Hoping that all of the brood that was left in the deep box had hatched by now (knowing that the queen had been out of the deep box for at least 18 days – we had found her in a medium box on 9/2, and we didn’t know how long she’d been in there – and we’d kept her from returning to the deep box with a queen excluder), I removed all of the boxes and moved all of the medium-depth frames into new 8-frame, medium-depth boxes.
I wanted to go ahead and do this now so that:
1) The bees would have time to propolize this new hive and get settled in for the winter.
2) The bees would have time to rob-out any nectar in the deep frames and move it back into the hive. (I’ve left those out and accessible to them.)
3) I could set-up my heating system before it gets cold.
Unfortunately, there was still a small amount of capped brood in the deep box, but I had to sacrifice that in order to accomplish the above.
I was convinced, however, that the queen was NOT in the deep box for three reasons:
1) There was a small amount of capped brood in the medium-depth box she had been in.
2) We had excluded her from the deep box on 9/2.
3) When I put the hive back together, the returning forage bees went to the hive, not to the frames in the open deep box sitting on the ground.
NOTE 1: With the hive completely disassembled, the returning forage bees created quite a cloud of bees confused by the fact that their hive was missing.
NOTE 2: The bees did not want to abandon the small amount of remaining capped brood on the deep frames. I pulled three deep frames partially covered in honey, to harvest for ourselves, and put the remaining seven deep frames into two deep boxes – with some separation between the frames – and set the boxes on the ground. This was so that the bees that stayed on those frames could return to the hive at dusk. (I did not brush them off into the hive.) However, the next morning, even though it was 42 degrees outside, there were four or five clusters of bees on those deep frames trying to keep those small remaining portions of capped brood – and themselves – warm.
NOTE 3: Per John Babb’s suggestion, I did not smoke the bees. He thought that it would be better to not cause the queen to hide. That way, she would be in a more mobile mode and more likely to move to a safe position if she began to get squeezed as I moved the frames into new boxes. I was fully suited up. Throughout this process, even though the bees were temporarily discombobulated by their missing hive, they were never aggressive toward me.
I put a fourth box on top, with 8 new frames of undrawn, wired, beeswax foundation. This is to give the bees room to draw more cells and move the nectar in out of the seven deep frames siting in two deep boxes on the ground.
Once the bees are no longer interested in the nectar in those deep frames sitting on the ground – or it has all been removed – I will start feeding the bees. Depending on the weather, I plan to feed them throughout the month of October. Then, I’ll check that top box on November 1st and see if there is any stored honey in it. If not, I’ll remove it so that the bees don’t have to heat it for no reason through the winter.
The hive is now configured like the attached diagram.