I am a new beekeeper and this is my Spring. we live in Kentucky and have had a pretty cold Winter. I noticed my larger hive which had a brood box and 2 medium supers on has been consistently busy when the weather was warm during the winter and today was no exception, they were even out foraging bringing back pollen although I am not sure where from at this time of year? My concern is for the smaller hive which only had one brood box and one medium Super on to last the winter, I opened it up today and the brood box I think is still full of honey but the cluster is all in the medium Super. There were a lot of dead bees laying on the screened bottom board which we cleaned out, not sure if this was just natural causes or the cold? I cleaned it all out though. I am unsure what to do about the brood box, should I move it above the super where the queen is or should I just add an empty Super on top? I would hate to get a few weeks from Spring and then lose this hive? Help please?
did you see eggs, larvae and/or brood? Do you know if you definitely have a queen? You could possibly add a frame of brood from the strong hive to strengthen the weak one coming into spring.
You might find the following article interesting. You don’t mention whether you tested or treated for Varroa, but if not, it is food for thought.
If it is very weak, I would consider donating frames of emerging (capped) brood and honey/pollen stores from your other hive. The other option is to merge it with a healthy hive, but you don’t want to do that if it is diseased (Nosema for example).
If you can post some photos, it might help us to help you.
I saw the queen today and there was larvae and capped brood. I treated fro Varroa in the fall. I am attempting to upload some photos (I can only upload one)…!
I will add that I added the top feeder and put in a little sugar syrup in both this hive and the strong one, although now I am struggling with robbing bees…both hives the bees are bringing back pollen, the strong one is crazy never seen so much so quick going in, the this one just a few here and there.
See below…thanks for the comment
Not good for a weak hive - it can be emptied within a couple of days by the robbers. I would immediately reduce the entrance down to around an inch wide, and consider getting a robbing screen:
The entrance has been reduced since the start of winter, I watched them a lot yesterday and they managed to fend off robbers from the entrance, they also started bringing in pollen although not in the quantity that the strong hive was!
“Almost Spring and small hive is weak and I am worried”. Seeing as you are coming into spring, it’s a golden opportunity to use a little swarm control on the strong colony to strengthen up the weak colony. Just do it one brood frame at a time. One every 10-14 days. Let the colony population build up gradually. If the queen is a poor performer, the increase of the colonies critical mass may decide to supersede her. Otherwise you could take that step yourself. If you do, leave the queen’s body there, at the same time as you introduce a new frame of brood that contains new worker eggs or very young worker larvae.
Leaving the queen’s body there will insure that they get straight into making a new one, without delay. Something that I recently observed.
Thanks Jeff, I really appreciate all the comments.
I want to add something now. I opened up the strong hive yesterday, the top medium Super, apart from 2 frames which they are starting to draw out is all honey, the second super down is all honey, the deep brood box was all honey less two or three frames where I saw capped brood and larvae. Although a complete novice this looks like they may get honey bound and run of space for the queen to lay. I moved the top super down one place which had a couple of frames with space in.
As for the weaker hive, the bottom brood box was all honey, the super on top is honey and brood/larvae, again not sure where she will lay eggs soon? With all this lack of space should I take out some honey frames and replace a couple with some empty frames?
You’re welcome Richy. Can you harvest some honey? so that the bees have some empty frames to move honey into when the time comes for them to open the brood up. Be careful not to expose the brood to cold air & chill it. Pick a warm day, as you have probably already done.
We treated in the fall with Apivar all of the frames, I understand we cannot use this now? A friend suggested taking some frames and spinning it to re-use for the bees in a top feeder?
You can’t use Apivar with a harvesting super on the hive, and it is bad practice not to rotate your treatments. If you are worried about Varroa, I would suggest getting an Oxalic Acid vaporizer. The treatment is fast and very effective. You are not meant to do it with a harvest super on top, but there are ways around this. I love my Varrox vaporizer, and think it is one of the best investments we made for combating Varroa. It is $160 or so to buy, then you need a jump starter or other power source (another $80), but after that, the oxalic acid is very cheap (Savogran Wood Bleach is pure enough, even if not approved), and you don’t have to take the hive apart to treat the colony.
You could also consider MAQS, but they are hard on the queen, so I would make sure that you can find a replacement queen before starting treatment. Also, never remove the covering on the outside of the strips before you put them into the hive.
You can do this if the honey is not capped and has more than 18% water content. Keep it in the freezer until the day before re-feeding. I would only do this if you are not able to donate the frames to another (weaker) hive. If you can just move the frames over to give the weak hive a boost, you can save yourself a lot of effort.
We did exactly this last weekend. We had a very strong hive with limited space for the queen to lay, so we took out 3 frames. They were about 1.5 frames of honey and pollen, and one frame of mostly capped brood. We switched 3 empty frames from a weaker hive into the strong hive. So now we have given the weak hive a boost, and we have done a bit of swarm prevention in the strong hive.
Just a few thoughts
Great advice! I have a small colony that I am worried about and the first month of Winter is barely over. As soon as Spring is here I will doing just as you suggested Jeff, if my poor wee bees survive…
Well done Shaz & thank you Keep them nice & warm. Even if you tape a layer of poly styrene around the box as added insulation & reduce the entrance in the mean time. cheers.
PS, plus make sure they have adequate food.
I am about to head to town to see what I can rustle up in the way of polystyrene, I have reduced the entrance. It’s too cold for me to check on the food side of things but before my last inspection in early April they looked like they had enough…do you know of any way I could feed them without opening the hive? (Sorry if this is a stupid question? I suppose after reading in my beekeeping book that starved bees is a sign of poor beekeeping management I am starting to worry in case they run out of food).
@Shaz You could weigh the hive with the aid of some bathroom scales and then calculate approximately how much honey is in the hive. Can you post a photo of the base of your hive? I can then make some suggestions on how to weigh it if you have the scales.
Hi Shaz, I might be too late, but even a cut up broccoli box might do.
Are your bees bringing anything in at the moment, also do you expect them to gather anything during your winter to keep them going? Someone gave me an entrance feeder, they only cost about a dollar. You fit a small juice bottle to them. Or you could make an entrance feeder that you sit an upside down jam jar on.
How many frames do the bees occupy?
If you can’t find an entrance feeder as Jeff suggested, you can put feed on top, under the roof. Is it a Flow hive roof, or similar that’s peaked? If so, you can make up some syrup and put it into a sealable plastic bag, lay it onto the crown board without blocking off the center hole, and make three slashes in it with a razor blade. Push gently to get the air bubbles out. Quickly replace the roof so as not to lose too much heat.
If it’s a conventional flat roof, you can use an empty shallow super to create space for a baggie, or a medium for a jar-type feeder.
I struggled doing the slashing with a razor. I ended up just using a large needle to make holes in the center of the bag, about 50 or so.