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Question from Western Australia

Hi all. It’s the start of a relatively mild winter here in Western Australia. My assessment was that the bees needed the Flow super to stay over winter because their honey reserves in the brood box were meagre.

After the recent rains we had here I noticed some water pooling on the Corflute slider. I can see a design issue, where the entire hive is tilted backwards to help honey extraction, but the bottom slider is not and water can get trapped inside. Is this a common issue with Flow hive classic bottom boards or something I’m doing wrong?

I do not know whether my hive is leaking (Flow Hive Classic), or it’s water caught on the lip of the slider that sticks out, and just runs inside and pools there. I’m very reluctant to open the hive until late August. I’m also noticing some condensation on the back plates of the flow frames on rainy days. Is this normal? I suspect it is a problem.

Moist air is lighter than dry air so it rises to the top. I made some vents in the roof to let humid air escape, and I only have some mesh over the inner cover hole.

My roof was originally very leaky but I fixed it well now and fingers crossed, the leaks are not coming in from the roof. I am now wondering whether water can leak through the observation windows or the back covers?

Any thoughts/advice?

Hi mate, welcome to the forum.
Yes there was, perhaps still is, a design flaw with the roof as you have found out but generally the bees will waterproof any other gaps in the hive where they see fit and are able to access.
As for the screened bottom board I can’t see there being any purpose here in the South West except for the built in pitch for harvesting purposes, oh and for letting the water out because of the built in pitch…

Yes, Avogadro. And so does warm air. Ventilation in hives is something that stumps me. I’ve found the bees propolize the top vents, (I replaced my Flow roof with a migratory one) yet I get a lot of condensation when I’ve left the super on over winter and I dare not clean out the vents as they know best so I’m compromising and removing the supers.

I saw a Western Spinebill out front several years ago, haven’t seen one since. One of my favourites, simply beautiful.

Thanks @skeggley great to see some sandgropers because I thought this forum was US based.

My roof split and warped and the inner cover was soaked last year. Flow replaced the shingles and now I painted it both sides, and caulked every gap inside and out. I’m pretty sure it is not leaking again.

The water I found pooling is more than condensation I think and the screened bottom board actually won’t let water out, if the corflute is in place in the top slot where I like to keep it. It will trap it there. Only the risers are sloping back. See this photo.

Maybe water came in from the entrance when the wind was blowing in that direction.

I added vents last year and my bees never attempted to propolise them.

And the W.Spinebill. Well spotted mate. I do get them occasionally here, absolutely love them.

No not US based more so that our season is over and the northern hemisphere is having their season.
There used to be a great collection of sandgropers here however most have lost faith in this forum due to lack of moderation myself included. We all know who’s responsible and it’s better to walk than fight. It’s a shame really as here in the West we are in a unique situation as it could be argued that our little piece of paradise, with the best tasting and medicinal honeys in the world, is the only true treatment free environment left in the world and often what is advised isn’t pertinent here. Screened bottom boards for example, for what purpose do they have here? I can’t think of one.
As I said earlier I have left Flow frames on through winter and although condensation was there it was never an issue for the bees, the frames however built up a layer of mould which did not seem to affect the flow from the frames, colour or taste come summer it did look a bit ordinary when viewing through the window. :flushed: this year I’ve decided to remove them to clean them up, unfortunately when I’ve removed the supers I’ve found them full bar the cells in the rear window so have a batch of frames full waiting for me to finish the honey warmer…
Have you had a look through the Perth (WA, AU) Flowhives and honey flow thread? Plenty of info and bragging there.
Still worth asking general questions here however don’t expect community input anymore until past issues have been resolved. :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

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Cheers mate. That was an epic introduction to the forum :slight_smile: thanks for the heads up. May explain the cold shoulder with no meaningful help I got on my other post from the Flow girl. Mind you I did get great customer service from Flow whenever I emailed in the past.

My hive survived for a few years without me being a WABA member or forum subscriber and I guess it can survive a few more. But I’m now at a point where I know what to ask without looking too much like a dill, and can identify a problem when I see one if you know what I mean. Anyway. I’ll stay under a rock until spring hopefully the ‘past issues’ get resolved. It would be great if I can catch up with some fellow west Aussie beekeepers.

Thanks again much appreciated.

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Yeah, from all reports the customer service is second to none but then it needs to be as it seems the quality control is below par. Personally I have not had an issue.
I’ve been a member here since the crowd funding days, like you I’m not a member of WAAS, (Ag Dept registered) and have learned much from others on this forum in the earlier days especially about how to extract from the Flow System successfully as the leaking issue seemed to be plaguing the design. (And leaking roofs.:wink:) I’ve caught up with a few locals from the forum and have often thought about starting up a Hills chapter however I usually forget about it after the third beer besides it’s probably more appropriate for someone with more experience to organise as it seems beekeeping years under the belt is all that matters sometimes.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still some great people on the forum, clever, helpful, positive and witty. Oh and knowledgeable too. :blush:
I was great seeing newbees growing as beekeepers and becoming the ones answering the questions in time, now they don’t get a chance… Shame, it gives release and saves all their friends and family being bombarded with bee talk, a common side effect of beekeeping. :crazy_face:
Anyway I still pop in now and then as I have made some good friends here and like to touch base now and then, it’s always nice to hear how the Northern hemisphere is going while we’re hibernating. :upside_down_face:
Anyway enough of my ranting…
How did your season go this year? Have you had the leaking issues?
And jealous that you have local spinebills. Are you north or south of Kala?

Hi @skeggley and @Honeyeater
I’m sure there are plenty of WA new beeks watching this forum, including myself.
I, for one, learn a lot from you guys just by reading the comments.
But I do agree that many comments/topics are generated from USA and UK. at the moment.
I assume that is because they are entering their spring season and many of their comments do not relate to our climate/situations but I still enjoy reading them.
Anyway, I am located North of Perth in Wanneroo and there don’t seem to be many beeks from this area that comment on this forum.
The nearest beeks group for this area is Bullsbrook, as far as I know, they have currently ceased their meetings due to the carona virus.
I believe most of their members are from the traditional hives, not the flow hives.
I do ask questions when I need to get some advise and have always received prompt replies,
I’m not one for just general chit chat or for voicing my opinion on various subject, mainly because I am new here and still have much to learn.
Cheers, G

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Thanks @George_perth and @skeggley. I’ve been once to a day long beekeeping introductory meeting in Mundaring a few years ago. Stu from Flow was one of the speakers I recall, but the event was rather underwhelming and didn’t learn much. I kept away from organisations ever since. Like you George I’m not chit chatty and not much of a forum type so kept away too. Until now. There is so much I’m yet to learn.

My hives are located in west of Hovea, just between the Swan Plain and the Darling scarp and I think I am lucky because my bees can find something to eat all year round. When the Marri trees are in flower I get my main flow but they always forage and find something to gather from people’s gardens I suppose. Driving around here I see a few “Honey for sale” signs so I guess it is a good spot for keeping bees.

I started beekeeping on a whim really. I just bought a Flow Hive when they came out on Indigogo believing bees will take care of themselves and I just tap the honey. So naive. I almost gave up when I was experiencing a lot of honey leaks and a disaster with cross comb, leaky roof etc… I agree @skeggley about the quality of the hardware, I had several items that had to be replaced, some twice, and some I fixed myself. I did persevere though and learnt a lot through reading and google. I bought a second hive and tempted to get a third, so I’m really hooked I have to admit.

This is my first winter that I actually know what I am doing. Yes embarrassing but at least I am moving forward and haven’t lost a hive yet, just a swarm.

I am determined not to loose a swarm again, and I just want to be prepared for spring really. Thinking of setting up one of those empty boxes with lemongrass oil to try and catch a swarm. When is it a best time to do it?

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@Honeyeater
Thinking of setting up one of those empty boxes with lemongrass oil to try and catch a swarm. When is it a best time to do it?

I have a couple of empty timber nuc boxes, Just wondering myself when is a good time.
Cheers, G

Hi George, I read a bit about swarm traps this afternoon so I am answering my own question, and hope it helps you too.

Apparently we have to set a swarm trap just before swarm season so I am guessing late winter here. No need to leave them out all year round. What is important is to set the traps as far as possible from your own hive. You can fill the traps with frames having just a wax starter strip.

I do not have any spare nuc boxes, so I am going to use a brood box. If you have any used boxes or frames, they work even better than new. A few drops of lemongrass oil on a cotton ball will help attract bees too as it mimics bee pheromone.

Remember this is not my experience, but what I just read on Google. Cheers.

@Honeyeater
Thanks for that information.
Sounds like I don’t have to worry about swarms till the end of winter.
I do have a couple of timber nuc boxes that I can use.
I can set them about 30-40 metres from my hives, any particular reason for that ?
Cheers, G

I think it is because bees want to spread out and not compete with each other.

Your on the right path in terms of size of swarm trap (Nuc to full body size). You can have “wild” swarms come into your apiary but if you are worried about yours issuing a swarm then a distance from the apiary can be important. Height can be another issue and the type of attractant you use.

This is a good primer and then there is google and YouTube.

https://ecommons.cornell.edu/handle/1813/2653

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Pages 27-29 of this guide have some information on swarms.

Very useful guide and free too.

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I know, we barely hit June but I’ve been caught out before. It seems here in WA you blink and it is summer again.

What do you guys get prepared during winter for swarm season? I have one of those origami Corflute nuc boxes which I hate so was going to make a timber one. But then I thought I will use a full brood box for splits.

What are your strategies for preemptive swarm control that you swear by?

There are two types of swarm management pre-emptive and reactive.

Pre-emptive for me is to re-queen at the end of the Marri flow every year or two (very good quality queens) through purchase or split and ensure that I have sufficient space in the suppers for nectar flow. Brood congestion is hard to manage in a single brood/full flow frame super, if you have a different set up moving some brood frames up above the queen excluder works.

Reactive is increased inspection, having some hardware on hand and making splits as required. Swarming typically will start in September, so cells present from as early as mid August. Season obviously plays a big role in this too. Watch for swarms during the Marri as well.

A good link from @Stevo with Australian content.

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Thanks Adam appreciate your reply. Yes Stevo’s pdf is a great resource and I refer to it often.

My setup is one 8-frame BB and one 6-frame Flow and am coming to terms with its limitations when it comes to management.

My plan was to split the brood box and take a nucleus from it. Take a frame with the eggs and queen, a frame of sealed brood and a frame of honey and place it in a new box a few metres away. Then let the original hive make a new queen.

What I do not know is whether I can do this as preemptive swarm control, say late August here in Perth regardless whether I see queen cells or not. Would this method be sufficient if done once per season, or needs to be done more often? The Marri flow is Jan-March and I suspect it may be a bit late to split like that?

There are none. But there are ways to reduce a chance.
First of all we need to understand conditions that push a colony to swarm state:

  • Young bees are not busy enough.
  • Congestion of brood nest.
  • Poor nest ventilation.
  • Nest overheating.
  • Colony led by older queens are more prone to swarming.

So, what to do?

  • Don’t keep queens longer than two years. Annual requeening is preferable because colonies led by first year queen rarely swarm.
  • Increase available room for brood nest.
  • Improve ventilation of the hive in hot period.
  • Improve hive insulation and provide shade in hot period.
  • Keep young bees busy. Let them build new comb. Put frames to build in the middle of brood nest to divide it too. Remove honey from super as soon as it is ripe or add more supers to keep bees busy in this department as well.

Additional measures:

  • Split the colony to remove some young bees by any method you like. You may reunite it with old colony again after main nectar flow event again if you don’t have other use for a new colony.

Something like this :slightly_smiling_face:

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I play it by ear, either split or open up the brood nest by removing outside honey frames and installing wax foundation in the brood nest. A variation of Matt Daveys OSBN method.
Keep in mind it’s not just spring that swarming happens. For me excessive drones entering the hive is a warning.

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@abb, thanks. Very valuable information. I can see that I might have been doing some things wrong, as I suspected. Around March after the Marri flow I was noticing one of my hives was really congested and didn’t know what to do. It was my weaker hive that threw a queen cell so kept a close eye on that. As far as I know they didn’t swarm and both my hives are pretty strong. I don’t know whether too much ventilation might attract robbers.

@skeggley thanks mate. I googled the OSBN method, I never came across it before. Very interesting and will definitely try it. You mentioned the observation of drones entering the hive as a warning sign. I spend a fair bit of time watching the entrance from a safe distance, and never ever noticed a single drone. I’m not looking hard enough am I?