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Question About Hive Going In To Winter

Hello All

I live in the Pittsburgh, PA area in the north eastern part of the USA.

Yesterday afternoon I opened the hive and I am concerned about what I am seeing. We put the second brood box on the new hive in July. The box has 8 frames 2 of them does not have comb drawn out on them. The other 6 do, but the comb is across the frames. There are 6 rows of comb. If the frames run north to south, they are building comb east to west across the frames. I am not able to pull just one frame out, without breaking the drawn comb. I am also worried that they might not make it through the winter because the second box is not completely full. The original brood box is completely drawn and very heavy with stored honey.

I also wanted to touch base with you guys to see how you vent the top cover so condensation does not build up on the inside of the hive.

Thank you for any input!

This time of year I would not try to straighten the comb out. If it was warmer I would cut the combs and rubber band them into frames. To get to them, you flip the box upside down and remove the box from all of the frames. Then you can pull each frame one at a time and cut the combs out as you go. But this is not the time of year for that. If you think they are short on stores you can give them dry sugar. Just clump it up so they can’t haul it out for trash.



Also I would try to get into the hive early in the spring before they fill those wonky combs back up. Remove them when they are empty and rubber band them into frames empty and it will go much better than when they are full of honey.

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Wonky comb, or cross comb, happens so easy when you use frames that don’t have foundation fitted. If you won’t use foundation for some reason there is a need for working on wonky comb a couple of times a week till it the frames are built out. The hive also has to be very level, if it isn’t the comb will never be built right.
There are those that are against using foundation for various reasons but there are also valid reason to use it.
In your climate my thoughts would be to remove box and close the hive down for winter. Over winter I would cut out the comb, wire the frames and fit full foundation for the spring and feed the hive over winter and insulate the hive.

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I’m not specifically addressing @TekJunky’s issue, mainly generally speaking.

I’m wondering how it would go in harsh winters, ventilation wise if during the late summer, after the days start to shorten if a hive got well insulated, then a top, middle & bottom entrance was provided. Also if the roof got propped up with match sticks. You could even include a screened floor, During this period the bees will be propolizing any gaps they don’t want. Therefore whatever gaps the bees do leave open should be what they want & need during the cold winter months. You’d have to reckon that would be the best thing to prepare for the bees going forward into winter. Baring in mind that bees don’t have access to propolis during those harsh winters.

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So I am still not sure what to do. Michael are you saying to leave both boxes over the winter or remove it as Pete suggested.

Thank you for all your help!

Hey @TekJunky it can be pretty confusing with all the differing advice. There are good points being made in the responses, but you need straightforward directions for what to do in your climate at this point in the season - we had temps in the mid 30s last night here, just north of Philadelphia PA. We both have to consider freezing temps plus moisture for winter preparations, so if I had the hive you describe, I believe I would leave the second brood box on, and do the following things immediately:

  1. If possible, take out the empty frames and replace with premade follower boards or thick foam insulation panels cut to fit. Be careful and go slowly so you don’t accidentally hurt your queen, although she will most likely be in the lower central area anyway.

  2. Put a sheet of newspaper on the top bars of the top box, spread dry sugar on it, then the inner cover and an insulated outer cover. This gives you extra insurance against starving and adds a way for possible condensation to get absorbed. The insulated roof should greatly reduce that possibility anyway.

  3. Wrap outside walls of the hive with black roofing paper, or tape more foam insulation panels around it. This will further reduce the chance of condensation, and make the existing honey stores last longer since the bees will not have to work as hard to stay warm.

  4. Reduce the entrance and place a mouse guard over it. Mouse guards in winter are a must! They can squeeze into tiny openings and will destroy a perfectly good colony.

  5. Consider whether you’ll want to also create wind barriers with straw bales up next to the stack.

I think there’s a good argument for removing that top box too, but you might have a hard time finding the right moment to do it with the weather getting colder, and the process could be risky to your queen. So, in my opinion, leaving it on is least disruptive and you can deal with that crazy cross comb in spring, before the population rebounds.

Good luck to you and your bees :slight_smile::honeybee::snowman_with_snow:

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Thank you all for your input!!! I have a game plan. In the spring when I straighten up the issue with the combs being drawn across the frames, how warm should it be and in what month should I perform this? Thanks again!

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It’s too late in the year for the bees to rebuild. I would leave the box because they will need the stores.

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Best to wait until you have a 60+ degree day (Fahrenheit) with no wind, when the nights are reliably above freezing. That could be March, or April. The longer you wait, the more brood will be present in those crazy combs and you’ll feel bad messing it up. If you can catch it early and do least harm, you can follow instructions on removing the box & correcting/rubber-banding each frame. I’d suggest using another empty box to set right on top of your bottom brood box after taking off the crazy one, so you can just load corrected frames in as you go and avoid another full lift. Get a helper if you can, and always watch out for your queen!



Thank you so much! I am feeling better about the hive making it through winter.

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I would get in it EARLY in the spring (first warm day is worth a look) and try to remove any messed up comb while it’s still empty before they fill it back up with honey.