I'm a first year beek. Starting out this year with just one hive of italians. I live in northern Maryland near the PA line.
I am set up with a sbb, a slotted rack parallel to the frames, two deep hive bodies, a queen excluder, an "Imrie" shim made up of 1/2" thick wood with an entrance, and then my supers. I have an inverted jar on top of the inner cover, with another empty super, followed by another inner cover then outer cover. This set up has worked well all spring and summer.
I have a few different questions to ask regarding this:
I have been faithfully following some of George Imrie's techniques listed in his pink pages. One of these is to continuosly feed the new hive sugar syrup 24/7 until labor day in order to get as much drawn comb in the supers as possible. After the hive bodies were drawn out, I added the queen excluder and began supering. Again, per Imrie's instructions, I added only one super at a time until each is mostly drawn out. I'm using medium Illinois for supers. About 3 weeks ago the first super had about 8 frames drawn out (90% each) so I added the second super. Since then not one bit of comb has been drawn on the second super. It appears the bees are still storing nectar and sugar syrup in the first super only and none of that has been capped yet. It also appears that frames 1,2, 9, and 10 in the hive bodies are heavy solid with capped honey and that the bees continue to fill these lower frames with nectar. I have 2 questions on this. Is it normal to only get the first super of a medium Illinois drawn out the first year or is this more typical? The second question is around labor day I will be removing the supers...so what do I do with them and the uncapped honey in them over the fall and winter so that it does not get moldy? Even if it ends up getting capped I am not going to extract the honey as it is likely from the sugar syrup. I have read you can freeze the frames and use it as food in the spring if the hive runs low on honey. The problem with that is I have 2 deep hive bodies. I do not yet have an extractor. Any suggestions?
I am also curious about upper hive entrances. As suggested by Imrie's pink pages, it can help to have an upper entrance to reduce travel for the foragers and for ventilation. As previously noted, I made an imrie shim which is just above the queen excluder. I have had this on since I have been supering. So far I have yet to see one bee use the entrance. There will be 5-10 bees which hang out around the entrance, I guess some may be guards. By having the shim above the queen excluder, every so often I will get burr comb coming down from the frames above due to the gap in the hive. I was just curious if this is normal or if others have better recommendations. Also, Imrie recommends an upper entrance all year round. So where does the shim go after I remove the supers and queen excluder? Just beneath the inner cover? I prefer not to drill holes in my supers or hive bodies.
Lastly, I have found out how unbelievably heavy a deep hive body can weigh when it has quite a bit of capped honey. I am going to be getting several more packages of bees next spring and will be using 3 mediums for the hive bodies. The deeps can get just way too heavy. Any suggestions on how and when to convert an exisitng hive from 2 deeps to 3 mediums? Remember, I have only one existing hive and will be starting 3 new hives next spring.