Empty "outside" frames

Hi guys,

So I know that these are supposed to start winding down their activity as we approach winter, but I’m really concerned about the “outside” frames in my two hives. (The ones closest to hive body)

These frames are all foundationless, and they have been either drawn but not used or not drawn at all. This has been the case all summer !

Does it “mean” anything?

(if relevant, I’m in San Francisco.)

Thanks in advance!

Hi Olivia, sometimes the bees will build upwards if they’re allowed to in preference to building sideways. It’s best to let the bees fill a whole super before adding a second one. A good way that I have found to get the bees to build sideways is to place a vinyl mat over the frames so that bees have access all round & then if you have a migratory lid with a decent bee space in it, the excess population will start to fill that after the bottom box is fully drawn. Then it is time to add the next super. I would open the brood up & place some brood frames in the second box to prevent swarming. Say 3 frames & replace them with fresh foundation checkerboarded.

I’m a fan of full frames of wax foundation as opposed to foundationless frames.

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At a guess I would say you put your second box on too soon. I always like to have all frames built out before adding another box. I then take the outer two and put them up in the new super and put a couple of empties in their place. When they get strong they will build wax like you wouldn’t believe.

BTW I always use foundationless frames.


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If your bees are on two boxes consolidate the drawn occupied frames into one and put a slab of candy on top?

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Thanks guys, this is really really helpful!! Good to know for next season…

Here is the setup I have:

  • 1 deep brood box (with outside frames unoccupied)
  • 2 medium supers (I believe these hold only honey. LOTS of honey.)

I’m not sure how I could consolidate the deep frames into the medium frames? I know @Michael_Bush details how it’s important to concentrate them into the smallest possible space for winter, but is that feasible in this case?

Hi Olivia,

I wouldn’t sweat this too much. If you are leaving the mediums on for winter, do that. If there is no queen excluder on the hive, the bees will put stores where they want them and if they cluster, the queen will be fine. Don’t worry about the outer empty frames in the deep box, just leave them in place. If you go into the hive on a warm day in November, and one of the mediums is mostly empty, you could consider taking it off, but if there are plenty of bees and stores in the hive, I would be tempted to just leave it on and not disturb things once the weather turns.

You must have read that Ed (@Anon) has three 8-frame deeps on his hive all winter. His East coast climate is a lot colder than your San Francisco mildness, and he doesn’t remove boxes during the winter months, as far as I can tell. Perhaps he will chime in, now that I have rattled his cage… :blush:

If I have a small colony with no honey going into winter, I reduce their space only so I can be absolutely sure that when I place fondant on them, that fondant is in contact with the cluster.

Bees living in the wall of a structure do not “consolidate” for the winter months. They move to where the honey is and form a cluster.


Hey Rob.

I’ve had quick look at foundation less frames and am trying it out.
No success yet as there in boxes trying to catch swarm.
I’ve hung plastic sheets done to the first wire from the top, giving them a 30mm start. Is this correct? I’ve also spread wax on the plastic too.

How do you do yours?


I cut strips of foundation about 1/2" wide and put them in the groove then pour some melted wax into the groove to hold them. Works a treat.


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OK, and then the bees just continue along the frame as per normal? You still use the wires?

That would certainly make it much more cost effective too

I personally wouldn’t use a colony in the wall of a structure as a yard stick.

There are benefits to packing down bees for winter as it reduces the space they need to heat. That’s not saying they won’t survive if you don’t do it… but I don’t have stats on survival of hives in walls of structures through winter to compare.

I will always remove the queen excluder to stop the queen getting trapped away from the cluster, and depending on the state of the super will decide to pack down or leave it on (ie. if a super is close to empty I take it off and pack down).

NP, I have the stats. I watched those bees for 3 years before removing them. The pic was taken in NJ in March showing the bees came through another Northeast winter good and strong :wink:

March 21 in NJ USA.


Caught the queen!

Capped drone brood on the first day of Spring :slight_smile:

Disclaimer: No bees froze during the making of this post …in this unheated shed lol