Wintering bees in Sydney area, also bees backfilling brood box with honey

So I’m in the Sydney area (Illawarra) and new to bee keeping. I got my package of bees in my flow hive in November last year. Since then they have built out the brood box, and I added the flow super a month ago. My bees have not taken rapidly to the flow frames and last week I tried out the advice of rubbing burr comb on the frames. This week they have finally started building the wax between the gaps in the flow frames, but no nectar yet. I also opened up the brood box for a look. Last week every frame was brood with honey at the top. This week they are backfilling much of the brood box with honey and have some capped drone brood. I’m a bit worried about the box becoming honey bound, instead of the bees filling up the flow frames.

I am also wondering what to do about winter in this area. I have reading up on running 2 brood boxes, and am wondering about what people in this area think. It looks like the options are taking out the queen excluder and risking brood in the flow frames in spring or going down to one box. I’m just a bit worried that they won’t have enough honey in the 1 box and I’m not keen on feeding them sugar. I would appreciate people’s thoughts! Cheers!

Oh, and I spoke to a local beekeeper running warre hives today and he said there would most likely be an autumn/winter flow this year as the eucalyptus trees haven’t flowered yet. He said there hasn’t been much of a flow this summer.


This is one of the first signs of swarm preparations
I think it’s time to split the bees and worry about the Flow frames a little later, perhaps when the swarming urge has gone and you can unite the two boxes again. Don’ t forget, you will have a major work force then in two boxes. Adding a box now is probably too late. They have made their minds up to go so you have to get in there now.
@JeffH is an expert as is @Dawn_SD and they might be along with better advice, but that’s what I would do.

If you have another colony you could take a couple of frames of brood (minus bees) out and put them in the other hive, but to my mind that is a temporary measure

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Hi Claire, not much nectar around at the moment in the Sydney area, I am located near Chatswood close to the National Park. I am getting honey but it’s not like last year. Your bees are still very new, I would leave them exactly how they are for the time being. They are unlikely to get honey bound as you have added the Flow super, they will use it, just give them some time.
As for winter, it’s very mild in Sydney, my bees fly all winter though not much nectar comes in. 1 brood box, queen excluder and the Flow super is all you need for winter but make sure there is at least 3 full flow frames of honey to get them through. As the weather cools the 2 outer frames in the brood box will be converted to honey only, this helps to insulate the brood and keep their food source close. Hope this helps. Cheers Rod


You have had nice responses from @Dee and @Rodderick already. I am not local to you (southern California, USA) and I think your climate is a little warmer than ours, so I would go with Rod’s advice. Having said that, I run my hives on 2 brood boxes, but it does make more work for inspection. We have long nectar dearths, so I find that 2 boxes means there is less need to feed the bees.

Dee’s comment that they may be preparing to swarm is worth considering for a minute. I wouldn’t split them just yet, as it is a new colony. What I would do is be very diligent about inspecting them every week. If you start to see real queen cells with royal jelly and a larva in them, you should seriously consider a split. Otherwise they may just be moving stores around to their own preference.

If you feel they are getting very honey bound, one other option is to remove a frame of honey (without brood on it) from the brood box and keep it wrapped in plastic in the freezer. Put an empty frame into the hive in its place, about one frame in from the hive box wall. The bees can then draw fresh comb and give the queen more space to lay. You can use the frozen frame of honey to feed the bees over winter, if needed. Or you could extract it for yourself. :wink: Just don’t crush and strain it if it has had brood in it at any point (dark cells in the comb).

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My bee are also not liking the flow frames yet, though the flow has just begun here in Perth so I’m not panicking yet.

I have one hive with a traditional super who was full to the brim in the brood box but not crossing the queen excluder up into the super much. I moved two frames (one of honey and one of worker brood) up into the super and replaced with foundation. This should hopefully encourage the bees to start using the super, and also give them room to work & for the queen to lay in the brood box.

One of my flow hives had a reasonable amount of crazy comb which we have banded into a frame and also put up into the flow super (we removed one of the flow frames & placed it next to the side viewing window). I’m hoping this will also encourage them to use the flow frames and gives me the bonus of being able to watch them draw the frame through the window. I just need to remember to not open the back of the flow super, or I’ll get a face full of bees :smile:

I think if I was in your shoes, I would remove one flow frame and move one or 2 frames of honey or worker brood up to fill the gap (I think 2 may fit). I would then add empty or drawn frames into the brood, as suggested above, to give them more room. You’ll need to do standard inspections until you are sure they are using the flow frames and could then store the traditional honey frames to give back come winter and replace with the remaining flow frame.

I’m hoping this is a first season issue for a lot of us and once the bees start using the flow frames/ supers that the problem will be solved forever more :).



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Excellent questions - I wondered the same and am in Newcastle

Very helpful, thank you @Rodderick So do the bees do the winter cluster much in this area? I was just worried if I leave the queen excluder on about the bees clustering at the top and leaving the queen behind to get cold.

Thank you @Dawn_SD! I have lived in California and I think it seasons are similar, we just have more rain and much more humidity here.
I think you’re right about keeping an eye on what they are up to, I’ll be careful to do that looking for swarm preparations. I just felt like last time I opened it they were saying they had found a bit of a nectar flow but weren’t into storing it in the flow frames, instead getting creamed in the brood box.

Why would you say not to crush and strain honey comb that had once contained brood? It’s just with the warre system the bees are continually moving their brood down in the boxs and what is honey comb on the top was once brood. So this is exactly what they process to extract honey.

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:wink: @Dawn_SD …I missed that one : must be slipping

Down and I have a running joke about this. I maintain that I don’t like the idea of eating bee poo in with my honey while Dawn points out that we are eating bee vomit anyway…

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Because the larvae leave their cocoons in those cells, and they poo outside the cocoon, so it gets trapped in the cell. If you crush and strain, you are eating honey with larval bee poo in it. Maybe I am squeamish, but I prefer my honey without bee waste in it, like the bees do. :blush:

Yes, and most modern Warre hive owners haven’t read the Abbé Warre’s original book, where he discusses how to extract the honey. He actually recommends building a centrifuge with mesh cages to hold the frames. If the comb stayed intact in the spinner, you would not be eating any bee poo in the Abbé’s honey! :wink:
If you want to check for yourself, the e-book is free here:

I know that in the days of skeps or pulling wild hives out of trees, people would have eaten larvae and poo along with the honey. I just choose not to do that if at all possible.

I wondered if that would rattle your cage! :smiling_imp:

@Dawn_SD wow, I hadn’t thought of that! The guy I know doors have a centrifuge, but if i get a warre hive it would just be the 1 so I was just going to crush and strain. Humm, gross. I was also eating some darker honey comb this weekend; I think I’ll think twice about that in future!

Just to be clear, if you spin the honey out of the comb, the poo stays behind in the comb, so your honey is ok. If you eat the comb, or you crush and strain, you may well be eating poo (if that bothers you) and even cocoons if you are eating the comb. I know that @JeffH relishes bee larvae fritters and even honey from darker comb, so probably I am just being overly picky… :blush:

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Hi Claire, your bees will cluster in the cool evenings, but come daylight, the foragers will be out of the hive. Have seen them coming and going at 8C (that’s as cold as it gets where I am) as long as the sun is shining.

I haven’t read all the recent comments, however I gather that someone wants to keep a Warre hive. If I had a Warre hive, I would use the bottom 2 supers for brood & use a QX so that the bees will build clean comb above that.

Then it’s not a warré, @JeffH
I’m not knocking anybody’s method of keeping bees as long as they either take care of them or leave them completely alone and not rob any honey( like a wild hive) but I can’t imagine the bloomin’ hard lifting with a warre.
If you want bees to build from the top and extend naturally down as they do in the wild then leave them in a tree? :wink:


Yes, as a rule. The newly arrived swarm will start building the comb hanging down from the top. The queen will lay in it. It is extended downwards and the queen lays in that, the old brooded cells being filled with honey


The bees will always start at the top & work down. They have no other option, It’s where they’ll build the most strength to anchor their comb.

If people are rejecting honey because it came out of comb that was previously used for raising brood, they are probably part of the first generation of humans to do so. I doubt if any of our ancestors rejected honey because it came out of brood comb. I doubt if any harm came to anybody that did/does eat honey from comb that was previously used to raise brood.


Hi All,
I have read the posts on this tread but it doesn’t directly answer my query which is…

I inspected my hives today (all three hives running one brood box with Qx and one super) and they all had honey (whole frame completely capped both sides) on at least two to four frames (varied depending on the hive). The other frames in the brood box looked normal and there was room in the super on all three boxes. Honey on the outside frames is normal I believe but they seem to be storing more at the moment.
My questions is; do the bees load up the brood box with honey coming in to winter? Should I swap out a few of the frames or let it play out and do the swap out at the end of winter?


Yes, they do. If you have room in the super then I wouldn’t worry about it, leave them to redistribute as they need to.