Sunday, July 14, 2013

Are My Bees Backward?

From what I've seen of various top bar hive designs, entrances are placed in the center on one side of the hive...

or at the end of the hive.

If you have entrance holes in the center, the idea is that the bees build their nest in the center of the hive near the entrance and store honey on either side of the next. (Depicted roughly in following sketch. Imagine you're looking down at the bars.) When you inspect, you look at the honey on either side, but don't disturb the nest.
Toward the fall, the beekeeper moves the nest toward one end of the hive, and the honey at the other. (Another rough sketch below.)
While this works for a lot of people, shifting the bars seems cumbersome to me. So I chose end entrances. With end entrances, the bees are supposed to build their nest near the entrances and store honey toward the back. (shown below) During inspections, one is supposed to be able to inspect the bars with honey at the back and be able to leave the brood nest alone. Also, since the honey is at the back, if you need to give them more room, you can just shift the honey down and put an empty bar between the nest and honey.

Apparently, though, my bees did not read the book. The last time I did a full inspection, most of the honey appeared to be stored near the entrances. Today, I did another inspection, and they still don't appear to be storing honey at the back. Instead, all the new comb they built at the back is full of larvae. Lots of larvae and capped brood. 

capped brood

Today, I did just a partial inspection of the last few bars, but I'm wondering if my bees are backward. I've heard of this happening before -- the bees deciding to build their nest toward the back of the hive instead of the front. In fact, when I originally got the nuc, the drawn comb was near the back of the nuc instead of the entrance. And even though I had put the bars near my entrances, they still seem to be putting their nest in the back of the hive. 

I'm a new beek so I'm still mulling over the best approach to this issue. I'm not sure if I should just continue to add empty bars to the nest and trust they'll sort out the honey for themselves. I figure they must have built the nest that way for a reason. I just don't want to keep disturbing their brood nest. Or should I try to push all the bars to the other end of the hive (because I have entrances there that I can open up) and then turn the entire hive 180 degrees? 

Has anyone else ever had backward bees? What did you do about them?

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