How to return a hive that's been on its own to production this spring?

Q: I have a hive that has been on their own for approximately 6-7 years. The last time I worked the hive I added a second deep brood chamber and two shallow supers. I have checked the weight of the hive each fall just to make sure they have enough stores to make it through the winter. Can you give me some advice on how to return this hive to production this spring? Reggie, South Carolina

A: We turned to Jennifer, a phone-answer beekeeper at Kelley’s, for her insights. Jennifer shared:

You have some work ahead of you this spring (after daytime temps are above 50 degrees for five consecutive days). You will need to break down the entire hive. You need to locate the brood nest and move it to the bottom box. If the brood nest is contained in two boxes make those your bottom two boxes (be sure to maintain the same frame configuration). Remove the supers if they are full of honey and extract or clean them up if they are empty (change the foundation if necessary). Be ready to put these back on for your first honey flow. Clean up any burr comb and excess propolis. Replace any badly damaged foundation. Check for any obvious signs of disease or just anything that looks out of the ordinary. Take pictures if possible and even if you don’t know what it is you can always email me and I will help you.

Editor’s Note: Reggie and other readers, we’d love any pictures to help readers understand how to best manage bees. Please share, send photos to, thank you!

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