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Reversing Hives: From Natural Beekeeping

Reversing Hives: From Natural Beekeeping

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Reversing a hive is a technique used primarily to reduce, but not eliminate, a colony’s swarming impulse.

Now revised and updated with new resources and including full-color photos throughout, the new edition of Natural Beekeeping offers the same holistic, sensible alternative to conventional chemical practices with a program of natural hive management, and offers new sections on a wide range of subjects
Reversing a hive is a technique used primarily to reduce, but not eliminate, a colony’s swarming impulse.

Now revised and updated with new resources and including full-color photos throughout, the new edition of Natural Beekeeping offers the same holistic, sensible alternative to conventional chemical practices with a program of natural hive management, and offers new sections on a wide range of subjects

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Published by: Chelsea Green Publishing on Mar 15, 2013
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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01/28/2015

 
Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture
REVISED AND EXPANDED EDITION
m p
NATURAL BEEKEEPING
ROSS CONRAD
 
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for the queen to lay eggs. When using a system where the main hive consists of two shallow hive bodies with a deep hive body sandwiched between them, the positions of the shallows are reversed. If the hive proper consists of two deep hive bodies, then the position of each deep is switched. In the management system I use, this is how a shallow “overflow” hive body ends up beneath the deep hive body. The nuc or package of bees begins the year in the deep hive body. By the time winter is approaching, the hive has a shallow (or two) of honey above the deep box containing the brood nest. In the spring, most of the bees are up in the shallow and the deep is mostly empty, so the posi-tion of the boxes is reversed and the shallow on top is now placed on the bottom. Given that the pro-cess of reversing a colony involves taking the hive apart, this is a good time to clean up the equipment a bit. The following is one example of how to go about reversing, cleaning, and inspecting a hive in early spring.First of all, when you walk up to a hive, it is best to approach from either the side or the rear of the colony. It’s not a good idea to position yourself directly in front of a hive, because the foragers that are coming and going from the front entrance may interpret your actions as trying to block their path and may feel threatened enough to defend their turf with their stingers. After blowing some smoke into
all
 the entrances of the hive, lift the outer cover and send a puff or two of smoke under the cover before removing it. The idea is to let the smoke precede you as you go through the colony, in effect announcing your presence before you arrive. Place the outer cover on the ground a couple feet behind the hive with the bottom side up. After applying a puff of smoke to the bees gathered around the opening of the inner cover, use your hive tool to pry up a corner of the top super or hive body. As your hive tool lifts up the corner of the super, send some smoke into the crack between the supers and con-tinue to pry up until you can stick the entire nose of your smoker into the space between the boxes. This will allow you to remove the hive tool without
if sugar and supplements are used over prolonged periods. Common sense dictates that, like all creatures, honey bees thrive on wholesome natural foods, and they suffer when forced to consume the equivalent of junk food. If protein supplementa-tion is required, the natural approach, in keeping with the honey bee’s biology, is to mix powdered pollen with just enough honey so that it forms a dough. Such a patty can be left inside the hive near the brood area for utilization by the bees.
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Reversing a hive is a technique used primarily to reduce, but not eliminate, a colony’s swarm-ing impulse. Swarming is the act of reproduction wherein a single superorganism, in this case the colony of bees, breaks into two groups and creates a replica of itself. It is a natural survival instinct of the species
 Apis mellifera
.A number of factors are believed to influence a colony’s decision to swarm. Among them are: a crowded hive lacking space for additional brood rearing; an aging queen (two years old or older); and an abundance of honey and pollen available to foragers combined with insufficient storage space.Preventing an early swarm helps to ensure that the bees will have time to stow away enough honey to last the winter before they divide themselves up and thus reduce their nectar-gathering abilities. This can be crucial during poor honey years when the total amount of honey produced by the hive is low. Reversing also provides an opportunity for the beekeeper to conduct a thorough inspection of each colony, so that potential issues may be resolved before they become acute. Just like it sounds, the process of reversing a colony simply involves restacking the boxes that make up the hive so that the bottom hive body ends up on the top, and vice versa. The intention is to end up with the brood and honey positioned as close to the bottom of the hive as possible, with extra space above. The act of reversing a hive may also break up the brood nest, creating more space
 
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the distance between the top bars of the frames in the bottom box and the bottom bars of the frames in the box above respect the bee space. This can result in the frames below sticking to the frames above when the boxes are being pried apart (see Figure 3-22). When this occurs, bees get crushed and the top box cannot be lifted off the hive. This usually causes the beekeeper to drop the box back down on the hive, squashing even more bees, which results in the hive taking on an ugly mood.Whenever you handle supers or hive bodies con-taining bees, it is best to keep them as level as pos-sible. When it is not possible or convenient to keep a box full of bees in a horizontal position, it is impor-tant to always tilt the hive section so that the short end faces down toward the ground, thus prevent-ing the frames from collapsing upon one another. If a nuc or hive body is carried or set down with one of the long sides facing the ground, gravity will force the frames together and in the process kill or injure the bees that are unfortunate enough to get pressed between the leaves of honey, like flowers in a
FIGURE 3-20.
 In northern climates, reversing the order of the hive’s chambers in spring, before they have become overcrowded, can delay the bees’ swarming instinct, helping to ensure that the colony will have the workforce available to store enough honey to see them safely through the winter.
the two boxes coming back together and possibly crushing some bees in the process. With the nose of the smoker inserted between the supers, squeeze the bellows a couple times while you reach over with your free hand to the handhold on the raised end of the upper chamber and lift it up. If the back end of the top box is too close to the edge of the box underneath it, you may have to slide the hive body being lifted forward a bit to keep it from slipping off the back end of the hive. After allowing some smoke to drift over the exposed bees, the top super with the inner cover still attached can now be lifted off the hive and placed on the telescoping edges of the outer cover that is on the ground, so that there is little chance that the bees on the exposed underside will be crushed (see figure 3-24). If more than two boxes make up the hive, repeat the procedure as outlined for the top hive body and place the second hive body off to the side, standing on end.If a colony is ignored for too long and allowed to become crowded, the bees will often build burr comb between the boxes on the hive, even though

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