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Too Many Bees or quite normal this time of year?


#1

Hi there,
I live in Katoomba/NSW/Australia. End of Summer approaching. Today still warm at 28 degrees.
My current set up is 1 brood box, 1 flow super. I started with a nuc in January 2016 and added the super on in Nov 15. I have harvested about 1/5th a frame of honey last weekend.

I have a question about too many bees? Should I think about adding another frame OR doing a split this close to Autumn?

Today I have done a full beehive inspection - as I was concerned about a few little things and trying to learn as much as possible. (I’ve done a beekeeping course and have a zillion books) But nothing like the hands on experience. I’ve done an inspection about every 4 weeks for the past year. So am use to opening up the hive and inspecting. However haven’t looked at the brood box for about 6 weeks.

I’ve been thinking for a few weeks (about 3) that I could have too many bees and they need space. I don’t have a bee club near me so it’s somewhat difficult to find people to find even to pay to come and have a look at my hive and give me advice. The hive is full to the brim. I mean every frame I pulled out today during the inspection was covered in bees. All the flow frames. Then going down into the brood - every frame was covered in bees. A lot more than I see in videos. :slight_smile: The bees were pretty agitated today - and I had to spend quite a lot of time out there to get to the brood box and check the frames.

Everything looked good (babies) brood and honey. Didn’t see the queen. (but did see babies) I thought I saw a queen cell but it was small and in the middle of the frame - vs peanut shaped at the bottom. - it was definitely protruding and poking down and had a little hole in the bottom. Unfortunately no photos.

Could I have advice from experienced beekeepers what they would do with this hive late Summer? I have a spare langstroth hive standing by as well as an extra ideal box which i could pop in-between boxes to give more room?

Thank you so much all for your time. It’s most appreciated. I’ve had such great advice on hear so far and has helped enormously.

On a side but related note - I will be doing a possom box wild bee colony rescue in a week - and thought about taking a brood frame from the full colony above to the new colony box - and putting in an empty replacement frame but that doesn’t help with the bee population problem.

Katie


#2

I am glad you asked this question because I am interested in the answers.
My hive over the last week seems to be overflowing with bees. Bearding I know and have seen before but every frame is so packed with bees even the mostly capped ones that no one seems to be able to move.
There just so much nectar about and they are hanging about.
I have pulled a flow frame today so might change the dynamics.

My hive looks very much like the overstaffed office with everyone walking around busily with a folder, seemingly fully occupied with work when in fact they are just walking around doing nothing. I’m sure bees have a reason for everything they do though.


#3

I was wondering the exact same thing the other day. Last weekend I added a WSP box beneath the BB to give them more room and was wondering why they weren’t either working the new frames or collecting stores instead of hanging around out the front.
So who are these bearding bees anyway? Nurse bees?


#4

I wouldn’t normally split a hive this late in the season. You don’t talk much about your Flow frames - are they full? Capped?? I do like your idea of adding an “ideal” box. Not only would it give them more room, but you could potentially leave on the hive over winter for stores, if they use it and fill it before the nectar flow ends. You may be surprised at how rapidly the population in the hive starts decreasing from now. I like this diagram from Dave Cushman, although it is based on data from the Northern hemisphere:
http://www.dave-cushman.net/bee/populationdynamics.html

However, you can get the idea from it that you are around the equivalent of mid-August on his chart. It is usually all downhill from there. You climate won’t be like his of course. I am in southern California, and our queen never stopped laying. However, the brood nest did shrink, and the bee population declined. I would guess the hive got down to around 20 - 25,000 bees. It is now building up again as spring approaches here. I would guess that you will see something similar.


#5

Thanks @Dawn_SD . The Flow frames are doing great. Fully covered in bees. 3 of the 6 are fully capped - the other 3 about 45 -75% capped. - I am going to harvest 1 or 2 frames today. I will stick with the IDEAL idea. Thanks so much for your input - like the chart - very interesting.

Katie


#6

I live in Perth and was wondering the same thing as this is my first hive. Thanks for sharing the population data it is a big help.
I am constantly amazed at the speed at which my hive has grown in numbers. On hot days like today of 34 deg C all the young bees hang outside and either are bearding or playing in the bird/bee bath i made them. Last week we had rain and while most stayed inside the workers still went out even in heavy rain.
The amount of honey they are making is also impressive. From just one brood box and one flow super the hive is full of honey every 4 weeks. I am mindfull not to take too much and always leave 2 full frames.
I noticed some of the little ones coming out of the logo vents in the roof today so i think they may need more space.
I only started the hive in Sept with a nuc and queen.
As summer started late here should i add another box to give them more room? Or should I expect growth to slow in the next couple months?


#7

Yes I just love Dave Cushmans stuff. Could be he was into charts and graphs and tables like myself. Sad he is still not with us.


#8

Aah Balga, the new north. :wink:
Adding an extra box has been discussed and the outcome always goes both ways. One 10 frame brood and one super is what the commercials use however we have 8 frame hives which have 2 frames less which is 25% of the 8 frames less than the 10. (Thanks @Dawn_SD and @RBK ;))
@Dunc has 2 full depth brood boxes and he seems to be doing well but @JeffH is of the opinion just 1 is fine.
More bees= more honey however more bees also = more work and more food required.
Me? I’m going several ways, I’ve added a WSP brood box on the two strong colonys and a WSP above the qx below the (yet to be added) FF on another.
Here in the hills we go through a dearth a couple of times a year so I need to ensure stores but down in the flat lands it seems to be one long flow, ideal for the FF. I think the population is still growing as the flow is still going strong.
I would rather have all the same size boxes but I don’t…
Adding an extra box may slow your honey production but it will give you a good base for a split later.
Basically it’s your decision on whether you add boxes, 6 of one sort of thing.
Hth.


#9

Im still feeling my way, like skeggley and others have pointed out 1 brood box seems to be standard for commercial operators but then a 8 frame isn’t a 10. I’ve chosen to give mine more space, a mix of a 2nd full depth and ideals simply because of the 8 v 10 thing and the fact we have a proper winter with 60 nights a year below 0c and regular snow falls.
Ideally I would like to try wintering a 8 deep, 8+ideal and a double 8 and see how they compare come spring and through next summer.


#10

Not my quote but, bees are addictive. Looking into my Crystal ball, AH yes it is clearing…YES I see @220 with 3 hives.

There is no charge for the crystal balling by the way.


#11

In perth, the flow seems to drop off end of jan through feb but pick up again in the autumn. My hive seems to be neither gaining nor losing honey atm.

The season in Perth runs into April based on last year and so i would expect the population to stay pretty stable here through from Nov to April. The fact your bees still have high populations suggests to me you still have a fair bit of season to go.

I added the second brood box because the one brood box i set up in my first spring was chock full of eggs and brood, hence i presumed that if i gave my queen more space she would use it to expand faster. Certainly, when they were expanding in my second spring, there was more than a box full of capped brood.

I’m not sure adding a brood box just because there are lots of bees is the right approach.

If the hive is packed with bees, are they still growing lots of new ones?

If there is still lots of eggs and capped brood they are presumably still expanding and will need more hive space. Provided they are not out of brood space, then i would add it as a super but if they need brood space, i would split at this time in the season (as they’ll have the autumn flow to work and winter is very mild - not sure thats true for you?).

If they’ve cut back on brood, then they have recognised the hive is full and have it under control. If you are still concerned, then i’d add a half depth super and get some cut comb or a slotted rack.

Also, it’s probably worth checking when the foragers are out if you havent already.


#12

I assumed by adding 6 months to Northern hemisphere calculations (eg Cushman’s) we would come out about similar. It just doesn’t quite coincide. Equivalent to mid August, say in Europe, would mean our hives are reducing mid Feb, but mine may have slowed down exploding, but are still expanding, and still producing some drone even.
I see a major nectar flow on and suddenly heaps of trees and bushes are flowering. It’s like we are just really kicking off. Got a new 3 frame nuc 7 days ago that has already drawn 2 additional foundationless frames, ignoring the one with wax foundation provided with the Nuc by the way. They are real slow on that one.
I think I am entirely converted to foundationless, and it’s so clean.
Of course the 6 month calculation may work further down south, where winter is freezing, which is not the case here in the subtropics.


#13

That is why I put in the comment that my queen never stopped laying here in California. They would slow down a lot more in the UK than they ever do here. Of course I have Italians, which are famous for trying to lay brood all year round. :blush: I bet Cushman’s chart was based on mongrels, Caucasians or Carniolans - much more likely to stop laying and cluster in British winter weather. I think @Dee has a hive of Italians in the UK, and she has noticed that they have a very short brood break over winter, if at all. They also take a LOT more feeding… :flushed:

I still wouldn’t split going into autumn, but I have never kept bees in your climate. It might be exactly the right thing to do. I would definitely consider it and ask local beekeepers about their experience if I could see active queen cells. :wink: Of course, they would probably tell me the old concept of squashing the queen cells - probably not the best advice either! :smile:


#14

@busso I hope I don’t end up with 3, picked up my 1st nuc 12th Dec, currently have 4 hives and 2 nucs lol.
I guess they are addictive.


#15

My new nuc queen is a mongrel Carniolan then. Well, I don’t understand that yet, but will soon, My supplier couldn’t believe I wanted something else but his Italians, but he found a Carniolan queen for my second ever colony.
Gosh, there is so much to learn!
Well, I just wanted to have something different for my experience and learning.
It appears Italians have a short winter break, no matter what, and just eat a lot. Perfect for subtropics. I never fed my bees ever, and will watch closely if they ever need it. The flow super is about full, so they can have all that.
So the appearance of too many bees is prob because people have Italians and not bees that start shutting down earlier for a winter break?
I really appreciate your experience and informed feedback.
I have learned a lot by the links you have provided in the past.


#16

Just can’t trust my crystal ball now days. Knew I shouldn’t have bought the new one on eBay.


#17

Just be aware that Carniolans are also known as “Swarmiolans”! :smile: They have a tendency to swarm earlier and more often than other types, and will require more active swarm prevention than Italians. Good bees though.