Beginner Beekeeping June
We’re here for our Q & A this morning, it’s beginner beekeeping Q & A. There’s no such thing as a silly question. If you've got questions about beekeeping, jump in, ask the questions about Flow Hives, bees, beekeeping in general, then put it in the comments below and we'll get to answering those. So don't be shy. It's all about just jumping in and not only asking the questions, but also if you know the answer to a question, help others, by answering in the comments.
So I’m just taking a look at this hive here, and you can see a bit of honey in the frames, which is a beautiful thing. These frames are fairly full, which is good. The frame next to it, to the left, you can see there, they've gotten a bit hungry and they've uncapped and eaten a few of those cells out there. When you see a patchy look like that, they've actually uncapped and taken some of the honey away. And you can see that in some of these cells here, they’re depositing nectar. So there you can see a bee's head there was just down the cell, depositing the nectar, going through that amazing process of making the honey. And if we look in the side window and we can get a good idea of what's going on in this hive as well. And you can see actual capping where the bees have filled the cells with honey, dropped the moisture content down below 20% and put a capping on it as if to say, we'll preserve that for later in case we get a bit hungry.
On the right-hand side, something interesting is going on. You see there's a whole section which is uncapped, and you can see nectar glistening down the cells and the bees going about their work, dropping that moisture content, continuing to fill those cells with honey. And the reason why we've got a strip that isn't capped and full is we've harvested a small section there by inserting the key a small way. And we've just harvested the end of that frame a couple of weeks ago. And the bees have filled those cells up again with nectar, and they're going through the process of turning it into honey.
So looking at this, I don't think I want to harvest any more honey from this hive at the moment, even though we've got a lot of capped honey on that edge. We could if we wanted to, but I might look further afield and see what else is going on in the apiary. See if we can find a little bit more honey, to show you how the harvesting process works. So let's just have a look around and see what else we've got. We've got a bit more honey in here. Some nice, full looking frames centre here. So we might actually just harvest a bit of one of those because the bees are a bit hungry here.
It is the second day of winter here in the Southern hemisphere, although we get flowers during the winter. So it's okay for us to continue harvesting when we see the honey. If you're in a cold, snowy area, then you'd certainly be leaving that honey for the bees for them to survive on during that wintertime. So what I'm going to do while you're thinking of your questions and putting them in the comments is just connect our shelf brackets, that look like this, and they just go on, spin them around like that, same on the other side. And that just makes a nice little jar shelf if we use the rear window cover here as a shelf and we can put some jars on. Now, we've got somewhere to put that jar, any questions?
Is it best to start with a 6 or 7 frame Flow Hive?
Well, my answer would be it could go either way, but generally the larger size, this is what's called a Flow Hive 7, compatible with a 10 frame Langstroth hives. Generally in the colder regions with longer cold winters and snow, et cetera, we'll recommend the larger hive. However, you will find beekeepers in those areas that will argue the other way and say, no, just a set up with the smaller sized hive is fine and you don't need to stack so many supers as other people say. So ask around, see what other people are doing. Sometimes it's great just to, to follow suit on the size of hive. But as a general rule of thumb, in colder regions, the larger size, which is called the Flow 7 and everywhere else, you could choose either one. It doesn't matter.
So what I'm going to do now is insert this tube into this area like that. There's a little tongue at the bottom and all I need to do now is grab my key and I'm going to insert it in the top here. And because the bees are not in a really abundant time of bringing in honey, I'll just harvest a bit today. And all I need to do is insert this key a little way to harvest part of the frame. And then I'm just going to turn that and the honey will start to come out in a minute.
When a queen leaves for her mating flight, how long has she gone for? And does she always come back to the hive?
The process of a queen mating goes something like this. She emerges from her queen cell. and the first thing she does is run around the hive and sabotage anything that's going to jeopardise her throne. So she might run around and sting other queen cells that are forming. Then, depending on when the next appropriate day is, on a nice sunny day for, for a good mating flight and it could be a week, it could be two weeks, you might need to wait a little while. But what she'll do is fly off into the air and will fly around the sky until she finds what's called a drone congregation area.
The drones are the male bees and each day from multiple hives in the area, other hives further afield there'll be meeting points, and it might be a kind of oval shaped area down, down the bottom of a valley or something like that. There's a popular spot for drones to hang out.
When the queen comes close by then the drones kind of pounce on her, but in the air. And they kind of close in on the queen, as this aquatic kind of burst of drones closing in on the queen and flying high speed through the air. And she'll mate with up to 30 drones on that flight. And each one gets their genitals ripped off and that's the end of their life. So it's quite an interesting mating thing.
Then she'll return to the hive with the last drones’ genitals, and then she has enough sperm for up to six years of laying sometimes a couple of thousand eggs a day. She might mate twice in that first week or two, and that's it. She'll never make it again. And she will go back to the same hive to answer your question.
We recently installed a package of bees, and they have started to build wild comb at the frames at the edge of the hive, rather than in the centre frames. Should we do anything differently?
Basically the idea is you need to get your bees building nice straight lines so your hive is serviceable. That's a must. So if you've got the brood box down here, it's just a wooden frame, the bees build their natural comb. Some people put in a foundation sheet to help get them in line and straight. If you're not using foundation, you need to do a bit of extra effort by inspecting them every week or so, just while they're getting started and getting their comb nice and straight from that comb guide. And just push it back online, where it goes a bit bent.
If you're found they've gone totally sideways or something like that, then if it's honey, you can just cut that out and, and eat that honey and give them another go at building straight. If there's brood in it, then you'll need to go through a process of moving that into the wooden frames. And you can do that by putting a rubber band right around the wooden frame, holding the comb with brood in it, and just suspending it with the rubber bands and the bees will then connect it to the wooden frame. We've got lots of training videos helping you through that if you want to have a look at TheBeekeeper.org.
Should you inspect your brood box more than once a week? Can you over inspect your brood box?
I would say yes, you can. However, even if it might not be the best for the bees, it will be better for the bees in the long run if you're learning lots. So if you've got enthusiasm to get in there and check out what's going on on a daily basis, then get in there. And by all means do, because you'll learn a lot faster and become a competent beekeeper faster, and that's most important in the long run. However, just be mindful of really cold days. If you're inspecting on a cold day, don't leave open brood, as in brood that doesn't have the cocoon capping on it, out in the cold. Because it can suffer and even die from cold shock. But otherwise just get in there and gently have a look. There's no harm in doing that. I guess one risk is if the hive is busy with bees and you accidentally squash the queen, then you'll go downhill fast with no extra eggs being laid. So be mindful of that being really gentle as you lift the frames out.
I saw a yellow wasp around the hive. Do I need to do anything to protect the hive from the yellow wasps?
Okay, so we don't have wasp issues here in Australia. If somebody has got some good solutions to wasps then put it in the comments below to help answer the question. In other countries, you get what's called the yellow jackets in the USA. You get the yellow jackets and they are wasps that actually eat bees. And they will come inside, wreak havoc, eating and killing a lot of bees. So in that case, what you want to do is reduce the entrance down so that the hive itself can defend itself against those wasp predators.
When is the best time to harvest the honey? How many frames should you leave for the bees?
So it's kind of a new thing, just harvesting one frame at a time, or part of a frame and leaving the rest for the bees. And it's something you can easily do with a Flow Hive. Where conventionally, when I was harvesting a lot, if you're in there anyway, you'd take the lot because it's such a process you've already gotten into your suit, you've taken the hive apart, you've got your tubs ready, you're taking it to the processing place. And you may as well take the full box of honey, even if it's not quite capped because you'll be mixing it with a lot of ones that hopefully are capped.
So it's a different mentality, just being able to harvest a little bit like this and take it back to the kitchen table. And I think it's a wonderful thing. Like here, as we said earlier, the bees aren't on a flow, a flow means when there's a lot of nectar available in that bees can bring that nectar back and make a lot of honey. So we're just going to harvest a little bit. So we've put the key in just a little way and turned it and we'll just fill a jar or so of honey, which you can see here. It'll be slower because the whole frame's not harvesting at once, but that's okay. There's no work. We can just enjoy watching the honey come out.
So by all means, if you're unsure, just harvest a little bit like this and leave the rest for the bees. But you'll find times when they're really bringing it in. You'll see it in the windows, you'll see it here. You'll open the side windows and see that there they've got capping on those cells and you might as well get in there and harvest more and make some room. Busy bees are happy bees. In the springtime especially you'll find you can harvest probably multiple times if your hive’s happy and they're bringing a lot of honey. You might be able to harvest all your frames a couple of times during the springtime, get maybe even a hundred of these jars. And then there might be many months where you don't harvest and looking in the windows is a really good way to gauge whether it's time to harvest or not.
We recently installed a package of bees. We came to check on the queen after three days, but she hadn't been released from the queen cage, so we released her. And then a week later we checked again and all the bees were gone. What did we do wrong?
It doesn't sound like you did anything wrong. Sometimes it's a bit of bad luck. So well done getting in there and releasing the queen yourself. She should have emerged from her little queen cage after three days. So well done. Sometimes if you're worried about that, you can just put a hole through the candy, which will increase the speed at which they'll chew through it. So a hole not big enough for her to come out of, but if you get a little stick or drill bit, you can just make a hole in the centre.
It sounds like you've had a bit of bad luck there. The rate is something like a 70% success rate on introducing a queen to a colony. Sometimes for whatever reason, the colony will kill her anyway, even though you've got the best intentions and everything was supposed to go well. I'm afraid you'll just have to try again and better luck next time.
If there are bees on the Flow Frames when you turn the key, will it kill the bees?
So we put a lot of effort into that over about a 10 year development cycle of the Flow Frames, putting things into the hive, testing them, weighing, measuring. And what we found is what we needed to do is put a gap between the moving parts. So if you imagine, if we put them like this and there's moving parts and the bee is down there, then it could open and bees could then put their head through that area or something like that. And then it could close and that wouldn't be good for the bees. So what we did is we put a gap like that and the bees bridged this area of each cell with wax. And that means it opens, that wax breaks and it closes. But what you've got is a wedge shape here that even when it's closed, it won't catch the head of the bee or something like that. At worst you get some bees stuck in wax and the other bees will come and help them out in that case. So to answer your question, we've put a lot of effort into the design. So even if you harvest and the bees are on the cells, your bees will be okay.
It's such a good question because sometimes in customer support, people say that when the cells are closed, they're wondering why there's that little gap. And they think there's something wrong with the frames, but it was a very well thought out gap that's for the bees knees. That's where the bee's knees are.
If you want to check that the Flow Frames are capped in the super, is it okay to pull them out and have a look? Or should you just look through the windows?
Absolutely. You can jump in there and pull a frame out. A couple of livestreams back, we showed you how to inspect your Flow Frames. And it's a good thing to do. Like anything in beekeeping, jump in there, learn about it, get into it. It's a lot of fun. Every time you get into your hive and have a look around, you'll learn something new and that's what it's all about. So by all means this view from the sides shows what's going on inside the hive and how that changes throughout the seasons. You don't have to pull the frames out, we've designed them so you get a fair idea of when they're capped and when they're not from the outside.
And as a beekeeper harvesting honey in a commercial fashion, we used to take the frames if they're say 70% capped, so you can get a good enough idea from the outside. Occasionally you will harvest a bit early and you'll get a bit of honey that's a bit liquid. And you can tell straight away, just by how it is in the jar, or you could use what's called a refractometer. But that honey will need to be consumed before it starts to ferment. If it starts to ferment, no fear, you can always go into making some honey mead out of it and get a nice alcoholic beverage out of it. But generally you'll find that if you're seeing the capping down here like this on the edge of the cells and it’s capped in the side windows, you're going to get some nice honey that's going to keep on the shelf.
I just had an explosion of new bees, so I added a second brood box and they filled it up within a week. Now I have's added the super, but I’m not sure if it was a good idea. I didn't want them to swarm, but do you think it is a bit too early to add the super?
Well, it depends on what lies ahead. If you've got lots and lots of flowers coming, then your colonies should expand and fill that box. As a general rule of thumb, the first time you use your Flow Frames, there can be a bit of a delay in the bees making it their own. They've got to get in there and coat all the parts in wax and join all the bits together. And I find it better to let them get started on that before adding any extra boxes. And that will just increase the speed at which they will get in and start filling the Flow Frames. But so your choices are to take that whole box of honey off, compress them down a bit and they'll use the Flow Frames much quicker. Or you could just wait and see how they go, depending on how long your honey season is.
I have noticed a few drones on the landing board recently. Is that a bad sign? (Utah, USA)
No, it's not a bad sign at all. It's a normal thing to have, say 600 or so drones in a hive like this. And you'll be able to tell which ones are drones and which are not because the drones have these bigger eyes that meet together in the middle. And their bodies are more rounded, more Teddy-bear shaped and a bit bigger than the other bees. So if you're seeing drones, that's a normal thing. And in the springtime, you should see a lot as they tend to increase the numbers of drones for the purpose of spreading that DNA around. And that's what bees do. So it'll be normal to see drones. Now, if it's coming into winter, like it is here in the Southern hemisphere, what you might actually see some drones being kicked out. Hives, when there's not an abundance of nectar, will sacrifice their drones. The worker bees rip the wings off and kick them out to die if they're just hanging around eating food, not doing any work, which is generally what the drones do.
I'm having problems with a neighbour who claims that my bees are going into his swimming pool, but I think they're wasps. If I move the hive about a half a mile away, is that far enough away or will they just keep flying back to the pool?
In terms of foraging for water, they generally do that. Not necessarily right next to your hive, but half a mile away would stop them going into that swimming pool. The thing you could do if you're wanting to keep your bees closer is make a water feeder with a bit of salt in it. Now, Fred Dunn's watching now, and he's got a great video called bees need minerals, and it shows how bees will prefer salty water over plain water. He's mixed them up and they'll go and follow the one that's got a bit of salt in it. So a teaspoon of salt in a big bottle of water is about right. And, and it's probably one of the reasons why they're going to your neighbor's swimming pool is for that salt. But if you can give them a slightly salty water closer by then, you might be in luck and they might go for that instead of your neighbor's pool. That could be another option for you. Also a jar of honey for your neighbours to keep them sweet is always welcome.
If I start with a nuc, can I expect to harvest honey during the first year? (Oregon, USA)
It’s quite likely. Often, you'll get a big boom. In Oregon now you’re just coming into summer. So you'd want to get on and get that nuc going pretty quickly to take advantage of the summer. And you might even get an autumn flow as well, ask your local beekeepers though. They will have the best answers to that question. But it's definitely a great area to keep bees and you will get good luck and hives that will produce honey in that season for sure. But each hive can be a little bit different. You can get a hive that doesn't quite build up as quickly. The queen is not laying as much or there could be other problems. So I would always recommend having more than one hive. And that way you can see the difference between one or two hives.
How long does it take to get your first harvest?
And the answer is it can take a while. Sometimes you can go through a whole season and you didn't get a harvest and other people get to harvest in two or three weeks, which is the extremes of it to. Like any kind of farming, it depends on the weather. It depends on genetics. It depends on the flowers. And sometimes there's a bit of a hangover like here we've had a hangover from a drought and that lasting effect can affect the blooming of a lot of different tree species for 12, 18 months after that. So it really does depend, but when you get this beautiful thing where a healthy hive with a lot of bee numbers coincides with nectar dripping to the ground from the flowers, then you get something exciting happening. And that is the bees being able to fill up a whole box in a week, you harvest and they fill it up again. And you certainly get a lot of stories like that as well. So it's a matter of just trying and seeing what works for you in your locale.
The Flow Frames in that hive are open. Is that on purpose or did you forget to reset them?
So this is an issue that I noticed earlier. So thanks for taking a look at that. If you have a look across this, the cells haven't been reset properly for whatever reason. So if they've been left like that a long time, then there's a few things you'll need to do. You might just be able to put the key in and leave it in there for a while. And those cells close, or you may need to take it out, put it in a black plastic bag in the sun to warm it up a bit with a key or two in the top slot. And that'll soften that wax and let those Flow Frame parts move back into position. But try it in the hive first, just by putting a key in the top slot here and turning it and leaving it. Or you may even put a second one in there, same way just to add a bit more pressure. It's spreading that load out a little bit. You could leave it like that and see if those cells will return to their position.
You could lift that section and put it down again. That might loosen it up as well. But the idea is to make sure it gets back into the cell-formed position. Otherwise, as you can see here, the bees won't be able to use it if it's in the channel position, which is the zig-zagging channels. So it happens sometimes if you do a quick close and the parts, because there's a lot of wax and propolis down in the bottom of the frame. It can also happen if you've just forgotten to reset it. In this case, it could have been either. I'm not sure what happened, but we'll definitely get in there and fix that one up. Good spotting.
Do you have to scrape the wax from the combs to keep the hive clean?
When the frames are in the hive, the bees really do look after them. They coat them all in wax and they keep them clean. And that's a great thing. And they also recycle the wax, so we're harvesting some cells now just from the end of this frame. What happens then is the bees will notice that underneath their feet, the honey is drained out. They will chew that wax capping away and will recycle that wax in repairing the cell. So the bees are amazing at doing that work inside the hive. If you then go and take your Flow Frames out and leave you’ll find that they might get wax moth and vermin and mould and things like that on them. In which case you may need to give them a clean before putting them back in with as best you can and the bees will have to do the remainder of the work.
Do the Flow Frames need to be dry before you pack them away for winter?
It is. If you want to leave them partially full of honey or all full of honey, then put them in a freezer. Or perhaps you live in an area where it's frozen outside anyway, and you just need to put them out in your shed or something like that. But if you keep them cold, then you won't get mould and fermentation issues. If you live in a subtropical region like this, then you will need to either store them in a freezer or make sure they're dry and have no honey in them if you're storing them off the hive. But of course in this region, we can leave them in the hive all year round. So if you're in that sort of halfway zone where you're deciding to pull a box off, but it is warm during the winter, then the freezer is best. Otherwise you might need to harvest the honey, leave the cells in the open position for say three or four days, and the bees will clean up all the remaining nectar in the cells. And then you can take those frames out dry and store them away,
I installed a five frame nuc last week. How long should I leave the entrance reducer on for? (New York, USA)
Until the bees have built up a bit and you've got a lot of activity on the landing board. So this time of year, you could probably take it right off, straight away, but it won't hurt to leave it on for a number of weeks. You can go either way, just have a look at the entrance and see how busy they are. If it looks like it's really restricting their movement, then take it off and let them go with a full entrance.
How often should you clean the channels in the Flow Frames?
So it's on an as-needed basis. These ones have been in for multiple seasons and they might need a clean out. And if you have a look in here, I can see that there's a tiny bit of honey in there, but really I would go ahead and harvest that one without cleaning it. And mostly I do that. If you get in a situation like this frame over here, and if you can see that there's a little bit of a honey buildup, and that happens depending on how the bees seal up all of the Flow Frame parts. And if it's been there in a subtropical region for some time, it could ferment, in which case you might need to clean out or even wash out that area. So you can do it. Probably the simple way is to get a key like this and you wrap a wet kitchen cloth, one of those nice thin ones around it, and you can just put it in there and give it a wipe out. If it really needs a bigger cleanup than that, then you can put a tube in and just swish some water in and out. Don't connect a hose up to it, or you're flooding your hive, but you could just use a hose on low pressure. You could run some water in and let it flow out again. And that, that could be another way to clean it. Generally I find you don't have to, but if you're seeing a need to, then yes, you could clean that area down the bottom.
There's a point here we call the leak back point where you can see a little gap at the bottom there between the yellow part and the clear part. That bit, if you maintain that open, then any honey that drips in, or post harvesting any extra bits that are coming down, will just go back into the hive for the bees to reuse.
Now that's a nice full jar of honey. I think we'll need to grab a lid for that. And that'll be a great thing. Look at that, beautiful! That's a beautiful jar of honey. So we would just plan to harvest a small amount and we'll leave the rest for the bees. Doesn’t need any further processing. It's full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and even medicinal properties from some species of plants. It's such good stuff. And it shouldn't really be pasteurised and heat treated like supermarket honey, where you will lose all of those beneficial properties of honey. The most you'll need to do is scoop a couple of wax flakes off the top of your honey and it's ready for the table.
I found some small hive beetle larvae in my Flow super? What can I do about this? (NSW, Australia)
There are a few reasons why that could happen. Small hive beetles are a menace and not everyone has them in the world, but we have them here. They are a little, tiny black beetle that the bees can't kill or keep out very well. And they will take advantage and lay their eggs if the bees aren't chasing them around. They can lay eggs in your honey, in which case you'd get little larvae coming out into your honey. If it's not a bad infestation, then they'll just float to the top and you can skim them off. And that honey generally is fine. If you've got a bad infestation, then actually you've got a bigger problem you'll need to deal with, and you'll actually need to pull the hive apart and and take away the bulk of the honey and pollen, and reduce them down to a small brood nest so that the hive beetles have nothing to lay in.
We've got a trap at the bottom of our Flow Hive 2 which is made for catching those beetles. You can put oil in there, catch a lot of beetles. That works quite well because there's a screened bottom board for those beetles to go through. Another reason why you can see some hive beetle larvae coming out in your honey is sometimes you'll get a beetle making its way through into the trough area and laying in that zone. If there's a little bit of honey down there, they might decide that it's a good area to lay a few larvae and that'll come out with the first bit of honey. So that's not such an issue. But it might be a reason to clean that trough out, as we were talking about earlier.
In my brood box I have four frames with no foundation and four frames with foundation. The frames without foundation are now cross combed. One frame is too wide and one's too narrow and I can't get them out of the brood box.
So if you've got a few bulges that are annoying, they're generally honey, and you can just chop that off with a sharp knife and put it back in. That's one way to straighten it out. If they're really off the guide, you've got a comb guide here and they're really well over here, then you may need to, if they're just starting out, just push that back in with your hive tool, you can bend it back into line. If it's just breaking off, then you can use a couple of rubber bands to hold that piece that breaks off, or the piece that you've cut off back in the frame. And that will get them back in line. Also, if you are using a technique of using foundation mixed in with it, that could be great to help them get nice and straight. And you could also intersperse those foundation frames with your other ones. So you've got some nice guides helping them to go straight down. You'll have to get in a couple of times, get them working straight. Generally once they've got most of the frame straight they'll follow suit after that.
I have a Flow Hive and the colony didn't make it through the winter. Now there is a lot of crystallised honey in the Flow Hive. How can I get this out of the Flow Frames?
Sorry to hear that your hive didn't make it through the winter. We don't have those long cold winters here. It can be a challenge sometimes, getting all your hives to come through.
Now, if you've got frames that have honey in them for a long time, that's gotten cold and it's gone crystallised, you could first of all, try to harvest and see if sometimes you can get it partially candied and it still will flow slowly and you can get the honey out. If that's not the case, you could put them aside or put them in a freezer or keep them away from vermin and things like that. And give them back to your next colony when you get it going. And they will get in there and use that as a resource and replace it with liquid honey next time around. So that's one way you could do with without getting too involved.
Otherwise, like any form of extraction it’s going to be pretty hard to get candied honey moving and to, to get it moving. You'll need to warm it up significantly. So there could be another option. Somebody who deals with these issues in cold climates might want to pitch in here, but you could set the temperature of those frames to about 60 degrees Celsius for a number of hours, or maybe even a day. And that might crack that candy and get it liquid again. But then again, it's not something I've done. So you might need some advice if you've planned to go down that road.
Is it possible that bees don't like the smell of conditioner we use in the laundry? The bees are getting really angry around the clothesline and it's near the beehive.
It could be. My father was washing his hair with a certain type of shampoo and found that it was upsetting the bees. So you might want to try something different, try some natural ones and see if it changes. It'd be interesting. Let us know how it goes.
What winter temperature you need to extract honey from the Flow Frames?
So generally we're harvesting honey in the warmer month when the honey is warmer and that way, no matter where you are in the world, it's flowing quite nicely. If you do happen to harvest in a much colder time, it will still move, but it will be slow. We've done experiments at freezing temperatures with edge frames and found that it just takes hours to come out rather than coming out in the typical kind of 20 minutes to 40 minutes kind of range. So I guess if you've left it late then by all means go and continue to harvest. It will just be slower, but generally you’ll be harvesting honey in the warmer times.
Can you put insulation between the roof and the inner cover?
Absolutely. That's a popular thing to do in a cold climate, is to put some installation under the roof. So in this area up here, you can take this roof off. Some people like to cut a bit of foam styrofoam and put it under the roof to add an insulating layer. And that's quite a good idea because it will limit the amount of condensation on the inner cover. Condensation on the sidewall can be a good thing for bees. They can use it as a water source, but on the top, in those cold climates, it can drip down on the bees and wet bees isn't a good thing. So you can put an old pillow up in the top here, or some, some form of insulation.
We are feeding the bees sugar syrup to build up their stores for winter into. Should we inspect the brood box again or just leave it until spring? How do we know when to stop feeding?
You'll find there'll be warm enough days to get in there and inspect, just try and avoid taking out uncapped brood comb when it's cold or they could die from cold shock. Capped brood won’t, but the uncapped could. But if you're just inspecting a single brood box then you'd be inspecting the edges to see if they've filled it out, and you're basically fine with that during most times of year anyway. So by all means, feed them up. See if you can get some winter stores for the winter ahead.
When setting up the Flow Hive for the first time, should I put a front tilt on it so the honey flows forward easier?
If you have a look at this hive here, there's a level on the side of the hive. And we did that specifically to help people find the right slope. The right slope is three degrees backwards, and that's a little bit counter-intuitive for existing beekeepers who normally slope it the other way. The reason why we do that is so the honey comes towards the back. The bees are flying out the other side, not bothering you as you are harvesting the honey at the back of the hive here. So it's important to have about three degrees.
If you've got our Classic hive, then the slope is built into the base and you need to start with a level surface to put your hive on. The Flow Hive 2 or 2+ have got adjustable legs and you can get the tilt right, both in the backwards and forwards direction.
Also in the sideways direction, we have a little level here to help you. So you can see that there and see that the bubble is in the middle as well. Some beekeepers decided to slope them forward regardless, and then adjust it when it's time to harvest. However, that's an annoying process to go through and also means that leak back point we were talking about earlier, you could find when you tip it back and go to harvest, there's been some honey down at the other end that's gone fermented. And it's not a nice way to start. I would thoroughly recommend tilting your hive backwards and using a screened bottom board. So if you do get water in your hive, it won't stay where the bees are.
There is a contractor coming to do some work near the hive. Is it okay to close the hive for half a day or until they leave and will it hurt the bees?
You can just avoid closing them up during a hot time. So there are a few things to consider. One is heat and one is oxygen. You'll need to make sure your bees are going to be okay. So to do that, you'll be closing them up in the early morning. So get up before the bees are awake, before light, and you might even need to add a little bit of smoke around the entrance if it's a busy hive and that will encourage the in. Then wait some time and add a little bit more smoke, not into the hive, but wafting past. Seize the moment when all the bees are inside to close the entrance. You can either use some steel wool in there or anything to close the entrance off, or you might have our entrance reducer. That also doubles as a closer.
Then it's a case of really making sure your ventilation is good. You could even take out the tray altogether and make sure there's plenty of ventilation in your hive. It’s a sad thing, and I've done it, I've learned a lot of things over the years, of conventional hives that didn't have enough ventilation during transport. And if you can get half the bees dying when you open them up again, which is a sad thing and something you try not to ever repeat again. So oxygen is a main one, but that ventilation will also help with the bees being able to maintain a good temperature. If it's really hot and sunny then give them some shade as well. Generally beekeepers close their entrances when moving their hives. They will avoid moving them in the hot part of the day. They'll try and get the moving done in the night or early morning.
Can you add a traditional super to a Flow Hive? Would you put it under or above the Flow super?
You can, and you can put it where you like, I would recommend mixing things up and seeing what works for you. Try out all sorts of different beekeeping equipment and see what you like and see what you want to continue with. Some people like to collect a bit of honeycomb just in shallow frames by putting a small box on top of the Flow Frames. Bear in mind, not all supers will fit perfectly under the flow roof. The lid might sit on top, but not really snug over the edges. That's still okay unless it's really windy. You might need to tie the roof down somehow. But by all means you can put it under the Flow Frames or above the Flow Frames, it’s up to you. If it’s to collect honeycomb, then it would be on top so that it was easy access for you to harvest that comb. So certainly people do all sorts of things and you can also add Flow Frames to existing hives. And we've got little diagrams of how to do that. Even you get people putting Flow Frames in top bar hives and all sorts of wonderful things. Kind of anything goes. You know, creativity is great. You see people doing observation hives inside the house with the Flow Frames in, and that's great.
How far in did you put the Flow key to just harvest a jar and a half?
So we get about six or seven jars, and sometimes more out of a frame. So it really depends how far out the bees have drawn that comb beyond the Flow Frame surface as to how much. So you won't be able to get it exactly right. And that's why we're past one jar and on to another one. But if you say this frame was six jars, then you'll be putting it in one sixth of the way. So that's a third, it would just be that far in for one of these jars of honey. So you can kind of measure it like that. And you won't get it exactly right. But you can also add a bit more by getting in there and opening up some more.
Do bees swarm during winter time? (North Australia)
Unusual. The springtime is the biggest time where bees swarm and you can get some summer swarms and even autumn swarms, but it's unusual. 90 something percent of swarms will be in the springtime, so you'd have to be having a pretty warm winter for bees to be swarming in winter. You'd have to have a lot of flowers during that winter time. So I guess the caveat on that is in some places, the more tropical areas winter will be ending early in the springtime. It will actually be in the last month of winter. In which case you can get a swarm happening early in the early part of the season.
What should you put in the ant guards?
You can put cooking oil in them. If you put water in it will evaporate very quickly. You can put cooking oil or you can experiment with using some Vaseline or something like that. In this one, we've got cooking oil. You do have to top them up from time to time, sometimes the rain can wash the oil out and you'll need to refill that. If you find there are ants getting past it, just to have a look and check that you've got liquid barrier in each one and also that the foliage isn't touching the hive and giving a bypass for your ants. So if you find the ants are getting past, there's usually a reason for it. And the other thing that can happen is you've put your ant guards on, or you just filled them up the ants have already established themselves under the roof or behind the cover, and they'll stay there for quite a long time. So if you're having ant issues, take the roof off, take the covers off and just check that there's no ants around and brush them all the way. Fill up the oil in the lower cap area. And hopefully that will limit your ant problems.
What is the best way to retrofit the ant guards to the Flow Hive 2 base?
Okay. So if you've got a hive like this, the Flow Hive 2, and we made a size that fits the narrower leg bolts to the Flow Hive 2. And what you'll need to do is you'll need to lift the hive up in order to actually unwind those bolts all the way. So you're getting into your beesuit. You might like to use a smoker to calm your hive to do this as well. And it'd be a case of lifting up the back like that and propping it up with some kind of prop, and then just unwinding this bolt all the way down, fitting on your ant caps and winding them back in again and lifting and taking that shock away. And the same at the front side, which is a bit harder because you've got a lot of bee activity there. So again, protect yourself, wear your suit and use your smoker.
If it is too heavy to lift, you can get a friend to help you. You could use your jack out of the back of your car. You sort of pivot the hive, so you're not taking the full weight. If you do have issues with your back, be careful and don't hurt yourself. Beekeepers are renowned for ending up with back issues, lifting heavy boxes. So don't be one of those.
Do you find the more aggressive the bees, the more honey you get?
No, not necessarily. Those two traits don't go hand in hand. I used to think that more aggressive bees were better at keeping pests away. And I also think that those two genetic traits aren't coupled either. But they're not necessarily mutually exclusive. So there's different traits. There's hygienic traits, there's ones that store a lot of honey, there's aggression and beekeepers will breed those ones out. Now Fred Dunn's probably got some more to add to this in terms of people breeding bees to really survive in the USA area where you've got the Varroa mite and so on. There are people that have done extensive work breeding bees that can keep pests away and so on. But getting back to your question of honey, I'm not sure that aggression means more honey at all.
It's just a trait of the bees. And it's really interesting how much that varies per hive. You might find one out of all of these hives is packing on the honey and the rest aren't. And it could be that that hive just so happened to send out scout bees far enough to find the good source of nectar and the rest followed the scout bees. Then the other hives didn't manage to do that. So it's amazing how it all works. But if the aggression of your bees, if you can handle it and it's not bothering anybody, then you can leave it like that. A quiet, gentle hive is much nicer to service. So you might want to get in there, change the queen to give yourself some nice calm genetics.
Do the bees reuse the wax after you harvest the honey from the Flow Frames?
They absolutely do. So the process of the harvesting leaves a lot of wax in the hive and the bees will recycle that wax for rebuilding and reforming, covering all the Flow Frame parts in wax again. So absolutely they will recycle the wax inside the hive. If it's too far from the comb, they usually ditch it and kick it out the front or down through the mesh below. But if it's right where they need to do some work, they will recycle it.
Thank you very much for answering all the questions. We do have a great beekeeping course at TheBeekeeper.org. If you want to check that out, it's also a fundraiser for habitat regeneration and protection of our bees. Jump in there and have a look. There's extensive training to take you from square one, right through to a deep knowledge of bees. So people are finding that's great for accelerating their learning curve.
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