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When to add an ideal super?

Hello Fellow Flow Hivers,

Location - South Grafton (Northern NSW), about an hour north of Coffs Harbour and two hours to Byron Bay.

Hive - Hybrid Flow Hive

Questions, issues needing help with - I have had my little tribe since the first week in December, there was a lot of smoke before getting them and about five weeks after I picked them up. Until two weeks ago they were very calm and rather docile and even though I could see they were bringing back pollen, it wasn’t much and I was advised to supplement feed them which I did with dried pollen and then a mixture of the dried pollen and sugar water as I had to work away for ten days over Christmas.

When I can back i was stupid and thought I was lifting just the roof but the heat had glued the roof to the inner board and I guess to the bees it was the equivalent to a home invasion - I counted at least ten stings and it was clear they were still starving and when I looked around the neighbourhood, the trees that are usually full of blooms hadn’t bloomed much at all … I really never noticed how much impact the drought has had on the area.

I’ve tried to inspect the hive again but they are still very aggressive. I’ve already decided not to put the Flow Hive on this year. As I only got five frames I added two frames as I was advised that the bees like to be snug, they haven’t added anything to these frames at all.

With a deep breathe I’ll be doing a full inspection in the next week … as I am new to the beekeeping world and want to ensure I do what I have to regarding this winter and their health, should I keep an ideal super on hand to add if they finally fill the brood box? Would it help to move one of the untouched frames to the mix to encourage the bees to spread and help build stores for winter? Would adding the ideal super now actually help, not be disruptive than adding it closer to winter? Final question, how long should I supplement their feed? I went down around 2.00pm and the girls are leaving the hive and doing their thing … I can’t recall the name of the problem, issue that the sugar water can cause.

Thanks for any help. I lied, one more question - any tips on an aggressive hive, can I do anything to help change this behaviour besides making sure I don’t burst into their hive like a house intruder.

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Hi Asha, to answer your questions: It wont hurt to keep an ideal super on hand in case you need it. I don’t think it would help to move an untouched frame to the mix. Just keep it next to the frames the bees are working. They will build onto it when they’re ready to. I think you should supplement feed the bees as long as they need it.

In relation to an aggressive hive: Make sure it is aggressive & not a one off thing. If they ARE aggressive while they are still building, my guess is they’ll get worse as their numbers build up. The stronger a colony is the more bees they have that can sacrifice themselves in order to protect their brood. On top of that, the stronger a colony is, the more disruptive we have to be to the colony in order to do thorough inspections.

If the colony is aggressive while they are in the building stage, I’d suggest requeening it.

Use plenty of smoke. My bees have some attitude, however with the use of smoke, I can still manage to work them.

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Hi Jeff,

Thank you for a quick reply. I have a bit of a memory issue and I can read the same thing several times before just a small portion sticks with me but bees must be my calling as the information is sticking and your reply was sitting there, I needed a confidence boost but also that boost from an experienced beekeeper … you’ve put a renewed spring in my step. The bees knocked that out as the aggression has not been a one off and my feeling has been to re-queen, which feels terrible to do.

I’ll definitely get the ideal super, better to have than be chasing one after it is needed … the last time I tried to inspect them, the smoke worked for just a few minutes before I had to put the roof back on and run.

Again, thank you.

No worries Asha, you’re welcome. it sounds like you need to requeen that hive.

On the subject of the ideal super: For what it’s worth, I like the strategy of keeping frame sizes uniform. Brood frames fit into honey supers & vice versa. Because I keep all deep frames, I probably take for granted the convenience of it. It is incredibly convenient to be able to move frames from the honey super to the brood box & vice versa. It’s something I’m doing on a regular basis, not just once in a while. I hope that helps, cheers

Hi Asha I don’t think you will regret taking this bit of advice from Jeff.

When I started, a beekeeper encouraged me to put on a WSP super. That system obviously worked well for him but I am glad I stuck with just full depth. You just can’t beat the convenience of one size fits all. I just wish the Flow frames are also interchangeable with standard full depth frames without modifying the box.

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First of all welcome to the Flow forum! :blush:

This is a really great question, and it has many answers in addition to those of my fellow forumites above. :wink:

Given the current situation in much of Australia (wildfires and drought), defensive behavior by bees is almost to be expected. If you can solve the climate and the burning disaster, you might make your bees better tempered. OK, partly kidding, but sometimes you have to look beyond what you can control.

I would suggest a look at this article, then consider which situation might apply to your hive:

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Jeff again has given good sound advice in both his replies. If your colony is bring in pollen then I would stop feeding that to them. As for nectar don’t assume that because there is flowering happening in the Australian bush that there is also nectar in the flowers. With the drought and bush fires not only are the bees stressed but the flora is too. So that might explain why your hive is angry.
To check for nectar coming into the hive look for uncapped honey, if there isn’t much then a syrup of 50/50 sugar and water fed internally in the hive is a good move.
Like Jeff I use full depth frames exclusively, if you mix box and frame sizes sooner later you will be ‘kicking yourself’ for that choice. Keep it simple and standard.
You might have an angry queen with attitude but before you order a new queen look at the local conditions and the hive as well. Maybe the colony has expanded enough to benefit from more space with a super above the QX.
I hope that has given you some directions to consider.

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I wouldnt be so fast to requeen just because a previously docile hive has been agressive on a couple of occasions.
Consider if anything might have changed to make them more defensive. Firstly, for example, are you sure that the hive still queenright? (presence of eggs/larvae).
Is there any risk of robbing? (You have been feeding syrup and this can tempt other bees to rob and make your bees very defensive).
Are the bees stressed? Is there brood and have the numbers been building up since you got them.
Stores? Have they been storing nectar, honey, syrup or are they living hand to mouth…?
Finally, is there anythig that you have been doing yourself when inspecting that might be upsettting them? In my first year I got the bright idea to wear a small camera on my chest to record my inspections, a small go-pro clone. It proved to be very useful but I realised that my bees were more agressive than they had been previously. On playback they could be seen relentlessly attacking the camera. Finally the penny dropped, bees dont like black things, especially lenses that look like eyes. The first inspection I did without the camera, I was amazed how docile my bees were again :slight_smile: .

Finally, I would not add a super if they only have five frames in the brood box and showing no interest in working any others. Also, of course you wouldnt add a super if feeding syrup.

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A very good and valid point Kim about bees attacking black. I work without gloves and if I have forgotten to remove my watch which has a black band it is stung ans well as my wrist next to the band in a big way while they ignore my other hand and wrist. Good that you thought of that.