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optimal space in a TBH now its February


Timw
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o having lost the queen from my TBH (my 1st hive) just before last winter despite requeening at that late stage, I installed a modest swarm early October and  it has done well. A month ago there was 5-6 bars of brood, and variably full combs of honey from bar 8-15 (25%-80% of cover). There are 2 bars with no comb by the follower board (LH end see pics). In the early morning and evening there is bearding on the front and under the mesh that dissipates during the day. Lots of pollen coming in. Today with this drain / heat / humidity the bearding is pronounced (pics below) and looking through the window (decided not to go in in the rain) a healthy population inside as well. SO  - on the next inspection I am wondering  - despite the empty last 2 bars - whether to add bars and where  - e.g. nearer the brood? Will they draw out comb at this time of the season where they have not bothered to on the end bars, and could this be what I read as possible honey block limiting expansion??  

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Your hive looks exactly like mine in every respect, when I have the base cover open. The bees are just trying to keep the brood area at the right temp during the night. I would not do anything, other than maybe closing up the base to almost closed, so there is ventilation, but so they can keep the temp correct with them inside. That is what I did, and it works and they still sometimes beard at night, but often completely cover the entrance holes, keeping the temp correct inside. The numbers look very similar to mine as well.
As for adding bars, probably not necessary until they have started drawing wax on those 2 empty bars, THEN add a couple more. At this time of year, they probably won't add comb there, as there is plenty of space in the already drawn comb. As Autumn moves in, the colony size will reduce, so the follower board will probably need to be moved between bars with comb to reduce the colony space. When I do that, I will always have a couple of empty bars at the follower board, and will watch very closely when spring approaches so I can expand the follower board back out to allow them to build up in spring, and not swarm.

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