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My bees wont make honey?

Hi,
I purchased my flow hive (and then bees) in around October 2019, and added the super around 5 weeks later, which is what the person suggested when I bought the bees. In hindsight I might have been a little premature.
Despite that, the hive had plenty of activity early on, then seemed to drop off a little in the worst part of the summer, which I put down to last summer’s extreme temperatures. The bees never moved into the super that year, nor over winter.
In Spring 2020 the activity around the hive increased again and the bees finally started moving into the super around September. However, 4 months later there is still no sign of honey up there - the frames still look pristine from the side windows. Some days there is a lot of bees upstairs, some days (like today) hardly any. There are definitely more bees in the central frames than the outside, but from the back window they still look like clean plastic frames with no wax. I’m working up the courage to pull the frames out for a real look.
I live in the Adelaide hills, so seems unlikely that there isn’t enough nectar for the bees. On a warm day there is a strong smell of honey, presumably coming from the brood box, but I’m just not sure why they wont do their thing upstairs?

What does the brood box and the rest look like? Lots of bees? Honey/nectar and pollen? Normal looking brood?

No harm in removing the super and building the colony strength until you’re sure they’re packed and ready for the super again.

does it harm the colony to put the Super on too early? I just assumed that it would be redundant capacity that they would move into when they were ready.
Or does it stop the colony from growing properly?

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Hi Sarah, I agree with @chau06 “what does the brood box & the rest look like?”. It’s important to have a healthy brood box in order to get honey. People might disagree, however I don’t think it really affects a colony when you put a brood box on too early. The only thing it effects is us because we’re waiting for bees to occupy the honey super while they are still building up the brood box. If we wait till the brood box is nearly full before adding the honey super, it wont take long before bees start to occupy the honey super.

If the bees aren’t filling the brood box, then it’s easy to inspect the brood or seek help in finding out if there’s something wrong in there, rather than playing the waiting game without knowing what’s happening in the brood box.

cheers

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Hi. I too live in the Adelaide HIlls and I have a similar situation to you. I put my super on in the beginning of December and still not much activity in there, even after smearing with burr comb and light spray with sugar syrup. The girls do venture upstairs but only say 20 or so in the sunny side window at any time. They have distributed the burr wax and sealed up the edges in an area in the middle of the frame but that’s about it.

The smell of honey is wonderful when you go near the FH but they are just not ready to store as yet. I would have thought there is lots of forage around for the bees but maybe as the summer sets in, maybe not.

I inspected my brood and flow frames again on 26/1 and they are doing well but not as great in numbers as what I thought they would be by now. I have decided to start to feed them soon and see if that has any effect on the numbers and therefore on their willingness to go into the super. I believe they need a great deal of energy to wax up the super fames for the first time.

Or maybe I’m just being a tad excited and and impatient for them to start their work … after all, they will do what they want when they want.

If you want some company to pull your frames out for a good look, I’m happy to stand by for moral support if you want ha.

Anyway, here’s to our ladies doing their thing soon and filling up those frames.

I have two standard hives in Bridgewater in the hills. I have had them there for two season now- and so far I have hardly been able to harvest a single drop of honey from them. Beekeeping in the Adelaide hills can be tough. Despite the fact that it looks like a paradise for bees - it is a much more difficult area than the adelaide plains. The cold nights, heavy shading, and lack of diversity of plants all combine to make it more difficult. Yes there are a lot of trees- but how many of them are in flower at any given time? In the city there is much more diversity- and irrigation.

I am not sure but I think many experienced hills beekeepers only have success using double brood boxes. Last time I inspected those two hives (both single brood) I found that the brood boxes were absolutely perfect: full of bees with good brood pattern, etc, nice fat queens. But practically no work in the supers- again. occasionally they start to work a super- only to go back and eat all the honey.

I don’t think your experiences are related to flow supers so much as the area your bees are located. I would suggest trying to get into contact with local beekeepers and finding out how they do things. It could be that the best move would be to remove your flow super- add a second brood box and feed the bees before winter until they fill out both boxes- and then try again next spring.

here on the plains I rarely feed- and never in winter. However when I first started in the hills I had several small Nucs die out over winter through starving- I really should have fed them- but didn’t realise how different the conditions are.

Also insulating hives may help- I have a feeling that the bees eat a lot more honey in the hills to stay warm on the cold nights than they do down on the plains. Heavily insulating your roofs may well help.

It’s not all bad in the hills- I have more hives in Upper Sturt right next to the national park and I get great honey there. However event here there are long periods where nothing happens- and then sudden flows when certain gums flower in abundance. I know from the Bee Society meeting s that there have been some very poor years in the hills recently. From memory 2018 was very poor and hardly anyone got much honey at all.

Leaving empty flow supers on over multiple winters will likely result in having flow frames with mold and/or propolis on them. I think the way to go would be to build up the double brood- perhaps have an ideal on as a super for winter feed, and then only add the flow supers when there is a big flow on. Knowing when that is happening will require knowing the local conditions well…

Maybe not where you are Jeff- but in the Adelaide hills it can get down to below zero at nights- very chilly- and also damp- and I think a big empty box above the brood does nothing to help the bees stay warm and snug. My own hills hives have very nice perfect brood boxes- I put on a super in spring with high hopes- come back in a month and NOThing upstairs. Maybe 10 bees wandering around and one cockroach. Go into the brood and it is packed- every frame tightly covered- big frames of capped brood.

Another thing I have noticed is those hills bees don’t make swarm preparations in spring like they do on the plains. even though everything looks good and the colony itself is strong- the bees clearly never feel they are doing well enough to want to swarm. They hardly even make queen cups at the height of swarm season (though they do make all the drones). It really is a matter of being in a different environment and having to modify how one keeps bees to accommodate that.

Hi Jack, I stand corrected. I should have clarified that I mean during a colony buildup. I wouldn’t put an empty super over a colony during winter while a colony has reduced in numbers.

Right now I have some empty supers over single brood boxes, however I place hive mats over the frames in the brood box until I’m ready to expand the colony or the colony expands itself. Once I get frames covered in bees in the super, I remove the mat.

I have 3 fake flow supers full of frames here right now. I guess the principle is the same, I see a relative amount of insulation, by the time you add a QX, followed by a super full of flow frames, compared to an empty super with nothing in it.

My recent mystery brush with fame wouldn’t even unbox the fake flow frames to place into the fake honey supers.

To be fair, he does have a genuine working flow hive. I have a 4th hive of his here which is a genuine article that belongs to his son. I have to put a colony into that as well.

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