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How to control too much of a good thing


#1

Let me start by briefly describing our situation.
We have 3 standard hives (all 10 frames) situated in the sunshine coast area of SE Queensland.
2 of the hives are a single brood box with a single super. The other hive also has a single brood box but has 2 supers on top.

Currently the hives are packed with the bees busy bringing in plenty of pollen and nectar. The brood in each hive is healthy and fills 7 to 8 of the frames. Drone larvae and adult drones are present in each hive.

Our dilemma is that we really only want 3 or 4 hives and although it may sound silly we don’t want too much honey. There is only so much that you can consume yourself and give away to friends. For us it is truly a hobby and an interest for us.

I can see in the next few weeks to try to prevent swarming I will splitting at least 2 of the hives. Next week I will have to extracting honey from half of the super frames in each hive.

More hives. More honey. Bloody hell.

Is there a strategy we can adopt that we can restrict our little ladies from being so efficient?
I am serious here. Is there a way of restricting the bee numbers? I don’t really want to kill some of the bees just to keep their numbers under control.

Any advice welcomed
Alan


#2

Hi Alan

I am sorry but you made me laugh. One way to prevent from getting too many colony is selling splits away or giving them to beekeeper. If your bees are healthy I am sure anyone near you would be happy to take the access bees of you.

You could easily sell the excess honey to a local honey producer, the money surely would help with the general maintenance of the equipment.


#3

Hi Alan, do all colonies in the Sunshine Coast always reliably produce excess honey year after year or are you just having a “good” run?


#4

Hi @Dan2
Short answer is yes. Even in bad years we will have excess honey off hives. Typically there is something flowering all year round. Earlier this year we had a quiet time for a couple of weeks due to constant rain washing nectar off. Bit of a sweet spot for bees.


#5

Hi Alan, I echo what @Paras said. Honey & or bees are both very saleable.

I’m also on the Sunshine Coast at Buderim. I’m faced with the same dilemma. It looks like being a top spring season for swarms, as well as honey. I think I’m going to be out every day for the next few months just to control swarming.

To control swarming without making new colonies or killing bees, the only option I found is to use foundationless frames & keep culling the brood so as to control the population growth & keep them working on empty frames to keep ahead of the urge to swarm.


#6

Wow Alan, that is unreal. I like Jeff’s idea of giving the bees lots of work, which as I understand it kills them more quickly, and then also culling the brood -otherwise you will have to keep making boxes and frames up. If you had chooks you could make up a frame hanger in the pen (to keep the frame off the dirt) and hang a capped brood frame in there every few days. It would save on chook food and help the chooks make tasty eggs.


#7

Thanks @JeffH and @Dan2
I remember one of @JeffH videos of extreme measures of controlling swarming of a hive where you just cut off the brood of frames and disposed of them. I say them because the brood is still bees just waiting to emerge. I was shocked at the time at the thought of doing this. Maybe I need to change my thoughts.
The easiest and laziest way for me would be just to let the hives swarm whenever they want to but this is definitely against why I keep bees.
I thought of still splitting the hives when needed and then recombine them later in the year. I can then choose which queen I keep.
If only I could give the queen a temporary contraceptive pill all would be solved.


#8

Hi @felmo, it WAS drastic measures at the time because I didn’t have a market for colonies like I managed to acquire the last couple of years. I was rendering the wax & the rest ended up as fertilizer, nothing really got wasted. We need to be careful using the residue as fertilizer because SHBs like to breed in it.


#9

If you have easy daily access to your hives- you could try using pollen traps in the spring to reduce the amount of pollen the bees have for making brood. From what I understand jeff removes frames of pollen, or cuts out large areas of pollen from hives to weaken them out in spring.

Using pollen traps you have to remove the pollen every day or two as it goes moldy if left for too long.

The great advantage is you will get lots of pollen- which is an incredible ‘super food’. It’s also in high demand and pretty expensive to buy.

I guess robbing the honey as often as you can will also help to slow them down.

One final thought: you can never have too much honey if you ask me! Once you start telling people you keep bees- you would be surprised how easy it is to move all your honey, swap it, sell it, give it away.

I have 13 hives- but am down to just 20 KG’s of honey this winter. I must have sold, swapped, traded over 250 KG’s in the last 8 months. 8 of my colonies are less than 12 months old: this year I expect my honey production to increase substantially.


#10

A possible options would be to pull queen and put in weak nuc. Like one frame of bees and the queen. They will only be able to take care of small number of brood if weak enough. This would give your strong hive a brood break of 30 some days to get laying queen and then 21 for brood to emerge. Over 50 days. In the mean time you have a queen bank with some brood if you need it.


#11

Nuc the queen with two frames of brood when you get queen cells. When your new queen is laying kill the old queen and unite the bees. Do it as often as you need to, though once a season usually does it here in the UK.


#12

Have you thought of reducing your number of hives to start with? Having only two hives would reduce your responsibilities and honey production by a third straight away. From my point of view it sounds as much work fighting nature (continuously culling brood etc) as it does working with it by making a split and selling it.


#13

There are lots of new beekeepers around, maybe you could sell some nuc’s or packages here:
https://forum.honeyflow.com/c/bee-breeding

We get customers enquiring where they can get bees in NSW and QLD.

Nice to hear your hives are going to well :slight_smile: Maybe there are some locals who want to help out in exchange for honey? You never know :honeybee:


#14

Hey Alan, Sell off you excess bees as either hives or nucs. They are very saleable here on the coast, as is honey. Contact you local green grocer about him selling the honey.
There is a glass jar wholesaler in Yandina with a good range of jars if you decide to make some money going that way. Selling hives or nucs is easy on Gumtree.
Cheers


#15

I agree about selling the excess bees: but it does make me wonder why people are always looking for bees? You’d think if most beekeepers make swarm prevention splits every year- bee colonies would increase exponentially. Not to mention all the swarms that are easy enough to catch.


#16

Thanks to all who have responded. It has given me many options of how to manage our hives.
We will probably do a mixture of your suggestions to determine what suits our aims.
The idea from @Semaphore to restrict pollen to the brood is interesting, so much so that I have ordered a pollen trap to try. We will do some additional splits but not quite sure of what type they will take. Will do a thorough inspection next Wednesday if the weather is favorable and determine the next action.

Again, thanks all for your input

Alan


#17

Hi Alan, I had a pollen trap in use a long time ago. I remember thinking to myself, “at least that colony wont swarm”. So what happened? it prepared to swarm just as if it wasn’t there. It basically made no difference.

Spring (love) is in the air & the bees want to reproduce. I found one colony this morning swarmed over the last day or two. No sign of it anywhere. They started preparing for that 2 weeks ago, unbeknownst to me.


#18

Bees sell easily on ‘Gumtree’ with people who are just wanting to begin with a hive or two. I agree about expanding an apiary with doing splits, that will increase the number of hives. You are lucky in your neck of the woods but over here a swarm that takes off is near on impossible to locate because of the huge amount of old growth bush about and it is very dense. With my apiary site if there was a swarm odds are it would never be found let alone collected. It would be a fluke if I was to be able to find the swarm.
We are having a very mild winter and the bees are producing well, last week I took a frame of honey from each of my hives to extract, I could have taken more but it was more to give the bees working space to give them something to do. As with @JeffH swarm control is the name of the game for us with mild weather and so much pollen and nectar foraging going on.


#19

our winter too seems to have been mild- cold but sunny with little rain. the bees are bringing in huge quantities of pollen already- so I am thinking I might have to get onto my swarm prevention earlier this year that last. I am hoping for a big honey season this spring.


#20

Hi Jack, When do you suggest opening up the brood? I believe the commercial beekeeper at the meeting a couple of months ago started in the third week of August, should we go earlier?