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Arizona beekeepers, extra brood or super for the "winter"


#1

I had two hives but lost one of the queens so combined them. The remaining hive is super strong - in fact has out-grown the brood box and started making comb in the top-feeder. Given there is lots of stuff flowering in our “winter”, can/should I go ahead and put the HF super on or is it safer to add the other brood box and wait for the big flow in the spring? In in the Phoenix valley.


#3

I think a lot depends on the weather. My first year in bees and I was confident that with the abundance of blossom locally and mild winters the bees would produce pretty well all year.
Wrong.
This year I was away for over 3 months in our winter. I removed the Flow super as not much was happening just to play safe. What a good move. The winter while I was away was a miserable.
High winds, heavy above average rain and below average temperatures by 1.5 deg (that a big difference). I was happily enjoying a nice European summer while the bees at home were doing it tough. Even the trees and shrubs were scares on blossom. Seemed to have little bits flowering over a longer period than the normal mass flowering. Strange.

I inspected the hive a a week after getting home because the weather was so cold and miserable. When I did inspect I found that the two most outer frames were completely empty of the honey that was there when I left. The two frames next to them were about half full of brood and honey and half empty cells. I decided it was just too cold and windy to have the hive open any longer and the hive looked full of bees and active.

Well my point is the weather can be unpredictable at times and vary greatly from the norm so it is better to play safe, stick to the brood box’s you have and don’t add a super. Don’t add a second brood box till spring if you haven’t two already.

Anyway, I am sure you will get more credible advice from the experienced ones


#4

I agree with @busso, although you have relatively mild winters in your area, I would not put the Flow super on. If your bees are really out of space, I might consider adding a second brood box below the existing one. I say below for several reasons:

  1. In nature, wild bees find a cavity and start building from the top down. They prefer to build down rather than up and you will get less crazy comb.
  2. In your existing brood box, you will have a “halo” of honey and pollen above and at the sides of the brood. If you put a new box underneath, the bees will not have to take this arrangement apart, they can just extend the pattern downwards. If you put the new box on top, they will gradually move all of the food and brood up once they have drawn comb on the frames. This wastes energy, as effectively they are moving house.
  3. If you put empty space below the existing brood box, it is less disruptive to the thermal efficiency. In other words, you are making it easier for bees to keep the brood warm, as hot air rises and you are not making them heat a huge new attic.

If you decide to do this, I would keep inspecting, and if they haven’t used the new space by November, I would take it off. That is so they don’t have too much space to defend from pests over winter.

Hope that helps.


#5

Thanks for the feedback. I guess it’s a no to adding the super. I am surprised, though, that I should be so cautious to add the second brood. They have filled out the comb on all 9 frames (I know, its an abomination :-)) and, as I stated, started building in the top-feeder which I had allowed to run dry. Can I be sure they won’t swarm over the winter? I am not a helicopter-keeper so am quite happy to leave them be if they are happy. Just don’t want them to decide to leave.


#6

No, you can’t with your climate. They probably won’t swarm if we get a rainy season, but we can’t rely on that in the US south west. That is why I suggested nadiring a second brood box.


#7

Thanks. Added the second super at the bottom as suggested. Besides the points listed above, it seems like this should also make splitting easier once queens become available in the spring since I would like to use both of my HF supers if possible.


#8

Deja’ vu. Here I am asking almost the same question except now there is an extra twist. I lost a hive early this year with the HF ~1/2 full of capped and uncapped honey. Not sure what to do, I stuck the whole thing in my deep freeze.

Now it is early August, I have three hives in various states of health (one weak but now queen-right and recovering, one moderate with a couple unfinished frames, and one bursting at the seams). The latter has run out of room for the nectar flow we are in the middle of and is filling up the roof space. Is it time to thaw out the HF and put it on with the queen excluder? My original plan was to put it on top at the end of the year during a dearth so the bees can feed and clean it out but now am wondering if there is time for them to finish what my other hive started.


#9

Sounds like it is worth thawing the Flow super and putting it on the bursting hive. Whether they will finish filling it or not, who knows?

If you would rather not do that, but think the hive is really strong, you could even take a frame or two of brood from them, and donate it to your weakest hive. If you use capped brood, it could be quite helpful. If you replaced those frames with empty frames, or partially drawn frames from the weak hive, you would give them something to do for a while, other than filling your roof with comb! :blush:

One more thought, @adagna is in AZ and has a hive scale. He might have a good idea of how reliable the nectar flow is right now. :wink:


#10

My ladies are going full bore. Adding about 5-7# a week now that I gave them a second brood box.

I’d go ahead and give them the flow frames from the freezer and let them fill it out. Also what dawn said, it might be useful to give some resources to the weaker hive to bolster them.


#11

Thanks for the encouraging feedback everyone. Super is on (it thawed out fast). Transferring the brood sounds like good advice but, being a newb, I’m afraid to mess with my best colony for fear I screw it up. With a little more experience…


#12

FYI I’ve notice that just after posting last there seems to be a bit of a dearth happening. My hive has been plus or minus even in weight for about 2 weeks now. Hopefully all our rain will get some plants blooming