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August 31, 2021 4 min read

"Bees and Spring go together like peas and carrots since the beginning of time.

Spring is almost here and in Sydney our bees are already out and about collecting pollen and nectar. Due to the fine weather the bees have started early this year and as an indication a friend of ours recently caught their first swarm during the first week of August.

Many of you are planning, or will be starting new hives this year, either using NUCs or swarms or maybe you have a single brood box that you have nursed through winter and you want to know when to add the second brood box or super.

Planning to set a new hive this year?

Some beekeepers believe one brood box is sufficient while others prefer to run two brood boxes, the choice is entirely yours.  For beginners we recommend starting with just one brood box, it’s a lot easier to manage and check. You can try running double brood boxes when you have more experience. The benefit of running two brood boxes means the queen has plenty of room and thus helps to reduce the likelihood of swarming. The second brood box should be added when an eight-frame single hive has about seven combs of bees and brood, and some nectar is being stored. Once the frames in the second brood box are drawn and the queen has laid in six or seven of the frames you can now add a queen excluder and also a honey super for the bees to store nectar.

To encourage the bees to use the second box we suggest lifting the two combs from the outsides of the bottom box and place these both together in the center of the new brood box you have added. This will encourage the bees to move up and occupy the next box. The rest of the box can be filled up with either drawn frames, if you have them, or frames of foundation, the bees will eventually draw these out. For those having established hives now is the time to do your spring management, which, if carried out regularly in spring will minimize the chances of the bees swarming.

Spring management:

Choose a warm sunny day with little wind. Remove the hive lid and place it upside down near the hive. Remove any honey supers you might have and place these on top of the lid. Now you can access the brood box. Using your hive tool remove the second frame from one side and check both sides of the frame carefully to make sure the queen is not on the frame, then place  it carefully in your frame holder or rest it against the side of the hive.  Now you can go through the rest of the frames, one by one, to check them.

Things to check:

  1. Look at the condition of the frames to ensure they are in good condition and replace any that or old or discolored. You can use your own judgement on this.
  2. Look for any diseases, especially AFB, EFB, Chalk brood, etc. If you are unfamiliar with Bee diseases we suggest you google this subject, there is a wealth of information on the internet.
  3. Check the amount of stored honey; this is critical at this time of the year because the bees need honey and pollen for brood rearing. If insufficient then you will need to feed the bees with a 1:1 sugar water solution. Only use white sugar and only feed enough that they will use in one week, before adding more. Beekeeping Gear has a range of feeders available.
  4. Try to spot the queen; it is not essential to spot her as long as you can see eggs and brood present in the cells.
  5. Adding frames of foundation at this time of the year gives the young bees something to do to keep them busy and gives the queen space to lay. These actions all help to prevent swarming.

It’s important:

When inspecting the frames keep a sharp lookout for queen cells. These are 'Peanut looking cells' on the frames. There are three types.

Queen cells along the bottom and sides of the frames are usually swarm cells, a sure sign that the hive is about to swarm. If you destroy these the bees are likely replace them. It is best to use these to do a split, take the frames with the queen cells and including attached bees and put them into another hive box or nuc and replace those you have removed with drawn frames or frames of foundation. By doing this you are fooling the bees that they have already swarmed.

Queen cells on the face of the frame are either supersedure cells or emergency queen cells. In both cases do not destroy these or you could find yourself Queenless.

Bees construct supersedure cells when they determine the queen is ailing or weak, so their aim is to replace her. They build emergency cells when there is no queen present, either she has died or you have lost her when manipulating the frames. In both cases, emergency or supersedure a queen will eventually emerge and hopefully be mated. If you destroy queen cells then you could end up with no queen.

Drones: In the spring as well as producing brood cells the bees will construct drone cells; these are slightly larger than brood cells. When the queen moves over the comb to lay her eggs she will detect that these cells are larger, so she lays an infertile egg in each cell, which will then become a drone.

Note: It is important to check for swarm cells every seven to ten days during spring.

The Deadly Beetles: Small hive beetles are a serous menace which can destroy your hive if you give them the opportunity. This year is likely to be no exception. Make sure you have a suitable protection scheme in place. Install beetle traps