How Many Boxes?

My query is really the reverse of to nadir or not to nadir.. posts. My bees have rebuilt their numbers somewhat after repeat swarming earlier this year and, despite looking (through window) very crowded in their one box have not built down into their second box. Should I remove the second box for the winter or leave it as they are used to it? Stores weight feels on the light side but I’m no expert on the art of hefting and they are busy enough bringing in pollen. By the way I recommend the natural swarm calendar found on the resource pages of the Natural Beekeeping Trust for newbies like me facing repeat swarms.

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5 Responses to How Many Boxes?

  1. hazelmb says:

    I would ask exactly the same question! My bees similarly have not moved down into their lower box (es) and are just in the top one of 4. In fact, I was planning to remove the bottom 2 boxes (leaving them with a second just in case) and use the winter to reposition the bars the opposite way, so they are vertical rather than horizontal; then try and switch their lower box to the new layout next spring. It would be interesting to hear the views of others on this. Hazel

  2. Ali Twigg says:

    If you are thinking of having one box cold way and another warm way in the same hive I think your bees might get a little confused, maybe even frustrated. They definitely don’t do this in the wild, although wild bee comb is wavy by design. Also, wild bees wouldn’t have any human ‘help’ to reduce the volume of their home during the winter. I’ve never done any of this with my bee colonies, I leave them to get on with doing what they do best. I have a feral/wild colony in a laburnum tree trunk so can’t even contemplate any volume reduction there – I’d have to chop the trunk in half! Why do you want to change the position of the bars?

    • simplebees says:

      I think Hazel meant keep the bars in the same orientation wrt the entrance, but rotate them 90 degrees vertically so that, looked at from above, they have a smaller profile, hence giving a more open feel to the inside of the hive.

      Gareth, West Oxfordshire

  3. johnmkubwa says:

    I would leave the bees at least one box below the nest-box(es). There is still a heavy ivy flow in Hampshire and colonies are foraging hard. I would leave space for extra honey storage. Three weeks ago I had 4 colonies with 6 or 7 kgs now two have reached 10 or 11 kgs. Ideally there should be 12 kg of stores and two boxes of comb, but we have known colonies overwinter successfully in one box.

    When assessing stores by ‘hefting’ why not use a fisherman’s spring balance or luggage weigher for accuracy. Hook it under each side of the boxes and add up the two readings. Deduct a kg for wax and bees.

    My own conundrum is different. Four strong colonies have over 20 kg of stores but less than 28 kgs; this is great for winter stocks but not enough to harvest a box. I plan to take no harvest this year. However the colonies are still on 4 boxes; the bottom of which is usually empty by late autumn when the colony has reduced in size. If the flow continues I might have to leave colonies on 4 boxes for winter.

    On top-bars, I agree with Ali. If you swap bar directions you will confuse the colony and next spring could end up with comb built across bars not along them. Let the bees manage their own nest environment.
    John, Stockbridge Hants

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