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Newbee Q&A session - Brood inspection / Adding your super / Splits

Morning all,

You’ll have some recordings to catch up on this week as I haven’t posted the last few… perfect timing for those in lockdowns as we are.

Hope your bees are providing a welcome focus and that you’re enjoying some outdoors time with your colony.

As usual - if you have any questions or comments in relation to the session content we’d love to hear from you.

Recording here:

And transcript here:

I don’t have any questions, however I have a tip for Cedar & my reason for the tip.

My tip is to not blow smoke directly into the hive or directly onto the bees. I blow smoke across the entrance & directly above the bees. My reason being that bees are moving a lot of air around via the entrance. They create a draft of air in at one side & out at the other. Therefore by puffing smoke across the entrance, the smoke will get carried in with the draft. Also the smoke may have cooled down by the time it gets picked up by the draft.

Cedar said that returning bees draw the smoke into the hive as they return. I believe it’s the draft created by the colony that draws the smoke in.

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Thanks Jeff, that makes sense and we appreciate you sharing your experience :slight_smile:

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Sounds like a good idea. I hadn’t thought of the bees making a draft in & out on different sides of the entrance. I guess I hadn’t really imagined much of a draft being generated at the entrance when there is a mesh base like the normal flow hive kits have? Thanks for the hint.

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Thank YOU Dawn, actually I never took the mesh floor into consideration when I gave my tip. I always suggest to Flow hive owners to keep the slider in the top slot, so as to create a permanent solid floor. I also suggest to keep the rear vent closed in Flow2’s, no matter how hot it gets because bees do a good job of climate control without added ventilation, which I think upsets what the bees try to achieve, via the entrance.

cheers

Just a thought, it is really cold here in Melbourne and yet the bees in my hive are fanning backwards at the entrance. If you feel the air it is like a heater blowing out of the entrance.

That said, using my engineering brain, logic says that the entrance should be drawing cool air due to convection created by the heat of cluster and the warmer air should be exiting the vents in the lid?? That logic also would make the smoke wafted across the entrance drift into and up through the hive. That is how I imagined the smoke flowed when I have smoked the entrance in the past, however bees fanning backwards? Smoke would not enter the hive a all.

just throwing a curve ball for you bee experts :wink:

Puffing smoke across the entrance must work because it has never failed me yet.

I never, ever consider that convection expels air out the vents in the lid, which I don’t provide for my bees anyway. Any air that gets moved around inside a hive is done by the bees. I’ve been indoctrinated by the video “City of Bees”, not to mention my own observations.

With my 2 years with 4 hives I can say that each of my hives is different and also each hive changes their activity randomly. I have 1 hive in Melbourne and 3 in central NSW. My bees in NSW are fanning and bearding as expected during hot times however the Melb bees are fanning in winter? Also the NSW hives kicked their drones in mid Autumn and yet my Melb hive has had drones flying all winter.

With smoke - I only ever waft smoke over the entrance and under lid and it works fine. just the weird bees I have here are pumping heat out of the entrance (bottom of hive).

So can i get some advice please on my next brood inspection of my Melbourne hive? I did an inspection at the end of Autumn and I found the bees had severely cross combed the brood box. I had to cut the end 2 frames free and found healthy brood plenty of capped honey and pollen. It was a coolish day and there was a lot of leaking honey so I closed it back up. I am still waiting for a warm enough day to go back in and fix the cross combing.

How should I go about this without disturbing the brood etc? my thinking is to remove the outer frames and replace with fresh frames, then with a few week intervals swap the new straight frames with adjacent inner cross comb frames. Then when brood hatches remove those frames and replace with more new frames - until all frames are new and straight. Does that sound a good plan?

I would do it in one go on a nice warm day by using a temporary replacement brood box. I would put the replacement in the same position & work on the original brood box several meters away so that the flying bees will return to the new box, in case they get a bit angry. Then I would rubber band the good worker brood into empty frames before placing them into the new box. I would avoid reusing drone brood & I would crush & strain any honey. I would give the bees fresh wax foundation frames to fill the gaps, while keeping the brood together in the middle with the fresh foundation on the sides.

PS, because you’re going into spring, the bees may decide to keep using those outside frames for brood, so therefore you wont get a chance to remove them free of brood.

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Thanks for that Jeff. That sounds a good way to attack the job. It is strange because I checked this hive a few months before the last inspection and there was no cross comb. These bees seem keen to add wax where they can fit it and just leave small galleries for moving around. Quite annoying really. Hopefully when I straighten it all out they will change their habits :wink:

If there was no cross comb a few months earlier, I doubt if there would be any now. You could be seeing a lot of wax buildup between the top bars which might look like cross comb.

In relation to bees changing habits: It’s hard for bees to change millions of years of evolution. Bees will do what bees do best. For us managing bee hives, we need to work with them & manage our hives, baring in mind what bees are likely to be doing going forward. For me it is using all foundation frames & evenly spacing the frames. I say that because I’ve seen some poorly spaced brood frames which leads to problems such as what your talking about.

cheers

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Well I did the brood inspection and did utilise Jeff’s suggestion to use a spare empty hive box to store frames while I cleaned up the cross and burr comb. I basically had to cut each frame apart however there were only small sections of burr comb at the top. Took at least an hour to clean it all up, remove a lot of drone brood and elastic band up salvagable capped honey comb.

Now the main reason I went in at this time was the bees have been super active lately and exploded in population, so I was paranoid that they would swarm (suburban back yard). The brood box was jammed full with solid brood over 8 of the 10 frames, however the honey super (which only has 3 flow frames) was relatively un-worked. The flow frames were filling nicely with the currently blooming tea tree and melaleuca nectar which was nice.

My decision was to move 3 frames of brood with capped honey and pollen stores (making sure the queen didn’t end up above queen excluder) up into the super together on one side of the flow frames and replace with empty frames to allow room for queen to lay. I found a total 3 supersedure cells on the three central frames which I removed. They had never been used and were empty (perhaps play cups?). No swarm cells whatsoever. found eggs but no queen. i didn’t spend time looking for her but was very careful not to damage her all the same.

Could you please tell me what mistakes I may have made and suggest what I should have done instead. It is really hard to make decisions on the run with limited experience and trying not to disturb the bees too much.

Many bees bearded that night but by early morning the hive was back to normal - albeit a few angry bees harassed me for a few days but now settled.

BTW much of the cross comb had capped honey.

Sounds like you did very well. No major mistakes that I could detect, but I have a few suggestions.

I don’t usually destroy queen cells or play cups - they just make more when I am not looking! :blush: If they intend to swarm, destroying the cells doesn’t prevent them from doing so.

Personally I usually only rotate 2 frames out of the brood box at once, but then I have 8 frame brood boxes not 10 frames. If the hive was very crowded, you have not hurt them by removing 3 frames, but it will generate a lot of work for them to draw out the comb, which will slow them down a bit. That may be fine if the nectar flow is strong, and will certainly help deter them from swarming if they felt short of space.

One other thing to consider. If there was drone brood in the frames you put above the queen excluder, you will need to give them an upper entrance until they have all emerged. Drones cannot get through the queen excluder, and will kill themselves trying to do so unless you let them out.

When I am tidying up that kind of comb, I take a large ziplock bag with me and put the comb into it. I can then crush and strain it, or just put it into an old kitchen sieve and let the honey drip out. I freeze the wax to kill off wax moth and hive beetle eggs, then render it when I have collected enough for it to be worthwhile. :wink:

Hi Gazzalin, well done & I agree with @Dawn_SD that you did a good job. Taking one hour is not unusual for me to spend on one hive while tidying it up. I spent at least an hour on one hive the other day while taking a split from a hive containing 8 frames in a 10 frame brood box. I took 6 of the 8 frames while leaving the 2 best ones in the middle flanked by 7 fully drawn stickies, evenly spaced :slight_smile: Hopefully my son wont let that happen again.

My reward was keeping the split which took close to another hour to tidy up the frames the following morning, while trying not to upset the bees.

In relation to what you did: The only thing I would do differently would be to place the 3 brood frames in the middle of the honey super, so as to form a type of brood pyramid between the brood box & the brood in the honey super for warmth purposes.

cheers

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Thanks for the replies Dawn and Jeff. I feel better having gone in early. I hope it reduces the risk of swarming. Last year I had a cutout hive swarm after 1 week then a secondary swarm 5 days later. The neighbour wasn’t impressed as they both swarmed across his yard and he has young kids. To make matters worse he has a friend that keeps bees and said to him your neighbour isn’t looking after his bees if they swarm. I moved my other hives to my rural property except one. I just want to be on top of swarming from now on with my home hive. Also it was a check for diseases etc so now I can wait a few months before going back in. My thoughts are that if the hive fills to capacity I will ad a second brood box which I will leave over next winter as well.

I did make sure as best I could not to add any drones or drone brood above the excluder. And Jeff, because I have 3 flow frames centrally located I decided to put 2 brood frames (with capped honey and pollen) against the half full flow frames on the sheltered side of the hive with a third frame with less brood and more capped honey on the very outside. I then made sure the empty frames below were on the opposite side so as the cluster would be more uniform.

Anyway I will let you know how it worked in a few months upon next inspection. Bees are going gang busters on a good flow ATM so I am hoping for full flow frames in a week or so. I plan to take honey while flow is on to keep room in the hive for maximum storage.

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Oh and Dawn removing the play/supersedure cups did go against my instincts. However my paranoia about swarming made me do it :frowning: Is it possible it would have had the opposite effect? These bees are from the remnants of another cutout hive that I didn’t find queen. The queen was made from a frame of brood and eggs from that swarming hive which also turned out to be my most aggressive hive. All of my hives originated from our local wild bees which are very dark German type bees. However this queen must have mated with a local’s Italian bees because there are a lot of yellow Italian looking bees in this hive now (the one I just inspected) and they are quite gentle.

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No, not the opposite effect, just no effect on their plans. Especially if you are going to do inspections that far apart. In urban areas, I would suggest a minimum of 2 weeks between brood inspections, if you want to prevent angering the neighbours with a swarm… After you have done a split, you may be able to wait longer (maybe a month), but otherwise you need to watch carefully. Bees can build up to overcrowded very quickly during a good nectar flow!

:blush: