Emile Warre, who found it necessary to coat the hessian (burlap) he used in it's manufacture with flour paste to prevent the bees from chewing and destroying it. So - there was clearly something about this which offended the bees in some way - and Warre was required to employ some means of thwarting the bees' natural behaviour. But even when thwarted in this way, the bees will still proceed to coat this undesirable structure with propolis, thus sealing it.

Here we have a conflict of interest: we humans want a hive with a removable top, and yet the bees quite clearly don't want the top removed, and so a compromise is called for. The compromise I personally adopt is to leave the top sealed for the duration of the winter period, and provide any emergency food through a heavily insulated top via normally sealed purpose-made holes made in it - whilst ensuring that the propolised cracks around the perimeter remain undisturbed.

The only hive I know of which meets the requirements of both humans and bees in this regard is the Die Bienenkiste hive from Germany which has a permanently sealed top, with all inspections taking place via the bottom (the hive being temporarily inverted for this purpose).
LJ
 

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Anytime of the year I feel a need to pop a lid, I do. Just be prepared to quickly add feed if needed and get out. A brief opening at any temperature is nearly harmless. Doing it every day is stupidity.
 
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