Thursday, January 20, 2011

LESSON 93: Rotating Hive Bodies In Spring ( 217-427-2678

DavidMBHello, we are David & Sheri Burns, beekeepers operating Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. Feel free to contact us at: 217-427-2678. We’re having the time of our life enjoying helping others get started in beekeeping.
In today’s Lesson, I will be explaining the importance of rotating hive bodies in early spring. Before we start today’s lesson, let me invite you to two our our upcoming classes.

It's important for beekeepers to be well prepared to properly manage hives that have survived the winter. In our last lesson we looked into a more detailed look at the Demaree swarm prevention method. Use this acronym to help you remember how to prepare:

Stimulate For Rapid Foraging Force
Prevent Swarms
Rotate Hive Bodies Inspect The Productivity Of The Queen
New Queen
Give 1:1 Sugar Water & Pollen Patties

Winter Cluster DrawingIt is important for the second year beekeeper to understand how the bees gradually move upward in the hive during the winter. During the winter the cluster gradually moves upward into the top hive body eating its way into stored honey above the cluster.

Pollen PattyNormally the colony is found in the upper deep hive body during the start of spring, leaving the bottom deep hive body empty of bees and honey. The colony will expand in the upper hive body but will quickly become congested and will not likely move down.

The congestion can cause the colony to swarm. Therefore, by reversing the hive bodies the main nesting area is placed on the bottom, giving the colony room to expand into the upper hive body thus elevating congestion and helping to prevent swarming.
This is referred to by beekeepers as rotating the hive bodies or also as reversing the hive bodies. Many beekeepers become too eager to reverse the hive bodies and make a mistake so huge that it devastates the hive, and the colony usually never fully recovers. So let me give some practical advice on rotating the hive bodies.
First, DO NOT ROTATE TOO EARLY. Many beekeepers rotate the boxes too early in the season when the nights are still below freezing.

While a large hive may not be too effected, a smaller hive can suffer from being moved to the bottom. Why? When they were in the top of the hive, they enjoyed living in the pocket of heat that became trapped in the upper part of the hive. This provided assistance in heating the newly reared brood. If the hive bodies are rotated and the temperature drops drastically from a surprise spring cold snap, the colony is now on the
bottom and may have difficulty keeping the brood warm. In Illinois I make it a firm practice never to make splits or rotate hive bodies until after May 1. I simply want warmer nights.

Secondly, many beekeepers make the mistake of not fully inspecting and locating the nesting area. Before reversing the hive bodies it is essential that the hive be inspected. If any of the capped or uncapped brood dips down into the lower hive body, DO NOT REVERSE. If the brood/nesting area was in the upper half of the lower deep, and into the lower half of the upped deep then rotating will damage and break up the brood area and the hive will likely not recover throughout the summer.
So before rotating, make sure there is no brood in the lower hive body. It must be empty of brood, capped or uncapped. If there are some bees in the lower hive, but no brood, it is okay to rotate.

Rotating Hive Bodies & Cleaning Out Bees That Died In Winter
Let me summarize rotating hive bodies:
* Be sure the nights are warm enough not to chill the brood.
* Check and make certain all capped and uncapped brood is found in the upper hive body.
* To rotate, simply reverse the locations of the hive bodies. Place the bottom one on top and the tope one on the bottom. our next article Inspecting The Productivity Of The Queen

Thanks for joining us today and here is our contact information:

Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N. 1020. E. Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841
(217) 427-2678


Unknown said...

I see that you advise not to rotate before the weather is consistently warmer. Here in Delaware, it's been between 50 and freezing consistently all winter. When I last checked, I had 3 out of 4 hives that were covered with bees. I'm afraid that they are out of room and might swarm. I'd like to rotate as soon as possible. Today is to be 70, but into the 30 for the next couple of days - back to 60 in a week. Should I go for it now, or wait another week?

Unknown said...


I am in VA and have the same question. I have 3 hives, one of which is way stronger than the other 2.

He says at one point: While a large hive may not be too effected, a smaller hive can suffer from being moved to the bottom.

We are slightly more southern than you, but I know people here that make nucs in mid-March, while our frost date is Apr 15. Like you, our upcoming cold snap will only last a few days.

My take on it is, there are plenty of bees in my strong hive and they still have a decent stockpile of food. I am going to roll the dice.

Unknown said...

I opened them. They all have brood and bees in both boxes. I split one and made 2 nucs from the strongest. After 10 years of trying to keep bees the way others suggest, I realize no one else can give you the best advice for your situation and micro-climate. The bees don't read the same books as us.
They are an ornery lot. I wonder if aggressive bees are better survivors. It was a swarm I caught 2 years ago. I split them twice the following year. I don't treat for any pests or disease. That old queen is still laying strong.

Bee girl said...

Thanks I rotated one, wanted to split the strongest, but they were just too grumpy so I left them. Great day to be in the hives!

Unknown said...

What's the difference between a split and creating a nuc?

Conrad said...

Rotate Hive Bodies Inspect The Productivity Of The Queen ...

Unknown said...

So... I rotated my hives yesterday. But...after reading this article, I want to switch back. Would reversing the rotation within 24 hours be harmful?

Unknown said...

My problem is the lower deep hive is rotting out and i need to replace it.Can not pull frames out without them coming apart, i put a deep hive on top that was in good shape so how do I go about doing a hive reverse when i am not going to use the bottom deep

Unknown said...

I rotated my hive first week of may with in a week it was full, I put a queen excluder on and a super. Its 3rd week of June still no honey in super? Hive was healthy after winter and looks excellent but no results in super

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