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Feeding the bees

I bought my flow hive last year and did not harvest any honey during the first year (I had read you should avoid harvesting the first year to keep the colony strong).
I protected the hive During winter (though I did it in mid-November only, received the insulation a bit late) and was a bit worried not to see much activity in the beginning of spring but as the sunny days arrived, I started to see good activity, bees flying in and out as they did last year. I got reassured.
Today I did my first inspection of the year. And I was shocked. The bees were lethargic. They did not fly around as I was inspecting. Keeping on the frame.
I fear my hive is actually decreasing and dying :cry:
Anyway, i have tons of questions but perhaps the most pressing is “how do owner of honey flow hives do to feed their bees??.. the entrance is very thin so one can’t slide any food at the bottom of the hive (under the frames). There is no space on the top of the brood box to leave food on the top of the frame. And I could not find a small less thick box that I could place between the brood box and the supper to leave some food.
With regard to the supper box, during lucky days, I see at best a dozen of bees but that’s on a lucky day :cry:
In summary, I did not have any success with my flow hive. The only honey I was able to collect last year came from the comb I had to scrap during an inspection. Nothing at all from the flow system.
Any advice?:

  • on what do honey flow owners do to feed their bees? What accessories do they use to place food? There is simply no space :frowning:
  • is it normal to have a weak colony after winter? I wonder if my colony is not queenless :frowning: but I do not know how to test this.
  • how do you all do to have bees going to the supper box?
    I am quite frustrated today, or sad, or both. It’s like I realise my newfound hobby is a big fail :cry:
    Any advices are welcome.

This is what I use to feed my hives, I found them at my local pet store for a watering station for birds in an aviary or young chickens. I’m very much feeding in any way at the hive entrance, it can bring on robbing from other bee hives within a few klm’s away. On a Flow hive it can sit under the roof or if you have a spare hive box you can fit several sitting on top of the flow super.
The colony might be very low or out of stores after Winter, but the number of bees will be at it’s lowest at the end of Winter compared to the rest of the year.
Don’t be disappointed with yourself, at lest you still have a live colony.

Hi Vincent,

As a beekeeper you will have periods of time that you are frustrated and disappointed, and conversely other times where you couldn’t be more filled with joy. I hear your plight. From your description it does sound like you need a bit more reading/education on how to manage things. There should be a beekeeper association or group closer to your home in the UK to get specific regional questions answered about beekeeping. Your questions here are not really flow specific, but we are happy to lend help just the same. I have a couple of observations, meant to be helpful and not critical:

  1. If you insulated your hives in November and then didn’t inspect them til today I would tell you that you neglected your bees a fair amount. November - February/March I would expect your weather to be such that you wouldn’t inspect, but come April you would need to check on them to make sure they had enough food stores and potentially deal with pest management treatments. Verroa Destructor is everywhere here in Canada, and I believe in the USA and likely in your area too and it can devastate a colony without treatment.
  2. If you do not know how to feed your bees now then I worry you didn’t boost feed them going into winter. I’m going to make an assumption here that you have a two box hive setup from Flow; a bottom brood box, and a honey super on top. In most cases you would have removed the honey super in the late fall and in its place put another box (no frames) on top of the brood box with an inside feeder for a few weeks with sugar/water syrup mixture to help the colony beef up its stores for the winter. You don’t want to put the sugar syrup mixture on with the flow super as you don’t want them storing that in the flow super. After you boost them you can pull that box off and put back on the flow hive super if you want. In my cold climate I don’t leave the flow hive super out in the cold as the plastic can become brittle and crack and with he cost of those units I just didn’t want to risk it. I have successfully overwintered my hives as single deep boxes, and double brood boxes, and my flow honey supers are still in good shape as a result.
  3. You may see feeders that are an inverted jar style that feeds at the front entrance; they are inexpensive and I don’t recommend them as it can attract bees from other colonies and if your hive is weak they could invade and rob your hive out and then you have nothing but the woodenware and have to start over.
  4. Queen spotting is really important to ensure your colony is doing well. In fact, you should be in your hive every 2 weeks to 3 at the longest now to spot her or at least see if she is laying eggs/if there is developing larvae. The bees clinging to the frames doesn’t mean you have a problem, in fact it could mean they are nurse bees taking care of developing brood. The best way to help you here is to have you take a photo of several of the frames so we can see what you see to tell you if you are in good shape or have an issue. Photos really do make a big difference here.
  5. In the spring your colony population is often far less than going into winter; the queen slows laying eggs over the winter and most bees going into winter are expiring in April timeframe as the queen ramps up laying new eggs. It’s actually natural, as you don’t want a bazillion bees eating all the honey stores over the winter leaving the queen at risk right? Again, photos of what you see are super helpful to confirm.
  6. If you have an iPhone or similar I would take a 3 minute video of the traffic at the front entrance so we can see how they are trafficking and then post it— you have to put it on YouTube and then put a link to that video here as this forum doesn’t let you post videos directly for some reason.
  7. A dozen bees in the honey super right now might not be a problem since its spring and they may be working on honey stores in the brood box. Are your flow hive honey super frames full of capped honey?
  8. Can you describe your routine for caring for your bees so we can offer some support too. I think you can turn this around, but the first thing is to give yourself a bit of a break, beekeeping isn’t a set it and forget it hobby and if you are doing this without the help of a mentor in your area you are on an adventure that will teach you though hard knocks how to get it right over time. You did a good thing by posting here and asking for help.

Dear Tim,
Many thanks for your message. It is very helpful. please do not worry at all, I don’t take any of the comment as criticism, in the contrary, it is a huge help for me to learn.
I had tried to contact the British Beekeeper Association but they were really unhelpful and not welcoming, to say the lest, telling me to contact them again after I have 2 or 3 years experience. Still, I am a member of the national association but I apart from receiving their magazine, which I read each month and the benefit of the beekeeper insurance, I have received little help from them. I find that forums are the best help and I have registered to this one and another one where I get most of my information.
I have also read a lot about bees and the seasons to follow but with regards to wintering, there are so many versions out there… Some advise to keep the supper, some don’t. Some advise to leave the bee in peace during winter, some say you should inspect… and so on.
With regards to feeding, I have indeed fed the bees all winter but with one of those container you described (bought via a beekeeping provider) and put some Ambrosia Syrup in front of the hive entrance. I had also bought some patty. They did use the syrup but I was sad to see that many bees would drawn in the syrup. with regard to the patty with Pollen, they were just ignoring it.
I have posted the picture I took yesterday, hopefully the link works well. I would be grateful for your comments.
With regards to the queen, I will be honest, this is by far my biggest failing. I have never been able to spot her :frowning:
I have ordered a new queen to try and introduce it to the hive. I am really desperate to save my colony. With a little luck, it may not be too late. I hope so.
I am very much looking forward to your comment on the picture and I will try to do a video of the entrance of the hive today. They seem to fly in and out a lot but maybe I am misjudging.
Kind regards, Vincent

Excellent photos.

  1. I don’t like the looks of picture number 3 and 4 that looks like larvae have dried out.
  2. Picture IMG_7671 brood looks a bit puffy in spots and with pinholes in it which I think is a disease; lookup European foulbrood to investigate that-- there is a method of sticking the end of a toothpick / matchstick and swirling it around and if it comes out ropey/stringy you have it. Usually there is an off smell too. It is treatable here, but I don’t know your regulations if you have to report it to your government and seek guidance on remedy. I could be wrong however and that its just emerging brood chewing their way out but to my eye it looks off. This could explain why you are having trouble in the hive. Here is a description on foulbrood: Treatment : It is best to burn all colonies infected with AFB but you can treat infected colonies with antibiotics. There are two antibiotic treatments for AFB: Terramycin and Tylan. If AFB is not resistant to Terramycin (oxytetracycline hydrochloride) then this antibiotic is used.
  3. I have to ask what is going on with the tops of your frames with the straps? Your frames don’t look like they are from Flow Hive which is ok of course, just trying to understand what your setup is.
  4. You have more bee poop on some of your frames than is usual; nosema is another type of disease that is treatable too. It might just be from winter but I wonder if its related to the foul brood stress I mentioned earlier.
  5. From your feeding description… you fed wet food in the winter? That is not advisable if you get cold winters like we do here (with snow). You would want sugar blocks/fondant patties (not the type you get from a bakery) as you definitely don’t want moisture in the hive during the cold months. From putting out liquid in front of the hive I hope you meant in the spring and not the winter… either way that isn’t a good idea as it will attract bees from other areas and they will rob your hive out of its resources if your hive is less strong which it appears to be.
  6. I didn’t spot the queen in your pictures, and I didn’t see eggs or larvae in the photos-- that could mean your queen is gone and replacing her is a good plan, however, you need to solve for disease now before you put in a new queen or you are just going to get her and the new brood infected too/or she will leave the hive because the environment is inhospitable. When does the queen come? Did you buy a Nuc or just a queen? Nuc would be better to boost the hive resources. If it is a Nuc and you can’t find any treatment options I would be tempted to pull all the existing frames out and burn them. I would lightly scorch the inside of the woodenware with a fire torch to kill any virus/spores and just start with the new bees. Make sure you heat your hive tools too to kill any spores on them too-- wash your gloves or get a new pair to make sure you aren’t spreading it that way either. New frames are cheaper than spreading the disease to the newer colony. I know it seems drastic, but you have to get a handle on the problem quickly and that may be the better choice here.
  7. Where did you get your bees to start with? Maybe that beekeeper is closer to you and can help?

I’m sad to hear you got such a terrible support system from your club-- that is unacceptable. I wonder if there is a Facebook local beekeeper group with different members who are friendlier who might be closer to you. I belong to several, and when there wasn’t one in my area I started one and within a year we had 150 members who actually help each other. I was just at someones house yesterday that found me through that group to help them with a swarm. Worth starting your own group if there isn’t one and you may be surprised to find others just like you who are struggling to find help but could pool your learning to help each other.

Today a nearby beekeeping community has provided a how to identify disease YouTube video you may find useful too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FARCzN00uPM&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR2Tq9IbEn4RlX1cmTLKECTrm3HVV4q8J26xbhNnKM0CZLF9Du6mq1HVI5c

Hey vfancois,

Fellow UK beekeeper from the West Midlands and there are more UK flow hive owners who use this forum all happy to help each other.

Stick with this forum as one point of support its very very friendly :blush: unlike many others.

There is a UK FlowHive forum on Facebook but too many negative members for me but alot of good advice and help none the less.

First thing. Your bees made it through the winter which is a great sign of strength.

From what I’ve read sounds like, and common, you’ve added your Flow super too early last year and as the colony is currently week again this year (we’ve all done that).

Feeding is simple. Remove the super completely and use an empty brood or super box to act like a shim (eke) that way you can fit a rapid roubd feeder onto of the cover board with the plug removed and feed the bees until they aren’t using it. That will help them if you feel they need the boost.

Your pictures show as others have mentioned dried out larvae so I’d swap those frames out with new clean ones with wax foundation to make it easier and less work for the weakened colony.

When did you contact the BBKA? Not usual for them to be unhelpful especially with beginners.

Your local club is probably associated with the BBKA so joining it and taking out the inexpensive membership (includes insurance) is a good step plus they run all different courses throughout the year and your local club will give you hands on experience and advice fur any issues you come up against.

You need to inspect your hive more often. From spring to early autumn weekly is good practise and gives you the opportunity to learn from your bees and the Queen.

If you dont know how to test for your queen that tells me your on the first run of the ladder in your education path.

Do you know what a queen bee looks like?
Is your queen marked?
Can you see eggs, larve at different stages?

Flow have a great YouTube channel, Frederick Dunn is another YouTube source with esdy to follow videos.

Norfolk Honey Company also have a great YouTube channel Ive used that alot.

You need to study, study, study.

Forget about honey and consentrate more on the welfare and husbandry of your bees they will thank you and the honey will come as thier way of thanking you.

Here to help :+1::+1:.

Bee.equipment.co.uk have all the equipment you need regarding feeders and more.

If you dont have a spare brood or super box to feed remove the flow super and take out the flow frames and use that until you do it’s better than nothing.

You can use entrance feeders with the flow hive just sit it on the end of the landing board but keep an eye out for increase in wasp activity, robbing bees, hornets etc…

So swaping out the poor frames, removing the super and feeding until your colony is busting with bees.

Easy to think your hive is busy but when it’s a full hive you’ll know as itll be covered frame to frame.

When it’s busting with bees, brood at all different stages and stores then and only then add the flow super. Too much room and the bees struggle to keep the hive and brood warm. Queen won’t lay as well either.

Keep adding questions on here. Like I said everyone is super friendly and any critic is done with the best intentions to help you overcome beginner problems.

All the best