Spring hive management with Cedar & Mira

We’re in lockdown, so Cedar and Mira live-streamed from Cedar’s home today. They did some spring management on a hive, cycling out old brood frames and making space for the queen to lay in. They also answered your beekeeping questions, including about splitting a double brood box hive.

 

 

Video Transcription

Cedar:

Good morning, we're here at my home. We're in lockdown at the moment. So my sister who lives with me is behind the camera. And we're going to share it a little bit. So we'll be passing the camera back and forth and we'll see how we go. Now, what we're going to be doing today is some spring brood checking. So we're going to be looking in here, seeing how this hive's going, and also we'll show you how to cut some of the comb out and relieve the brood nest from congestion, and that just limits the swarming tendencies. And we might be able to dial up Trace and get her to read out those questions as well. So, first thing to do is get your smoker going. What you want is some nice, cool puffs of smoke, and I'm going to smoke my hands just to limit the mammal smell. 

And then a little bit of smoke into the entrance of the hive. What I'm going to do is put the smoker right in the entrance here, give a couple of good puffs and that's all we need to do. You'll notice the sound of the hive, I don't know if you can hear that. The tone of the hive changes when you add some smoke. If you leave a little bit, then they calm down and that's when it's appropriate to start pulling the hive apart. I'm going to leave that smoker near the entrance, just so the bees get a little whiff of smoke as they're coming home. And that will also have a calming effect. So looking from the outside of the hive, there's a reasonable number of bees in there, but they're not really tightly clustered yet. Sometimes you can't even see the comb. But still, the numbers are getting up, so we should think about splitting this hive.

When lifting a hive, it's a good idea, to keep the weight close to your body. Ideally you would be lifting from this surface here, so you take the door off. And from on the other side. But the way I've got this situated in my garden, I'm actually going to use these points as the handle and just rock it backwards and take it away. I don't have an excluder on this hive and that's a choice I've made. I just need to keep an eye on it and make sure that not the queen isn't laying in the Flow Frames. Some queens do some queens don't. This one has been with me for about four years, and I believe it's the same queen. I've had her on the stage at TEDx. This is the TEDx hive. And we harvested honey on stage with the bees in it, and I'm quite fond of this hive here. Now don't forget to protect yourself, especially when you're new to beekeeping. Wear your gloves, wear your bee suit. So after loosening up this corner as well, I'll just rock this backwards towards me, like that. Bearing in mind, it's quite heavy and I'll put this aside. It's good to rest it on something so that any bees underneath don't get squashed. So in the brood box, I usually remove an edge frame first, because that creates space to work and it makes the other frames easier to move aside.

Mira:

I often start with the second one in, because the edge frame often has brace comb to the edge of the box.

Cedar:

So I can go sideways a little bit here, just breaking the comb from the end bars. It's a case of putting the J-hook underneath and lifting. Then holding that end with one hand. I don't mind a couple of stings every now and then. As I'm lifting that, I'm seeing a little bit of a comb issue, two combs touching each other. So I'm going to pull this one over a bit further if I can. Let's see if we can get out without damaging the comb surface. Well, that one's a little bit tricky. We might go the next one over.

So I was just noticing that the comb was catching on the other one. So I've put it back down instead of disturbing it. Now I'm levering these frames apart and then I'll lift this. This frame is nearly all capped brood, which is all worker bees waiting to emerge. So when they emerge into the hive, there's going to be so many more baby bees ready to take on the chores of the hive. First thing they do is clean the cells that they came out of, and then they set to work with lots of different jobs. Over here you can see some bee bread where they've scraped off the pollen from their hind legs, packed it into the cells with their heads, topped it with a little bit of honey and they let it ferment into a nice sourdough bread. It makes it easier for them to digest, just like a good sourdough bread that we bake.

Mira:

There are a couple of drones on there as well.

Cedar:

Drones are good ones to pick up if you want to show them to your kids, because they don't have stingers. And this is honey around the edge. It's typical for the bees to keep a little bit of honey around the edge. It's a good thermal mass that helps regulate the the temperature in the hive. They really try to keep it at a nice stable temperature for their brood. Beautiful. I'll have a little look on the other side here. This side's got some brood too and some uncapped brood down the bottom. So look down there. There's some young larvae in this section. If you have a close look, you might even see some bee eggs down the cells, which look like a tiny grain of rice. They're hard to pick up on this camera. You'll need your glasses on if you wear glasses, to see the tiny little egg in the bottom.

Mira:

I'll get the macro lens on. It's a bit of a grey day. I'm going to just try and do some multitasking here. You can see the bee bread on the macro.

Cedar:

In spring, it's good idea to alleviate some of the pressure in the hive. Now, if it gets too crowded and there's not enough room for the queen to do her amazing job of laying eggs, she might lay up to a couple of thousand a day in full flight. There's not enough room, then that is the primary swarming trigger. Good idea to get ahead of the curve, give them some space. You want to keep your queen rather than half of them flying away. You can't spend all day hanging around, waiting for your hive to swarm. So a better idea is to take a split as spring approaches or get in there and just alleviate some of the space. So today we'll show you how to do that. Now, what we might do is find a comb, typically the ones on the edges just have honey and not brood. So they're the ones you can cycle out and you can grab the darker ones from the middle, move them to the edge and cycle out that darker old comb over time.

Cedar:

This looks like a good one to take out, but let's just see if it's got any brood on it. So I'm looking closely now for any brood that's on this frame. I can't see any, you can see it has been used for brood in the past, but I'm not seeing any brood there and I'm not seeing any brood there. And this is a good one to cycle out because you can see they've gone a bit wonky here. They're not using this old dark comb and they've basically made the cells a bit lopsided. So I'll just show you how to do that.

Mira:

You'll want to make sure that the queen's not roaming around out there. It's always good to double check.

Cedar:

I can't see her on this frame. So let's just shake the bees into the box, in case she is there. When you're shaking bees in, just give it a good, hard shake like this, that gets most of the bees off. You can brush the remaining ones off with a bit of foliage or a bee brush, and then you'll be ready to cut.

So I'm just flicking off the remaining bees here. You need some kind of tray. I've got the lid of a tub here. And what we're going to do is just put this right down there like this. And now this is pretty wild looking old piece of comb, but it could still be nice to chew on if you're having a party or anything like that. And you can cut sections out for a cheese platter or whatever you like. So bear in mind, there is a strip along the top here, that's the comb guide. So we don't want to cut through that. Otherwise it's a case of just cutting around the edge and down the side, just like that. And once you get to there, you're going to need to cut that all the way off. And that will just fall right out. So there you go, Some honeycomb to harvest as well.

If you want, you can scrape the remaining wax off the frame, or leave it. Some beekeepers like to keep everything whistle clean, others like to leave the remaining wax for the bees just to reuse. So we can pop that straight back in. Now, where we choose to do that is important in terms of alleviating that swarming tendency. If you're doing two of these, which wouldn't be a bad idea, you'd probably go here and here. So leave a brood cluster, but let them expand onto this frame. So this is not a bad position to put your fresh one for the bees to get in there and draw their comb quite quickly. There'll be a whole lot of new area for the queen now to lay on. There we go. Beautiful. So we should also find an older, darker one to cycle out and put on the edge. So all the brood hatches out of it. Next time, that can be the one we cut out of the edge. And that way you're continuing the cycle of cycling out the old wax that's been used for a few seasons and giving them a fresh start. I might just add a little bit of smoke again. We'll go ahead and check the other frames, we'll find a nice dark old comb and we'll put that towards the edge.

Cedar:

Let's pull some more frames out and see if we can find a nice dark one to move to the edge. Because we're cycling out some of the darker ones. Next time, we'll be able to cut the comb out of that. So this one looks like a pretty old frame. Probably one of the original ones this hive was split from. You can see this one has been used many, many times by the bees so it's a good one to cycle out. The comb is starting to go a bit wonky, which isn't unusual. They've got some brood over here, so we can't take it straight out. What are we going to have to do is move it to the edge. And then after that brood has emerged, the bees will likely fill those cells with honey. And we can see there are eggs in this frame, so we know we have a laying queen. Hmm, I'm looking at these eggs and some of the placement isn't as good as it could be.

Mira:

Can you say the pollen pants on that bee? She's actually looking to offload. I think she's checking the cell and then they usually back down and they use a little spur on their middle leg to spear the pollen baskets and knock them off into the cell. But yeah, I'm not sure exactly what she's doing. She might actually be offloading something else, some nectar or she might be packing down the pollen with her head. Is she gonna drop it off? Nope. She didn't like that cell. So I was hoping we might see her offloading that pollen.

Cedar:

So you can see some eggs down here, but I'm not sure if you'll actually be able to see them on camera. They're like a little tiny grain of rice in the bottom of the cell.

Mira:

Let's see if we can do the double one-handed filming again.

Mira:

No, it's a bit dark in there and a bit hard to film one-handed.

Cedar:

So I'm going to put this frame close to the edge of the hive. We're not seeing the queen, she must be around somewhere. So what I need to do now is make a little space and I'll do that just by levering from the edge of the box like this. So choosing that space there and pushing it in, being careful not to squash any bees. This would be the one that we can wait for the brood to emerge from. Listen to that, the black cockatoos are flying past, check them out. They're saying there's some rain coming, which there might be. The bees think there's some rain coming, they've gotten a bit upset about that. I'll smoke them again, but the smoker's gone out. We're using this garden mulch, which burns quite quickly. So I have to remember to top it up every now and then, and away we go again.

Mira:

I've just seen a bee producing wax out of the glands. I'm trying to find her so that we can show you, but I think she's run off.

Cedar:

Wow! A little rare moment, spotting a bee producing wax.

Mira:

So we've got a lot of drone brood on this frame and a bit of bee bread stores down here.

Cedar:

Some nice colours in there.

Mira:

We've got a few walking around with some orange and some yellow pollen pants, which is awesome. Good to see that they're bringing in pollen. Everything looks okay, there's a patch of honey down the bottom there. Mostly this is drone brood.

Mira:

That's a honey frame and that's the frame that we've replaced. Let's see what else we can find in here. So I'm also looking for any signs of queen cells or queen cups. Oh, hey, queenie! There she is. So people can have an idea that the queen rules the hive and is all-powerful, but she actually isn't. She's kind of at the mercy of the colony. If the colony decides that she's getting a bit old or maybe not laying so well, they will draw new cells and make a new queen and actually kill her. Well get rid of her. I had two queens in one hive recently. And so it was the mother and the daughter and they were waiting until the daughter had mated and was laying before they got rid of the old queen. So just in case something happened with the virgin queen. So it's fascinating inside a beehive. It's just fascinating. I swear I learn something new every time I go in the hive. I'm so glad that we saw her. Awesome.

Mira:

So I should point out that we usually don't rearrange a brood nest, but because we are doing spring management, we are kind of shuffling it around a little bit. So what I'm going to do is just pop this one here for a minute, with our other brood frame and on our brackets. And I'm going to guess that this edge frame is probably all honey, and it looks like an older frame. So let's just have a quick peek and see what's going on there. That's heavy as! I can tell that's honey, just by the weight. So the weight of a honey frame is much heavier than the weight of a brood frame. Oh, look at that. That's a beautiful frame of honey. So generally we're seeing in this hive that they're getting a little bit honey-bound. They've got lots of honey and not a huge amount of brood. So if we wanted to do more cut comb, we could cut some from this frame.

Cedar:

Yeah, let's alleviate some space for the queen so they're less likely to swarm.

Mira:

Are you happy to cut some out of this one? Do you think that's a pretty good looking frame?

Cedar:

Yeah, absolutely.

Mira:

I think the kids would be happy too.

Cedar:

Yeah, that's right.

Mira:

So like Cedar said before, when you move around bees, you move slowly. Slowly, and calmly and gently, except for when you want them to get off something. And that's when you do a strong shake. Because otherwise you just kind of annoy them and they hold on stronger. And then you can brush off any remaining bees with some leaves.

Cedar:

If you don't have suitable foliage, then a bee brush might be a better option. Maybe you're on a rooftop with no foliage at all.

Mira:

That's true. So I did have a beehive on a balcony, so there wasn't any foliage around. So I was definitely using my brush up there.

Mira:

Should we take it all? Or just a section?

Cedar:

You can take it all now. I can see this section has fallen out. I think it's a ratty old comb guide here. And it's dropped out as they were building it.

Mira:

So we want to get rid of this actually.

Cedar:

So we're cutting out some older comb from the hive from the edges. We're putting those frames back towards the centre of the hive. And that way, the hive has got lots of room to build more comb. And the queen's got lots of room to lay and we are limiting the swarming tendencies

Mira:

And we might even actually replace this comb completely because the comb guide has fallen out, but we might be able to fix it. Going wonky there.

Cedar:

You will actually find that you can just put that straight back in because you've got a guide of the wax that's left at the top. So we're cutting all the way around the edges there. And we've got a nice big piece of honeycomb and you can just put that straight back in like that if you want to.

Mira:

I've popped that one in next to that frame that had the queen to give them more space to draw brood. And I know that this frame we pulled earlier is a brood frame. So I'm gonna pop this one in next to that one, just to try and keep the brood a bit more together. Even though we're adding those new frames, we are encouraging the bees to draw space for the queen to lay. So pop that one in there, and the last one is a honey frame, which I think we can just put back on the edge. So they've still got plenty of honey in this hive. Even though we removed two full frames of honey.

Cedar:

If you do want to make a feeder, then add a teaspoon of salt to a big bottle of water. And what that'll do is give it some minerals and the bees will like that better. And if you put that water in a tray of sorts where you can see the bees don't drown in it. Put in like a whole lot of pebbles or something like that for them to stand on. That will really help the bees. Even sand and water, they'll prefer that to just a tray of plain water.

I've got an outside shower here. And you know when the bees are starting to get a little bit low on water because they come for the pebble area and you get a whole lot of bees there having a little drink on the stones, in the mud.

Mira:

It's a little bit dangerous having an outdoor shower after the surf. You've got to watch out you don't tread on a bee.

Cedar:

But most of the time they don't go there. It's just when they can't find much else. So most of the time the bees are fine. You don't really need to put out water for them. If you're in an extremely dry area and there's no dams or anything nearby, then putting out some water could be a good thing. But I said, most of the time, you don't have to worry about water. The bees will forage far to find some water to cool their hive. Mira's found something else to look at here. You might've noticed that clear view hood. We mentioned that once before, it's something that's now an option with our bee suit. You can zip it in or zip it out as you like, let us know what you think of it. Really handy.

Mira:

It's super cool if you like filming your bees. I can really focus. It's easier to see eggs. So yeah, I'm really enjoying this. I can actually see what I'm filming. Awesome. Thanks Cedar. Nice one.


Beekeeping Questions


I've got two brood boxes on my hive. Can I just remove one brood box to make a split?

Cedar:

You certainly can. Some people choose to do that, where you run a double brood and then it's a case of doing a bit of shuffling, making sure there's bee eggs in both boxes. The one without will raise a new queen, or you can buy in a queen and make sure you're putting it into the one without the queen. So basically you'd just be taking your double brood, making sure you're shuffling the frames around to get some good brood in each of them and putting that one beside it. And that can be a great way to do a split. There's quite a few videos on how to do various different types of splits on our YouTube channel and also at TheBeekeeper.org.


If honey is red, does that always mean that it's tainted?

Cedar:

No, red honey just depends on what flowers they foraged on. Around here my honey is almost always a bit red, except for in the springtime where we get the wild quince and the ironbark coming in. And then you get those really light yellow colours. The rest of the time there's a red tint from our coastal heathland flowers. So it just depends what they're foraging on.


The hive is very busy and it's a beautiful day. Can we put the super on? (Victoria, Australia)

Cedar:

Well spring does come a bit early here in Australia. So basically if you open your hive and it looks like this, with all of the frames drawn out and lots of bees, then it's time to put the super on. But if if your brood frames are still a bit empty, then you can leave that super off. So it's about tuning in with the bees and seeing when they're bringing in resources. If it's still a bit cold and they're not doing much, then just leave it small as a single box. But if they are bringing in resources, there's pollen coming in, there's nectar coming in, the bees are getting busy and there's lots of bees in your box, then go ahead and put the super on.


Any tips for avoiding cross-combing in the hive?

Cedar:

One thing for that is using comb guides to give the bees a good start. You'll want to check the hive regularly in the beginning and prevent any cross comb from getting too advanced. Another thing is keeping it level. So we've put this spirit level on the box in the sideways direction. If you imagine, if the box is on a bit of a tilt, the bees will follow with gravity, which could have the comb running down onto one of the other frames. So that's another thing. But just keep fixing it up. Eventually you'll get some straight frames and they'll follow suit after that. Now, if you're really having trouble, you can of course put some foundation sheets in to get them building straight that way.


I have a hive with 2 brood boxes and 1 super which gave me 15 kilos of honey last summer. To reduce the possibility of swarming this coming summer, would it be better to add another super or do a split? If I do a split I will have to give it away because my wife won't let me have another hive. I already have 2.

Mira:

Yeah you can give the split away. Definitely.

Cedar:

If you don't want a split, then somebody else surely will. Taking a split is a form of spring management that definitely alleviates and makes a lot of space in the brood nest and will limit any swarming tendencies. If you don't want to take a split, you can either add another brood box or another super to give them some space. Or you can get in there and just make some space like we have today by cutting some comb out and making sure they've got some new area to build on again. And away they go with the queen laying eggs on fresh comb.


I added a second brood box last week as I had so many bees. Yesterday I had drones on my landing board. It is still cold here, 14 degrees Celsius max. What should I do? (Victoria, Australia)

Cedar:

If it's still very cold, you just need to be a little bit aware of not taking frames out of the hive when you've got open brood. The capped brood can handle being out of the hive for a while, but if you've got uncapped brood and it's cold, they can suffer from cold shock. So the best time to pull apart your hive is in the mid-morning to mid-afternoon on a nice warm day. So just pick and choose. If you get some warm days, you can go ahead, get in and do some beekeeping, see where it's all up to and take it from there.


Should I remove the super during winter? (Sydney, Australia).

Mira:

I think most people in Sydney don't, but the best way to sort of assess that would be to check in with local beekeepers. So find your local bee club and see what they do. They don't even need to have a Flow Hive. It's just what they would normally do with a Langstroth beehive. So check if the temperature gets cold enough there that you need to remove the super. But from where we are Sydney is not that far south. What would you think Cedar?

Cedar:

Look, I would be tempted to leave the super on all winter, unless your hive is getting weak. In which case you might want to downsize it a bit.


How long does a queen generally live for?

Cedar:

So she can live for up to six years, but she'll normally be superseded prior to then. She'll comfortably be in there for three or four years. And then what you might find is the laying slows down and the bees themselves will actually raise another queen to supersede her. Or a beekeeper comes along and decides to manage the process.


Would a 3-frame Flow Hybrid super fit on a Flow Hive 2?

Cedar:

Yes, you can do that. There is a mismatch with the roof though. So it depends where you put it. If you put it in between, just above the brood nest and under the Flow 2 super, it will fit. If you put it on top, it'll just sit up a little bit. It's still works to put your roof on, but it will sit up a little bit on the inner cover.




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