Secret passages for bees

During the winter whilst bees are clustering, sometimes they can find it hard to move from one frame to another to feed on their stores without getting too cold. On John Chapple’s suggestion, yesterday we gouged a hole in the middle of our brood frames containing honey, a little passage to allow bees through.

Now the queen and her entourage can pass through with ease! These frames are older than we would like. In the spring we will do a shook-swarm or Bailey comb exchange to get the bees on new frames.

We saw Myrtle; she is still laying and we have about two frames full of brood, new bees to take the colony through winter.

Depending on the weather to come, this may have been the last time we can do a proper inspection this year (sob!). Now we are concentrating on feeding the bees sugar syrup before it gets too cold. My next blog post will probably be about the London Honey Show, which is coming up on 8th October! Anyone else going?

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully! - future successes.
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15 Responses to Secret passages for bees

  1. Looking forward to the honey show on the 8th. Can smell the honey already!

    Hope our bees appreciate the secret passages!


  2. Bruce says:

    I have never heard of a “Secret Passage” but it makes sense. However, don’t the girls just plug it up with wax?


  3. I have never heard of this either, but it sounds like a good idea. We have mostly wax-covered plastic comb so I’ll have to find a solid-wax foundation to try this out. Thanks for the tip!


  4. Interesting idea! One year we lost 4 hives who were too cold to eat. Can you do this with a wax covered plastic comb?


  5. I would love to visit a honey show. I guess you get to try out all kinds of honey. That would be heaven.


  6. I’ll be interested in hearing the results of the passage. Does sound a bit invasive to me….


    • Emily Heath says:

      We’ve only done it to about four frames at the back of the hive, and none of those had brood on. My only worry is whether the holes might let cold air through, but we haven’t done the frames closest to the entrance.


  7. hencorner says:

    I’ve been feeding my bees all month and they’ve so far taken 25.5 ltrs strong sugar syrup, that’s over 5.5 gallons!

    As I lost many of them last month, see: I’m trying to get the colony strong and brood box full for winter.

    My supermarket will be reporting me to the Tooth Fairy soon with the amount of sugar I’m buying!



  8. Phillip says:

    This seems to go along with the thinking that medium frames and boxes are better for wintering than deeps because it’s easier for the bees to get to the other side of a medium frame than a deep frame — less distance to cover, less likely the freeze while leaving the cluster to get to the other side.


    • Emily Heath says:

      Ah I see, interesting. We don’t use mediums and deeps so that’s not really talked about here, all National beehives (the standard beehive used in England) take a standard size brood frame.


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