This is both a recommendation and a suggestion as you prepare to do your first spring inspections: make sure your hive stands are relatively level, which means the hive can have a small tilt at the front to keep water out but it should not look like the leaning tower of Pisa.
Winter heaving and thawing of soil changes the foundation of your hives if you have them on soil as I do. Even if you have concrete matts often found under air conditioning/heating systems, soil will move and cause listing.
That’s why in my basic beekeeping basket, the one I take with me out to my hives, I have a tiny level.
This level starts the growing season in my beekeeping basket so that I re-level my hives when doing their first inspection of the season. The level then moves to my gardening bucket so I can check bird baths, which also start leaning. The level comes in handy to also settle in small rock walls, wood walls and benches.
Now those of you who know me may be saying to yourself, that poor hive is also listing because Charlotte did the leveling. I’ve been known to get distracted by something in the garden and not necessarily remembered where I last left off so when I get back to it I assume I leveled it…
In this case, my bee buddy David and my gardening buddy Tom BOTH worked on getting this purple hive level last fall. You will note they added bricks at the bottom of the concrete blocks to try to better settle the blocks and shims under the hive. And the spot still moved over winter!
I do keep an eye on these listing hives and, if I find them structurally unsound when I gently push on them, I will do something then, such as add temporary shims. It will have to be redone after the soil thaws so it is most definitely a temporary fix.
That’s what I did to this listing yellow hive earlier this past winter. If you will note, the bottom of the concrete blocks don’t have bricks under the blocks. When I first set up the concrete blocks, the left side was a smidge higher than the right side so that may explain why the right stack of blocks is learning more.
I plan to move this hive down to a lower level where I will be once again checking the blocks before I place the hive.
One more beekeeping tip when it comes to hive placement. If you have annual plants nearby that you pull at the end of the growing season, that soil movement can impact your hive levels. I leave those plants through winter since birds may eat seeds and then clean them up in spring by pulling them out and composting.
There is a connection between those plants and your hives, the nectar your bees collect comes from those flowers, which is why my honey samples include using the containers later to save seeds to plant more flowers.
Weather is warming this week so guess what I will be doing when I start my spring hive inspections!