Jarli inspecting his swarm and split

The father and son beekeeping team was in full force today as six-year-old Jarli inspected the hive he split along with the swarm he caught recently. His dad Cedar was on hand to help out, check on the cross-comb issues from last week and to answer your beekeeping questions.
 



Video Transcription


Today Jarli is going to inspect his split he did recently, which we just moved into position next to the swarm catch he's done here. So we're going to have a look. For those that tuned in last week, in this one here, we had a bit of a wonky comb experience and I'll show you how that's going and we'll also look and see what's happening in the split as well. So let's get into it. Hey Jarli, do you want to take off the roof? Let's start with this hive over here, so you can just lift up that roof.

Good one. Now that one, you just slide the chisel end of your tool under the cover. That's it, very nice. You want to get off that inner cover there. And because it's right on top of the brood nest, the queen could be on there. So just have a little look for her and see if the queen is right on top here anywhere. Now I can't see her, but let's put that right in front of the hive. So that in case she is there, she can just walk back into the hive. You've got that hive tool there. Do you want to start pulling out some of these frames?

Let's have a look at that one, see how there's a little bit of burr comb in between these two frames. So if we go sideways first, we'll just watch that. That's come away just fine. Over to you again. Let's see, are they building comb on the comb guides?

Jarli

Yes

Cedar

Very nice. Look at that. Just don't tip it over too far because the comb is so weak when it's first starting out. What can you see down the cells?

Jarli

Honey!

Cedar

Yeah, they're bringing in some honey. Isn't that a beautiful thing? Yum. That's a beautiful piece of natural comb hanging from the comb guide there. Notice the colour of it. See how it's not quite white. It's a little bit creamy in colour. That means they're recycling wax inside the hive. This was a split. So they've got frames to recycle from. We'll compare that to the swarm and the colour of the wax in the swarm. It's amazing how they can build those shapes. It's super cool. Now, one thing we can do is put one of these frames on the rest here and that'll just give us a little bit more space to have a look inside this hive and see what's going on. That one's empty. So they haven't got to that one yet. How about the next one? Yeah.

Jarli

It's got two combs. More than this one here.

Cedar

That's good. So they're starting out right on the comb guides, which is what we want. If they were going wonky, we would be straightening them up at this point, but they're going nice and straight. So there's nothing really we need to do except for wait for the bees to finish building this comb. The queen will start laying the eggs and soon you'll have lots more bees in your hive. Now, do you want to take out one of the frames that came from the split hive and have a look what's going on in there? So you might want to go sideways first by putting the tool in between the frames and going across.

Jarli

I'll split that one as well.

Cedar

You want to split that one? Okay, good.

Jarli

There's a lot of comb on this one. It goes all the way down there.

Cedar

So this one's a plastic one. Now, often we get a question, is it okay to mix up the different types of frames? And the answer is absolutely, yes. This just happened to be in the hive we took a split from. It had some nice brood on it so we took that into the split. And Jarli did the split himself, which was pretty cool.

Jarli

Dad, the boot mark's gone away.

Cedar

Ah, yeah, that's right. The boot marks gone away. There was an accidental boot mark in one of these frames when we were doing the split and they've fixed it all up. Well remembered. So at the edges we've got honey and in the middle, we've got brood. And brood is the baby bees going through their larval stage, they're going through their metamorphosis. And if you're lucky, you get to see one emerging from its cell, chewing its way out. And then you end up with a fluffy, new baby bee, ready to do its work inside the hive. It's an amazing thing to witness. And I'm also seeing the queen right in the centre. Can you see this, Jarli? Give us a thumbs up if you can see the queen.

Jarli

Is it a queen cell or is it the queen?

Cedar

It is the queen. See just here?

Jarli

Oh yeah, there's the queen. I can see her right there.

Cedar

That's her, she's running away. She's getting a little bit shy now, just going over the top here and along there. It's amazing, she doesn't look that different to the worker bees. Her abdomen's a little bit longer, she's got bigger legs and that shiny backplate is often a telltale symbol of it. So that's cool. We've got a queen that's still laying in there. On this split, we actually took the queen into the split to give this hive a bit of a boost and we left the hive that we took the split from without a queen. So we're going to have to get back there and check in and see if there is a new queen raised. All right. Getting into the swarm catch. So a bit of a proud dad moment where Jarli jumped on top of the car and shook the swarm right into this box here himself. And last week I showed you how they were building a bit wonky and we were straightening it up and now we're going to get in there and have a look and see what the comb is looking like.

Jarli

Should I lift it up?

Cedar

Yeah. You might want the hive tool to get the inner cover off.

Well done Jarli. Again, looking for a queen on here. Can't see her, we'll rest that against the hive again. And so there's a lot more activity on this. This was quite a big swarm and now we're going to take out some frames. So how about we start with some ones that are easy to get out. If you start with the easier ones that aren't so built out, then you're less likely to rip any comb and things like that.

Jarli

I do want to see the comb.

Cedar

You do want to see the comb? Okay, well, let's take that one out. I don't think there's a whole lot going on on that one yet. Oh, there is.

Jarli

There is comb!

Cedar

Look at the colour of that wax. It's so pearly white because they don't have any wax to recycle, they've got to create virgin wax from their wax glands and it comes out beautiful and white like that.

Wow. Look at that, Jarli. Don't tip it over too much. That's amazing. We've got another beautiful comb here. The swarm is doing amazing. They've only been in this box for almost two weeks now and they're really getting into building the comb on these comb guides. Look at that.

Jai - (camera operator)

How old you are, Jarli?

Jarli

I am six.

Jai

Six years old and already doing beekeeping!

Cedar

Yeah, he's into it. How come you want to do beekeeping?

Jarli

Because it's fun. And I made the beehives and all the bee stuff because I'm going to make a roadside store.

Cedar

Ah, nice. To sell the honey?

Jarli

Yes.

Cedar

Beautiful. That'd be great. What are you going to do with the money?

Jarli

I'm saving it up.

Cedar

Okay. Very good. 

Trace 

Lots of people tuning in and loving the inspection and seeing Jarli and Cedar both doing it together.

Cedar

Look at that, that's an amazing frame. Now, if anyone was turning in last week, we had a bit of wonky comb and we put some rubber bands to hold some of the comb that broke out. We can see the bees changing temperament there. They need a little bit more smoke and our smoker has probably gone out. So let's just get that smoker going again. In fact, we may not have even given these hives any smoke at all. Did we in the beginning Jarli?

Jarli

Yes, we smoked the entrance.

Cedar

Oh good. So let's give them a bit more because it's been a while and I might even top up what's in here with a bit more leaf and garden mulch just to keep the smoker going.

Jarli

Whoa, look at that!

Cedar

Wow. So that was one we've rubber-banded in place. If you see that rubber band there, you'll notice that it's holding some comb in place. Now that's a trick you can do when you're manipulating the naturally drawn comb and pieces break out or they've gone so wonky, you need to chop some pieces out. You can use a rubber band to hold it in place. Or in this case, I use two rubber bands and they've already chewed one away. And they've already connected this broken piece, which is this piece here to this piece amazingly. So they're away now. Still a little bit of a wonk down the bottom. I might even just bend that back into line. But that's given them the right idea.

Jarli

Look, it's all orange there.

Cedar

Oh, what do you think that is? What's happening there?

Jarli

Honey.

Cedar

Well, look, it looks a bit different to honey, doesn't it? That's actually brood, baby bees down in those cells.

Jarli

Cool.

Cedar

Isn't that cool. So we've got a laying queen in here that came with the swarm and we're very happy to see that. Last time we saw some tiny eggs down the cells and already, a week later, the bees are almost ready to emerge into the hive. So they go through about 11 days in the pupal phase.

Jarli

Oh look there's one hatching out!

Cedar

Oh yeah. That's actually a baby down the cell, cleaning her cell. Let's have a look, put it right in front of the camera here. You might need to just jump out of the way that Jarli. That's it, very cool.

So the rubber band technique works well if you need to fix up some comb, hold it in place. Couple of rubber bands and the bees will do the work, connecting it all together. You can also put foundation sheets in these frames, which is a more conventional way of doing it. We don't need the wire reinforcement and all of that because we're not spinning the frames in a centrifuge. So we can just go ahead and let them build it by themselves. Which in my experience is just a bit easier. You don't have to go through that tedious wax and wire, but sometimes they do go wonky and you need to fix that up. In which case a rubber band will often suffice to do that. Isn't that beautiful? We've got the brood in the middle there. The queen's probably somewhere around on this frame. Let's have a look.

Jarli

Dad, look at that bee over there.

Cedar

Oh yeah. Oh, that one got squashed, didn't it? That happens sometimes. Okay. I'm just going to fix up this little bit of comb here at the bottom, just by manipulating it a little bit here like this. See how it's just a little bit wonky. I'm just going to straighten it. And even though it makes it a little bit of a mess of the comb, the bees will fix that up readily and then you'll have a straight piece of comb. And they'll chew away that rubber band and then the job will be done of fixing up that wonky comb. You got another one there? Don't tip it over too much. That's it. Because it's so fragile at the moment, it might just rip right out. Okay. And if that happens again, that rubber band technique could save you there. Beautiful. Well done.

Let's pop that one back in there. Now I just notice they're getting a little bit grumpy. So let's get out the smoker again and give them a little more smoke. That'll just calm them down a little bit. Okay. You got that smoker going. You're going to want to blow a little bit in the top here. That's it, good one. And you'll notice the tone of the hive change at first, even though it seems like you're stirring them up, then they will calm after that.

Jai 

How do you use the harvesting shelf brackets as frame holders?

Cedar

They double as a really nice frame rest here and that just allows you to get a few frames out of the hive and then you can manipulate the hive.

Look at that. Beautiful. Let's keep it over with this hive, just in case the queen's on it. We don't want her to run into that box.

Jai

Jarli, you're doing such a good job beekeeping.

Cedar

I know. Isn't he? So good. Alright, that one's looking good. We're pretty happy with what we're seeing. We might start closing them up again.

Cedar

Let's leave that one in there, Jarli. We're going to put it all back together now. So to put it all back together, what we're going to do is just slowly move the frames over. Putting the hive back together, we just try and put it back in the same order if possible, because sometimes you might otherwise get comb that's touching each other. The bees have to then rework and sometimes the hive beetles will take advantage of that spot where the bees really can't look after it. So this one's nice and straight that can just go beside this one. And if you want to grab the next one Jarli and put it in the side that'd be great.

Jarli

I think I might have seen the queen on that frame. Maybe, I don't know, but I thought I saw her shiny backplate.

Cedar

Well that's often a good way to spot a queen, isn't it? That hive is back together. What we're going to do is make sure we squash the frames together because the spacing is important to the bees. We want to make sure we've got the right spacing of the frames. To do that, I'm going to use a bit of smoke just to smoke the bees out of the way. And then we're going to just push those frames together, leaving the space on either side of the brood box. That's an important step, especially when you're using naturally drawn comb.

Trace

Jarli's getting lots of thumbs up. People loving the two of you beekeeping there, which is really gorgeous.

Cedar

I was just cleaning some of the wax off there. Don't really want them to be building a lot of wax under the inner cover. So I just cleaned some off. If you found it had any honey in it, you really want to make sure you pick that up and take it away. You don't want bees robbing any honeycomb that you've left around the place, or they get a taste for robbing start sealing honey from other hives. And then you get into a situation where you've got pathogens spreading around from hive to hive. And in the worst-case scenario, you're spreading pathogens and also weaker colonies can get robbed right out until they can no longer survive. So a good beekeeping practice, if you do break off any comb just pick it up and take it with you. Use it for making candles and things like that. I'm putting on the inner cover now and we can then put our roof on.



Beekeeping Questions


Apart from checking on the cross comb, what else are you looking for when inspecting the swarm you've caught?

So just making sure there's a laying queen. You need a laying queen in order to keep your hive going. So it is sometimes hard to find the queen, but just the presence of her is good enough. So you're looking down there for tiny grains of rice in the bottom of the cells, young larvae and brood. And if you've got that, then your hive's looking good. But also for signs of disease. So if you've got sunken, dark cappings with piercings in them, that could be a sign of AFB or EFB, and there's a test you can do. We go a lot more into that if you have a look at TheBeekeeper.org, doing those tests. But the main thing is you're just looking out for that happy, healthy look. And you start to get your eye in for what looks right and what looks wrong. If you've got a really sparse brood pattern, then you might need to investigate further to make sure you don't have disease.


How do bees create wax?

They use their carbon source, I guess, from the nectar. So sugar is their carbon source and they do this amazing excretion of wax. I guess we have wax glands in our ears, but not to the same extent. But bees have wax glands for the purpose of excreting wax that they then can mould into the shape. And that's what they build their comb structures out of.


In your experience is all bee wax made equal?

No, it changes. Sometimes you'll get propolis in there as well, which will change the colour and the way it behaves. And sometimes it's white like this, sometimes it's bright yellow. Sometimes it's more cream and over time it can become really dark and hard.


When the hive is still developing could you harvest honeycomb?

You can take a little bit. There's a section with honey by my thumb there. So that's ready honeycomb. So you can actually just chop a little bit out and enjoy that. And the bees will replenish it really quite quickly.


If you add another brood box to your Flow Hive setup, should you move some brood frames over to that other box and mix them up a bit?

Yeah. Good idea. That'll help with naturally drawn comb. If you're adding foundation, you don't have to do that, but if you're going for naturally drawn then to checkerboard the two boxes would be the go. So every second frame will go upstairs and that'll increase your chances of getting nice straight comb.


After moving the frames to my box, do I need to block the hole in the inner cover? Or is it ok for the bees to move into the roof?

I like to, but you don't have to. Some people like to let them go up there and build some natural comb that they can enjoy. I get sick of cleaning up comb in rooves, so I tend to block it and just keep them in the honey super. That's really up to you.


We had a swarm and after capture we found our queen in the split box. With the original hive, how long before we should check if they have requeened?

It can take some time for a new queen to mate. So what you need to be looking for is a queen cell. If there's no queen cells on the bottom of the frames and no sign of a queen within about three or four weeks, then you will need to put another queen in or give them another frame that they can start rearing the new queen.


We had a swarm of bees that we think came out of our Flow Hive. Would the queen be in that swarm? We had new queen cells in our Flow Hive. Is that why they would have swarmed?

Yes. The old queen leaves the hive in a swarm situation. So half the bees will kick out the old queen and away they go. So you will find there'll be a queen in that swarm of bees. And then they will go about building out their comb, like they have done here and start laying eggs. In a rare situation, the queen doesn't make it through the whole process, but generally she does. And a swarm is a great way to start.


We're installing a nuc this week. How often should we inspect that the comb is straight? We don't want to bother the bees unnecessarily.

If you're using naturally drawn comb, just with the comb guide here like this, then nuc will go a bit slower than a swarm. So inspect in a week or two's time. Straighten out those pieces of comb if they need it. This hive didn't when we did the split, they're looking nice and straight. But just have a look again in another week or two after that, and once you've got them building nice and straight, you can then leave it a bit longer.


How many bees does a queen produce in a brood box throughout her cycle?

So she can lay up to 2000 eggs a day, which is absolutely incredible. And she needs to do that when the bees are really strong in full flight. Because if you imagine a worker bee, when they're foraging hard, might only last three to four weeks. And that means if you've got, let's say half the bees are going out to forage, you're going to have quite a big turnover of bees and you'll need to replenish them. Which the queen will do by laying up to 2000 eggs in a day.


Can you use eucalyptus leaves in the smoker?

Absolutely. I often use eucalyptus leaves, just whatever you've got around. Some people have their favourites, but I just use garden mulch or leaves from the ground. And that's pretty easy because it's always handy. Bear in mind in the fire season, you want to put this on a nice metal surface, like the lid of a metal garbage bin. You don't want to get into the situation where your smoker is setting fire to the leaf litter. And there are times where you're not allowed to use the smoker at all. So check that as well.


We found some queen cells in the hive. is that a sign that they will swarm?

In springtime, yes. They're probably gearing up to swarm at that point. So if I were you, I would put those queen cells into a new hive to make a split. So take some of the brood out with some queen cells and put that into a new hive. And it's a beautiful way to take a split. And that'll also limit your swarming.


We had a pretty cold night last night. The colony has swarmed recently and there are not a lot of bees in the hive. We have taken the tray out of the hive, will they cope okay on another cold night? (South Queensland).

So when half the bees leave, what you want to avoid is a situation where the small hive beetle takes over. So if you've got small hive beetle in your area and the bee numbers really drop, they can really take a foothold in the hive. So make sure you're catching them in your pest management tray down here, which you can do by putting a bit of oil in the tray below. So there's a tray down the bottom here, and you can catch some of those hive beetles and hopefully you've got a queen there still that can lay the eggs and build up the colony again, keep an eye on it.


I recently caught a swarm and located the queen. When handling the queen to mark her, is it normal for her to not move straight away? I was very gentle and careful. It seemed like she was a bit stunned. Should I be concerned?

I'm not an expert in marking queens. My sister has been doing a lot of that. But yeah, as you say, nice and gentle. They do make these little queen marking apparatuses, which you can put the queen in and put a dot onto the queen's back, on their thorax.


I put the super on my hive a week ago. Do I need to inspect the super and what should I look for?

With a Flow Hive, you can see what's going on through the observation windows on the side. However, if you're really getting into it and excited about taking things out, then get in there and have a look. There's no harm in doing that. And what you'll see is the bees joining up all the little parts, getting ready and coating things in wax. Getting ready to store the nectar in the Flow Frames after that. But unlike the brood nest, we don't need to go through that inspecting for pests and disease. Focus on inspecting the brood frames from time to time, just to make sure it's happy and healthy down there.


We had some cross comb that we fixed up using the rubber band method. When should we go back in to inspect that?

Good to get in there a week or two later, just to make sure everything's working well and that the bees are building in line. Because just a stitch in time saves nine, just by pushing them into line. This, believe it or not, was the first time I'd ever used the rubber band technique. I often find they just build straight on the combs and might only need a tiny little tweak. But this swarm went very wonky and some comb broke. So hats off to you for getting straight in there and using the rubber band technique to fix up.


What kind of bees do you have in your apiary at the moment?

So these are just a bit of a mix. I did purchase a bunch of what was called Italian queens, but I've also purchased Caucasian queens and then they interbred with whatever's around in the bush. So you'll find in your hive, you've got dark bees, light bees, all sorts of different bees. And that's simply because the queen will mate with many different drones and you get that genetic material in your hive and a bit of diversity in there.


Thank you very much for all your questions. Tune in again, same time next week. And also let us know what you'd like us to cover. And have a look at TheBeekeeper.org if you want a handhold and a good start in beekeeping. It's also a fundraiser for regeneration and protection for bees. And thanks Jarli for catching this swarm and making your split.


 

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