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To Flip or Not to Flip

Reversing boxes in the spring is a somewhat controversial move among beekeepers. In this article, I will explain the purpose of reversing boxes and some considerations for when it should or should not be done.

I do want to stress, though, that this is not a strategy to lose sleep over. Flipping or not flipping will not be a deal-breaker in the success of your hive.

Why Flip?

This is where the controversy comes in. Many beekeepers choose to flip their boxes because they have observed that bees prefer to build UP and that they often continue to ignore the bottom box through the spring if it is left in this configuration. Yet, there are whole beekeeping philosophies based on the premise that bees prefer to start at the top and build DOWN.

Spring Options

Some Considerations

If the colony is very small coming out of winter, then removing the empty space (the bottom box, in most cases) will help them rebound by giving the bees less space to heat, clean, and guard.

If the colony never moved up into the top box, then do not flip the boxes. If the top box is still full of honey, you may need to extract some of that honey so that the bees have space to move up into with their brood.

If the colony is quite large and already filling the top box, but is not using the bottom box, then flipping is a good option.

If they colony is quite large and already has brood in both the top and bottom boxes, then DO NOT flip!

What do we do?

Personally, whether we flip boxes depends a little more on workload and convenience across many hives. We often delay flipping and see if the bees will natural expand down into the bottom box because it saves us a lot of time. Then, those that don't build down get flipped.

We do remove space when a colony seems to be struggling to build up. I think if it the workload were no matter, I wouldn't prefer to remove the empty box for a couple weeks and then replace it (in the top position) once the colony has built up enough to require a second box.


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