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🐝 Hives are crazy populated! Need advice, please!


Hi All!

I live north of Chicago. I have two hives I installed in the spring, so this is my first year. Everything has been textbook so far. I have one hive that has two brood deeps and two honey supers and another hive that is two brood deeps and three honey supers. They are all packed! Especially the 2 deep/3honey hive - there are so many bees… I’m worried they will swarm. I know it’s too late to split the hive.

Regarding honey, I took 7 frames out of the bigger one and 3 from the other in late July and they’re all already filled back up! I think they’ll have enough honey stored for winter. They have 30 medium super frames, front and back, almost all capped. On one of the honey frames, they started building comb on TOP of already capped honey!!!

And in the brood boxes, they have honey, pollen, on the outside frames and brood in the center frames. (I was worried at first, I wasn’t seeing many eggs, but finally found them. Is this typical for fall?) To add space, should I add an empty honey super? Also/or, should I take 1 frame out of the brood boxes? (I’ve seen mixed advice on this but they are PACKED.)

Thoughts? Comments? Advice?

I did see mites this week when I was in the bigger hive. I’m going to treat it this weekend with oxalic acid strips. I think I may treat the other to be safe.

One more issue - I am having a hard time checking the brood boxes. They are so full and so busy and very fiesty when I have to take the honey supers off to get to brood boxes. I get it - I completely understand I’m messing with their hard work. I was stung 5 times just getting into the one hive. I can tell there were others trying to sting me too. Ugh. They never used to be this angry. :sweat: And, it’s so hard to lift the full honey supers off and then the top brood box of the bottom one. So HEAVY! I brought a table out I could sit them all on. I don’t know. It was a rough check this last go round. Feeling worried about my baby ladies. :honeybee::yellow_heart:


First off- I can’t really answer your bigger question as my local conditions are very different than yours- but it does sound like you have a good problem to have: strong colonies!

On another note: how are the bees stinging you? I well understand when you can start to get ‘the fear’ contemplating going into a strong hive. The best antidote is to suit up completely- and make sure the smoker is well lit and packed. That helps you to stay calm and move slowly, which in turn helps to keep the bees relaxed.

If the bees are stinging you right through your suit: I wear thick clothes underneath in those situations so that the stingers cannot get through- and I double check everything to ensure it is bee proof, socks tucked in, I wear a hat under my veil to stop the veil touching my face, etc. It can be hot inside but it’s better than panicking and getting stung. If someone is around I get them to visually inspect my suit to see if I missed anything. It is so much easier to deal with an inspection when you are not worried about being stung- and it can be a bit of a disaster when you are mid-inspection and suddenly bees are crawling up your legs or or over your head under the veil. I learnt this the hard way…

It’s also good to smoke the bees well and wait a full five minutes before going in so the smoke takes affect. Then be ready to smoke more when the bees get angsty.


Any idea what bees are foraging on? Are you in the country/farms or in city. . With that many bees I am sure they are eating plenty. I would add another super. They fill it or not. One way to find out. Treating for mites as soon as possible is advisable. If bees are attacking I stop and try another time. Once they get upset they tend to stay upset until you leave. You do not have to go into brood very often this time of year. I would think they cut back on brood production as it is late in season.


Sounds like you know your way about your hives and your hives are obviously doing well to be as big as they are.
To make your inspection easier and smoother strength might be a disadvantage for you so have you thought of having a few bee boxes handy when you open a hive up. and removing a few frames into an empty box to lessen the weight of the super to lift off, and even doing the same in the brood box. Working slow and smooth will help the bees, and you, to be more relaxed.
Use smoke at the entrance as well as under the lid a few minutes before you open the hive up as well as a little extra during your work. If you get nervous you will change your pheromone and the bees will react to your fear.
Regular extracting of some of the frames is better than waiting till the hive has 80% of the frames capped. I like to have a maximum of 50% of the honey cells ready for the bees to refill, bees love to be busy. I work on extracting a few frames regularly, it seems that doesn’t distress the bees as much.
Finally, I firmly believe bees have a very good memory, they will remember your last visit and act appropriately. Giving the bees a few minutes break can also help them settle down.
I hope that I have at least helped in telling you what again what you might already know.
Regards Dawn


Finding a lot of eggs and brood is not typical for Fall, but I would guess that you haven’t had typical Fall weather this year. Sounds like you have a good Fall flow going on too, so that will stimulate brood production a bit.

I think that is a good idea, and I would also consider taking off one of the full and capped honey supers. Even if you extract the honey, you can give it back to the bees in the early spring when the nectar flow is unreliable, or you can enjoy it yourself! :wink:

I wouldn’t do that. Just give them more space in a super. That way they can move honey up out of the brood boxes if they want to. The queen will decrease her laying very soon, and all of your problems will settle down in the crowding department.

That is worrying if you saw them on bees. The best way is to do a proper mite count. Are you going to use Randy Oliver’s Blue shop towel method for oxalic acid? I tried that last year and found that it didn’t work very well for me. I vaporize now.

Bees can be very defensive in the Fall. Big hives are also harder to handle than small ones, but you need double brood in your climate. You have had some great advice from others about this, and I agree with the comments. Fully suit up, put smoke in the entrance, smoke under the inner cover, then wait a minute or two. You need to give the bees time to go and gorge themselves. Keep the smoker going well, and use it every time you lift a box off.

Another idea is to keep the boxes covered while you are inspecting. If you cover the tops of the boxes with a pair of pillowcases or a couple of linen dish towels, you will have fewer flying bees attacking you. Just pull the fabric apart slightly to reveal the frame you want to inspect next, then put the fabric back to contain the bees underneath. I used this with africanized bees before I got rid of them, and it was the only way to survive.

Ten frame, pine Langstroths are a workout that I can’t handle. That is why my hives are all 8-frame Western Red Cedar Langstroths. However, I do as @Peter48 describes when I inspect. I put a flat hive roof upside-down on the ground next to the hive being inspected. Then I put a spare inner cover inside the roof, and put an empty box on the inner cover. The inner cover helps preserve the bee space below the frames you are about to put into the empty box, so you won’t squash bees (or the queen!).

Then I lift a frame out of the hive, inspect it, and put it into the empty box. I take them out in order, so that I am not mixing things up. If using towels, I make sure that both the hive and the empty box are covered as much as possible. I repeat with the other frames, until the top hive box is empty, then I put that on top of the inspected box of frames and repeat the process until I have seen the whole hive.

To reassemble the hive, I just reverse the process, moving slowly and gently (think of Tai Chi exercises) until everything is back in order. It sounds long-winded, but actually it probably only takes 5 minutes longer, even with a big hive. It crushes fewer bees, and it saves my back. Plus it lets me inspect boxes which I wouldn’t have a hope of lifting. Thirty pounds is a challenge for me to lift gently, and deeps can weigh 50 to 70lb, depending on who you believe. :blush:

Hope that gives you some ideas. You have done well so far, and you can do this. It isn’t easy, but it does not have to be really hard either. Please keep in touch.

The Other Dawn :wink:

My husband just asked me to suggest that if your hive is still feisty in the Spring, consider requeening. We have had very nice gentle queens from Big Island Queens and Olivarez Honey Bees. Good company to deal with (both are run by the same team):


Hey @Dawn_NorthChicago! You’re having a great season and I know all that expert advice is going to straighten things out, so I won’t add any - and besides, I’m only a 3rd year beek - but here in Southeastern PA I’m seeing similar sights. I have three strong hives that are bearding at all times, and I need to go very slowest with full suit & smoke to get through inspections. I already harvested but may put empty supers on!? Weather here is on and off rainy but warm, with sun here and there too. I do see a ton of goldenrod and asters around. Even if they don’t fill a whole new box, it’ll be nice to put back on in early spring for a jump start!

Fingers crossed our bees stay strong and make it through the winter - definitely get your mite treatment going! :blush:


Thanks for the reply! I wear a jacket with veil, gloves, my own pants, socks pulled up over them. :slight_smile: I took my glove off to take a video of an emerging baby bee and got stung on the hand and wrist. (I wasn’t paying attention, my own fault.) Then 3 times on the leg where my pants were a little tight! Not heavy enough material, I guess.

I did use the smoker and had it going the whole time. They were fired up!


Hi Bubba! I am in a suburb and live on a creek that goes out into a prairie. It is full of goldenrod right now, so I think that’s what they are foraging!! I wanted to stop. I could feel their angst, but I felt I had been putting it off for awhile and the weather was perfect for it. :confused:


One more thing…thanks for the advice with the smoker. I usually don’t wait very long. Good to know!


Thanks, Peter for responding!

I had not thought about using empty boxes and I see that Dawn recommends that too. That is a great idea! I have to get into the second box this weekend, so I will do that. I will also add an extra super. I know they like to be busy, that’s why I wasn’t sure what to do with the full honey supers - afraid they’re not busy enough, but then afraid to take too much honey and that they won’t have enough for winter! I know I will get a better feel as I move forward. So far, I have been very confident in everything I’ve done and the bees have been thriving. This is my first time feeling unsure and anxious going into fall and winter!


Great idea to keep it and give back to them in the spring!!


I didn’t see any on bees but saw two in cells near emerging adult cells. And funny - I had propped my phone up to take a video of an emerging adult (it was a 12 minute video) while I continued to check the other frames. When I got inside I watched the video and saw them then!!!

I do know how to do a test. Does it matter which frame/box I take the sample bees from?


Thank you for all of the advice on checking the hives. I have never heard of covering with a pillowcase or light towel. It makes perfect sense! I am strong enough to get the boxes off of the hive, but feel stressed about getting the honey supers back up! It’s tall with all of them on! :wink:

And good idea about requeening. That sounds daunting, but I appreciate all of the advice I can find here! I’ll have time over the winter to do more research. It’s a bummer because they used to be so gentle. I would never feel threatened and totally zen-like and relaxed. Maybe I gave off a little fear this time, like Peter said and they sensed it. I would have my kids help too - fully suited - but won’t consider it right now. I’m praying it’s just that they have 30 full honey frames to protect?!


Yes, fingers crossed!! I’m researching a lot for what to do this winter. It’s pretty cold here and I am worried about the wind and cold. I plan to set up a barrier to help with the wind. Maybe some insulated hive wraps too. :sunny:


It needs to be a frame of nurse bees, of which there are plenty on open brood frames. I don’t know what method you are going to use, but I shake them off onto an old piece of 20" wide roofing flashing that has a V-crease down the middle. The flashing sits on top of the hive, so that any spilt bees land very close to where they came from. It is then really easy to tip them onto my measuring cup. They just slide right in. :wink:

This is where I got the flashing idea from, and a piece from Ace or Home Depot is really cheap. :blush:

I actually use the Gizmo, which is sold by Kelley Bees. It is fairly pricey (about $65, I think), but it does make the whole thing very low stress. It also helps a lot with accuracy and repeatability. :smile:


I was going to use blue shop towel method, but am now looking for a vaporizer. :smile: I have seen varying advice on how often to treat. I’ve seen once a week for 3 weeks and also just once. How do you do it?


The best way to do it is to align the therapy with the life cycle of the Varroa mite, if you have still have brood in the colony. That means that you should actually vaporize every 5 to 6 days, because Oxalic Acid (OA) does not get into capped brood.

So what I do in detail is:

  1. Wait until evening when all of the bees have stopped flying. The vapor only treats bees which are in the hive, so you want to get as many as possible with each treatment.
  2. Measure out 2 grams of Savogran Wood Bleach (99% pure Oxalic Acid, more than pure enough and every Home Depot has it), for my double deep brood boxes.
  3. Put the heating iron in through the front entrance of traditional Langstroths, or under the screen of my Flow hive - I replace the coreflute slider with a doubled piece of flashing to make a fireproof/meltproof support for the iron.
  4. Pack towels into the entrance to completely seal the hive.
  5. Heat the iron until all OA is vaporized. For mine, this takes about 6 minutes, but they vary, so you may need to test yours.
  6. Pull out the iron, leave the towels in place to keep the hive sealed for 10 - 15 mins. Cool off the iron in cold water, and more on to the next hive if needed.
  7. Pull out the towels.
  8. Repeat in 5 days’ time.
  9. Repeat in 6 days’ time.
  10. Do a mite count one day after the last treatment and decide whether to do more treatments. I have done up to 5 treatments in a row, just to get down to safe infestation levels.

If your bees are clustered with no brood, a single treatment may be enough. However, that probably won’t be until November or so, and that may be too late for the colony if the infestation is heavy.

This is the vaporizer I use:

I power it with a rechargeable jump starter, which holds enough charge for 5 or 6 hives:

The equipment is pricey, but the OA is very cheap, so repeat treatments cost pennies. Treatments are easy to do and work very well.

Hope that helps! :blush:


Try to get some local advice, check for a local bee group for local information and what works for them.
I won’t advise about varroa and your winter needs because I have no experience with either but Dawn_SD has always been giving sound and good advice on those subjects. There is no varroa in Australia and in my winter I change from shorts to jeans for my 6 weeks of a cool change.
Good to see a flow of good advise going to you.


Just thoughts, you can extract frames from boxes that are built up too high on a hive, the honey can be stored and fed back to the bees as needed over late winter and as a booster in Spring.
Don’t lift a box that is heavy from ground level or is more than chest high, you run a very high risk of muscle or spinal back injury. Transfer frames to empty boxes to reduce lifting weights.
Smoke each box as you get down to it to calm the bees. Plan out your task in your head before hand, look and listen to the colony, if they are getting aggressive give them a little smoke, walkaway for a few minutes to de-stress the bees and yourself.
You and your bees will survive the winter, it is obvious you care about them and know what is best for them, be confident.


Here’s a helpful video by our old pal & forum contributer Bobby, showing the OAV treatment Dawn described so well. Only thing I’d emphasize is to either get yourself proper eye and breathing protection, or religiously watch your smoker for wind direction and stay upwind as Bobby points out. OAV is VERY caustic and will burn if it gets in your eyes or throat. Once you do this routine a couple of times it’ll be a piece of cake, don’t worry :wink: