Recent Topical News Items

This has been an exceptional year for honey. Those who have managed their colonies correctly will have had honey to extract.
Once the honey has been extracted from your supers one is left with the problem of getting the bees to clean up the mess you have created.
Firstly it is advisable for supers to go back on the colonies that evening. The later, the better. This is to cut down on the possibility of robbing.
Secondly how should you put the supers back onto your hive? You will still have your crown boards with porter bee escapes in place on your hives. With your hive tool, remove the escapes. Then simply place the wet supers that belong to that hive back on top of the crown board. If you are lucky you may be able to do this without any smoke. However personally I still light  the smoker.
Leave the supers on the hive for two or three days and then remove them if they have been cleaned out. These can be stored in your bee shed once they have been sprayed with Certan against wax moth.
Sometimes a colony doesn’t play ball. They start to chuck nectar back into the supers that have been removed. So you need to do something. Place an empty super on top of your crown board, place another crown board on top of the empty super, place your supers that you want cleared out on top of that crown board, then replace another crown board on top of all those supers and then finally replace the roof. In other words you never can have too many crown boards!
Oh, I hear you say, I will just leave the supers for the bees. Mistake! If you are keeping your bees on 14*12 frames you shouldn’t really leave them a super. That brood box is big enough for them to over winter. In fact giving them an extra super will create a much bigger volume and colder environment for them during the winter months. WBC owners don’t have to worry about this of course because of the double skin provided by the lifts and poly hive owners also will probably get away with creating a larger volume. For me the ideal as an owner of wooden hives is to have them in the 14*12 brood box with the outside frames filled with honey. Of course bees will survive given a bigger volume as long as there are loads of them and the hive is situated in a nice warm winter site. However if this is not the case they may struggle, and you may find yourself at the beginning of next year with bees that have survived but have developed fungal infections or that simply do not survive.
So what am I going to do with that super of honey that I haven’t extracted?
Two options. Certan and store in your shed. Or try and get the bees to rob it out and place the honey in the brood box.
You can get them to rob it out by following the advice given above for clearing wet supers. i.e. you need loads of crown boards. I will do this with some supers in early September once the temperatures have started to fall.
Below is a picture of what happens if you don’t use Certan. Once again advice is, do as I say, don’t do as I do! There is a good reason, of course, why I have a picture!!!


Malcolm Wilkie 16th August 2018

“I have messed up, I don’t have a queen and my colony is doomed”
Reply from an experienced beekeeper: “are you absolutely sure?”
Newbee: “Yes I am absolutely sure”
Experienced beekeeper (thinking to themselves) “Here we go again, yet another one who thinks they don’t have a queen”

I suspect most of you will have noticed that there is no let up with the nectar flow. Today I saw my honeybees working a huge eucalyptus tree that was in flower. Incredible what is in the environment when you start looking.

I have gone and helped a number of people including newbees who have gone into their brood boxes and just found the whole brood box clogged up with stores. They have concluded that they have no Queen, particularly if it is a new queen that they have not yet seen in lay.

Before going out and buying a queen they need to think logically about the situation. We have for the last couple of months had the most exceptional nectar flow and the bees, programmed to collect nectar, have done so daily. Some colonies have put off the Queen laying eggs in order to take advantage of these exceptional conditions. Other colonies, where splits have been done, have not bothered to get the new queen to do her job. They have been far busier taking advantage of the exceptional conditions in the environment.

Now here’s the rub. Owners of that colony panic. The thing is the bees aren’t panicking, it is the beekeeper! They examine their bees and conclude that there is no Queen. However if the colony is calm (and it does not have to be super calm) it is highly likely that there really is a queen after all. No evidence of eggs or brood is not necessarily a sign of a queenless colony. This is particularly the case if there are a lot of bees. When we artificially create a big colony by letting them have only one queen cell the bees are not really motivated to put their queen into lay. They know and she knows that they are big enough to survive the winter.

However you should be concerned if there is no brood at this stage of the year, even if the bees don’t seem to be so. This is because the bees that are hatching during August and September will ensure the survival of your colony next year. So you need to make sure that your queen comes back into lay. How are you going to do this? Well the first thing that you must do is create space in the brood box for your queen to lay eggs! Go through and remove the outer frames of stores. Put them in your extractor and spin out the honey. Then, replace them into the brood box in a central position. This will artificially create the necessary space for your queen to start doing her job. If your Queen has started to lay but the brood box is chogged up with too many frames of stores then these spun out combs can be placed next to the brood nest.

In addition if you have a new queen who seems reluctant to come into lay it is always a good idea to give her a frame of eggs or young larvae as this will often kick start her into laying. If you do this one week, the likelihood is that the next week she will be on that frame adding eggs around the edge of the brood nest. You can then stop panicking!

Just remember the bees know better than we do but you can help the situation by doing what I have suggested above.

Malcolm Wilkie 3rd August 2018

Hi everyone, those of you who are getting honey are wondering when the bees are going to finally cap it so that you can do an extraction.
Well, here is a tip from Keith that Helen has used to get her honey successfully capped by the bees.

She took a wire frame Queen excluder and added three pieces of wood on three sides. She then placed it above the brood nest, creating an extra entrance below all the honey supers but above the brood nest (this obviously replaces the Queen excluder she already had in place). This new entrance faces exactly the same way as the entrance below. This enables a lot of air to flow into the colony which is what the bees require to cap the honey. It also means foragers can go directly to the honey supers to unload nectar. A win win situation.

Another thing that you should do if you want your honey capped, is to rearrange the super frames. Place any that are capped on the outside of the honey super and those that need capping near the centre. Remove a frame or even two from the super in question and create space between the frames. All of this will help with capping.

Sorry, yet another thing to do in your busy schedule as a beekeeper!

Malcolm Wilkie 13th July 2018

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