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Pete (+ monitoring your hive from the outside / pollen / swarms / cranky bees)

Hey forum folk,

Cedar is away this week so Pete has stepped in to answer this week’s live beekeeping questions, including meeting your bees’ pollen requirements and dealing with a hot hive.

He also gives some tips on monitoring the health of your colony from outside of the hive when it’s too cold to get in for a proper inspection, and chats about swarming and what to do about it, as well as overcoming first inspection nerves.

What did you think about the pin system of deciding whether/when to re-queen? To re-queen or not to re-queen can be a bit of a divisive issue in beekeeping. What are your thoughts on it?

Here is the recording:

And the transcript:

P.S. Sorry, I’m not sure how to make that come up with a picture of Pete instead of Cedar! But Pete is who you will see when watching the video.

First of all I like the 3 strikes method. I find that I don’t need pins, however they would be handy at keeping tabs on the strikes. It’s funny, you always remember the real aggressive hives. I remember the positions of real aggressive hives from 5 years ago. Also @Semaphore’s friend (Vickie) uses the 3 strikes method.

I have a comment about how to tell from the outside if a hive is healthy. I don’t view plenty of pollen coming in as a guide because a “laying worker hive” still needs plenty of pollen coming in to feed the numerous quantity of drone brood they are producing. Also I’ve observed queenless colonies bulking up on pollen.

I’ve had a few locals (S.E.Qld) recently ask me how much honey to take out of the honey super. I reply “the whole lot, because there’s always plenty of honey in the brood boxes this time of year”.

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We’re pretty fortunate in Northern NSW / SE QLD having plenty of nectar for most of the year - and yes it’s probably okay around here to harvest most or all of the honey in the super (we tend to leave some all year though, and all at this time of year).
Three strikes sounded a little harsh to me! But maybe I’m a bit of a softie. And so far (fingers crossed) bees have always been pretty calm around me and vice versa (I’ve had a warning sting when I zipped a bee into my veil by mistake). I do step away if the pitch rises though or if I get a couple of warning flights around the face. A friend in Brisbane has a very cranky hive, I may test my luck and look in on her bees next visit - will let you know how I fare! As far as the pins method goes, I would think you’d remember three incidents too, but this method could be handy if you have several hives or poorer memory.
Would love to know your tips for monitoring the hive when it’s a bit cold for inspections - do you just leave them be through that period or are there other signs you look out for that are more reliable than pollen coming in?

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Hi Free. I have no issue with raising the lid during cold weather to monitor the population. If I see no bees in the honey super, I’ll look through the QE without lifting it to see how many frames the bees are occupying in the brood box. If it looks well populated in the brood box, I’ll leave it. If it doesn’t look well populated, I’ll lift a frame adjacent to the bee mass, then I’ll look at a frame from within the bee mass, just to see what’s going on. Then take appropriate action, if needed.

My reason for not worrying about opening the hive is because the bees have a warm blanket around the brood which is constricted anyway. As long as we don’t disturb the brood, that warm blanket the bees are providing will stay in place. If the bees need to compensate for the cold air we let it, they’ll simply vibrate a bit harder to generate more heat, using themselves as a thermostat, via the sensing organs in their antennae. It’s the brood & mainly the open brood that needs to be at a constant 34-35degs. The rest of the hive wont be kept at that temp., is my understanding.

I had some angry bees yesterday which didn’t surprise me because before I went home on the day before, I scooped up some fairly fresh cow manure with my bee gloves. Rubbing them in the grass didn’t remove the smell. I now have some rubber gloves for that purpose because the fresh cow pats are too good to leave behind. Seeing as it’s been quite a while since any cows visited my paddock.

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Thanks Jeff, We’re pretty lucky to have such mild winters in Australia. I guess in properly cold climates you’d just have to do your winter prep carefully and then leave them to it and hope for the best. Yeah I can image the bees not being to happy with the smell of manure! If only they knew it would be fertilising the plants they might soon forage upon.

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