Helen suggests that some of you might like to do cut comb. Make up some frames with just a starter strip of foundation and these frames should be placed just above the brood nest. Her suggestion to prevent them going wonky is to alternate one drawn frame with one frame with a starter strip.
In the brood nest the bees are chucking nectar everywhere. They are stopping the Queen from laying. You need to try and give her space. Nick frames of stores from the brood box and give the bees some foundation in the brood box to draw out. This will use up some of the excess nectar which is pouring into the hive at the moment.
Anyone with a big box of bees who doesn’t heed this topical tip, will find themselves in a pickle.
Beginners who have just bought a nucleus may think this doesn’t concern them. How wrong they are! If you are trying to get the bees to draw out wax and you are feeding them, stop now. If you feed when such a humongous nectar flow is going on there could be swarming even from a nucleus box!
Malcolm 29th June 2018
I don’t know whether everyone has noticed, but there is a crazy nectar flow on at the moment. Lime is in flower and only exudes nectar when the temperatures are in the 20s and this also applies to clover. I had put a super on a badly diseased colony (chalkbrood) that I had just treated for a month with Apiguard and they filled it with honey in a week. I could barely lift the super and it had been empty last week!
In my opinion this nectar flow is going to continue for a while as sweet chestnut is just coming into flower and the temperatures don’t show any signs of dropping. When I inspected my hives yesterday a lot of the colonies were chucking nectar into the brood nest and, of course, one of the colonies had built queen cells.
The danger is that eventually if we get no rain the bees will have nothing to collect. However at the moment I’ve got honey coming out of my ears!
What do you do if you suddenly find Queen cells and you have absolutely no equipment left? Well, you commit the ultimate sin. You remove frames of stores and then you break the brood nest with frames of foundation. Basically you try and give the colony a lot of work to do and that can be successful in taking their minds off swarming. You will have to put those stores in a sealed plastic box and it would be a good idea to spray them with Certan against Wax moth. Don’t sin if the colony is not strong. However, if they are thinking of swarming, they must be strong!
The other thing you should do is extract the honey if the super frames have been capped. Then they will have space to collect all that nectar.
Enjoy the current flow and put supers on urgently. People say about gardeners that the difference between a good gardener and a bad one is a week. The same applies to beekeepers. The good ones have picked up that the flow is humongous and are busily putting supers on the hives. It may have dried up by next week but at the moment it is crazy. The bees are probably out from 4:30 in the morning until nine in the evening! Don’t forget we are also very near the summer solstice and that means that the hives contain the maximum number of bees, so the foraging force is at its very highest.
If you don’t do anything about this flow, then your bees will become congested in absolutely no time, the Queen will have nowhere to lay and the consequence of all that is that you will lose a prime swarm and, of course, your honey crop. Good luck everyone! The bees are giving us all a headache so make sure you return the compliment so that you don’t lose a swarm.
Malcolm Wilkie 29th June 2018
“Queenright or Queenless?” - by Malcolm Wilkie
A lot of Beekeepers have colonies at present that have been split or have swarmed. A new Queen takes at least three weeks to come into lay and this is a tense time for the beekeeper and for the bees. Many beginners assume they have no Queen and quite often go and purchase one needlessly from a beefarmer.
If you know that your box has swarmed, you will roughly know when this happened and so will know when you can start to look for eggs and young larvae i.e. three weeks after your Virgin has hatched.
A box that has swarmed or has been split and is raising a virgin, should initially be left well alone. You don't want to confuse a virgin returning from a mating flight. If she gets lost due to your 'fiddling', you will then have a Queenless colony. However once those three weeks have passed you do need to start to look.
If you see eggs and larvae, then all is well and you will then need to assess the brood pattern. However more often than not you will find no eggs or larvae. This does not mean that your colony is Queenless however. This is the moment when you need to carefully inspect the brood frames. Blow or smoke the bees out of the way.
A Queenright colony will be preparing a brood nest for their new Queen and everything is alright if you see an area of cells on a couple of frames that have been cleaned out and polished in readiness for the new Queen to start laying. There will probably be pollen above these cells and stores in the corner of the fames. In other words the bees are organising themselves and it is order that you will see within your hive. But if you do not see this order after three weeks and you can still see nectar chucked randomly into cells, then there may well be a problem and you should give them a frame of eggs from your other hive. If they raise Queen cells, then evidently they were Queenless. If they seal the brood without creating Queen cells, then you may have a virgin or you may have cussed bees who have decided they no longer want a Queen.
If you get into this scenario, and still after several weeks you can find nothing, then your only hope is to try and get hold of a failing old Queen from someone and come and ask me how to introduce her. She will have low pheromone levels and could possibly be accepted by your Queenless colony. Once the old lady starts laying it will then be possible to bump her off and introduce a Queen. A scenario to be avoided if at all possible as it is difficult to bring back a colony from the brink.
Reposted from June 2017
“Advice about looking after a nucleus of bees” - by Helen Hadley
They need to settle in a big hive.
Feed, small entrance. Check brood nest is not being filled with sugar syrup.
Basically they need to draw foundation and build to be strong enough to get through winter. Treat for varroa.
Beekeeping is a continuous learning process.
To become a good beekeeper you need to think like a bee.
There is often more than one choice to solve a problem.
Bees will always try and sort out your mistakes, they just want to survive.
Honey is the best winter food for the bees, if you don't think you have left them enough top up with sugar syrup.
Biggest mistake is taking too much honey. If your bees starve in winter that's pure miss management and cruel.
Beekeeping is a hobby for most of us, it should be a pleasure, so if your bees are aggressive you need to sort the problem out, not ignore it.
Helen Hadley 24th May 2018
Beginners always ask when they should put a super onto a hive. One of the classic mistakes is to put it on too early, before all the frames in the brood box have been drawn out. People do this because they are greedy for honey and in their minds putting on a super means their bees will be making them honey.
Well of course in one way they are quite right because we all use a super placed above the brood box (with a queen excluder between) to get honey. However if you put a super on before all the frames in the brood box have been drawn, then you may find that the bees don’t draw out all the foundation that you have placed in the brood box.
Why is this? Try and look at it from the bees point of view. When building comb they always prefer to build upwards. From their point of view this is quite logical. Ideally what they want is a brood nest that looks like a rugby ball standing on one of its pointy ends. The heat from the brood below will help heat the brood above. However by putting them in a hive we don’t allow them to do this. We, the beekeeper, want them to produce a brood nest that looks like a rugby ball on its side. The bees oblige as long as you don’t give them a choice by putting on a super too early.
So when do I put my supers on? I need the bees to be covering every frame in the brood box bar one. Then I put my super of drawn comb onto the hive. As it is drawn comb I put the queen excluder on, but if the bees show no interest I might consider taking the queen excluder away for a few days. If you are a beginner you don’t have drawn comb so you are going to have to put a super with foundation on instead. We are in the month of May and all those young bees hatching are desperate, and I mean desperate, to make wax. As your super is foundation only, don’t put the queen excluder on. Then go back in three days and if a little of the wax is being drawn out, pop the excluder in at that stage.
So you are now going to ask me how you know when to put the next super on. This time it’s easy. If the bees start to put wax into the hole in the crown board and stick it to the roof, they are asking for more space. In fact you probably should have given them another super a bit earlier if this is happening. Or if you find hundreds of bees milling about on top of the crown board, then give them something to do by giving them another super. Bees that are not kept busy, swarm. You are warned.
Malcolm – 20th May 2018