A few weeks ago I split the hive on my allotment, putting the queen downstairs on the comb she was on, plus old frames with a footprint of comb round the edge to guide comb building. On went some supers, then a 2 queen board, giving a top entrance in a different direction, then the brood box with the bulk of the brood, crown board and roof.
I left them alone for longer than I intended but could see from the outside that there was lots of activity aloft and alow. Yesterday, there being nobody working close by, I went there equipped with a queen excluder and super. I had difficulty in getting the roof off and found out why: the bees had come up through the crown board and were building comb from the ceiling!
I levered off the crown board and could see that, the frames being the ‘warm way’ the bees had, as usual, devoted the front half of the box to brood rearing and the rear to stores. The top bars of the frames were, conveniently, chest high. I withdrew a few brood frames for inspection: the new queen was laying well and the brood looked healthy, but for a little chalkbrood. I don’t usually see much chalkbrood nowadays, especially if the hive is on a mesh floor (which this one isn’t).
I levered round the bottom of the brood box with the hive tool to break the seal with the 2 queen board then tried to lift the box. It wouldn’t come! I managed to skew it so I knew it wasn’t stuck and tried again. Then I realised what the trouble was: I wasn’t lifting hard enough! I nearly did my back in lifting it off and lowering it onto the upturned roof.
I could see the upper and lower bees communicating with each other through the mesh of the board and they seemed happy enough, so I simply withdrew the plate covering the queen excluder part of the board. I decided to go no further down the stack as I was feeling fragile. I then had to stoop and pick up the heavy brood/honey box and replace it, followed by the QE, super, crown board and roof. Maybe I should wait until a fit young apprentice is around before I attempt a proper job of going through the whole stack!
This adds to my leaning towards top bar hives as being the way forward for those who don’t fancy heavy lifting at awkward angles.