First Opening for the season

Today we decided to open up the hive to clear up the hive from over the winter. Adrian joined me and was a very calming influence.

As the wooden spacer had been left on the hive over winter, the bees had built up some comb on top of the brood frames. Some had uncapped honey in the comb and some were empty.

We cleared all this off and took down to the house so we could take out some of the honey.

We had a quick look in the broodbox – there was a lot of bees and clearly some brood as well as stores.

A generally good sign for colony.

Season Preparation lecture 2

Swarming – important to manage swarming as you will then have more honey.

A huge cloud of bees that then settle. A few minutes later they take off to a permanent home. The first setting will be on a  low branch.

A prime swarm – first swarm with the old queen and lots of bees.

Caste – smaller groups.

Queen cups – these are normal and not to worry.

Queen cell – look like peanuts (3cm long and 1cm wide).

Scout bees will be sent out to look for somewhere to go.

When – April – July. Around noon. When the first queen cell has been capped.

Triggers – primary reason is overcrowding.

Others –

  • lack of ventilation
  • lack of space for nectar flow
  • not enough space for queen to lay
  • too many nurse bees for the number of larvae.
  • too many wax makers

Overcrowding causes a lack of the queen pheronome – queen died or old queen.

Indicators of no queen:

  • no eggs
  • emergency queen cells
  • may be no capped brood

Leave 2/3 close together and leave for up to 3 weeks.

No queen – usually July/Aug

  • Supercede queen cells
  • Full size queen cell and not many.
  • All stages of brood
  • Let them manange it – the old and new queen can live together.

How delay

  • March/April – remove all damaged frames
  • Remove frames with winter stores
  • Remove frames with lots of drones
  • Mark queen
  • Inspect every 7 days – look for increasing drones and queen cells. Place super ahead of the need. Ventilation important in hot weather so remove the entrance block. You can sue a super as a brood box.
  • Reactive – if see queen cells.
    • Can you see eggs if not then they have already swarmed.(leave 2/3 cells and leave for 3 weeks)
    • If eggs then sue the swarm control method.

Adrian Waring Swarm Control method

Found lots of queen cells and eggs/early larvae.

  • Find a good queen cell.
  • Have a spare brood box.
    Knock bees off frames and move to a new box (leave the queen). Include frames with lots of small larvae and brood in all stages.
  • Frame with the queen cell – brush off 50-75% of the bees (make sure queen is off) and move to the new brood box. Move 3 queen cells over.
  • Leave most bees in original hive.
  • Put empty new frames into the original hive
  • Original hive – flying bees, queen, 1 frame of open brood.
  • New box – all brood, no bees, queen cells. Leave for 3 weeks.
  • Put the original hive back together
  • Note – flying bees will fly back to the original hive.
  • Consider if the new hive has enough stores? usually yes but you could feed. You need to feed after flying bees have left (usually a few hours after separation).


Drones – They have congregation areas and drones will move around colonies and can travel up to 8 miles.

If away for 2 weeks between April and June – make sure there is enough space and put extra supers on.

Super – add one when there is 5 good frames of brood

Season Preparation Lecture 1

The lecture today was to give information about preparation for the next few months.

Jan, Feb and March – these are the biggest risks for starvation. The bees have been consuming more food this year as with the winter being mild then the bees having been flying.  March is the biggest risk.

It is important to get an idea on how much stores you have left – heft your hive. life it up – if it is easy to lift then they will be low on food. If hard to lift then probably ok.

It is also important to make sure they are still alive – put head on crownboard and listen for buzzing. Also can tap the side of the bix ans you should hear some buzz. If you tap and there is no buzzing – prize off the crownboard and look. If they are moving then good but if not then may have a dead colony. 5-10% of colonies fail. If failed – remove to shed/garage and seal up.

it is normal for dead bees to have been thrown out but if drones then an indicator that the queen has failed.

Feed – give the bees some fondant icing as the bees will treat it as stores. Place it over the hole on the crownboard. Check it once a month and keep going until oil seed rape is in flower. Look where the bees are and place the fondant icing over the cluster. If needs be move the crownboard around.

On mild day (8c) you will see bees flying but only to empty themselves and collect nectar.

March –

10c – there will be flying bees.

Remove the mouseguard.

If you did not treat for varoea in the autumn then treat now but would need to be apistan. Treat as a nuc (half of the recommended amount)

15c – get flying bees and now is the time for the first inspection. Go from edge and just looking for brood. Be less than 5 mins. Just need to see if queen is laying. Move the frames of brood to where the bees are. If there is no brood or predominately drone brood then unlikely to survive.

March/April – you will need spare equipment available to prevent swarm (spare hive or super).

April – Don’t mark queen on the first inspection – do when the drones are in the colony but best early in the season.

If you are still usung nuc frames – move the old frames to the edge of the box and then remove once no brood.

If lots of drone brood – remove the frame as they will just keep producing drone brood there.

Frames with brood – move 3 frames to the end of the brood frames. If you remove 3 frames then feed with sugar syrup but no super.

Once got 5-7 frames of brood then need to add the super. You will start the season with 5 frames of brood. If you have a week colony – you will have 2-3 frames of brood. By mid April the colony should be bigger than the nuc size colony.

You will get a mid spring dwindle – bees from the winter will be 5 months old so will end with up lots of dead bees.

By mid april – should  have queen excluder and 2 supers. The super with drawn foundation should be closes to the brood.

7 day inspection from April.

Swarms – usually from May but can be April.

Weak colony- only have 2/3 frames of brood by mid April. By mid April – the colony should be bigger that you got as a nuc. Be aware you will get a spring dwindle where bees from the winter will be 5 months old so will get lots of dead bees.

By mid April – queen excluder and 2 supers. The frames with drawn foundation need to be nearest the bees.

Autopsy of a dead colony

Take inside a garage. look at the bees that have been thrown out. Check if a mouse was in the hive. Block it up.

Signs that died from starvation – heads inside the cells.

Chronic beer paralysis – black and orange body – stress.

Signs that the colony will die:

  • aggressive colony.
  • produced new queen in Sept.
  • Fed but they were not keen to take food.


Winter preparation in progress

Over the past few weeks  I have been preparing the bees for winter. I have been feeding them sugar syrup (1kg sugar with 600ml warm water). The feeder takes 1.75lt per 4 days. This is in a empty super.

Apiguard treatment nearly done (2nd sachet added on the 30th Sept so will be removed by the 28th Oct) and mouse guard is now place.

It has been a bit stressful as I took the entrance block out to turn it round to the smaller hole. the bees didn’t seem very impressed as this reduced the number of bees hanging around the entrance but I’m sure they will thank me in the colder months. I had to lift up the brood box and bees came out the side and a few ended up getting squashed when putting the brood box down (let’s hope these didn’t include the queen!).

It has made me realise that I actually quite nervous around them, especially when doing things at the front of the hive, since the incident earlier in Sept.

So now I just need to wait until they stop taking the sugar syrup and then I can leave them alone the winter and hope they survive.



Well today I decided to to the frames back in the super – what I thought would be a simple and quick job was very different.

I went down there with just my gloves and jacket and brush. When I got down to the hive the lid wasn’t on straight – i took the roof off to discover that there were lost of bees on top of the crown board – the insert covering the holes was not laying flat so the bees had managed to escape from the super. The bees were not happy that I had disturbed them. i had bees crawling over my legs so decided to go and get my trousers and wellies – but didn’t get my smoker. This was my downfall.

I went back and they were more agitated than before as I had left the lid off so they had started to get cold. I decided to quickly put the frames back in the super and replace the crown board and roof. Sounds simple but was far from it. I ended up loads of bees all over my jacket, gloves and trousers and despite walking away from the hive they didn’t move. I tried to use the brush to move them off me – this didn’t work. I was getting stung through my clothes – I was getting very stressed so hence so were the bees. I then discovered that a bee had got into my hood – despite trying to squish I was having no luck. In the end i decided to take my jacket off and hoping the bees would fly off.  This didn’t really work – I ended up with bees around my head and arms.

By the end I had abandoned my jacket, trousers, gloves and wellies in the garden. I had been stung on my arm, legs, little finger and ear (and later discovered one on my back). I managed to retrieve my clothes and they will now be washed given the amount of stings.

Big learning curve – always take a smoker and fully suited up.

Brief Inspection

After my winter lecture, i came home and took off the 2 supers that had some honey on it. The bees seems rather calm so decided to do a brief inspection. There were bees on about 8 frames in the brood box and few bees in the super. There were larvae, capped brood, honey and nectar. I couldn’t see any eggs.

I left the rest of the super on and plan to remove the super next weekend ti then start feeding and treating. This will give the bees chance to move the honey down to the broodbox.

In general they seem happy, calm and grown a lot since my last visit.

Feeling much more confident that they will be big enough to work through the winter.

Winter Preparation

Today was my CBKA lecture on Winter preparation.

Honey – it was recommended not to leave supers on the hive over the winter.  There is a belief that a colony can survive the winter on stores in the broodbox. As they move around the hive as a group to keep warm, it is easier for them to just move around the brood box. You can leave the super on, but you would need to remove the queen excluder to allow the queen to move with the rest of the colony. This then leaves the need to move her back to the broodbox in the spring and eggs and larvae being laid in the super. In theory these risks are minimal as the colony will have moved back to the brood box in the winter but it adds an extra complication. The general advice is that unless you have a large colony then stick with the broodbox only.

Extraction – you can use an extractor but only worth it if you have many frames. If you only have a few then it is simpler to cut off the sealed honey and allow the honey to drip through a sieve into a bowl. You could also use an uncapping tray. uncapping-tray

Then the honey can be bottled but worth allowing the honey to settle firm so all the air bubbles come to the top. This prevents the honey crystallising on the top.

Varroea Treatment – it is recommended to treat Varoea if you have had a number if bees affected by the mite. If you have not had a bad infestation, you could leave the treatment but would need to treat in the spring. Apiguard is a slow release gel where vapour is gradually given out to kill the mite. There are 2 cycles needed with each pack lasting 3 weeks. You need to start to treat by the beginning of Sept and preferably earlier. Put the sachet underneath the crownboard – you will need to build a shallow square frame the same size of the hive to allow enough size for the sachet. Alt put an empty super box but this will make the hive cooler.

Apistan – an alternative treatment. These are strips that are hung on frames and left for 6 weeks. This affects the honey and you are unable to sell any honey left in a hive treated with

Feeding – you need to start feeding the bees from beginning of Sept and keep feeding until the bees stop taking the food. This is essentially sugar syrup (2lb of sugar dissolved in 1 pint of warm water). There are a range of feeders but recommended an English Feeder or Rapid feeder as they are less messy in re-filling. The bees will draw the sugar syrup into the brood chamber to give them around feed for the winter.  You can give emergency feed in early spring (Jan) with a bag of fondant icing.

Mice – need to put a mouse guard over the entrance.

Woodpecker – they will peck at the hive to get access to the bees. Either surrounded with chicken wire or put a plastic covering of the hive -with the plastic cut into the strips on the sides of the hive.

Over the winter – keep checking the weight of the brood box to get a sense of having enough stores. Remove the floor board to allow the air to circulate around the hive and prevent dampness.