Beginner beekeeping November
Good morning and thank you for joining us. We're in the Flow Hive apiary here today and it's beginner beekeeping Q & A. So if you've got any questions, put them in the comments below and we'll get to answering those. We all started off as new beekeepers once, so don't be shy. Put your questions in below and we'll get to answering those. Also let us know whereabouts in the world you are tuning in from, that's always helpful to know. We've got a community of beekeepers all around the world now, which is just fantastic. All communicating, all helping each other learn. The whole idea is we help each other learn. Meanwhile, let's just harvest a bit of honey because it's springtime here in the Southern hemisphere.
And you can see here, I've got a lot of honey in these frames. We've harvested a couple of these frames recently and they filled them straight back up again, which is exciting to see. And it's wonderful when you get the bees really healthy, lots of them in the hive, coinciding with a big nectar flow. In the spring here in the Southern hemisphere, they really go and get a lot of nectar and turn it into a lot of honey. And lucky for us, they store more than they need. and we can share some too. So let's just have a look at this hive. We've got a lot of bees coming in the front. We've got a lot of bees in the side window looking really good, looking really healthy. You can see them coming and going from the landing board, bringing the pollen on their hind legs.
As they fly back from their big journey back from the flowers, they're foraging up to 10 kilometres in radius, which is incredible and bringing the nectar and pollen back into the hive to create this gorgeous honey. So the way we harvest is we get this key here and we put it into the frame and simply turn it. And channels are forming inside the comb, allowing the honey to flow down to the bottom, down the tube and into our jar. This is interesting. We often get the question "is there any debris in the honey?" And sometimes they can be, you can see here, there's a whole lot of waxy bits that have fallen through as the bees make it. It's pretty unusual, but there it is. You can give it a little cleanout if you like, otherwise it'll just float to the top of the jar and you can just simply skim it off.
That's the wild quince, which is a beautiful flavour pouring out of the hive into these jars here. So as you can see, that was just the initial bit of wax that the bees must've chewed up and had fallen through into the trough area. It doesn't usually happen, but it can happen sometimes.
How often do you requeen? How many hives do you have?
There are about 20 hives just here and I've got another 40 at my place. And my sister's got another 20 at my place. She's been breeding them up quickly. How often do we requeen? For me, it's not often. I do it on an as-needed basis. Commercial beekeepers will requeen every couple of years because they're after the production, they need that extra 10%, 20% production from a really virile working queen. They can't afford to have hives that aren't really performing at their best. I will requeen if a hive is aggressive is the main reason. Or if the hive is really struggling and just not picking up like the other hives are. Otherwise, I let them do their thing. And if it's a healthy hive and they're producing some honey, then I'm happy.
What are the health benefits of eating honey?
So honey is full of minerals, phytonutrients, enzymes, vitamins, and it's also got medicinal properties that can heal wounds often, depending on what flowering species the bees have been foraging on. So they do say beekeepers live longer. I'm actually, I'm 80 years old, so it's probably working for me. Who knows whether that's a myth or not, but we do know that honey is highly medicinal, highly beneficial and can even heal wounds that some of our medicines cannot. So it's pretty neat stuff.
Is there anything I can do about mould in brood boxes? Is that a problem?
If you're getting mould in the brood box, it probably means your colony's not strong enough to look after all of the surfaces. So it might be a good idea to pack down your hive and make it a bit smaller. So you could take the super off and requeen it so that you've got a lot more bees coming through from a new virile queen. Then you can count on the bee numbers in the hive looking after all the surfaces and keeping them free from mould and so on. Also, make sure you're not getting a lot of water coming into your brood box. And if it's out in the shade, move it into the sun.
I have just got a new colony. Do I need to reduce the entrance at this time of year? (NSW, Australia)
Generally, here where I am, I don't reduce the entrance at all. Flow Hive entrances are slightly smaller than conventional entrances, the reason is to limit those robbing behaviours and things. But it's still an adequate size entrance for ventilation for when the hive is strong. But if you're in a really cold climate, generally a bit where you're getting snow buildup, you would use entrance reducers during times with no flowers. The bees can get really hungry and start looking to rob out other hives, especially if you've accidentally left honey out. Which you shouldn't do, that can get the bees into a stealing honey mode instead of looking for flowers. In that case, it's a good idea to reduce your entrance size down. We have entrance reducers, or you can simply poke a couple of bits of wood or something like that in either side.
What should I look for in my first brood inspection?
For your first brood inspection, you've probably just got your brood box set up, you haven't got your super on yet. And what you're mainly going to be looking out for is whether you have brood and young larvae or grubs down the cells. That's showing you the presence of a laying queen. So we've got lots of videos at TheBeekeeper.org if you want to have a look there. We've also got lots of YouTube videos showing you through your first brood inspections as well. You've got your bee suit, you've got your smoker, get some help if you're feeling nervous about it. You're taking the lid off and your lifting up those frames and just having a look, staring at that world of what the bees are doing. And you should see brood in the cells, or at least some young larvae showing you that you have a laying queen in there. And that's probably all you need to look for on your first brood inspection. You don't need to overwhelm yourself with getting into looking through everything, learning everything at once. Just get in there, marvel in the world, check that you've got a laying queen, put it all gently back again, and that'd be a great first brood inspection.
What happens to the wax cappings once you've finished harvesting?
Through a decade of development, we had all sorts of crazy contraptions pulling the capping off in the side because conventionally, you've got to pull the capping off the frames in order to harvest. Lucky for us, we didn't need to do that. And the bees are very quick to notice that the honey has disappeared from beneath the capping beneath their feet. And they are quick to start chewing the capping away, remodelling the cells, and the whole process starts again.
Hello, we've got a bee coming for the honey. If you notice that, it's a good idea to cover up your jars with some kitchen wrap or some wax wrap. But if you do find a bee is coming for the honey or getting in the honey, you can just put it back on the landing board like that. And the other bees will clean them up quite quickly. But what you want to avoid is, if there's a dearth and the bees are really hungry and they're in a robbing mode and they're coming for the honey, you don't want hundreds of bees actually getting to the honey. So you want to minimise the time you have honey uncovered available to the bees.
Can you explain a bit about how bees fly?
So bees are incredible little fliers. Look at them go, look how fast they're going. And a hive like this could pollinate 50 million flowers in a day. And if you add up all the bee flight, it's multiple times around the world. So bees almost defy the laws of nature in terms of what is possible. Their wings beat at 240 cycles a second, and they fly up to about 40 kilometres or 30 miles an hour. So on really windy days, they're going to make use of the friction of wind lower down to get to where they're going. On days that are less windy, with their flying speed they can out-fly the wind and just cut a nice track straight to the flowers. They’re such incredible little insects.
I've heard of some people having trouble turning the key to open the Flow Frames. Have you run into this? And if so, what do you recommend if this happens?
So if it's hard to turn the key, just do it in segments, like we did. It often is hard to turn the key. I'll just give you a demo. So if you just put the key all the way in, you're in the bottom slot there, and you try and turn it and often the wax and propolis is so strong that it's quite hard to turn. But the simple answer is you can just turn the key, put it in a little way and turn it and put it in a little way further and turn it again and again, and that just makes it easier to turn that key.
I see that you don't use an ideal super. Is that because of a cool climate? (Victoria, Australia)
An ideal super is like a shallower box, this size is called deep. An ideal is a shallower size box often used for collecting honeycomb. So we don't make that size box, we just stick to the one size. However, if you want to add shallower boxes for collecting honeycomb, you can go ahead and do that. Get out there and experiment, try all sorts of things, see what works for you. You can also collect honeycomb under the lid of the hive by pulling the cap out of the inner cover. And you might want to confine the area with a Tupperware kind of dish in the top. Or you can also collect some honeycomb from down in the brood box. Usually, the ones on the side will be honey and in the centre is where they've got their brood.
We have our hive in partial shade on the edge of a forest, and we're suffering a lot from hive beetles at the moment. Would it help to relocate it to full sun? (Brisbane, Australia)
Partial shade is pretty good, especially if you can get some shade in the afternoon. Particularly in summer, that's wonderful for the bees helps them with cooling the hive and regulating the temperature. However, as you see here, these hives are in full sun all day. If I was to choose full sun over full shade, I'd choose full sun because sometimes you can get things like chalkbrood build up in the shade. However, hive beetles, I don't think they're so choosy between shade or sun. I just think some areas have a lot of hive beetles. And if the colony is weak, then get out there and trap some of those hive beetles. Generally, if the colony is strong, you don't have to worry about them. They will look after the hive and corral those beetles into the corners and stop them from laying in your hive.
I noticed with my first inspection that the bees are building comb on top of a couple of the frames. Is that normal?
Yeah, that is quite normal to get some comb build up on top of the frames in the brood box or up here, it's a sign of a very healthy hive. They're looking for more space to store honey. If they're looking for more space to store honey, perhaps it's a good time to harvest some of your honey and give them some more space to refill those frames again.
Do bees fart?
Not that I know of. There are some strange noises that come out of beehives, but it's usually the queen making noises that can sound a bit like a fart. The queen will communicate for a myriad of reasons. And it can be a war cry in terms of she will fight other virgin queens to the death in the hive to make sure she still has the reign. And that can be a piping, tooting, almost a frog-like noise sometimes you'll hear. But bees don't defecate in the hive. They will always do that outside. They're very hygienic like that. If the bees have been in the hive for a while, stuck in there, perhaps it's been raining for a week, then all of a sudden when the clouds part, there'll be flying out and you'll see these yellow dots falling. Sometimes on the front of the hive, sometimes out near the front. And that is actually bee poo.
My hive swarmed three times already this season taking a lot of our hive. How long will it take for them to fill the top box again?
If you've got ultra swarming genetics like that, it could be a good idea to replace the queen with some known genetics from a breeder. If you've got really swarmy genetics they breed up really fast, but then they keep taking off. And if you're there to catch them it's great, you can build up an apiary quite quickly. But it's hard to be around all day, waiting for your hive to swarm and watching where they go. So it could be a good idea to get in there, take the old queen away, wait a day, introduce a new queen that you've ordered from a breeder and that'll make those swarming tendencies go away. And often you can have a hive that'll go through multiple seasons without swarming if you've got the genetics.
What is the best way to requeen a hive? I have two hives and they killed the queens I introduced.
The most tried and tested is you get in there, you take the old queen away, you wait about 24 hours, and then you go back in and you introduce the new queen in a little queen cage. That will come from your queen breeder in the mail. Usually, it has about five escort bees to feed her because the queen doesn't feed herself. There's a block of candy at the end. And when you put that into the hive, the bees then chew away at that candy block. And she's released into the hive a few days later. And in that time, the bees then have gotten used to the new pheromone of the queen. Sometimes you'll do all of that and the hive will go and kill the queen you've introduced. So it's a bit of a luck of the draw there.
If you've got a situation where a hive has been queenless for weeks, then it becomes harder and harder for a hive to accept a new queen for some reason. So let's say you've let a month go by. The numbers are really dwindling and the workers are starting to lay drones everywhere. Then it can be really hard to get the hive to take a new a new queen. Then you might want to merge that hive with another colony. You might want to come up with a new strategy. Perhaps you put more frames in from another hive that they can raise their own queen from and give that a go.
Is December Christmas break too late and too hot to set up a new hive? (Melbourne, Australia)
You'll need to ask your local beekeepers and depending on how you're getting the bees. December is still mid-summer here. So I would say, no, it's not too late. You can go ahead and set up your hives in Melbourne. And it might be a good idea to take a split at that time, to go and find somebody who's got lots of bees. They've got them crawling all up the front of the hive and you'd actually be doing them a favour to take some of their frames away, complete with bees from the brood nest. And that can be a great way to start. We've got lots of videos showing you how to take splits from hives. And the other one is you can order a nucleus, which is a starter box, or you can order a full-size box and start from that. The later in the season you go, the more bees you want to start with. So let's say you're in autumn. You might want to try finding someone who's got a whole Langstroth hive just to buy and convert to a Flow Hive. You can do it that way as well.
How can I prevent wax moths? (Mexico)
A healthy beehive won't let wax moth into the hive, but you might find in the tray at the bottom here, you'll get some wax moths taking advantage of the wax that falls through. And just to sort that out, all you need to do is clean out your tray from time to time every month or two, to get rid of that buildup. And then that wax moth issue will go away. If you've got a really weak colony, wax moths could start to invade, but it's a secondary problem. The initial problem is perhaps your queen is not laying enough eggs or you've got some other disease issue that's slowing down your hive.
Thank you very much for watching. Let us know what you'd like us to tune in on next week. And we'll have something interesting to show you. If you want a handhold to get started, have a look at TheBeekeeper.org. It's a great online course with experts from all around the world and also a fundraiser for the bees and habitat and advocacy for these little heroes of our world that do an incredible amount of work that's so important to the whole food chain we rely on.
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