March 28, 2013

Reversing Hive Bodies

Interpreting Langstroth to TBH

"Bees normally move upwards through the honey in the hive during winter. In early spring, the upper deep back of the hive is full of bees, new brood, and food. But the lower deep-hive body front of the hive is mostly empty. You can help matters by reversing the top and bottom deep-hive bodies occupied and unoccupied brood combs."

"This reversing procedure enables the bees to better distribute brood, honey, pollen, fresh nectar, and water. Reversing gives them more room to move upward grow, which is the direction that they always want to move." — from Beekeeping for Dummies

Photo Credit: Backyardhive.com 
Reversing is usually done to prevent swarming of overwintered colonies. While you're at it, take the opportunity to get rid of old blackened combs. With the dandelion flow about to start, it's time to:
  • take out the oldest (and hopefully still broodless) combs near the front of the hive
  • push the brood nest forward
  • place empties (or fresh top-bars to build on) in the back.
In effect, reversing hive bodies. How does this help with swarming, you ask? It's supposed to remove any perception of being crowded by giving the bees space ahead. In a Langstroth hive the bees have been moving up all Winter, but in a topbar hive they've been moving backwards. So that's where we want to give them room to grow. We can certainly just leave them be, and they'll likely just reoccupy the empty combs they left behind, but we do have a 2-year old queen to consider. Colonies with older queens are more likely to swarm. Giving the colony topbars that need to be built out also helps suppress the swarm urge by distracting them with busy work. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. We shall see...

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