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Guidance/Assistance Required Re: My Current Temporary Setup, Mentoring Request, & also Honey Bee Guards


#1

Hi Everyone,

I’m new to beekeeping (2 weeks) however I’m very much enjoying learning all I can about this wonderful hobby. This forum has certainly been very help indeed. I’m hoping however that someone could shed a little light on a situation I’m experiencing at the moment which relates to my current temporary Hive Setup, and also about Guard Bees. I’ll first give you an overview of the setup I’ve currently got, & how I’ve rather rapidly become involved with bees.

2 weeks ago I had to relocate a hive of bees that landed about three years ago in a gum tree in my backyard. I live on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. The bees actually took over a large Parrot Nesting Box which was situated about 5 meters up in the gum tree. Up until now the bees have always been completely left alone, as would normally be the case in the wild. However unfortunately the gum tree had been developing some serious issues for quite some time so i had to have it removed.

Before cutting it down though I decided to purchase my first ever brand new 8 frame hive for the Parrot Box bees to live in. The plan after removing the Parrot Box/Bee Hive from the tree was to temporarily connect it to the top of the new box. To achieve this I blocked the Parrot Boxes original entry point & I drilled a 40mm hole in the bottom of it, & another hole in the top of the new hive box. I then aligned the 2 holes & strapped the 2 boxes together. This way the bees can continue to have and maintain their original hive as our winter approaches. I’m hoping in time that the bees will move down into the new box & i’ll then eventually be able to remove the Parrot Box completely. Their only entrance/exit now is via the bottom of the new box. Both boxes are sitting on a timber stand I built which is raises them approximately 600mm from the ground.

Anyway, all went very well with the relocation, and the bees certainly appear to be carrying on with their lives in their new palacial home, that’s now located in a much more suitable part of my yard, which gets lovely morning sun & afternoon shade. At the moment they appear to be continuing to live primarily in the Parrot Box & also clustering to the underside of the new hive lid, where the 2 holes I made connect.

With regard to my current setup, my intention for the next 6 or so months is to leave the bees alone to allow them to fully settle in & get through winter. I’ll then probably put a honey super on top of the current new box, & remove the Parrot Box once they’ve moved down. I haven’t inspected the contents of the Parrot Box as yet because I fear I’ll probably damage their comb/original hive by lifting the Parrot Box lid, which is the only way to get into it. With winter coming on soon I think its probably best to just leave them alone until maybe Aug/Sept. Would this be considered a good plan for now? Any guidance on this approach would be much appreciated.

In the meantime over the past 2 weeks I’ve spent a stack of time reading a number of beekeeping books & watching a tonne of online videos to learn as much as I can about bees, how to care for them, and what my responsibilities are. In fact although I have zero experience, I actually feel like I now know quite a bit about bees as a consequence of my recent research. I’d really love to find a nearby mentor, so on that note, I’m wondering if there’s anyone in the vacinity of the Mornington Peninsula (Mount Martha area) who would be willing to mentor me for a while. If so, that would be absolutely fantastic & also very much appreciated of course.

Secondly, could anyone tell me why all of a sudden the guard bees are taking a particular dislike to me. Up until a few days ago I’ve been able to approach the hive without any problem, & I’ve been enjoying standing quietly about 1 meter away from the hive’s entrance watching the bees come and go. For the past few days though, almost every time I get within a couple of meters of the hive a number of guard bees attack me. I know that they’re very protective of their hive, but why do you think things have changed from what used to be an enjoyable & painless exercise? When the guard bees attack me, they’re not just ‘bumping’ me, they’re actually immediately latching on and stinging. It happens very quickly.

Any advice or info that anyone is able to offer me with regard my above plan (ie Parrot Box/New Hive situation), or why I’m all of a sudden experiencing issues with the guard bees, would be very much appreciated.

Oh, & by the way, I’ve also just committed to buying a ‘Flow Hive 2’ which won’t arrive until about July this year. My intention for the flow hive is to set it up as a 2nd hive in my backyard. I’m very excited about the prospects of being eventually able to care for both a Traditional Hive & also a Flow Hive.

Thanks in advance for any help you’re able to give me via this forum. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed for a mentor in my area.

All best for now,

Regards

Paul - from Mount Martha, Victoria.


#2

Hiya Paul, welcome to the forum.
I started off the same as you, collecting a wild colony and rehiring with next to no prior experience. And wow what an experience!!!
So, fact is the bees may not move down. Mine didn’t.
Opening up the parrot box and cutting the comb and banding into frames is the way forward IMO. Messy and scary but a hell of an experience, after that everything’s easy. ;).finding and Isolating the queen is recommended before framing of possible.
Bees can get antsy for a number of reasons, nothing quite compares with a colony of bees flying around bum first… Lack of forage, robbing and loss of queen are common but if you’ve moved the colony there’s a good chance robbing could be the issue. Is there fighting at the entrance? How big is the entrance? Is there forage available in your area?
No doubt other more knowledgeable forum folk will chip in but answering the above questions will help our gurus. :).


#3

Hi there ‘skeggley’,

Thanks for your reply & guidance. Much appreciated.

That’s very interesting to hear that your bees didn’t move down on their own, and that i may have to cut the comb out of my parrot box & band it to the new frames below. As they’ve only recently had a major change by me relocating them, etc, I think for the time being I might just observe/leave them alone for a while (ie over winter) & see what they do naturally. I’m reluctant to do anything too disruptive at the moment with our summer coming to an end reasonably soon.

The Gentleman (beekeeper) who helped me relocate the hive suggested that if they don’t naturally move down in time, then I could then put something in the new box (a pollen frame I think he said) to further encourage them to do so. He suggested considering to do this in about 6 months from now.

With regard to your questions to me Re: my guard bees being aggresive towards me at the moment, generally the entrance of my hive, which is approx 200mm wide & 10mm high, is very subdued. There are lots of bees coming and going however I’ve not noticed any fighting at the entrance. There is forage available in my area, & I’m noticing a lot of bees are returning with their pollen bags full. I’m not sure how big my colony is though at the moment because although I can see through the new boxes vents that there are a couple good sized handfuls of bees clustering on the underside of the new box lid, I’ve currently got no idea how many bees are actually still inside the Parrot Box. Considering the Parrot Box is has bedn their home for quite a whike, i suppose it probably full to the brim of bees and comb.

Maybe I should reduce the size of the new box entrance so that the guards have less area to defend. Could that be a good move?

Regards

Paul.


#4

You must have skinny parrots there! The entrance doesn’t seem too big. I had a colony get antsy on me and I moved it, reduced the entrance and put a brick in front of the entrance as a robber screen of sorts and they have calmed down. There didn’t seem to be fighting on the landing but there were bees hovering around the entrance with their legs down in numbers intermittently throughout the days, kinda obvious now, not so then.
Of course it may not be anything I’ve mentioned and they’re just nasty bees… Sometimes they hide their true colours until the population expands then come out swinging, or rather stinging…
Having said this it seems you have a local beekeeper available to advise and assist so as he knows the area it’s probably best to stay onside and take his advice. :wink:


#5

Haha, no i don’t have skinny parrots here. Quite the opposite in fact. The ‘entrance dimensions’ i gave to you in my previous post were for the landing entrance of the new brood box. There no longer is an entrance into the parrot box from the outside. I sealed it off when the box was removed from the gumtree, as mentioned in my first post, to enter the Parrot box now, the bees have to first go into the new brood box (via it’s landing entrance) and then climb up through that box to the top where they can then enter the Parrot box through the two 40mm holes i cut and aligned when i strapped the boxes together.


#6

Hi Paul,
Welcome to the forum, we have advice for you but it may not be to your liking. From my experience the sooner you remove the bees from the box the better, it will enable you manage them better. Now is the time that the bees will be declining in numbers to prepare for winter. After winter, there numbers will explode and you may have a real hard time of it, lots of brood and bees being damaged. Additionally, if you need a new queen (which by the sounds of it, you do) then there are queens available now. Following winter they are not generally available to amateur beekeepers till late October and November (commercial guys have priority).
I wouldn’t presume that the bees will just move into the new box you have provided, this rarely happens in reality, the bees are unlikely to leave their brood, so the best chance you have to move them is to move or remove the brood, the bees and queen will follow.
Most experienced beekeepers will open the bird box and physically cut and move the brood comb & place into frames within the new box, they are held in place with rubber bands or string, any honeycomb is generally removed altogether.
Now that you have claimed the bees for yourself, I would suggest you register through the Dept of Primary Industries in Victoria and join a local club, if nothing else they will help and guide you in ways that cannot be explained in a forum. Bees are classified as livestock and we all have a responsibility to our own bees and also to the wider pollination & honey industry, because bees fly they can also carry disease which can affect peoples livelihoods and the general biosecurity of the industry.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the more experienced members of the beekeeping club near you would be more than happy to assist in transferring your bees. Many of these guys just love a challenge… and to be honest, once you have done it you’ll see how simple it can be. Best of luck with it.


#7

I thought I would post some photos of a possum box extraction from a local club. Many clubs will offer this as a service to members.


#8

WOW, Awesome articles. I too was coherced into bee keeping by a swarm. L.O.L. Thought I’d do it the easy way and install them in a Flow Hive and let nature run it’s course. Yeah, right, things don’t always work out that way.
Firstly, my Flow hive turned out to be knock off and had no frames with it at all. I couldn’t work out where the bees were supposed to build their home. After much enquiries, discovered I’d need to buy FRAMES, so bought ten to suit.
At this stage, the bees had taken things into their own hands and had already built was frames on their own, but going in the wrong direction. I had to cut out these wax frames, trying to identify the queen, (which was never able to) place them in between the frames I’d put in and checked them once a week. Eventually all the bees moved onto the waxed frames I had inserted and the bee self made wax could be cut off and removed. Things seemed to settle down, until I read that bottom boards should have mesh allowing bugs and crap to fall thru and be disposed of. I had mesh and decided to build said board. However, the wood I sued was compressed particle flooring board.
Unkown to me, this wood contained a deadly chemical which played havoc with the bees, killing at least half of them. I did not notice this until it was too late, the queen and all perished, leaving only a handfull of drones and workers.
I discarded the new base board, much wiser and sought a NUC colony which I was successful eventually, but the cost was extreme.
I was advised to buy a new BROOD box to which the New Colony were to be housed. The new colony consisted of seven full frames including a queen, all were put into the new brood box and allowed to settle for a week before transport to my place.
I was advised to allow them to settle for a day or two locked in the box. To place the box on top of the old brood box which still hand some bees inside with newspaper separating the two boxes, with a slit or two to allow the pheromes of the new queen to filter into the old box.
After waiting tow days, I was looking forwards to open up and allowing them their freedom. They were not happy chappies at all, quiet pissed off and chased me away after giving me a few painfull presents. Ungrateful little buggers.
Since then, things have settled down somewhat, I placed a queen excluder on top of the old brood box and installed the Flow Box. Now it’s just busy, busy, busy before winter sets in.
I’ve been doing a bit of reading and it seems to me the queens are required to be replaced on an annual basis. This revelation came as a bit of a shock to me, I was totally unprepared for that info. I thought it’s be all self replicating.
I also read that frames also need to be cared for and can only be used for a certain time frame before they too need maintenance. Thus the whole idea of a Flow Frame hive maintenance free went out the window.


#9

Hi Eddie, I think someone once said that backyard bees (in relation to work to look after them), sit somewhere between a cat and a dog. I’m not sure if that is what you are finding? You might be ok with your bees raising replacement queens, hopefully others will advise there.


#10

Hi Dan, Yeah I’m slowly discovering things that I didn’t consider previously.
Regards the raising Queens, I’ll need to talk to some folks at our next meeting to see what is the accepted procedure in this regard.
The lady I purchased the bees from specialises in raising Queens, so I guess she’d be the one to get the full bottle from.
All in good time I guess.


#11

Required by whom? In the UK, we only replaced our queens if the colony became consistently grumpy. In San Diego, the city requires urban beekeepers to replace their queens every 2 years. In some parts of Texas, the cities do require annual replacement to minimize the risk of a colony becoming Africanized.

As you don’t have Africanized bees in Australia, I would think you could just replace when you really needed to, or even let the colony make their own new queen when they felt the need. If your location has regulations about queens, I guess you have to follow what they say, rather than allowing the colony to do what it wants.


#12

No legal requirement to replace queens in Western Australia. Commercial Beeks replace very year or two for production…


#13

Hehe, the idea of a maintenance free beehive was never something that Stu or Cedar ever subscribed too, this was a myth that proliferated by beekeepers wanting to bring the Flow hive setup down.
Bees are livestock much like sheep and cattle and are classified as such by most countries as a Primary Industry and a VERY important industry. Sorry you had to learn this the hard way, whilst bees are relatively autonomous there is criteria for how best to look after them. A toxic free home is one of them.
I am glad you persisted and hopefully we can convince you to chuck the knock-off frames away and purchase the real thing, there is some serious concerns that the knock-offs are not food safe.
I like the rest of us only replace my queens when their temperament changes to something I am not happy with.
Once you get to understand your bees, their cycle and personality you will see just what a joy they are to have around. Keep us posted on your progress and feel free to ask any question, we are here to help in any way we can.


#14

G’day Rodderick, Thanks for your responce, every little bit helps.
I’m aware of the Livestock situation, this has been pointed out in no uncertain terms by the Aipary Association of which I had recently become a member.
You must have misunderstood my post. The Flow Hive knock off that I received contained only the Flow hive box and sections within, the brood box contained nothing. I had to purchase the frames from our local Bee supplier, so I’ve got nothing to “chuck away” YET.
Interesting regards the Queen, though I note you did not place a time frame on keeping her.
I used to breed tropical fish very successfully for many years. It appears to me, keeping bees is very similar. The challenge to allow the bees to prosper productively and multiply healthily; is my objective. I mentioned that I had a bottom board with mesh floor and foam slide out board, the lady I purchased my NUC from, claimed she’d never seen one and had heard of these. So I’m curious to discover whether any other Australian bee keepers have seen or are using similar to keep their hives clean.


#15

Hi Dawn, I take on board everything you say. I received the info from an American published book, “THE BACKYARD BEEKEEPER” 3rd Edition, written by Kim Flotum. Despite the title of the book, I have a suspicion it relates more to commercial keeping. But, I’m glad to see any information on this subject.
Regarding the colony making their own queen, according to the book, this is a No No, and conflicts with the idea of keeping the DNA strong. It also has issues with mating the queen effectively. Or am I looking at this the wrong way ?
Regarding regulations covering the queen, so far I have heard nothing, the information I have downloaded covering the regulations do not deal with this at all, thus I suspect there are none.
Thanks again, all info extremely welcome.


#16

@itchyvet, I’ve researched most bee related laws in every state and nowhere in Australia mandates replacement of queens. When I got my original Nuc here in WA it was suggested that I consider replacing the queen after 3-4yrs to minimise risks of swarming as the queen ages and help maintain hive productivity (older queens being less productive than younger queens, as a general rule) but I was also told it isn’t absolutely necessary and because I’m a backyard beek I could just let nature run its course.


#17

G’day Alan, Nice to hear from a W.A. bee keeper. Cool,
Appreciate your input. O.K. so you’ve had your queen for how long now ?
I was under the impression that nature would take it’s course too, until I read the fine print, and everything involved with the true to type breeding of queens.
The whole shebang came as a huge surprise to me, that’s why I’m asking around, trying to work out fact from fiction.
Thanks for contributing to the discussion.


#18

Well, in the UK, we would call that a load of bollocks. Sorry! :blush: Unless yours is the only hive within 10 miles, the queens from your hive would not mate with drones from their own hive. She will fly to a drone congregation area (DCA) some miles away, and prefers to mate with drones from other local hives, keeping the DNA of her offspring nicely mixed. The only reason she would not mate effectively would be if it was the wrong part of the season, when there are not many drones available. Bees have been mating naturally in this way for millions of years, and @JeffH will tell you that his naturally-mated Australian queens are usually very healthy and productive.

The best time for queens to mate is spring to early summer. If I was intentionally producing queens, that would be when I made splits to get a new queen. If I couldn’t do that, I would buy a commercially mated queen from a reputable breeder at other times of year.

I have to say that is probably one of my least favorite hobby beekeeping books. There are some good ideas in it, but also some whacky ones. He does have a good section on urban beekeeping, and that may be why he suggests requeening annually. He is based in the US, and that advice would help prevent swarms and Africanization of hives. It really shouldn’t be necessary if you are not worried about Africanization.

I think you can cross requeening off your list of high priority things to worry about in the first year or two of beekeeping. :smile:


#19

G’day again Rodderick, Latest development with my knock off Flow Hive, we’ve had quiet a bit of rain this winter and the hive is copping a good drenching. Bees are doing fine, but discovered the wood of the knock off box is warping, thus creating gaps everywhere and allowing cold air into hive. It’s also threatening to come apart at the corner joins as the warp is actually forcing the tabs out of their socket.
Didn’t waste any time, purchased another locally made box, which I was told could be refunded if it warps, replaced the knock off and impressive to see, no further draughts to upset the bees. No doubt about it, much to be said for local manufacture.


#20

Hi Eddy,
I do have the occasional warping problem too, I now pre-coat the joints with an undercoat before assembling my boxes, this seems to help prevent the moisture getting into the corners, I also paint the inside of the box with water based undercoat for the same reason… it definitely helps as I get a lot of moisture in the hive during winter.