How did your colony weather the cold?
In northern NSW we’re already seeing an escalation in activity around our hives – a great reminder that spring doesn’t always arrive when the calendar says it does.
As the temperature warms and daylight hours lengthen, the queen will increase her egg laying to expand her colony in readiness for the abundance of forage on offer.
As soon as the temperature is warm enough, it’s time to inspect your hive to discover how your bees fared over the colder months.
Your checklist for spring preparations:
- - Plan your first brood inspection for spring
- Does your hive or equipment need some maintenance?
- Plan to expand your apiary or share with a friend – how will you meet your growing colony’s requirements?
- Do you have a swarm capture kit on hand?
Your first inspection in spring
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.
Often you’ll find that everything isn’t perfect – don’t worry, things are rarely as you’d expect!
This is one of the advantages of owning two hives for side by side comparisons – you’ll learn more from each colony’s unique temperament plus you’ll be able to offer support from a stronger colony if one is ailing.
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.
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.
Benefits of multiple hives
In spring, your colony will likely reproduce by making preparations to swarm.
You’ll need to make plans on how you will accommodate this new apiary edition, by either adding a new hive to your apiary or gifting to a friend.
Apart from being able to harvest and share more honey, owning two hives ramps up your learning and understanding of the fascinating nature of bees.
Each colony is its own unique microcosm and community, with two you can compare colony strength, productivity, health and support ailing hives with queen cell transfers or brood if needed.
If you’re short on space, setting up a hive for a friend is an excellent opportunity to inspect and learn without the additional ownership.
Expand your apiary with a great saving
To celebrate the approach of spring, we have a special to help our Aussie Flow Community take advantage of this beekeeping season.
Featuring our Australian Flow Hive Classic Araucaria in your choice of 6 frame or 7 frames, an organic beekeeper’s suit, stainless steel smoker, goatskin gloves, a J-Hive tool and Flow Veil, PLUS a sweet saving of €78!
You’ll have everything you need to make the most of this year’s spring blooms.
Spring preparation for colony expansion
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 beekeeper’s 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.
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
Before things get busy 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 jobs need 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.
Will you split your hive?
If you have a large, healthy hive it is possible to create a new colony from it by making a split.
The concept is that you take a portion of an 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 possibility of creating one from existing fertilised eggs.
Splitting your hive is the most successful way to mitigate swarms and is considered a responsible beekeeping practice.
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.
Swarming is the natural way bees reproduce and multiply, however, it’s considered good beekeeping practice to take steps to avoid. Feral colonies can pose a risk to the public, your bees, other beekeepers, and honey bee biosecurity in your country.
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.
The thrill of a swarm catch
When a colony has made the decision to swarm, sometimes it’s unavoidable.
Luckily, catching a swarm of bees is one of the most joyous parts of beekeeping and it is 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.
Need extra help?
There’s always more to learn to grow and deepen your knowledge in beekeeping.
So in conjunction with the world's experts we've created TheBeekeeper.org
It lets you fast-track your learning easily and enjoyably. Learn in your own time with high-quality videos explaining what you need to know in order to feel confident looking after your bees.
What is your question?
Share with a friend
Help a newbee set up a hive or split your colony with a friend! It’s a great way to speed up your beekeeping knowledge.
Our Refer-A-Friend program allows your friend to receive $50 off their first hive (or just share the bundle offer featured on this page to get a $115 spring discount), and you receive a sweet $50 reward (no further discounts apply).