This blog explains how I keep bees. It works for me, it might not work for you. Use my methods at your own risk. Always wear protective clothing and use a smoker when working bees.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

A late winter question from a beekeeper.

Nice frame. Food and room to lay for the queen.
This was a new frame last year. The upper corners are nice and white. Brood comb where the brood is being raised will turn dark brown with time. This is normal.
The dark color comes from brood debris that gets embedded in the wax.

Brush off the dead bees. The bees will clean up the rest.

A little mold, the bees will clean it up. Notice the pollen in the cells. ( Brown muddy looking) The bees will need this to build up the brood.

> Hi Jim
> I don't mean to take up your time but we could use some advice.
> We checked the hives again today - first time since January.
> Both hives have three boxes. We must have had brood hatching because both
> hives are absolutely full of bees.
> We have two hives, 3 boxes on each. The MN Hygenic hive looks great, all 9
> frames in all 3 boxes are covered with bees. Frames look very clean in all
> three boxes. Top box still has a lot of honey on the outside frames. We
> swapped the top and bottom box and put in the queen excluder.
> In the other hive the top two boxes were the same, full of bees and the top
> box still had honey. When we got to the bottom box of that hive there were
> not nearly as many bees and the frames looked darker and not nearly as
> fresh. Less than a quarter of each frame had bees working on them and when
> we pulled one of the outside frames it looked pretty bad. (See pix
> attached.) There was a big clump of dead bees and they looked moldy. We
> pulled those two frames and replaced with new. We noticed that the bottom
> board on that hive was so full of dead bees they came up to the bottom of
> those outside frames. They couldn't even use the bottom entrance. We
> cleaned up the bottom board and swapped the bottom box to the top thinking
> they would move up there and clean that box up.
> Now I'm worried that maybe we should have pulled that whole bottom box and
> replaced it in case that mold might indicate some disease? I don't want the
> whole colony to get sick from it.
> I'm also wondering if, since the boxes are so full of bees, do we have to
> worry about them swarming before we have time to get them fed and before we
> can start putting supers on? We plan to divide both hives once we can see
> where the queens are but I think we'll have to wait a couple weeks before
> we'll know.
> Thanks
My response:
No queen excluders until you are going to divide. You need 8 - 10 frames of brood (bees in all stages, eggs. larvae and capped) to be able to divide a colony. Most divides happen in May. I will have queens available May 1st.
There can be a rare occasion the a hive is so full that they have to be divided a little early, if you absolutely have to divide in late April, I may have a queen for you.
The hives will unlikely swarm this time of year.
The dead bees on the bottom board is normal.
The bees will clean up that mold. Brush off the dead bees off the frames the bees will clean up the rest.
Your frames look fine. The nice white new combs will get darker with time and will end up a very dark brown. This is normal.
Make sure the bees have enough feed. They will use more during brood rearing. Don't overfeed. Just enough to keep the going.
It sounds like you did a reversal. Maybe a little early, but if it is loaded with bees you probably are ok.
If the hive isn't boiling with bees I would hold off on reversals for a week or so. On a three deep hive for a reversal I like to move the bottom box to the top and move the top two boxes down leaving them in the same order.