The spring visit
It is necessary to open Dadant hives, as indeed all the framed hives, in spring, in April in the region of Paris, from midday to 2 p.m., and during good weather.
For it is important that the colony is not too well developed, or the temperature too low. The outside temperature is always lower than that of the hive. This is why it is recommended that one proceeds rapidly, albeit without roughness.
In this opening of the hive, it is first of all necessary to clean all the frames and the inside walls. Then all the old frames should be removed. Bees abhor empty space.
Modern hive and its super (shallow box). Bottom: brood chamber.
The bees strive continuously to fill the gaps even between the combs and the sides of the hive. If this propolis, as much on the frames as on the walls, is not removed each year from the first year onwards, manipulation of the frames becomes difficult, and becomes impossible in the second or third year.
When the hive is first opened at the spring visit it is necessary therefore to take out the frames one by one and scrape them all round to remove the propolis.
The frames also have to be moved aside to scrape the walls of the hive. After this procedure one has to take out all the old, black frames. In the old frames, the cells are reduced in size by the cocoons left by each bee when it hatches. If these old frames are kept, the bees hatching from them will become smaller and smaller, weaker at their work, and incapable of resisting disease. Now, these frames sometimes contain brood. It is therefore necessary to remove them, put them further away from the centre, await hatching and return later to remove them.
This work annoys the bees whose young are cooled, requires the bees to consume stores to re-warm the brood chamber, and calls for a considerable outlay of time by the beekeeper. Also, we do not hesitate to point out that an individual beekeeper does not manage to carry out this intervention every year in forty hives.
But our method reduces the spring visit to an insignificant job, which, moreover, can be done at any time or temperature, because it does not involve opening the hive. It is worth noting here that the hives said to be automatic are not really automatic except in the joinery workshop. At the apiary they are no longer so.
Whereas in winter the volume of a hive should be reduced to a sufficient minimum, in summer it should provide the bees with a space sufficiently large to develop the colony, and for the incoming nectar. This means adding supers (shallow boxes). But in order to avoid chilling the brood and
stopping laying, we should not put the supers on too soon. And in order to avoid swarming and reduction of the harvest, we should not put them on too late either. In principle we can put a super on when all the frames except one at each side of the brood chamber are occupied. It is often necessary to add a second super when the first is three quarters full with honey. Thus it is necessary to open the hives to assess the situation. Yet the hives are not all at the same stage of development. We thus have to open the hives several times, resulting in time being expended, chilling the brood chamber, consumption of stores and stressing and annoying the bees.
However, in our method, we place the additional boxes underneath and not on top of the brood chamber and without opening the hive. We can put several there at the same time and as soon as we wish, even when making our spring visit, and whatever the outside temperature. A great economy of time is the consequence.
In view of its size and the inspections it requires, the Dadant hive needs 18 kg stores for winter. Some authors say 20 kg.
In our hive 12 kg stores are sufficient. The difference is considerable.
After the above presentation, a knowledge of beekeeping is not necessary to understand that in the management of the Dadant hive, the bee is ceaselessly thwarted in its intentions, ceaselessly forced into an over-exertion that is not provided for by nature, and to consume honey wastefully. Thus the bee becomes more irritable. She also becomes less resistant to disease and the beekeeper wastes several kilogrammes of honey and a lot of time.