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It's almost spring, what to do?


#1

Hi all, I’m located in Newcastle Australia a fairly temperate place, that has mild winters and hot summers.

I picked up a nuc in late October last year from a local guy (Jamie Baggs) that told me the queen was bred for production and not temperament. Through the spring they filled out the brood box and were very mild I could sit with my uncovered face inches from the hive and they didn’t bother me.

By mid December I felt the hive was getting pretty full, so I added the flow hive super, I was fortunate as I was able to watch over the next few weeks them move into the top and starting building out the flow frames and eventually by late Jan had to harvest as the flow super was absolutely full. Between late Jan and the end of Autumn I harvested roughly 24kg of Honey.

Another interesting thing that was a shift in the hives temperament say mid Jan, they were decidedly angry and I’d have a guard bee hassling me if I lingered within a few meters of the hive for more then a few minutes. I never realized how much your eyelids can swell up from bee stings up until this point.

My last inspection was in late autumn (late may) and the hive seemed to be doing well and they still had 4 full frames of honey in the super to use over winter.

We had another mild winter, I think the coldest was maybe 2-3c for a few weeks at night, and days averaged about 14-15c so the bees foraged all winter still with plenty of flowers around, they didn’t seem to eat much of their winter store in the super, just from looking at the inspection panels - they may have got down to 3 frames of honey in the super?

I have to say I feel pretty blessed as the hive has done really well and I’ve had some great fortune as a novice beekeeper compared to some of the stories I’ve read elsewhere. I think my greatest worry has been managing SHB.

Anyway winter doesn’t officially end till the end of August, however no one told the plants and the bees and an early spring seems to be upon us. Today was 26c

So today was my first inspection since then -

I was very surprised but it seems I have a new queen! My original one was marked with a white blob of paint, I wouldn’t imagine it had washed off? So what happened to the old one? I keep a close eye on the hive and would have thought I’d notice a swarm? (though I was away for 10 days a couple of weeks ago). Is it even possible for them to swarm on the cusp of spring? I didn’t see any queen cells on the frames today although there were drone cells dotted here and there.

The bees have heaps of honey…the super is almost full - 5 full frames, I’m going to take 2 tomorrow. In the single 8 frame brood box there is also the 1 and 8 frames with a substantial amount of honey and pollen on both.

Plenty of brood in all stages of development, the brood pattern is excellent too. So the new queen is doing a great job.

So after that story I have some questions -

  1. What are likely scenarios for what could have happened to my queen?

  2. So I bought another flow hive a few months back, also have a 5 frame nuc box. I want a 2nd hive and was thinking i’d like to split from this one rather then buy another nuc. However most of the articles I can find talk about taking 5 frames from the original hive as a nuc, so i’m assuming they are referring too a 2 brood box setup, and taking 5 frames from an 8 frame brood box doesn’t seem wise right?

What is my best option? Add a 2nd brood box and checkerboard it with new and old frames, let them build it out over spring and then split when it’s full?

  1. Any idea why my bee’s got angry late summer?

Thanks in advance :blush:


#2

If they didn’t swarm, it was probably a supersedure. For some reason, the hive didn’t like the old queen (or her performance), so they made a new one. It happens fairly frequently.

I agree, if you only have one brood box. You could try with 3 frames, but I like your other idea better - add a second brood box, let them work it, then split when they have good food stores and brood.

Sounds like typical bee behaviour. Bees seem to sense an approaching nectar dearth at the end of the season, and they become much more defensive of what they have. Rusty Burlew has a nice post on her web site giving some of the other explanations:


#3

If you were to wait for your second brood to fill, chances are they may have already swarmed. No guarantees either way. If she is a new queen and you perform some brood frame manipulation to ensure the queen has plenty of room to lay and the workers are busing creating comb every few weeks then they should not swarm.
To split an 8-frame hive 2 frames of brood, 2x honey and 1x pollen will do it. However, you would be better off performing brood manipulation and either buying more bees or collecting a swarm, as you will risk this springs honey production.


#4

That’s funny, I was so proud of the original queen, I really didn’t expect to get a harvest in my first year and they really exceeded my expectations.

I guess the bees had other ideas :wink:

Okay so I’ve been reading various web articles today on this, so If I understand correctly, I could take an outside frame of honey/pollen providing there is a surplus in the hive and/or ample resources coming in,shift the frames over and stick an empty frame in the middle for the bees to draw out? And just repeat this to bolster the bee numbers for the coming flow?

So the honey/pollen frame I took out, what do I do with it? I guess most traditional beekeepers might extract it, but I don’t have that equipment at this point, am I able to store it safely somewhere until I can use it for a nuc?


#5

yep, I always do it in pairs but I have 10 frame hives. For an 8-frame, a single frame every few weeks would be ample.

You place it above your brood box so the bees can access it. We are just entering the spring build up phase of your colony, they will need more honey now then they did over winter to give the colony the energy it needs to grow.
If you don’t have an additional super but your flow super does have honey stored then you can remove the honey frame and store or extract.
Nobody says beekeeping was easy! Takes some planning and you need a method for your hive type and conditions… I use 3 boxes (includes the Single brood, standard super & Flow super) from Spring to Autumn, 2 boxes over winter (Sydney climate). You have to think the way the colony thinks (if thats possible) and you won’t always get it right, thats why we inspect every few weeks.
There is a brilliant article that covers the method that many NSW & QLD beekeepers follow, you may need to read it a few times but it works for me. http://www.theabk.com.au/articles/2016/8/4/preparing-for-the-flow


#6

Hi Rod. That article of course doesn’t mention flow frames or flow supers. Flow hives generally don’t have an extra honey super, unless we place one there so we are able to move stickies.
I have the feeling as flow hivers we may have to adapt the process, at least rethink it. As I understand, the whole idea of flow hives is to avoid the matter of ancient extraction methods. So we don’t have stickies to move.
The article mentions to put an additional honey super on once the first one is 1/3 full. Wouldn’t a flow hiver just extract a frame or two?
I am just experimenting with my Italian queen hive. The brood box was full and I shifted 3 frames up into a new second brood box. All empty space is filled with foundationless frames. Man, did they get busy since! Like a wake up from winter snooze call. Currently the usually full of bees flow super has less than half the bees visible and they are shifting nectar really fast. Well, they have comb to build downstairs. Even the entrance has 10 times more traffic.
Not sure what to do once they are done with their comb.
Maybe I split them. Should work well with 16 brood frames.
Another hive, Carnies, is getting full too. Not sure if I should split it or just put the flow box on? Heard Carnies are prone to swarming?
My one frame nuc survived well and is busy over 5 frames. I’m getting to like Carnies, but it’s my first spring with them. Well, it’s my first spring managing any bees. :thinking:
Good to see a bit of bee action on the horizon. Beekeepers springing into activity in this part of the world.
I suppose you have access to extraction equipment.


#7

Hey @Webclan,

You are right however the method is the same. Even if you use a double brood box you will still need to migrate out old brood frames and honey frames from the brood box to create additional space for your queen to lay. Brood frames should be replaced every 3 years as the wax becomes dirty and the cells will be ever decreasing in size from the layers of coccoons resulting in smaller bees. The colonies natural answer to this is to eventually abscond and find a new hollow and create new comb.
How do you cycle out brood and honey frames? I either move them up into a super above the queen excluder or remove the honey frames to extract. The old brood frames when completely emtied by the bees can then be removed and rendered down or left to be filled with honey then extracted and the wax rendered at that point. The frames can then be cleaned and stored ready to be put back in the hive at a later date. For a Flow hive, I insert a standard super in between the brood box and Flow super for this purpose. Its just for a few months.

Unfortunately, you will still have honey frames in your brood box. The bees intentionally create honey frames on each side for winter insulation and a food source close to the cluster. Some of my hives create 2 honey frames each side, these are the frames I move up into the standard super during spring, I don’t extract these frames as this is a most important food source for the spring build-up phase of the colony.

The wonderful thing about the Flow hive is that you can just harvest as you go, so yes.

This is a good approach for swarm prevention, not guaranteed but will keep your colony busy for a couple of months. Sounds like you are on the right track.


#8

Thanks a lot for your reply. Yep, those Italians got very busy all of a sudden. They are using beautiful salvia honey to build their new 8 frames of comb. Oh well. I am surprised how quickly they reacted to the new brood box.

If I put a flow super on my carniolans, does that prevent swarming for a while as well? I intend to split them later when my KI Ligurian queen comes beginning of December. I need to do something with those Carnies soon, getting full in their one brood box. Only saw a couple of play cups in there a few days ago.
It’s really great that you share from your beekeeping experience here Rod.


#9

Best of luck, sounds like you are really enjoying this hobby…


#10

There are many factors which affect swarming, and honey super space is certainly one of those. However, I think that brood box space is even more important, and splitting or removing (and replacing with empty) a few frames from the brood box is more effective than simply adding a super.


#11

Hi Dawn. Yes, that’s exactly what I was wondering about. I thought of taking a frame of mixed goodies to give to my weaker Carnies. Except then they won’t get busy in the flow box yet. And we are still quarantined because of our neighbour’s AFB. Exchanging frames between hives is not advisable. The 2 carnie hives are next to each other and are from one nuc.
So many options! Hard to make such decisions in one’s first year of beekeeping.


#12

Thanks for the replies/discussion it’s really helping me!

I think today (going to be mild 24c sunny) I’m going to take out the outermost frame (8) and push frames 5-6-7 over. The 8th frame is about 4/5 capped honey and the other 1/5 uncapped. I don’t want to put another box in (yet?) so I’m going to store that frame in plastic in the freezer.

Though I read that if I’m going to do this, the way to know if the bees have the population density to handle this is if they festoon across the gap made after you’ve shuffled the 3 frames to the outside.

Does this sound like a good plan? I hear the unseasonal warm weather is about to end and we’re getting a cold (by Aussie east states standards at least) move over on the weekend of min 15c day time on sat. With that in mind the hive won’t get too chilled will it?


#13

Crazy, hey? We had 31C yesterday and expect same today. But having the future cold snap in mind (25C), I did not checker board through the brood of my Italians. Put the empties to the sides. Will have to do weekly checks from now on to correct their comb building. 8 foundationless frames! Better keep a motherly eye on it.


#14

I would put an empty frame in the gap. Otherwise it sounds fine. :blush:


#15

In that case, I would do what I suggested for @Lucky. Just take out one frame of whatever they have to spare, freeze it, and put in an empty frame instead. If they have 3 frames of honey, take one of those. If they have 3 frames of pollen, take one. If they have 4 frames of brood, take one - OK, freezing will kill them, but the bees will recycle the protein. Just a thought, and worth what you paid for it!!! :blush: :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: :heart_eyes:


#16

I think I will take the risk and boost my weaker Carnies if there is no AFB next week. They can do with it. Our quarantine will enter its 3rd month by then. Not sure though if our chances get better with passing of time. Hope so.
We are independent of the grid, 100% solar. Means we have no freezer that would fit any frames.
At least that reduces my many options.
Isn’t bee spring just wonderful? :blush:


#17

Hi Lucky

I think these are related. I think the queen died and they replaced her. When a queen dies, the whole hive becomes agitated. Thus a different reaction when one keeps one’s face close to the entry.

re splitting, a nuc is usually comprised of: 3 frames of brood, 1 frame of pollen and 1 frame of honey. This is a theoretical, or an approximate measure, as honey and pollen may well be mixed with brood. So if pollen is with the brood, you could put two frames of honey.

This is taken from a single brood hive, but usually 10 frame size. There would usually be 3+ frame of brood left in the 10 frame brood box.

I would not separate brood frames with frames that don’t have brood. Keep all brood together, so it is easy for the bees to insulate on either side with honey and keep the brood at the right temperature.

Other things to do (I do) in prep for spring are: 1. rotate frames (only suitable if you have a HYBRID flow super, which I what I recommended the Flow Team to tell prospective purchasers who only intend having one hive) or a second normal hive), 2. feed tonic.

1 rotate frames from the brood box to the honey super, reason a: this helps eliminate black wax which can harbour disease and pests. I have noticed SHB are attracted more to frames with black wax on, which have a stronger smell. reason b: this gives more room for the queen to lay eggs. She not having room for egg laying is the main reason they swarm, not because they have no more room for honey.

how: (each month over spring and summer, start the first warm day 25 degrees or more in August - last month of Winter) take the two middle frames of brood out of the brood box and shake/brush off bees, especially leaving the queen down, and put the two frames in the honey super in the middle (for a normal hive, or one on each inside slot of a HYBRID flow super with honey frame on the outside). The nurse bees will go up to take care of the brood. After three weeks the eggs will have hatched and the bees will fill the cells with honey. doing this over the season, will ensure all frames have been rotated and after extraction of honey the black wax can be discarded and a new foundation installed.

2 feed tonic, the in-hive plastic feeders are the width of a flow frame, so they can be used on a standard flow super or a hybrid. reason a: garlic is a tonic for the bees just like us. It helps prevent disease. reason b: feeding late in winter could help supplement low food supplies.

how: each week for three weeks give each hive 750ml mix of 1:1 white sugar and water with three crushed cloves of garlic.

General: control SHB by using a screened bottom board with a tray which has oil and vinegar, vinegar to attract the SHB and oil to drown them; or diatomaceous earth; or hydrated lime. I use hydrated lime (not garden lime which is much stronger and the bees will evacuate) because oil is too easy to spill with my clumsy hands and DE is much more expensive. Also I can recycle the used lime in the garden.

best wishes


#18

So thank you to everyone that offered advice, in the end I went with Rodderick’s advice being that he lives in the same climate I thought what works for him will probably work for me : ) - So last week I took a frame of honey (no8 ) and shuffled 5-6-7 over and dropped a new frame with foundation in. The frame of honey I froze and plan to use it in a nuc at some stage.

On the weekend I did worry a bit as we had a cool change (9c at night 15c during the day) and some high winds, I was worried I’d ‘disrupted the brood nest integrity and maybe chilled the brood’.

Well today was a pleasant 23c so I did an inspection and was pleasantly surprised to find that the bees have drawn the comb right out! Wow they have been busy! The brood in pos 8 is healthy.

Also I feel a rather silly. After claiming I had a new queen I in fact don’t and the old queen that is a year or so old now is still happily moving around the hive, what I saw was just a ‘big’ bee no not a drone,…I’ve noticed there is quite a size difference between a lot of the bees…some of them are rather small and furry from what I’ve read recently these are freshly emerged bees? So lets just put the whole thing down to me being a noob beekeeper :blush:

I should add, theres still a number of drone cells on the frames and the drones are more numerous then last weeks inspection where I only saw 1 I believe.

I’ve included a short video from my go-pro apologies it’s not the best it’s chest mounted and I’m still experimenting with the whole youtube thing.

The queen is visible from about 58secs

I can add the whole inspection if people are interested.


#19

Good advise from @Rodderick as usual and you are right to follow a similar climate condition.
Bees can be accepting of being interfered with but then can become angst for what seems no reason. That happening justifies a longer look at the hive, look for room for the queen to lay eggs, the hive being queen right, ample stores but still frames for more, bees can get angry from boredom. adding a frame of foundation can help.
Regards