First, for those of you who have been losing sleep over my difficulties in establishing a laying queen in my second hive, rest easy: she’s there and she’s laying. I checked over the weekend and the two brood chambers are full of good, healthy brood. I pulled over the top feeder and added a honey super. All’s well.
The first hive is doing well, too. I checked up on them last week and saw that the second honey super was getting close to full, so I added a third. I decided to try an experiment, though.
I know that every little bit of extra work you make the bees do can come out of your bottom line, even making them climb through two extra honey supers to get to the new empty one I’d put on top. So I tried a little swap: I reversed the positions of the honey supers. That is, I put what had previously been the bottom honey super on top of the stack and added the new, empty super to the middle of the stack, just above the brood chambers.
Since it’s not a true, controlled experiment (how will I know whether it “worked”?), I decided to ask the advice of Karen Bean of Brookfield Farm, the beekeeper selling at our local farmer’s market who I have drafted as my mentor.
Karen gave my move the thumb’s up. She said she doesn’t bother with all that switching, mostly to spare her back (a wise woman, indeed), but she did recommend one easier switch:
When adding a new super, she suggested taking two center frames from the top-most honey super, which would likely have some brood in them, and placing them in the center of the newly added super. (The presence of brood on those frames is predicated on the notion that you’re not using a queen excluder, which we don’t.) Then take the displaced empty frames from the new super and place them in positions 2 and 9 of the almost full super (that is, not outermost, where they may be ignored, but close to it).
The goal of the maneuver is to give the bees some encouragement to start moving in to the new, empty super. She noted that if there is brood present, it’s best not to shake off the nurse bees that will be tending them.
I’ll give that a whirl next.