Are my hives honeybound?

Hey guys,

Getting ready for winter now and I just don’t have the experience to know if there is enough room for the queen to lay through the winter

I have a few colonies with only 4 or 5 frames (all covered with bees).
They were low on stores so I started feeding them a couple of weeks ago. To my surprise, turns out there was a mini flow going on at the same time because now I can easily find 2 or even 3 honey frames out of 4 or 5 frames (yes a couple have 3 out of 4 frames full of honey).

For a colony of only 4 or 5 frames size, how many of those should be honey frames?
I’m worried that the queen won’t have enough room to produce winter bees.

I’m reluctant to put more foundation frames in because I want them to winter with as little space as possible.
They’re all housed in 8 frame boxes with movable 50mm foam partitions I’ve cut out, so I can expand their space if I need to put in frames

Thanks for you help in advance

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Are your colonies new late bought nucs? If they are established colonies I wonder why they are being constrained in a nuc sized box and not able to expand to at least a full 8 frame brood box hive?
Most of Sydney will give some Winter foraging.
Sydney has a wide rage in micro climates from the beach suburbs to the far Western suburbs like the Penrith and Hawkesbury areas. I lived in the Hawkesbury and there because of nights to -8C common on Winter nights for a few months even an 8 frame single brood hive struggled, I found a double brood hive was stronger come the Spring but of course needed a super of honey for Winter stores.
I understand what you are saying about limiting space but the colony needs space for a supply of stores and enough bees to cluster together in Winter for warmth.
As I said, it depends where in Sydney you are.

Hi Peter,

These colonies are late swarms that were caught 1-2 months ago.

I’m in Campbelltown, winter here might randomly reach 0 to -2. Daytime not much lower than 10 from memory

Open the hive up to a full 8 frame hive with frames of foundation urgently, there is still enough bush and garden foraging around there. Also feed them 1:1 sugar and water internally to promote comb building and egg laying.
Hopefully there is still time for them to draw comb and for some stores to be stored and for the queen to build up enough brood for the colony to survive the Winter. Please consider that you have ‘choked’ the swarm back for two months when it needed to expand. Not a good decision.
Since you got the swarm 2 months ago you have stopped the colony building up in numbers or to allow them to build up stores. Find the local bee group in Cambelltown and join it. Ok, your a beginner, I accept that, but maybe you should have joined the local group to learn how to care for the colonies.
Put the new frames to the outside of any frames containing brood and equally to each side of the brood cluster.

Thanks Peter, to be honest I’m a little surprised by your response.

I don’t see how I have restricted the colonies from expanding.

They were expanding normally from what I could tell.
As mentioned, I was trying to build up their stores for winter while there was nectar coming in which I didn’t know about. Also as mentioned, I only started feeding them only 2 weeks ago and up until then they had plenty of foundation they hadn’t even drawn yet.
So I really don’t know how I could’ve been “choking” their expansion

I did not want to give them too many frames that they couldn’t cover and risk losing the colonies to SHB or chillbrood
Which might be a risk if I do what you’re advising?
Wouldn’t that be too many frames for the bees to cover against SHB?

By the way, I am a member of the local club and have been asking 2 beeks for advice regularly, none of whom have adviced that I give the new swarms more room than what they can cover for reasons already mentioned.

Thanks mate

I’m of the opinion that as your climate is near enough to the Hawkesbury from a swarm it should have already expanded to at least an 8 frame hive in that time so the bees would have more storage area and more room for the queen lay more brood.
SHB is a problem with a weak colony but using SHB traps is an effective way of controlling that problem.
Again I understand your concern about chill brood but a small colony is more susceptible to that is it not? In my experience a swarm of 4 or 5 frames should have expanded to a full 8 frame brood box after 3 months.
My advice is based on being in the Hawkesbury for over 30 years with up to 250 hives as a semi commercial bee keeper and 47 years all up.
But your colonies are best managed by you, all I can do is give my advice,ok.

I hope you didn’t take offence to my last comment.

OK I will add further 4 foundation frames to the 4 frame colonies closest to the brood nest and feed them 1:1 internally.

I really hope that I don’t get slimeouts because there aren’t enough bees on the honey frames and/or chillbrood because of the extra super I’ll have to put on for the feeder

I’m here to learn from gurus like you mate.
Thank you very much for the advice

On second thoughts, wouldn’t it be better to taking most of the honey frames off and freezing them leaving only one and replacing with new frames?

No offense taken if you accept my concern is for your bees, ok… If your having a lot of SHB then put a couple of the traps and fit one each side of between the outer and second frames. SHB numbers will reduce during Winter. Give them 1:1 as much as they consume. If you have frames that are only honey then you could put them ion the super with the feeder rather than freezing it. Fit frames with foundation, that will save time and time is important now. Well worth doing is insulating the hive and I would head to Bunnings and buy a roll of duct tape and a sheet of polystyrene, it is either 6 or 8mm thick, cut with a hand saw and tape to each side of the hive. Also buy a carpet sample from a carpet/lino shop and cut it so that there is a 15mm gap when it sits on the brood frames, and fit that. All that is to keep the brood warm and the colony will hopefully ignore it is so cold out side. Convince the queen and the colony it isn’t all that cold. Don’t worry about pollen patties, but keep the 1:1 up to them. Put the feeder on top of the carpet. Additionally if you have anyone in the bee club who is prepared to give you, or sell you, a frame of capped brood put that in your brood cluster inboard of any honey. Reduce the entrance to cut down on cold drafts on the brood to about 75mm.
Work with me and lets get them thru Winter is better condition, ok. 3:20 am and been at my apiary all day but I’m here most nights.


Thanks Peter!

Speaking of beetle traps, which ones do you use?

I’m using these but I find they’re very ineffective

I guess because they’re clear SHB doesn’t consider it as a harbourage. I’m gonna try spray painting them black.

I recently started using the apathor but it’s too early to tell if that’s working

I use the “beetle blaster trap” that I sit between the 1st and second frame on each side, a black top and clear underside that you 1/2 fill with cooking oil. I fit 2 when I make up a nuc or do a split as a matter of course, I have 35 hives at my main apiary and have traps set up in a circle about 10 meters away from my hives and about 10 meters apart hanging from tree branches and that is where I trap a lot more SHB before they get to the hives.
I’ve used apaithor in the past in CD cassettes but that was some years ago with reasonable results but more time consuming.

I’m really interested to see how you trap the hives around the permiter.
What do you mix together and what do you put it in?

I have tied this but it didn’t work well for me at all

Look on You Tube for a video by Phil Bowman called ‘catching small hive beetle’ the trap is a ‘fly trap’ at Bunnings and Phil explains the mix for SHB. which simple to make up. I was very worried about possible bee deaths drowning in it but I have never had a bee in them in three years I have been using them. In warm weather at a guess a hit rate of 25 a week on average and only see the odd one in the hives, I find 2 meters off the ground seems about right.

Haha that’s the video I just linked above while you were replying.

For some reason it didn’t work for me

Have a look on YouTube using Phil Bowman as the search. He is on Stradbroke Island in Moreton Bay Qld and a wealth of information and a top guy. The video using your link worked for me just now…

Weird, searching Phil bowman on YouTube doesn’t fetch any results for him. Only other unrelated videos…

Well I went through all my smaller hives today and added drawn or partially drawn frames, fed 1:1 internally with pale feeders and will continue to do so.
If they keep taking it, should I still feed through the winter also? Wouldn’t that create a moisture problem?

Enter this on YouTube for the search, ‘catching small hive beetle’ weird that you can’t find it. The link you posted ran fine for me. I’m no wizz on a computer but as you found the link it should have ran.
Feed while the bees are taking it. You will get a very slight increase in humidity but no enough to be concerned about. Insulate the hive and reducing the entrance will more than compensate.

No sorry, I have seen this one video. I thought you meant Phil has other videos.

I’m getting onto the hive mats tomorrow, agrifutures recommends to stay away from hessian and carpets because the bees can shred them easily?
I was considering using canvas from a canvas drop sheet as hive mat?

I use lino, the vinyl floor covering, from a carpet/floor covering shop I didn’t explain it well enough. I did say a carpet square by mistake.
Not sure about canvas, and hessian gets chewed pretty quickly. but I would think the stiffer what ever you use the better. Neither hessian or canvas would ‘do it’ for me.You will get propolis and wax on it that you have to get off. Some of my ‘hive mats’ are just pieces of ply wood about 3mm thick.
I have no preference between lino and ply, It needs to be stiff enough to stand up to scraping with a hive tool.

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I got a hold of some lino will cut and put in place soon, do you make a central hole in your mats like they do in crown boards?

Also, as mendioned before. I’ve been using the clear beetle traps and I find them very ineffective.
My theory is that beetles seek dark places as refuge so I will be painting mine black and trying that?
Also do you use any attractants mixed with the oil in your traps? Like apple cider vinigar?

No hole in the mat, just a 1 to 2 cm gap all around. The hole in the crown board is to allow feeding with a feeder and for air flow, the gap around the mat is there for air flow and what I use for feeding is this, a bird watering station, or for chickens, a couple of $ from a pet store. It sits on top of the top box of frames inside an empty box.

I find some cooking oil is all that is needed in the traps, the SHB jump in there to escape the constant chasing of the bees. Your not wanting to attract the SHB into the trap, it is going there to escape the bees. With the hive closed up it is dark so there is no advantage in painting the trap black, but there is a couple of reasons not to, how can you tell if there is SHB beetle in the trap if it is painted? How do you know if the trap is 1/2 full of oil if the clear part of the trap is black? There is two reasons not to paint them.

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