Flow Hive honey harvest Q & A
Although it’s wintertime here, we are still able to harvest honey because of the subtropical climate. Some of our hives are bringing in lots of nectar, while some are not storing much honey. It just goes to show that each colony is unique, and the more hives you have, the better chance you’ll have of getting honey in a given season. Cedar answered questions on small hive beetles, why Flow Hive harvested honey tastes better and what causes honey to crystallise.
Good morning, we’re going to harvest some honey today. We are in our wintertime here, we're in a subtropical region and we've got beautiful honey still coming in. So we're lucky to be in a region like this. Not everybody has wintertime honey, but everywhere does have a honey season that comes and goes with different colours that come in and different flavours to match. It's the time of week where we are here to answer your questions live, and while we're doing it, we will also harvest a little bit of honey into these little jars down here. So while you're thinking of your questions, put those in the comments below and we'll get to harvesting some honey. Now, what I'm going to do is just assess the hive a little bit and just see what's going on in the side windows in the rear window and make a decision on which frame to harvest, how much honey to harvest and so on.
So I'm looking in the side window, I'm seeing lots of bees, which is a good sign. This hive is happy and healthy. Between the bees, you can see the honey is mostly capped. There's a little section up this end where you can see it's uncapped and you can see the nectar still glistening down inside the cells. They're still going through their process of de-watering that honey. So we won't be harvesting that edge frame just yet. Although it is mostly capped, so you could if you wanted to. The idea is you get the moisture content down nice and low so the honey will keep in the jar on the shelf. So choosing a frame and just having a look here. And I think this one is the one to do. You can see that the honey's right out to the edges. If you have a really close look, you can see the capping the bees are putting on the outside of the frame.
So when they've capped it all the way to the edge, it's generally a good sign that it's capped all the way through. So what I'm going to do is just take out the lower cap and put the Flow key in here. Now I’m going to turn this handle. Now to make it a bit easier, you can just insert a little way and give that a turn like that. And what we're going to do is just take it to 90°. And then you can wait a little while with it in that position. You can already see some honey dribbling down inside the honey tube, and it's going to take a sec to come out. Look at that beautiful honey, it doesn't need any further processing, just flows straight out of the hive and into the jar. And I'll go ahead and open up the rest of that frame as well. So I'll push the key in and turn it to a 90° now and there we go. Yeah, we should be filling up those jars in no time.
Why can you get honey all year?
So it’s simply the location here. We are in a subtropical region. This is our winter, you could be in a t-shirt if you wanted to. It’s a bit of a cooler, rainy day today, but we don't get those freezing cold temperatures and snow and so on. So the trees act accordingly and they will flower during the wintertime here, especially if we get some rain, which we have been, you get some really nice winter nectar flows here, particularly the paperbarks, which are down in the swamplands below. So it just simply is our region. If you're in a tropical region, same thing, nice honey flows during the wintertime.
If you're down in the southern colder areas of Australia, you will get some long cold winters. There might be four or five months without any flowers at all. If you're in the northern parts of North America and in Europe and so on, then you will find there'll be long, cold winters, even six months or more without an abundance of flowers.
It gets very hot in my area, up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48℃). Is it okay to start beekeeping in temperatures like that?
Bees are very resilient. They can handle extremely hot temperatures and extremely cold temperatures. What they do when it's hot is they will collect water. And that's one of the last jobs a bee gets in its life. They use evaporative cooling techniques with fanning that water to cool the hive to an appropriate temperature, roughly body temperature in the brood nest. And that will be the right temperature then to raise their young.
48 degrees Celsius, now that is hot. We get maybe 42 degrees Celsius here, and that's definitely a hot day. So what bees will do in extreme temperatures like that is sometimes they'll almost completely vacate the hive. You hear these stories of a carpet of bees, like the bees have come out of their hive and are just lying on the ground, trying to keep cool in front of the hive. And this particular beekeeper was saying, “I thought, I thought it was a meltdown. I thought they were all going to be dead. Then the evening they just went back in.”
So bees are incredibly resourceful. They know what they're doing in temperatures like that. And if you can give them some shade, then that would be much better, particularly during the hot parts of the day in the afternoon. So if you can position your hives, perhaps under some trees where they get some shade or even under a roof or structure, then that would definitely help. The issue of meltdown, the risk is the temperature inside the hive gets hotter than wax’s melt temperature of about 63 degrees Celsius. And it all turns into a puddle of wax and honey, and that's the end of that colony. So ask your local beekeepers as well, but you're perfectly fine. There are lots of people keeping bees in your area.
Is it normal for the bees to be outside the Flow Hive at night? The temperatures are warm. (Niagra Falls, Canada)
Nice location. Yes, it is normal. If you've got hot nights, the bees will be vacating. If you have a look in the side window here, you'll find that the bees are quite hard-packed in the winter. There's a lot of bees there. And if you think about the bees getting airflow in order to cool their hive, when there are so many bees in the way, they can't actually get enough airflow to maintain the right temperature. So you'll find a whole lot of bees will get out of the way. And they're just hanging around on the veranda at the front, enjoying the evening air. And in extreme cases, you will get bees all over the whole front of the hive and bearding down as well on those really hot balmy nights. Now it is a sign that you've got a lot of bees and it might be a good idea to take a split if it's the right time of year for that, or add another super or another brood box.
Do people have Flow Hives in Alaska?
We probably do have some hives in Alaska. I know we have them in places like Norway. We have them in Canada. We have them in Europe and down south here in the most southerly area in Tasmania. So you can certainly keep bees in colder regions and I'll have to get back to you on the number of Flow Hives in Alaska.
Can you keep bees in the desert?
You do get some honeys in the desert. I'm assuming there is vegetation there to create flowers and you'll get some very thick honeys where that bees are easily getting that moisture content down below even 16% moisture. So very interesting honeys you can get in the desert areas as well. So I guess ask around, it's always good to get local beekeeping advice, but it can be a great place to keep bees as well.
What happens to the capped cells after emptying the frames?
So what happens is that bees recycle the wax. I guess it's like walking on a kind of drum skin that's empty of honey underneath and they can tell pretty quickly. But it was a bit of a wild card when we were inventing. We had all sorts of techniques to actually remove the capping inside the hive, which was incredibly complicated, but lucky for us, we had a win and the bees will remove it themselves. And they do that just by chewing away the capping. And immediately after the honey's been harvested, they'll start chewing away and doing their work, taking that capping off, using that wax to reform the cell and the whole process starts again. So they recycle it on the spot. Some beekeepers say, “no, they don't recycle wax,” But that's not true. If you purposefully put some wax on the surface of your Flow Frames, you can even watch them recycling that to the local area through the side window.
I recently added a super to my hive. I found some hive beetles in the brood nest, and now I have seen some in the super also. What should I do about this? (Tennessee, USA)
So lots of areas in the world have the small hive beetle, a little black beetle that gets around the hive. Now, if your colony is strong, they'll keep them in check. They won't let them lay all over the place. If your colony is weak and the numbers of bees are low, you look in the side window, you can't see many bees, but you're seeing a few beetles, then that's when you need to be concerned. Because those beetles could take advantage of the time where there's no bees to keep them in check and start laying eggs, and they can lay thousands of eggs and they can turn it into a beetle hive instead of a beehive, which isn't very pretty. Their larvae worm their way through the brood combs and everything, it gets called a slime-out. Not much fun. So the thing to do is, if your bee numbers are low, then make sure you're trapping some of those hive beetles. And that would be using this tray down below here, which you can use to trap those beetles. So in here you can add a bit of detergent and water and trap beetles in your tray below. If you have the Flow Hive 2 that has the pest management tray.
My hive was attacked by beetles and I lost the bees. What's the best way to totally clean the frames and box from wax and beetle nests?
Oh, okay, that's not fun. Sorry to hear that, it does happen. The idea is you get through it and get the colony back in there and get it going again. If you've had that issue, then you will need to just check that out. Usually beetle attack is a secondary issue. Most likely what's happened is the queen has stopped laying and the population has reduced, or perhaps the queen has died altogether and the population has reduced and the beetles have seized that opportunity to take over.
Now you should check for any signs in the brood frames of things like brood diseases, AFB and so on. Look down the cells with some bright light and look for what looks like a bit of a snail trail on the inside of the cell wall. Just check for that and also check the smell of those frames. You don't want to get into a situation where you're rebuilding a hive on frames that have a disease issue.
But if it's simply from the loss of a queen or perhaps a bit of downsizing in numbers, for whatever reason, perhaps they swarmed and the beetles took over, then go and rebuild that colony. To do that, then if you're using naturally drawn frames, you'd cut out all of the wax in the bottom box here, just simply using a knife, you can cut out that wax, give the frames a little cleanup and put them back in again. So that's the bottom box, just removing and scraping all the wax away on the wooden frames. And it might pay to give them a little wash as well, to get any sticky, fermented, slimy beetle mess and honey off those frames. And then you can put them to dry.
The Flow Frames, sometimes there is salvageable honey in them, and you can harvest them on your bench. Using two keys is best for that. Two keys go in and turn them bit by bit, open up the Flow Frames, let the honey flow out and just make sure it doesn't taste fermented. If it's tasting fermented, then it's too far gone and you might want to discard that.
Then you can keep those frames in the open position, use a hot water hose from your laundry, just to give them a good rinse out and then let them dry and put them aside for the next time you have your colony ready for the Flow Frames to go back on. Make sure you remember to put the frames into the cell-formed position by putting the key in the top slot and turning it. That way, the bees will be able to recycle any wax that's still on them and go through that process of creating their cells, ready to store nectar again. Fingers crossed you get some better luck next time. Make sure you activate your pest management tray and catch those nasty beetles.
We just ordered a Flow Hive. We have some lights at the back door, but we don’t want to attract bees to the door at night. Should we remove the lights?
Only if you find that it's a problem. If the bees can see a light that's on the edge of your house at night time from the entrance, you might get a few bees buzzing around at night time. Which could become an issue if it's right where your entry is, or if you've got an open window there. And in that case, yes, you could switch those lights off or position your hive so it can't see those lights at night time.
I have three hives that I recently requeened. There is a lot of brood, but they haven’t stored much honey yet. Should I supplement them with sugar water to get them to build up faster? There is a nectar flow on now. (South Carolina, USA)
If the nectar flow is pretty good, then I wouldn't be supplementing them with sugar because what happens is then you will get sugar stored in your honey frames, which is not what you want. You want to be eating honey, not honey that's adulterated with cane sugar. You'll find that beekeepers generally will stop feeding bees when the flow comes on. For that exact reason that they want any sugar just to be used for the bees to stay alive and perhaps build their population. And then when the flow comes on, you want them to be storing honey in the Flow Frames. So I'm fingers crossed you’ll get a great season to come.
Have you ever had the bees put wax over the queen excluder so that the bees can't get into the super?
I haven't. The bees will chew away wax if they need more room. They will put a lot of wax on there, typically joining the Flow Frames down to the excluder, joining the frames below up to the excluder. But they should always leave pathways for them so that they can get through and traverse into the next box. But I guess if it's really looking like there's hardly any room for them to get through and you happen to have the hive apart, you can get in there with your hive tool and knock some of the wax out. A little bit tedious, but it might save the bees a bit of work there.
I have taken the queen excluder off for winter and left the super on because it’s got lots of good stores of honey. When spring comes, do I need to clean or prepare the super and if so, what do they do with the brood remnants or cells that are in the super? (NSW, Australia)
Hopefully, you don't have any brood laid in the super, but what you should have is frames that you've extracted like this and they're dry with no honey left in them. Or you might've taken them off and they've got a little bit of honey left in the actual Flow Frames. So then what you're trying to do is store that honey for the next season, they can go back on in your hive. If you've got a deep freeze, that's a wonderful way to do it. Just put those frames into deep freezing and put them back onto the hive in the springtime. If it happens to be cold enough, perhaps you don't need the deep freezer and simply put them in some tubs to keep them away from vermin and so on and keep them cold.
What you don't want is a humid, warm environment for your Flow Frames if they’re off the hive for several months. If there's honey in there, you may get fermentation issues. If that happens, not the end of the world, you just need to wash that out and dry it before putting it back on in a hive for the bees to fix up. So you can use a hot hose from your laundry. You'd set the frames to open position and just wash it all through and then put those frames somewhere to dry for a while before putting them back on again.
I will give another answer particularly with this question, because I don't live in an area where I have to remove the queen excluder, but it is advice we do give, which is to remove the queen excluder prior to a long, cold winter. The reason being is the queen can get left behind, should the bees move up into boxes above and the queen can perish from the cold.
If you've only got a short winter and your colony is quite big, you might find that the ball sort of central in the hive here, and the queen is able to stay below the excluder without getting too cold. If you've got multiple boxes, definitely remove that queen excluder because the bees are likely to move up through those boxes, consuming the honey to survive for the winter. And come the springtime, when the bees are getting ready to expand again, the queen starts laying. You'll need to shake all of those bees down to the bottom box, put your excluder back in place and away you go again.
Some people run with no excluder at all, all year round. What I've found is it's very queen-specific, one queen won't lay in the Flow Frames while another queen will. And I've got a hive right outside my door, it's been now for years with no queen excluder. I’ve never had an issue with her laying in the Flow Frames. But equally, I've had issues where, where I've had a hive like that and months later, the next queen was laying in the Flow Frames after years not laying in them. So if it's very queen-specific.
If you decide to ditch the queen excluder altogether, then make sure you have a look and learn by inspecting the Flow Frames, whether you have a Flow Frame laying queen or not. Like most things in beekeeping, you need to experiment, have a think about the advice you're getting and try and see what works for you.
Is the Flow Hive honey is more flavoursome and tasteful because there's less oxygen in it than honey from a regular hive that's being spun to extract?
The answer is yes, according to a Queensland University study of the Flow Hive honey, compared to extracting in a conventional manner. Now I've got a few theories why that is. And one, as you say, is the oxygen that the honey is exposed to. We do know that oxygen can have a degrading effect on the flavour of your honey, especially the more aromatic ones. So if you are going through that process of centrifuging your honey, all your honey is being spun in fine strands through the air.
Then it's coming into contact with typically a stainless steel extractor. And we also know that when honey, being acidic, comes into contact with things like metals, it will actually react. And there's a flavour change there as well. Next is when you mix a whole lot of honeys together, you're also changing the flavour makeup, and you're losing the ability to taste the beautiful aromatic flavours of one frame over the next. It's like mixing all your ingredients in the kitchen together. And it can still taste good, but it might not be as nice as being able to taste the amazing flavours of one thing over another. So you get that feedback as well, where people are saying, wow, it's just so aromatic and so different.
I would really recommend harvesting into single jars because of the way you get to isolate those individual flavours, which is such a joy to be able to taste and such a joy, to be able to share. You get really dark, really light honeys, really multi-honeys, caramel fragrant, sort of very lolly shop kind of flavours, as well as your eucalypt honeys here have that distinct Australian eucalypt flavour. So there's as many different flavours as there are flowers that produce nectar in the world. And what you'll find in your location, you'll get these unique flavours that the bees are bringing in. So I think it's a wonderful thing. And it was unexpected inventing the Flow Hive to have that isolation of all the different flavours. So yes, you're right. There is both the study and also a lot of feedback of people saying the Flow Hive honey tastes better than conventional extraction methods.
Is it correct that it takes 18 months before you first get a honey harvest?
It really depends. You hear stories like Stone, behind the camera. He was getting honey in the first month of putting his hives together. And a month later, it just happened to be a really strong spring, the colony was strong and filled them up straight away. He harvested and a week later they were full again. So you get extreme stories like that. But having said that, you also get the opposite where you won't get any honey in a whole season. Perhaps there's issues like there was a drought and there's a bit of a hangover from the drought and the trees aren't flowering. You don't really get a honey store unless you've got a strong colony coinciding with a good nectar flow. Then it can happen really quickly.
So the answer is, it depends. And it's always good to have a few hives because you can get a weak colony next to a strong one. We're getting a lot of honey in this hive, but the hive next to it is getting none at all. So I'd always recommend having more hives than one if you really want to make sure you're getting honey in the season. Be patient, like any form of agricultural farming, you can have good seasons and bad seasons it’s a case of just riding them out and taking their winnings when they come in. Really enjoying that process of harvesting the honey when it comes in.
Great, we've had some people say two months, four months, six months.
That's great, chime in and help answer the questions. It seems like it's very varied and he'll have to expect it to be a bit varied as well. Try your hand at it and see how things go.
How much ventilation do bees need in the honey super?
Not much is the answer. What I've found is if you go drilling holes in the top and the bees have access to that, they'll block it up. My experience is bees prefer to have it sealed at the top and open at the bottom so that they then can more accurately control the temperature inside the hive by fanning or not fanning. So what they need in the hot times is an entrance that's open. So if you have an entrance reducer, remove that, give them the ability to fan and create a cycle up through the hive and down and out again. Now you could also remove the tray altogether. And then it is quite easy for them to maintain a cool environment in there. But in my experience, the bees don't particularly care for vents at the top.
Could you put a Flow Hive in a greenhouse?
Well, you could, if they had a way out. A greenhouse is unlikely to be big enough to support a colony of this size, bearing in mind that a hive like this could pollinate 50 million flowers in a day. So they like to forage a couple of miles, three kilometres, or up to six miles, 10 kilometres around the hive if they're hungry. Now you're not going to get enough flowers to support a hive like this in a greenhouse. But if they have a way out then that is fine. Or if it's only a temporary measure, if you're putting it in there temporarily for pollination, then that might work. But generally, you want them to be free-ranging bees in the world.
We need to build a six-foot-high fence around our hive. How much room do we need between the fence and the hive? (Maryland, USA)
Okay, interesting, we don't have rules like that, where we are. Perhaps it's for a dog, so I'm not sure. But in terms of room around the hive, around the sides and around the back, you need enough room just to be able to work the hive. A metre or so, you could have a fence here and still work your hive. But at the front you need a nice pathway. It's not essential, but it's nice if they can fly out the front and up in a way on about that angle. And so you position your fence ideally a metre and a half, two metres in front of the hive to give enough room for the bees to fly out and up and away. Otherwise what you'll find is, they'll double back and be going straight past your head as you're trying to harvest your honey.
I harvested the first Flow Frame recently. The cells all looked capped, but the honey came out thin. I checked with a refractor and the honey is 20% water content. What would have caused this (Florida, USA)
So that's just over what would be ideal. You ideally want it below 20 or closer to 18%. Now, if you're over that 20% mark, what you'll find is that it will probably start to ferment after some time, but that will depend on how many colony-forming units are actually in the honey to start with. So if you've got a high amount of yeast in there and that will affect whether fermentation occurs as well. So the best thing to do with that is to consume it or keep it in the fridge, that will prolong that process. Or make honey mead out of it. Now it can happen sometimes where you get moisture content that's a bit higher, it's a bit liquid in the jar and it's not the end of the world, you just need to consume it. But you can find that the frame can be completely capped and it will come out a little bit liquid. And that is just your bees getting a little bit lazy when they're de-watering the honey and getting that moisture content low. So it does happen. And it's more about what you do with the honey after that.
Do you recommend a split banana for extra nutrition?
Well, I do like eating bananas, but I've never heard of people giving bananas to bees for nutritional value. What bees ideally using for nutrition is a varied diet of pollen. So bees like other species, including us do need a varied diet. And for them, pollen is their protein, nectar and honey is their carbohydrate and they need a balanced diet of different pollens. They don't just eat the pollen, they turn it into bee bread. If they don't have a balanced diet and a nice varied amount of different ones, then they will actually get sick. If you're going to feed supplements to your bees, I'd go for pollen substitutes.
The banana trick I've heard is it can get used for actually getting the bees to clean shop and kick out things like chalkbrood. So some people, as a chalkbrood remedy, will put a split banana in the hive. The bees go, “oh, that smells” because it has a similar kind of alarm pheromone kind of smell to it. And they'll get in there and it basically makes them more hygienic. It's like if a dog comes and does something nasty on your carpet, you're going to clean that up. But you're probably also going to do a bit of a spring clean while you're at it and make sure everything's just nice again. So that's the effect that they say a banana in the hive has and whether it works or not, I'll leave it up to you guys to debate.
How many frames of honey do you need to leave in the super over winter? (Southeast Queensland, Australia)
In southeast Queensland, I would say it depends where you are. If you're closer to the coast, I would say none because here where we are, we're in northeastern New South Wales, and it's a very similar environment and we'll be harvesting honey as it comes in over the wintertime, like we are now. If you're inland a bit, then it really does change. My father is inland about an hour's drive and he's actually still getting honey now, but that's unusual for this time of year. And typically he will now get a couple of months with no honey before the spring kicks in out there. So if you're inland a bit, then I would suggest leaving them say three frames of honey, because it's still a short time before the flowers will be coming back again.
When should we begin checking the hive after winter? Our hive swarmed in late August. (Southeast Queensland, Australia)
So that's an early swarm, however, spring here in this subtropical region does start in August. As far as the bees are concerned, the flowers are flowering, everything's all go. And your hive must have built up really quickly and started to swarm there. So as you see the numbers increase, then if you open the window and you're seeing lots of bees like that inside your hive, then that's the time to take a split, increase the size of your apiary. If you don't want the colony, then somebody else will. If you've got queen cells on frames already, then they can go straight into the new split and away you go. If for some reason you don't want to take splits, then you can also increase the size of your hive and go through swarm prevention techniques like knocking off queen cells, introducing new fresh frames into your brood nest also.
I recently changed from a petrol lawnmower to a battery mower. And the battery mower has a high pitch, which I think the bees don't like, they have been attacking me and the mower. I didn't have this problem with the old petrol mower. I now have to close the hive early in the morning before I mow the lawns.
It would be interesting to know if you went back to a petrol mower, whether they wouldn't mind the petrol or not, because it could be the case that the genetics in your hive have changed. And perhaps they superseded the queen and the new queen mated with some rascal drones down the road, and you've got some aggressive traits in your hive. Now, if I drive a mower past the entrance of my hive, one out of every 5 or 10 hives, you'll see getting agitated and the rest are fine with it. So it's very specific to the colony.
What causes honey to crystallise?
The specific ratios of sugars in your honey will determine whether they crystallise or not, and also the moisture content and temperature. So the ratio of fructose and glucose is typically what determines whether honey will eventually crystallise, or it's also called go candied. Now, all honey that has a low moisture content down below that 20% will crystallise eventually, it's just a matter of time. So you'll find the honey that was 3000 years old in the Egyptian tombs would be crystallised in those honeypots.
This honey here is likely to stay uncrystallised for several months and then you'll find, it'll start going a bit cloudy and eventually it will crystallise. It’s a perfectly normal thing to happen. I’ve had experiences where you give honey to somebody and they say, “oh, we throw it out because it went bad”. And you go, “okay, what did it do?” And they say, “oh, it went all hard.” And you go, “oh, that's not actually bad.” It can be quite an enjoyable honey. And some beekeepers will purposefully make their honey crystallised by seeding it with a nice, fine crystal from some other honey. You'll find that in New Zealand and many other cool places where, because of the temperature, the honey is likely to crystallise anyway. So they go ahead and make that a part of the honey experience. And it seems the preferred texture is the fine crystals, rather than the big coarse ones. So they'll go ahead and add fine candy to their honey and then watch it take on that crystalline structure throughout the jar.
Whereas the supermarkets will tend to pasteurise the honey and heat it to a certain temperature for a certain time. And that will mean that it won't go candied for a very long time. That way you’re destroying the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and medicinal properties of honey. And that's a sad thing. So I wouldn't recommend pasteurising your honey, always better just to take it straight from the hive. And it's perfect how it is. And if it goes candied, then enjoy that. My kids call it crispy honey, and they'll always choose to eat the crispy honey over the liquid honey.
There is a canola farm near me which will flower soon. Will that cause the honey to go candied? How will that affect the Flow Frames?
So canola, or rapeseed, as you say, does candy quite quickly. From what I understand about it, it generally candies when beekeepers take the frames off the hive and they cool down overnight and then they go to extract them and they are candied and set in the frames. Now, if that's the case, then what you should be doing is harvesting your honey quickly. I guess don't leave it in the hive for too long. The edge frames might go candied. So as soon as it's looking capped, just harvest that canola, and you'll probably find you can put it into your jars without actually having the candy issue. If you find it has gone candied, or perhaps the edge frames have gone candied, you can just leave those for the bees to consume during the colder times. And hopefully next time you get some nice liquid honey in the frames again.
How do you tell what mood the bees are in if you need to move them?
There are two parts to that question. When moving a hive you would close the hive up in the night or very early morning before the bees go out, and then you would choose to move your hive in the cooler part of the day, early morning. And that way you don't risk your hive overheating in transport. If you're only moving them a little away, yes, you can move them in the daytime. And that might mean just picking up your hive and moving in a couple of metres and putting it down again. You can move it slowly across your yard like that, just moving it a few metres a day, and the bees will be fine with that.
If you're unsure about whether your bees are going to be a bit aggressive with that, then make sure you are in your beesuit with your gloves on. Get someone to help you with their basic gloves on as well. And then you pick up down low on the hive, right under here, and just move it back a few metres and put it down again. Usually, hives are okay with that, but occasionally you'll get an aggressive hive and it's really worth protecting yourself.
How do you treat a bee sting?
Bee stings, most people are okay with. Local swelling is pretty normal but you can have issues with anaphylaxis as you do with peanuts and other things as well, so bear that in mind. Read our safety information, look up anaphylaxis, understand it, and make sure you have followed guidelines. They’ll probably tell you that you should have an epi-pen on hand. So epi-pens are good for anaphylaxis.
Back to the normal bee sting where you've simply got a bee putting a stinger in your hand. Typically if the sting is ripped out of the bee, it doesn't always, but it often does, and the stinger stays in you and has the poison glands still pumping away on it. So if you squeeze that poison gland then the rest of the venom in that poison gland will then be injected into you. So the idea is your scrape it sideways. So if you've got your hive tool with you just scrape it sideways with that, or you could use your finger. And it's just a case of scraping sideways to remove it from your skin, instead of squeezing that little poison gland that's still attached. Next, I usually wouldn't typically do anything, but some people have swelling reactions that are uncomfortable and like to take anti-histamines. You might need to consult medical advice. Some people put honey on it. That's another idea. Chime in if you’ve got an answer on how to treat any normal bee sting.
We got a couple of answers on treating a bee sting, one was a bag of frozen peas works well. And a dissolvable aspirin, add a small amount of water and make it into a paste to rub on the sting.
I recently bought a Flow Hive 2. I've noticed in the past few weeks that there are thousands of bees bearding on the entrance of the hive. There are no signs of swarming and I have added the super. Should I add another box? Is this normal behaviour?
If you're getting quite warm nights, that is normal behaviour to have bees bearding on the outside. If you've got them bearding on the outside and you open the side windows and the hive is full like this, then it might be a case that you've got a very strong colony. There's lots of nectar around, and they're really expanding. In that case, you could either take a split, which would be my preferred method. And then you've got two hives. Or as you say, you could add more boxes, another brood box or another super to give the colony more space.
Is it okay to give the bees water?
It is. Now there's been some great tests. Fred Dunn has a video called bees need minerals, where he's tested water with salt. You get a bottle of water and you put a teaspoon of salt in it. And you test that over not having the salt in it. And the bees will always prefer the salty one. And that's why you'll find them sucking on mud. You'll find them going to salty swimming pools and so on because they, like us, need minerals. And they'll collect that from wherever they can get hold of those minerals. So it's a good idea if you're in a really dry area and there's nowhere for them really to get water, to put out a water source for them. And you might like to add a little bit of salt to that as well.
How much space is needed in your backyard for a hive?
Beekeeping is a wonderful thing because you can get real amounts of produce from a very small footprint, especially with the Flow Hive where you don't need the rest of the extraction equipment and a room to do it in. So here we are with an area this big, with this beautiful amount of honey coming in. It's simply because these bees will go out foraging a big radius, 3 to 10 kilometres away, to bring in that. Beekeepers will keep their hives on rooftops in the city, they'll keep it on balconies in the city. They will keep it in urban backyards. And it's more of a case of making sure where the bees are flying is comfortable for humans and pets around the hive. So this area out the front is typically an area that you're trying to avoid being where a pathway is. So today's a bit of a cold old day and there's not much going on at the entrance, but typically as things warm up today, you'll find a lot of bees coming into the entrance of the hive here. And that's where you want to avoid you having to walk past that area. So situate your hive so that dogs and humans aren't walking right in front of the hive, or you'll find you'll get some stinging issues.
If the new queen is aggressive and affects the colony, what is the solution?
The solution is to change the queen to known genetics. So go to a queen breeder and ask for a nice gentle colony with gentle genetics. The process would be then going through and finding that queen. It can be a bit of a daunting process, so you might need to get someone to help you. You're going to be pulling apart your whole hive, finding the queen somewhere down here in the brood nest, taking her away, waiting 24 hours, and then introducing the new queen to your hive, which typically comes in a little cage with a block of candy at the end. And the bees will chew away that candy and the new queen is released into the hive a bit later after the colony has gotten used to her new pheromone and away you go. About a month later, the temperament of the whole hive will change. So that's generally what you do and it's called requeening. Beekeepers will do it for aggression reasons, for production reasons and often as a process, they'll go through and requeen all the hives every couple of years to keep up that production of young bees. So they have a big booming colony ready to forage and collect a lot of honey. For us, we can let queens get a lot older because we're not necessarily after that extra 10, 20, 30% production that a commercial apiarist is.
When you harvest the honey, what stops the bees from getting stuck in the cells?
Okay, good question. Now we put a lot of attention to that, my father and I. Sometimes you can see that happening even in the rear window where you could get a bee stuck in its own wax. Now, what we did is we put gaps in the cells. If you've got a cell this shape, you can imagine if it moved like this and the bee was in there and it stuck its head through that area or a wing or something, and then it moved, then that could definitely damage the bee. So what we did is we made the cell parts this shape like this. So the bees have to build a wax bridge across these parts. And what that means is if they move and there happens to be a bee down their cell, hopefully there's not because they're harvested when the honey is nice and ready, but sometimes there is, and you've got then a bee can only really be stuck in a bit of wax between these parts. And at worst, the other bees will help free that bee from that area. So that is an important part of the design to make it safe for the bees to be down the cells while you're harvesting.
Thank you very much for tuning in and hopefully you've got some good things for us to cover next time. Put them the comments in the below, what you'd like us to cover and tune in same time next week. Don't forget to check out TheBeekeeper.org if you want to fast-track your learning from square one right through to a deep scientific and practical knowledge of beekeeping. It's also a great fundraiser raising funds for the honeybees, for native bees and for habitat.
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