Inspecting your hive after a cold winter is one of the most exciting activities for a beekeeper (after honey harvesting of course!) and will help you to discover whether your pre-winter preparations paid off.
Top Tip: Make sure you choose a nice warm day to make it easier for your bees to maintain their optimal brood temperature.
When inspecting, be on the lookout for good population numbers, a queen, healthy brood patterns and honey stores, and most importantly, look closely for pests and diseases and treat accordingly. This year it’s also crucial to monitor your hive for signs of the varroa mite if you’re located anywhere near an impacted zone. Find out more here.
If you need support with your first spring inspection, we’re here to help! We have a swarm of resources available and a knowledgeable team on hand to offer support.
While the current varroa incursion is being responded to, there are some simple steps beekeepers can take to support their bees and the wider effort to keep Australia varroa-free. The good news is these practices are all part and parcel of your standard spring beekeeping activities!
From performing mite checks to reducing swarms, we’ve collated your essential info in one handy spot.
If you’re an experienced beekeeper, you’ll know it’s time to assemble your brood frames and get your spare brood boxes built.
With warmer weather, your queen will amp up her egg-laying, which means your colony will expand. You don’t want to get caught out by a colony that’s ready to reproduce with nowhere to house them!
Top Tip:Many experienced beekeepers keep a swarm capture kit on hand (sometimes even in their car!) throughout beekeeping season, consisting of a brood box, brood frames, base, roof and a suit.
For beekeepers in NSW it’s important to note, there are certain restrictions around the movement of bees due to the varroa mite incursion. Please check for updates from the DPI.
What type of brood frames?
“Beekeepers have many opinions on which is the best method. I am a total convert to foundationless frames. It’s a really tedious task waxing and wiring frames. It’s so much easier to let the bees build their own. It leaves the bees making their natural cells sized perfectly for their brood and it’s beautiful to watch them hang their natural comb in their brood nest.
Having said that, in some short season regions it is important to encourage the bees to get to the nectar flow as quickly as possible. It may be better to provide wax foundation as the bees will complete their brood comb more quickly” - Cedar Anderson
As things start to ramp up in the apiary, it’s a great time to check your equipment – there’s nothing worse than discovering a hole in your bee suit hood when you’re up close and personal with an open hive!
Inspect your safety equipment and make sure you have everything you’ll need coming into the new season.
Re-oil cedar hives, or check to see if your Araucaria paint job needs a new coat.
Top Tip: When re-treating timber components, use no VOC, non-toxic treatments – these can be reapplied while the bees are in the hive. Make sure you wear protective clothing.
Swarming is the natural way bees reproduce and multiply, however, it’s considered good beekeeping practice to take steps to avoid this occurring. It’s particularly important to have a strong focus on swarm mitigation this year as we continue to respond to the varroa mite outbreak.
If your bees swarm, your colony will be reduced as will their nectar resources and your hive may be left vulnerable to pests and diseases.
Like most beekeeping practices, swarm mitigation is about understanding bee behaviour and attempting to meet their needs before they act.
Will you split your hive?
If you have a large, healthy hive, it is possible to create a new colony by making a split.
To do so, take a portion of your established colony and transfer it to a separate hive, thereby creating two colonies.
They'll each have sufficient worker bee populations, stores and either their own queen or the possibility of creating one from existing fertilised eggs.
For beekeepers in NSW it’s important to note that there are certain restrictions around the movement of bees due to the varroa mite incursion. Please check for updates from the DPI.
Monitoring your splits
It’s a good idea to monitor your splits closely in the days following their creation. Make sure each has enough adult bees to care for the brood you have given them and take action if they do not.
The thrill of a swarm catch
While we try to mitigate swarms, sometimes they are unavoidable. Luckily, catching a swarm of bees is one of the most joyous parts of beekeeping. It’s also an easy (and free) way to bolster your apiary!
At this stage, they seldom have comb and are just a cluster of bees. Without the complication of comb, a beekeeper can easily scoop, shake or lower the swarm into their equipment and bring them back to their apiary.
For beekeepers in NSW it’s important to note, there are certain restrictions around the movement of bees due to the varroa mite incursion. Please keep up to date with the latest news from the DPI.
Need extra help?
There’s always more to learn to grow and deepen your knowledge in beekeeping.