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Honeybee hives in the apiary

I often get questions that go something like this: Is it alright to add a brood box above a super? Or, I only have supers, can I use those as brood boxes? People are worried about whether they are using the "right" size of box.

This is a concern for people, not bees. The bees don't care what size the boxes are. They don't get their little tape measures out and measure the box height and say "Well, this is a deep box, so we must use it for brood". Or, "this is a western style medium box, so we must only store honey it it". They perceive a space, not a box size.

To the bees, it doesn't matter whether a hive has 4 deep boxes or 6 mediums, or 8 shallow boxes. From the inside, it is one tall, hollow cavity to fill. So they place the honey at the top, brood in the middle, and pollen in the bottom. They don't look at the stack of boxes and determine what to put in the box by the size of the box - they look at the entire structure and determine where to place the resources.

Here is a simple, yet powerful concept in beekeeping: Bees store resources (brood, honey/nectar, and pollen) according to the location in the hive, not the size of the box. They store honey/nectar at the top, they place brood in the center, and they store pollen at the bottom. In a long hive, this trend is seen horizontally - honey at the back, brood in the middle, and pollen in the front by the entrance.

So, lets look at how this concept works in the real world. below are 5 different hive configurations:

deep
deep
deep
deep

medium
medium
medium
medium
medium

shallow
medium
deep
deep
deep
deep
medium
shallow
shallow
shallow
deep
medium
deep
shallow

Which one would the bees like best? (the bees, not the beekeepers)

Answer: They don't care. As far as the bees are concerned, all Honey bee hive all mediumsfive of these configurations would give them a tall cavity to fill. We beekeepers probably wouldn't like the last two because they would be difficult to handle, but the bees would do just fine in them!

The lesson in this story; stop worrying about whether you have the "right size box" and start thinking about how the bees will use the box depending upon what position the box is placed.

So, get away from the concept that a deep box is a "brood box". It is simply a deep box (9 5/8"). It can be used for anything if placed in the proper position.

A "super" has many meanings. For starters, there are shallow supers (4.5" tall), medium/Illinois supers (6 5/8" tall), western supers (7 7/8" tall), or deep supers (9 5/8" tall). They are all just boxes. Whether bees use them as brood chambers or honey chambers or pollen chambers depends on their position in the stack, not the size of the box.

I now only refer to them by box size. "That is a deep", or "that is a medium" etc. I no longer use the terms brood box or honey super.

Understanding how the placement of the box in the hive configuration affects its use, allows us to manage the colony to achieve certain results. Combine that with the understanding of how a colony naturally moves up and down, within the hive, through the year, and we can dramatically change the amount of honey our hives will harvest in a normal year.

#savethebees #afuturewithbees #bees