Hints & tips

Preventing your bees from starving in the midst of plenty.
It is often said that overwintering bees which may have started their hibernation with full stores of food, may be at risk of starving because when they empty the brood frames nearest the colony, they do not move outwards to the more peripheral frames to access the rest of their food stores, which remain full and unused. I decided to try out a tip given by Martyn Cracknell at our recent AGM, designed to overcome this risk. He said that winter bees will move into new frames of stores vertically more easily than horizontally (hence the logic of the winter super containing stores), and this is what you can do: On a recent mild January day when I was treating one of my hives with oxalic acid, I removed the 6 outer frames from the brood box (I use deep brood frames), and placed them into the centre of a second brood box which I placed on top of the first. I had previously made 4 hive boards faced with polystyrene sheets cannibalised from Christmas present packing, and I placed these either side of both sets of frames. I now have a tall thin colony space, like an insulated chimney within the hive.
As it happened, the outer frames of stores were not full but did contain some food, so it looks as if my bees had been accessing the outer frames.

Ian Pennell 2014