Should they be building like it’s going out of fashion?

All over the internet it’s possible to find anecdotes about prime swarms in Warré hives taking “only a couple of weeks to build three boxes of comb”, but it isn’t always the case. My four week old swarm is currently enjoying all the space of three boxes, but have only built in the top box, even with the epic weather we’ve been having.

What to think, what to do! Firstly, the bees appear to be fine. They’re busy, there’s pollen coming in, there are orientation flights going on, the hive entrance smells of honey when the bees are fanning, the bees are well behaved.

I know that I can take off one of the empty boxes, put some wax ladders onto one of the bars and put it on top of the current top box, i.e. super it. The ladders will encourage the bees to fill the empty space above them, and probably stress them out quite a lot. I could also put ladders into box two to encourage them to build down, but they know the space is there; they’ll build when they’re ready. I hope!

Should I be concerned about the building being only in one box? Can they survive winter on one box? Probably.

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2 Responses to Should they be building like it’s going out of fashion?

  1. churford says:

    What are wax ladders?
    I have the same issue – my bees have happily remained in top box despite having two boxes under to expand into. I also tried a super until John pointed out that was not going to work. They have thrived despite last year’s poor weather and the hard winter and have this year thrown two swarms – both of which took up residence in bait hives. Both now doing well in warre hives. I wait to see if these too will ‘stay put’ in one box.

    • Just Another Warréor says:

      Good luck with those new swarms, I’m looking forward to the same thing next year, once I’ve found a couple more apiaries!

      A wax ladder is a narrow strip of foundation wax that’s put on the underside of a top bar, long enough to reach to the floor, or box below. I gather that the one or two of these strips on the centre bar of the empty box will encourage the bees to build.

      Apparently you can use a strip of reused comb from a previous hive, or a wax coated piece of wood, which I’ve seen referred to as a t-bar although I can’t give you a reference for it.

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