What We Expected
It had been a few weeks since we’d been to the hives and we were curious to see how much the pull had affected the hives. Within 24 hours we’d put the emptied frames back and we gave them some time to refill. We had hoped to see the bees quickly cleaning out and rebuilding the damaged frames beginning to refill them with nectar.
What We Saw
The hives did a good job cleaning, but it didn’t appear they were expanding honey into old or new areas. On the contrary, it appears that the bees were consolidating their honey stores. As honey is processed again and again, the bees reduce the water content to 18% before capping it. Once capped, the honey takes up much less physical space than it did before. Each frame appeared to have more capped honey and little to no uncapped honey.
In addition, the bees appeared to be concentrating themselves into smaller sections of their hives. Whereas in the past they may have spanned 3 boxes, they were now focused more between 1-2 boxes.
What We Did
Seeing as the bees were beginning their transition from summer production into winter preparation, we decided to meet them on their journey and assist in their shifting priorities. We went through each hive, looking at the frames and taking out any that were unused or underused in an effort to downsize their hive space.
In the end, we reduced each hive by about 1 full box. This would have the effect of giving the bees less fragmented resources and less space needing defending or warming as the winter months approach. In cluster form, the hive can only travel so far from the brood chamber to access pollen and honey. In consolidating, we’re increasing their likelihood of survival.
What We’ll Do
We shook up the bees quite a bit and we knew they’d need time to recover. With the fall being a busy time for Caitlin and I, we’ll return in about a month to begin more active winter preparation. At this stage, there’s little we can do to improve their chances. They’ve worked long and hard to establish their colonies, now it’s just a careful march toward winter.