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How to replace boxes without scrunching bees

It seems I scrunch too many bees.

Before this season starts, can some of you “down under” who are working hives already please put up a video showing how you move along adding boxes back on top without scrunching bees? I’ve seen people slide it on from the side or something … can someone please put up a video? Close ups appreciated so I can study your technique.


Just smoke them down and put the box on. Sometimes we overthink things.



Hi Cowgirl, keep your smoker going & give a little puff of smoke on any areas you want the bees moved from, then quickly do what you have to do before they return to that area. I use smoke in preference to the slide method.

If you are not in a rush to put the super back on, what you could do is put a thin bead of honey, using a sauce bottle over the middle of all of the tops of the frames. The bees will all line up over the frames to eat the honey, leaving the top of the super free of bees, then you can replace another super without squashing bees. You wont need smoke for this option.

You’ve given me something to think about for another video or two, cheers


There are a few subtle things I’ve learnt which improve the situation. I generally do a quick puff of smoke and then bring the super box down and hold it just above where it’s going to rest ie. hold it 10mm above the lower box. This seems to give the bees the ‘hint’ that the gap is closing in and as I lower the super I kind of twist it back and forth slightly to prompt any bees to squeeze out of the closing gap.

Holding it just above for 5-10 seconds seems to do the trick, but for a super with some weight in it… your lower back will let you know how long to hold it! :sweat_smile:

I like Jeff’s idea of giving them all something to focus on in the middle too :smile:

If you’re pulling the supers during the peak of the day the supers really shouldn’t be overflowing with bees.


Smokers are bit of a conundrum during the summer for us. On days of total fire bans you cannot have or use anything outside which will cause a fire.
Vehicles are banned from paddocks, any type of fire is banned outside a building, welding, grinding,in fact almost any activity is banned.
Smokers may or may not be legal but I won’t use one outside during Summer…total fire ban or no. You have to answer to your neighbours and friends. And hey fires have started in the most innocuous ways.
The problem is that most of the nectar flow, and hence a lot of hive activity in our area is confined to the Summer months. Jeff’s diversionary trick is a good one. Thanks Jeff.


A guy in the bee club gives his bees a light misting with just plain water and they retreat down between the frames. He said they think it’s raining.


Hi & you’re welcome Busso, you’re right, no matter how careful we are, most people have mobile phones with cameras & are often too willing to dob someone in.


to replace a box and minimise squashing bees do two things…

  • rotate the box 30-45 degrees and lower it at an incline so that only one edge touches down first. Slowly lower the box level, and then rotate into position.
    The first move will rest the box on two points less than a couple of square inches, so minimising the chance of trapping a bee, and rotating the box when level will shove the bees sideways, rather than squashing them.

As for fire risk areas… have you tried using a fine water spray bottle? - it’s just as effective for calming and moving bees as smoke.


Last summer I tried misting the bees when inspecting and for me, it didn’t calm the bees down one iota. I have refined my inspection procedure to accomodate the lack of calming smoke. Suit up. Slow, careful, calculated and smooth frame removal. I remove as many frames as required, once I see what I need to be satisfied, I gently replace the frames and lid then… Run away, run away!


This is from a fellow at my beekeeping club (Sydney, Australia).


While you may be allowed to ue a smoker on a toban it is not the wisest thing to do. People get sued for starting fires via legal means. I think a couple of years ago someone in WA was using an anglegrinder which started a fire. He was esponsible for the losses incurred by others affected. Be very careful on tobans, just because its legal does not mean you should use a smoker.



Jeff and Rob are likely more practiced and deliberate in their movements - their efficient, accurate use of smoke- and feeling for the bees. Often over-worrying- and hesitating- seems to cause more squashsage than fast deft action. So- if you aren’t practiced perhaps you cant get the same results they do? Being myself only new to it all- I am going with the twist method and it does seem to save bees for me.

The theory is simple: when you pat a box down at an angle of around (maybe 30 degrees?)- the area of top and bottom box touching is far less than than when it’s straight on… So you have reduced the likelihood of squashing bees- then when you twist the box into position- the bees on the edges have a horizontal wall to run away from rather than a ceiling crashing down on their heads- and they get out of the way more safely.

But then- with my new long hives- this entire issue may well be eradicated :wink: Time will tell.

I’m not sure if this video link will work without subscribing, but (at 30:48) it does feature a gadget called the WaggleWedge which is available to buy from the BeeCraft online store at www.bee-craft.com
Actually, the whole video is about home-made gadgets and is worth a browse.


Great tool. With the weight of the boxs I suspect that the edges of the steps would wear quite quickly although would still be quite usable.
However at roughly AU$30 plus nearly as much in postage more economical to make a bunch of them. I will make mine in hardwood rather than the ply.
Lets see, I would need to start with 1, then 1 to replace that one when I can’t find it, another one to replace that one next time when I can’t find it,…ditto… Maybe 4 before I start finding the lost ones. Yes 4 sounds about right.


Busso: Although it looks like the wedge is stepped, that’s just an optical illusion. The slope is actually smooth so that the box comes down in a controlled manner rather than bumping down in a series of steps. The addition of the magnet means that you can attach the wedge to the metal roof of the next hive (or anything else metal that’s nearby) and thus not lose it in the undergrowth.

Cowgirl: I haven’t used this wedge in the apiary yet since I only obtained a couple over the winter months. However, I have practiced with some empty boxes and I have to say that it looks very promising. Like you, I cannot find a practical demonstration video either.

I’m rolling around the floor laughing. Me just knocking up this from some scrap hardwood.

And in need of a tidy. The dado leaving some ridges.
I had visions of using the steps to wiggle waggle using the shoulders as leaveage

But smooth slope thats a lot easier. I will soldier on with that.


Wow, I would have sworn it was stepped too, looking at the video again now… the only conclusion I can come to is that the video has been reuploaded… because I can’t see the steps anymore!

It’s the gold/blue dress of the beekeeping world!

I think it’s a nice idea, but you’re still putting one edge of the super straight down on to the bees. If anyone tries it first hand, let us know how you go!

I have a hive with both a traditional super and Flow super. When they’re full, I struggle to put the boxes down gently, and they’re next to impossible to slide due to their weight.

Last week I cut some wedges out of scrap wood I had lying around and rested one on each corner of the lower box before replacing the top box. Much easier. It gives you some time to align the boxes better, and all the bees get out of the way as you slowly wiggle the wedges out.

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Hi Cowgirl, I have read the other replies and would suggest the following, as I added an ideal in between the Flow hive base and top(honey collecting) yesterday.

  1. Have a small table beside your hive for a place to rest ideal, standard, or to place top of hive and equipment-smoker, hive tool and brush. I have 4 concrete besser blocks and a large paving slab so weather can’t effect it.
  2. The smoker is the key on days of non fire danger, and place smoker carefully on table and I share "Busso’s fire concerns. I put it on the ground once and 2 bees snuck into my head veil and in my displeasure, I knocked the smoker over. A bucket of water beside the table is a good idea as fire in the Aussie summer is always a problem.
  3. Haven’t tried the honey but its ability to attract bees around it may be counter productive. I have watched them mill around honey on top and it appears more bees in the area of a lid is not what you want. I haven’t misted, but as time is the essence, I would stick to the smoker as it remains working slowly while you are working on the hive.
  4. Another comment noted the weight of lifting off the top. As a PE teacher and part time farmer I am used to lifting and I found it challenging to lift the top off which was 3/4 filled with honey and partly glued to base. I loosened my restraining straps (wind proofed), lifted roof off and then used a hive tool to loosen off the top and placed it on the table. Remember Queen excluder if you are adding another super. It is worth considering 2 or 3 strips of wood (10mm thick x 300mm long to rest standard on to reduce squashing any bees on the underside.
  5. Smoke again, including yourself, brush away any remaining bees on top, and I prefer “wessexmario” idea of using 2 points (furthest away from you) to rest the super on when replacing to reduce weight you are holding onto, and then pivot and gently lower super. I replace Queen excluder and then Flowhive (honey) top, then roof and re attach restraining tie down ratchet straps. As I increase supers I keep the ideal on top to make lifting easier next time. 4 high is best unless you are tall with long arms.(Flow hive base and honey top and add 2 supers). If you want more start another hive!
    Hope this will help?
    Chris member of Southside Bees Frankston Mornington Peninsula Vic Aust.
    PS I went to see the “Manuka” alternatives held by Landcare using other varieties of Tea tree “Leptospermum” last week. Brilliant, well worth further investigation.
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Hi Cowgirl i find ‘flat bees’ on the box rim too. There is probably a knack to it, one i don’t yet have.
Putting two corners down at a time is perhaps one way to go but i find the weight of the box makes it difficult to control its placement
Next time, to reduce thd box’s weight i plan to remove 2 or 3 flow frames, then once the box is in place - hopefully without scrunching bees- replace the frames. It’s a bit of a hassel but might be a good practice for me.