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Hive inspection - advice please, Newtown, NSW, Australia


#1

Hi everyone, so i had a professional bee maintenance company come and check the hive with me just to make sure all was going ok on Monday. A really nice guy who has been doing it for decades. A few observations from the day

  • my 2 empty frames installed with the fully formed 6 frames delivered a month ago are now fully formed, if a little wonky.

  • The older frames that came with the hive have been re-filled variously with honey and brood but are VERY thick in some cases

  • The beeguy said that there was A LOT of honey and not much brood, and also that the numbers were still quite low. he suggested the queen wasn’t laying properly as there should be much more brood. (from the photos below you will see the brood distribution, would you agree?)

  • He inspected without removing one frame to make the removal of others easier, which caused alot of the bulging honey in 2 frames to be damaged and spilled quite alot of honey outside the hive. (Shouldn’t that be standard practice?)

  • he told me to leave the super off so they would build up brood instead of still collecting nectar, which doesn’t make sense to me. (would they need the extra honey super storage room to free up some of the space?)

  • I’ve removed the entrance reducer (a piece of bamboo held in place reducing to only about 15 cm entrance) and the whole landing board is much busier and seems quite well protected.

A couple things that made me nervous about the beeguy’s knowledge - possibly unfounded! :

  • the issue with non removal of one frame and resulting spilled honey
  • him telling me not to clean it up from under the hive and let the bees do it - resulting in a sea of ants under and now in the hive. I cleaned it up a couple hours later and thenats seem to have reduced in 2 days. Haven’t seen in the hive though.
  • couldn’t find the queen, and said she wasn’t laying despite me seeing small and large larvaein the few pics i managed to take which the internet tells me is about 5 - 7 days old. so she’s been doing something.
  • he mentioned i need more potplants and flowers in my courtyard and said they needed more forage potential event though i pointed out that I live within 1 km of the huge Sydney University campus and a few parks with a tonne of flowering native and non-native trees and huge gardens. And also, about 30 varieties of suggested bee flowering plants and vegetables in the courtyard anyway

Final questions:

  • Should i put the super on for more space for the queen to lay, or was he right in leaving it off for another month?
  • Should i put the reducer back on even though the whole entrance seems filled with bees
  • will the ants have set up shop in the beehive? should iinspect prior to end Jan?

Thanks for any advice!


#2

Morning.
To preface my comments, this is only my third year bee keeping with 4 hives but here are my thoughts if it helps.

But first questions. The brood does look good but how many of the 8 frames look like this? Is this all the brood? You would want to see this type of brood over quite a few frames.

Did you shake off the bees to get the shots? If not, the numbers look low. I read somewhere that a new box should not go on until the bees froth out and overflow when you remove the lid.

I’ve inspected without removing a frame. If numbers are low you won’t roll bees but a good practice generally. Honey overflow, may have occurred because of your wonky frames as well.

More bee food is always a good idea.

The diggest lesson I’ve learnt in the last little while is that the bees know what they are doing… It is better to let them be than intervene. The hive I mucked around in is still sorting themselves out after 6 months.

Good luck…it will be interesting to read what others write. You may not get too many replies at this time of year, hence my reply to ease your mind. I’ve been in your shoes very recently and the guys on this forum are brilliant at helping…

Ants… Bees will sort them out unless the hive is struggling.


#3

Hi mate, I can see where you are coming from when you question his advice. But remember that old statement, ask 10 beekeepers and get 10 different answers…
Keeping in mind I have only 3 years behind me so my opinion is only based on this experience.
My understanding is that bees will move honey from the brood nest to make more room for brood and if there is no room in the hive where will they move it to? Surely they will still be collecting nectar and pollen. I remove the side frames in the brood box if they are full of honey and put them in a struggling colony or extract for more brood space.
We’re the bees filling the super prior to its removal? If so I’d plonk it back on.
Ants can be a problem and I’ve found the borax and jam sorts them out.
Planting the yard with flowers is always a good idea but as the foraging range is a 5km radius it’s more of a feel good fix in my opinion. I’m always planting trees and shrubs here but I know it’s small potatos and would only be a minimal help for a colony if at all.
Becs right there aren’t as many bees as I’d like on the frames but I’m assuming you have shaken them off.
Brood looks fine to me so am curious as to what others say. My bee supplier always says replace the queen yearly but I havnt yet and plan to let the bees requeen when they choose but I’m just a hobbyist, commercially I would.
As hobbyists we see bees differently, we care about one bee for example, so we take measures to mitigate the impact of our inspections by removing a frame to make it easier, possibly not the commercial way as its more work.
Others like to leave the reducer in place year round, I have 2 busy colonies which have never had a reducer and others weaker ones where the reducer stays put.
Once again I must stress that I’m a novice and @Dawn_SD and @JeffH advice will be interesting.


#4

This beeguy’s visit might be a blessing in disguise. Hopefully his fee wasn’t exorbitant. You certainly know now not to pull just any frame first. You will look down over the brood & gently pull the frame that you perceive to be the easiest one to pull out first. You can certainly see the advantage of keeping each frame’s comb nice & straight & in line with the top bars. Using properly fitted wax foundation helps in that area.

Removing the entrance reducer wont have made any difference. 15cm is adequate even for a strong colony.

I’d also be down on him for not finding the queen, seeing as (as he describes) the bee numbers are down.

I have no idea why he’d advise you to plant more flowers in your courtyard. He must be aware of the huge area that bees cover. My estimate is around 50 sq.kms.

I would leave the honey super off until the bee numbers build. I use a bee mat & migratory lid. Once the bees start building above the bee mat into the lid, for me that’s the time to add a honey super.


#5

Hard to tell without seeing every frame. However the top photo shows a pretty nice brood pattern, so I think your queen is fine.

That is unforgivable sloppy handling in a professional. Sorry, but it is. I am very disappointed that you had to pay when he treats your hive like that.

Not very logical if that is what he meant. I agree with both @BecW and @skeggley’s comments. If the brood box is 80% full and every frame is covered with bees, they are ready for the super. I would put some wax on the plastic Flow super frames to encourage them to use it, rather than have them swarm because they don’t recognize it as part of the hive.

Well, it is up to you, but I agree with @JeffH, 15cm is plenty. There is a very well-respected bee researcher called Thomas Seeley, who has studied what bees prefer. When given a choice, they swarm to boxes with a 15 square cm entrance. They also prefer low entrances to upper entrances in his study, but that is a whole different discussion.

He should have found the queen if he is that much of a pro, and you only have one brood box. Leaving pooled honey is a crime worthy of permanently firing him. Pot plants are a nonsense. Yes bees may enjoy them, but your own bees may not forage on them. They actually prefer to fly some distance from the hive for the majority of their foraging. If it is less than about 20-30 feet from the hive, they will probably ignore it.

They may, or they may not. If they are a decent sized ant, the bees will harass them, and they won’t be able to make a colony in the hive. We have Argentine ants which are tiny (less than 2mm long) and the bees find them very hard to control. I would make an ant barrier of some sort (I use ant moats coated with Antcant), but you can search the forum for lots of ideas.

You should probably inspect again in about 2 weeks. I have confidence that you will do a better job than this so-called expert, and if you take photos, we can try to help you.

Have some confidence in your judgments, I think you will become an excellent beekeeper. :blush:


#6

Yes - your questions demonstrate a good development of attunement to whom you’re learning to care for. The hired guy may have some years of practice on you, but you saw how he overlooked or dismissed a few very important bee-needs!


#7

3 frames were like this on both sides out of the 8, the rest were predominantly honey with a smaller brood area or none at all

Every frame is definitely not full. I did put wax on the plastic and they were starting to wax up the cells before i removed it the first time. I had had the used flow frame from my bee supplier in there for a couple of weeks and they were busily working on that and the 2 new frames right next to it.

I’ve removed and replaced the old one and returned it to him just prior to monday’s inspection when it was removed anyway.

Apologies, i meant reduced to 5 cm. The standard opening isn’t much more than 15 to 20cm. Its off now and even at night there appears to be about 40 or 50 bees sitting at the entrance.

mmm, needless to say I’m not calling him in a hurry. Even though he said he would get me a new queen to replace this one…which now seems odd.

noted and thanks. oil tray appears to have a few hundred in there and there are none below the hive now. the legs are treated with neverwet, so not sure quite how they got up unless the spilled honey removed the neverwet coating as it came down the leg. I’ll re-apply it.

Thank you both! Very much appreciated coming from you.

:slight_smile:

the question is, whats exhorbitant. Put it this way, i could almost buy a package of bees for the fee equivalent.


#8

Well, not fantastic, but really not bad for a new colony. My husband had a brainwave (beekeeper for about 35 years) and suggested moving the partly pulled frames inward by one position. That is assuming that the least full frames are on the outside of the hive box. If you do that, I would put a frame of honey next to the hive wall. The idea is to put frames with empty space next to the brood nest to give the queen space to lay, and put the full honey frames out to the edge to encourage the bees to work on the less full frames. Worth a try, and it shouldn’t set them back or hurt them at all.

It is actually a little over 12 inches = just over 30 cm, because a standard 8 frame Langstroth box is 14 inches wide (and made with ~7/8" thick wood planks). I reduce mine to half of that entrance width, and I have double brood boxes, so likely a lot more bees than you, estimating around 40,000 bees in the peak season. :nerd_face: My bees have never had a problem with congestion at the entrance or overheating in summer (I have an internal hive thermometer).

You earned it. I would never say something that I didn’t believe to be true. I would rather just say nothing. You have shown excellent judgment and asked great questions in all of your posts. :wink:


#9

Great idea! So the 2 newly formed frames which they are starting to put honey into on the edges of the box should move in a couple slots on both sides in front of the heavily filled honey frames! Or is it too late? this is the state of both edge frames

Ok, should i go in tomorrow in that case? Only 5 days since the last inspection.

And i’ll put the entrance reducer/bamboo stick back on and reduce the entrance back down to under 10cm.

:smiley:


#10

Not too late if it isn’t capped, and less than half of that frame is capped. Bees are pretty ready to move uncapped honey, it is only the capped stuff that they hang on to. If you want to make them use the capped half for brood, all you have to do is scratch it up a bit (a dinner fork would work - just rip the cappings, you don’t have to take them off), and they will think about moving it as if it were uncapped.

Timing of the next inspection isn’t vital in this case. I would probably give mine at least a week, as they can get cranky if I disturb them too often, and that upsets the neighbours. :blush: If that is not a problem for you, just do it when convenient. :wink:


#11

One more thought, don’t put brood against an outside wall of the hive unless you really have to. They often won’t be cared for and heated properly on that very outer frame face. Honey and pollen is fine. You may get away with it if the hive side gets sun for a lot of the day, but I wouldn’t risk it in a young hive which may be a bit low on numbers.


#12

Dawn, it’s funny you say that the bees will probably ignore the flowers 20-30 feet away from a hive. It could be bees from a distant colony that will forage on them :slight_smile: It would depend on what the scouts find. In a dearth, I’m sure the bees will be interested in the flowers up close.

Come to think of it, sometimes the bees forage on the honey frames before I get a chance to put them on the back of my truck. Other times they completely ignore them. It must all depend on what’s around.


#13

Totally agree with that. I was just talking in general terms. Planting a load of stuff in tubs on your patio won’t make much difference for much of the year. Occasionally it will be appreciated. Bees have a (hive) mind of their own, and we are very bad at predicting exactly what they will do. :smile:


#14

They certainly do have a mind of their own. Yesterday we got a call about a swarm that landed under the gutter of a town house. A little while later we got a call to say that they had moved a few doors down to an identical town house in exactly the same spot. An hour later they left that spot.

Some things we can kind of predict, if we understand bee behavior. Other times it’s impossible.


#15

quick question @Dawn_SD - moving them only one position in will just swap nectar filled comb. Should i move them in 2 positions on both sides in that case?


#16

You could move them in as far as you can without disrupting the brood nest. You don’t really want to put an empty frame within the brood, as it makes a huge amount of sudden work for the bees, stressing them. They still have to heat the existing brood, and feed it, but now it is all split up, so they have to run around doing a lot more work. I would just move it to the edge of the area of brood, which is usually just one frame in (my outer frames are most often pollen and then honey next to the wall - that seems to be what a strong hive likes to do).


#17

Ok, will do it today. Almost a week since they were last inspected and will report back. Will also attempt to find the queen. Hopefully she survived the last inspection


#18

Don’t try too hard. If you see uncapped brood, she was alive within the last week. If you see eggs, she was active within the last 3 days. :blush:


#19

Only really go after the queen if you have to, not just to satisfy your curiosity. More queens get killed in a “complete” inspection than need to. If you have a good brood pattern, eggs and young larvae then you have a queen.

Cheers
Rob.


#20

Ok, so I have found this for the last 2 days, well into the evening. So have left the hive alone and will try tomorrow. They’ve been doing this from 1130 am and dying down around 8pm. Overnight the landing board is pretty much full but no bearding up on the hive.

Also, I’m finding about 10 to 12 dead bees out front and a bit of fighting. They look different to mine, quite a bit blacker.

But today also found very small bees that look like they’ve come from the hive trying to fly late morning. About 4 or 5… Put them back on the landing board and they seemed fine but have seen a few among the dead bees… should I be concerned?