Opening hives in winter

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steve_e 

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Hi -
I need to open a hive up briefly (to remove a QE), which I haven't done before at this time of year.

I know a lot of you apply oxalic acid about now so I guess you've had the experience. I was just wondering what to expect. Are the bees likely to be torpid and slow to react, or will they be defensive? Are they more likely to be down inside the frames or am I likely to have to remove the QE with lots of bees crawling over it (and therefore will I have to leave many outside the hive).

Any views gratefully received!

Regards, Steve.
 

Grub 

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Hi Steve
so I take it you have a brood and a super on and the queen excluder is between these ?
you have left it very late to remove , with the oxalic treatment it only takes minutes to do plus you arent taking anything apart just taking the crown board off etc , plus personely I think you would do more harm than good at this time of year especialy with the realy cold weather we are having, but others on here may say somthing else

Grub.
 

Black Comb 

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Steve the bees are torpid but if some guard bees fully wake up they may have a go. Get suited up as normal just in case.

Oxalic should only take a minute or 2. Take a torch so that you can see which seams the bees are located in and then trickle down those seams.
 

Monsieur Abeille 

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Others have mentioned on here before of the danager of the queen being seperated from the rest of the cluster as they move into the super, so I would guess it does need doing - however if it was me I would risk waiting a few days until hopefully the temperature improves a bit, and be well prepared (hive tool to hand etc) for very swift remove and replace when you are ready to do so.

Museings of a novice though, so would still wait for more informed comment.
 

steve_e 

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Thanks all for your replies. I think I do need to do it unfortunately. I've been waiting for a warm period since I found out that I'd made this mistake - but we haven't really had one.

The thing that makes me think I need to do it now is that the cold weather is apparently going to get worse and last into the new year...
 

nonstandard 

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3 random suggestions.

Could you do as much of the operation as possible under a manipulation cloth to try and retain as much heat in the hive as you can.

Also it may be worth a quick peek under the corner of the crown board with a torch to see what you will need to do.

If the QX is under an empty super could you not drop a square of insulation in on top and leave till spring?

Bear in mind I'm only a novice and there are much more experienced beeks on here who will probably have a much better idea of how to approach this :D

It may help to define exactly what your set-up is, is the QX between the brood and a super or between the brood and cover board, if its a super is that empty or with stores?
 

Silly Bee 

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Have you got anybody who could help. You lift thr super, assistant removes the QE, you drop the super back on?

Be prepared. Hive tool, etc.
 

winmag270 

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not saying anymore in case SWMBO reads this... ;o)
your main problem will be (assuming the super is not empty) that there is a chance the cluster will have formed through the QX, so opening the hive / splitting the boxes may well split the cluster.....

when applying OA treatment it is clearly advised not to split the hive but to simply dribble from the top and let gravity do the rest

how much stores were there in the brood box and super at your last inspection?

this may give a clue as to what to do.....
 

Mike a 

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If you have a super above the QE with lots of stores then I would remove it asap. If however you don't have a super or eke above the QE and you have no intention of giving them oxalic acid then best to leave it in place now as the hive parts would of been sealed up with propolis making it awkward to separate each hive part quickly and gently.
 

steve_e 

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Thanks for those suggestions. winmag270 I'm not intending to treat with OA, just remove the QE. I see what you mean about the cluster forming through the QE which will obviously be messy.

The super was just left there because the brood box didn't seem that well stocked and because my porter escapes didn't work and there were load of bees still in the super when I came to take it off. It's only got about 4 frames of honey in it anyway, so hopefully they won't be heading up for that yet.

I had thought of getting someone out to help, SB, so thanks for backing that one up.

Non-standard - there are frames in the super but that's given me another idea - if there aren't any bees in the super I could just take it off and leave the QE in place. Alternatively I could take the frames out and drop some insulation into the super if the super is too well stuck with propolis.
 

Monsieur Abeille 

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So no problem if the super is devoid of bees - hoik it off and replace with crown board unless you need the space for insulation/fondant.

But if there are a significant number of bees in it, which there may well be as it will be the warmest part of the hive, you will still need to remove the QE somehow
 

steve_e 

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That's it exactly. I need to open it, hope the super is empty, and in which case do the hoiking as you suggest. If not I need to get the QE off and put it back together. The first option is obviously the preferred one...

Thanks for the advice people!
 

Vergilius 

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Steve_e,

How come only one of your hives is in this situation? Did you just forget that this one in particular had a QE in it? This is why I over-winter mine in a single brood box...

If you give the hive a sharp knuckle-rap you may be able to assess which part of the hive the cluster is currently in. You can plan your operation from here...

Ben P
 

Mike a 

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To be honest Steve put the thought of messing about fitting insulation to the back of your mind. The only other thing you should be concerned with is quantity of stores and removing the QE.

4 super frames is no-where near enough to them well feed so feed them a huge lump of fondant. Personally I would pull out 3-4 super frames and drop in a few kg's worth of fondant just off to the side of where the cluster is (See the multiple other threads on this) Maximum the hive should be open for is approx 30-40 seconds.
 

steve_e 

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Ben, no it was just that this hive seemed light on stores in the BB and my bright idea was to leave them some frames in the super to top them up, but to put a QE in between to stop the Queen laying in it early next year.

Obviously naive, and now it just needs fixing.

That sounds good Mike, I'll do that.
 
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