Hi Semaphore…gulp…that’s quite a hit. And reminds me of some of the early pioneers in our country describing this land…when it was first settled…as “tommorrow’s country”. I was raised on a farm and with that background look upon beekeeping as the most specialized form of animal (insect) husbandry…prone to so many unpredictable forces working against survival of your operation. When all is said and done, the longterm beekeeper has to be content with intermittent positive reinforcement…and the simple pleasure of just being in the company of bees. So I hope next year for the SA beekeeper is more gratifying.
Good eye and good question.
So when our brief honeyflow is over, we reduce our colonies to a single brood chamber for wintering. Most of the honey producer colonies are 6 or 7 FD boxes high when we remove the last honey pull…so where do the bees all go?
An empty shallow super (or equivalent) is placed on the bottom board under the single brood chamber used for wintering. This serves as a “overflow parking lot” for summer’s bulk bees and when the winter stores are topped up in late fall, the bulk bees simply build just enough comb to suspend themselves on mass on the underside of the queen occupied brood chamber above. This hive configuration gives us the correct ventilation requirements…so important in this climate as excessive moisture condensation creates molding of frames and stress diseases like nosema take down the colony down rapidly. We’ve found that in most cases, two brood chambers is too much room…one brood chamber crammed with bees can deal with moisture buildup more effectively.
And at this time of year…early spring…we individually remove the hives from the beehouse, tip them on end…gently smoke them off that sacrificial bottom comb (see photo)…remove that comb…and undersuper with a brood box with ample feed ( honey/beebread) and a bit of sugar syrup. The hives are placed back in the beehouse where their increased activity collectively creates enough heat to keep the beehouse temperature at 20C…remember the countryside still is covered in snow…but brood rearing is well underway and it’s too early for natural pollen…3 weeks away…a critical time of year to be giving the bees what is required.