Live Q & A with Cedar

by Flow Hive 34 min read

We’re still in lockdown, so Cedar did another Q & A from home. He covered a lot of topics in detail, including hive placement, Flow Frame maintenance and swarm prevention



Video Transcription

Good morning. You're here with Cedar Anderson and we're streaming from my house. Hopefully, the stream's going to hold up and here we are. So it's the time of the week where you put questions in and we'll get to answering those live. The idea is we hope everyone gets started in beekeeping. So if you've got questions about how to get started or something with your hive that you need some help with, then we can help you. Not only me, but also all of the other people out there tend to chime in. So if you see a question in the thread that you have the answer to, get in there and help answer. It's all about just helping each other along the way in the wonderful pursuit of beekeeping. So we've got some questions coming in. I'm going to read them out. I don't have the team here today because we're in lockdown.

Let us know where about in the world you are tuning in from, it's really great to see where you are. It's an amazing thing. Here we are with our spring just dawning in the Southern hemisphere, just starting to pop, it's an exciting time. In the Northern hemisphere, the opposite, the season's winding up. You might get a light flow if you're lucky. And then you've got the tropical regions, which seem to have flowers all year round. So there's a few different things and questions that will come from the various different regions.

Beekeeping Questions

I'd love to start beekeeping. What is the best way to get started?

My answer to that would be people start in all sorts of different ways. Some people like to jump in just get a hive and get going. And others like to do an incredible amount of study first. And there's no wrong way or right way. It doesn't matter whether you're learning as you go or whether you're doing a lot of study. It's up to you, both ways do work quite well. So I'll give you a few options. One is we If you're the type of person who really likes to study, then that's a fantastic beekeeping course we've put together, which is aiming to take you from square one all the way through to a deep, even scientific knowledge of beekeeping. It's also a fundraiser for habitat, regeneration and protection. So that's a great thing to have a look

If you just want to jump in and get started, that's the kind of person I am. I'll tend to just get whatever I'm interested in and learn along the way. Get your equipment, get it ready, put it together. And then the idea is you need to put your bees into the hive. And there are a few ways to go about doing that. One is you order what's called a nuc from a bee breeder, which is basically a going little beehive. You've got four or five frames in a little box. And then you need to get in your bee suit, transfer them into your Flow Hive brood box and look after them and they'll grow. You can also order a package, which is kind of a similar thing, but without all the frames, it's just the bees. It's like an artificial swarm of bees, if you like. Another way is taking a split from somebody who actually has bees. And that can actually be a helpful thing, because in the spring you need to monitor how many bees are in your hive. And if there's a lot, you either need to add another box or take a split to make some room in there. Otherwise what you'll find is the bees do the natural thing and half of them may swarm away. So taking a split can be a great way to get started because you can help somebody else just manage their hive in the springtime as well. So there are a few ways there to get started.

The weather is warming up in my area. What do I need to look out for in my first spring inspection?

So in the springtime, you should have a laying queen. So the idea is you get in your bee suit, you get your smoker, you do one of your brood inspections. You take out the brood frames, and you're just looking to see that you've got a happy, healthy laying queen. And that means looking right down the cells for those little eggs or larvae. You don't necessarily need to find the queen. It's fun to practice, but you don't need to find the queen. You can simply just look for evidence of her, which is either young larvae or little eggs that look like a tiny little grain of rice in the bottom of the honeycomb cells in the brood box. So once you've established that you've got a laying queen, it's just about monitoring the hive and making sure that it's building up nicely. And then when you have a lot of bees coinciding with the nectar flow, then you get amazing results of stored honey. While you're doing your brood inspections, you're also looking out for anomalies, where if the brood pattern is really kind of patchy or there's sunken dot cappings with piercings in it. You're always looking out for things like that, which is a sign that your hive is sick and could have AFB or EFB. Hopefully, you never get that, but always be on the lookout for signs of disease as well. It's mandatory to do your brood inspections at least a couple of times a year to check for disease issues.

Can I repaint and reseal my hive while the bees in the hive? And if so, how do I do this?

You can, if you are going to do something like that, then of courseprotect yourself. Look after yourself, wear your bee suit and your gloves if you're new to beekeeping. It depends as you go on and you start getting more comfortable around your bees and starting to know their temperament. And also comfortable even to get a sting or two. It's up to you. Some people really don't want to get stung. Some will have adverse reactions to stings and other people don't mind so much. So as you learn as a beekeeper, you'll get to know that and decide if stings are affecting you in a way that's not good, then you can just really protect yourself with your bee suit and your gloves. And that way you can really get around the entrance side of the hive and give it a coat of oil. So just getting back to "can I recoat the hive with bees in it?" The answer is yes. Once the bees have a laying brood nest in the hive, they really don't want to leave the hive. So you can go ahead, give it a bit of a rub with some sandpaper and give it a bit of TLC and add another coat of oil or paint to the outside. I find it works quite well if you go in the early morning, you can even get across in front of the entrance because the bees aren't typically in that area yet.

What do I need to do if wax moths get into my hive and cause holes in the brood box?

So wax moth is really a secondary problem. They're a moth that's about that big and they love to feed on nice, dirty beeswax. If you've got a thriving colony, the bees will keep them out. There's really nothing I do with wax moth. Now, when I used to beekeep in the conventional way and I'd be taking off the stickies, they're called, when you've extracted and spun the combs out in a centrifuge in the conventional way. You often end up with all of these stickies and the wax moth have really damaged them. They'll get in there, they'll rip the combs apart, build their nest and even start damaging the wood. When you've got the bees in the hive, they're very unlikely to do any damage. They will stay outside the hive. 

Unless of course your hive has gotten so weak that the wax moth and hive beetle and things like that are taking over. In which case you've got a bigger problem than the wax moth to deal with. Sometimes you can get a buildup of wax in under the screen bottom board. So in your tray or on your Corflute slider, the wax moth can hang out there. You can simply clean them off from time to time is all you should need to do. The great thing with the Flow Hive is you don't really need to go through that process of storing lots of boxes of old waxed frames in the shed anymore. You can leave your boxes on the hive and then just harvest the honey. So you're storing honey rather than storing boxes full of frames all around your shed. It's just a little bit of a different thing if you're used to conventional beekeeping to wrap your head around having actually less equipment. And I think it's wonderful because you don't end up with that big mess in your shed to deal with.

Can you tell me what the moisture level of your honey coming out of the Flow Hive system is?

So honey, typically, if it's capped, the bees are trying to get it down around that 18% moisture content. That means it's got 18% water in the honey. Now the bees are trying to do that because water, if it's too high, let's say it's up around above 20%, then you're likely to get fermentation occurring in your honey in the jars, on your shelf. So beekeepers are mindful not to harvest too early. If you harvest when the frames aren't capped yet, you're likely to get quite liquid honey. And you can see it in the jars, shake the jar and you see the liquid all shaking around in the jar and you go, "wow, that's not really behaving like honey is supposed to behave." And that's a sign that the moisture content is way too high. You're going to need to consume that before fermentation starts to occur. Or you could turn it into honey mead. Now there's a thing called a refractometer. 

And the question is, "can you tell me what the moisture content is coming out of the Flow Frame?" So one day I'll get out the refractometer and we'll do a live test of the honey coming out and have a look and see what the moisture content is. It should be, and usually is, down under that 20% range. And that means it will keep on your shelf. Sometimes in the more subtropical or tropical regions, the bees can actually get a bit lazy on getting the moisture content down low enough, and you can find even a capped frame can have a higher moisture content. Beekeepers in a conventional fashion, commercially will blend a honey with a high moisture content with a honey with a low moisture content, just to homogenise the moisture content below that 20% range. Hopefully down at 18% so it will keep on the shelf and not ferment. If the moisture content is low and the lid stays on that honey could keep for even thousands of years, like the found honey in the Egyptian tombs. Just incredible, incredible property of honey.

Can different types of pollen make your bees more aggressive?

That's an interesting question. If you've got experience with that, chime in on the thread below now. I find I hear stories, more anecdotal, that different nectar can make the bees a bit more aggressive or not. Now it's hard to really gauge, but my experience is the bees get a bit more aggressive when they've got not much to do. So say they've got a great honey flow on, and then all of a sudden it stops and they're all twiddling their thumbs and a bit stir-crazy, they can be a bit more protective of their hive in that case. So I'm not quite sure whether the different types of pollen would affect it to answer your question, but different things going on in the environment in terms of the flowers coming and going can affect your bees in that way.

It's our first year beekeeping. We have very few nights that reach freezing during the winter. Should I just leave the honey super on through the winter? They will not make enough honey for us to harvest this year.

So in our area, we leave the supers on all year round. The super is the name for the box you're collecting honey in. In our case, it's a Flow super, which is the top box where we're collecting the honey and where our invention sits. Now, it would be a good question to ask your local beekeepers. There's a great local knowledge, usually around you from all of the beekeepers that work in your area. We leave them on all year round, where we have a climate that might be similar to yours. We get very occasional frost in the winter, and that's about it. In the Southern regions, people do tend to downsize their hive. They take one or more of their honey supers off and give their bees just a little less room to look after through the wintertime. So that's another thing you can consider to do as well. You could probably go either way in your case, and it might be just dialling in on your bees. If they're a nice big colony, they'll probably handle fine to have the box in its full-size, brood box with a super on top during the winter would be my guess. But ask around with your local beekeepers. And if you've got knowledge in that area, chime in on the thread as well.

Should I consider the placement of a hive in regards to the possibility of swarming and my neighbours?

Swarming bees can cause issues with neighbours sometimes. And it really depends on your neighbours. I find the best thing to do, if you're keeping hives in an urban area is get some jars of honey and go next door, keep your neighbours sweet. They'll love it, it creates great conversation. And you know, it's very rare to find somebody who doesn't like honey. So that's a good thing to do. But as said in some of oursituating your hive videos, it's a good idea to really think about where you're placing your hive and where the bees are going to fly out of their entrance in regard to your neighbours and people on your place and pets and things like that. 

Ideally, you want the bees to be able to get up and away without bothering anybody. For instance, if you point your hive so that they're going right over your neighbour's fence, then they might not like that. As to swarming, you can't really control where they're going to go. So it doesn't really matter in that regard. They'll typically go a hundred metres away or so from your hive when they swarm. What happens is half the bees kick out the queen and they will all take to the sky, they'll group up and land temporarily within about a hundred metres while scout bees go out looking for a new home. If that's the case, then they could be over your neighbour's fence. You're going to have to go and have a conversation with them if they haven't alerted you to the fact that there's a ball of bees hanging on their washing line. And explain to them that they're just doing the natural thing. They're usually not aggressive in that phase and all you need to do is shake them into a box. Most of the time, that's fine, but some people do have anaphylaxis to bees, which is a scary and dangerous thing that you should look up and study up on first aid. Just as people have allergic reactions to other things like peanuts and so on, bees can trigger that as well, and it's rare, but it can happen. So if you've got somebody with anaphylaxis, then they might be a bit nervous about swarms of bees in the garden and so on. So do check in, find out about your neighbours. Swelling from bee stings is normal, but anaphylaxis isn't. So just a few things to look out for and be mindful of the people around you.

Is it possible to attract bees to live in my garden naturally? I'm not sure if I want to actually keep them in a hive. I just want to contribute to natural bees well-being. (Sydney, Australia)

Fantastic, absolutely. Planting flowers in your garden is a great start. Leaving areas of your yard unkept is a fantastic thing to do as well, because there's about 20,000 native bee species in the world. And they most of them are solitary bees that don't even need a hive at all. And they nest in things like holes in mud, in straw, in little holes in pieces of woods and reeds and things like that. So you can make some habitat, and I believe we've got some links on our website to help you get started. We also run a fundraiser making Flow Hive off-cuts into little pollinator houses for those native bee species. A great thing to be doing is giving them stepping stones across the urban landscape. You never know, you might just help save a species from the brink of extinction. So that's a great thing to do, planting flowers and also creating habitat. You'll get both European honeybees, which are the ones we keep in the Flow Hives and the native bee species coming into your garden. So a wonderful thing to be doing is providing that space for them.

In my Flow Hive, it's showing four vertical cells full. Should I start to extract, or should I inspect the full frames first?

It's always a wonderful thing to do to be having a look at what's going on inside your hive and really matching up what the windows are telling you as to what's going on inside the hive. But we have designed the Flow Frames to give you a decent idea of what's going on inside the hive and allow you to harvest without having to go through that process of pulling apart your hive and taking those frames to a processing area. Looking at the rear window view, if you're seeing a filling pattern, which is the cells, you can watch them filling all the way down. They're getting full, getting fuller and getting fuller and then they're starting to put the cap on. Then you can be pretty sure that once they've got that cap on that the frame is mostly capped and ready to harvest. 

One thing to look out for though, is if the bees get a bit hungry and start like a checkerboard pattern on that rear window view where there's full cell, empty cell, full cell, empty cell like that all the way down, then that's a sign that they did fill it up, but then they actually got hungry and started to use some of the honey in the end of that frame. If they're doing that, they could also be removing honey from the centre of the frame as well. So monitoring the frames over time, you'll start to learn when it's appropriate to harvest and when it isn't. So look in that rear window, look in the side windows, and yes, if I was you and I was watching it fill, watching it fill, and you've got a few frames in the centre of your hive nice and full, I would go ahead and harvest. The bees are likely to still be bringing honey in if they've got that filling pattern and they should replenish it quite quickly.

In general, will a spring nuc need a split or another box in the first year, or does it usually take a year of building?

Most likely not. Some bees will build up really quickly, it depends a bit on genetics and depends a bit on your season. You will sometimes get amazing luck where your hive will go crazy. They'll fill up a whole box of honey, they'll be overflowing at the entrance, they'll be all the way up the front of the hive. And certainly if you're seeing that, you're going to need to give them another box or a split, or they may swarm in that season. But normally not, you'll be installing your bees and they will just start to build up and hopefully you get a good honey crop in that first season. So it's a case of just looking and if you open the side windows and you can't even see the comb, there are so many bees, it's a good idea to get ahead of the curve, take a split or add another box before they start on building queen cells to swarm. 

Genetics plays a big part though. I've got a hive right here, the one in the garden that I spun the camera around to show you earlier. And that hive there, I did actually split it last season, but I didn't really need to, it was more because I wanted to get some of those genetics into another hive. But previous to that, it's been four years running and it has been able to control its size very well to the season and the size of the nectar flow. And it's not got swarming genetics, as in they don't really build up to that swarming kind of tendency very quickly. A hive like that can go season after season without having to take a split or even make space in the brood nest. So genetics does play a big part as well. On the converse, we've had strains of bees that will build up so quickly they'll swarm multiple times in a season. And while that can be fun for a little bit, if you can hang around and catch swarms, it also can be annoying. And especially if you're in an urban area, you're probably gonna want to get in there and introduce a new queen with new genetics that has less swarming tendencies. Long answer, like most things in beekeeping.

Is it okay to drain all the Flow Frames during the warmer months?

It doesn't matter whether it's the warmer months. It's more whether there's nectar coming in ahead. So typically that is the warmer months. In the springtime you can get a lot of honey coming in and you might be able to harvest all the frames several times if you've got a really good season. If you find from local knowledge, there's likely to be not many flowers coming up, which is typically in your wintertime in most places, then it's a good idea to leave the honey for the bees and find out how much you need to leave your bees to get them to survive over winter. In our area, it's none, we can harvest all year round. But in a lot of areas, you need to leave half a box full of honey or a whole box full of honey, or in extreme cases. If you're in somewhere like Canada, you might even need to leave two boxes of honey to survive many months of cold snowy winter.

How do you clean the Flow Hive when you harvest all the honey for storage over winter?

Okay, that's a good question. One that we don't need to grapple with in our area because we're in a subtropical region and we can leave the Flow super on all year round. We've got somegreat videos on overwintering You can also look up Fred Dunn'sYouTube channel. He's got some overwintering videos as well. There are a few things you can do.

One is you can either just take the box off as is and any remaining honey in it, you can either put the box into a freezer or keep it in a cold area, so fermentation is unlikely to occur if you've got open honey cells. Then you can just put that box back on when it comes to spring. So freezing is a great way to preserve if you can. If you're living in a freezing climate, then you can just utilise that by keeping it outside. Another method is just choosing a time when there's not much honey left in them to take the box off. You can harvest your Flow Frames and leave them in open position for a couple of days, then take the box off. The bees will take out any remaining honey and you'll be able to remove a dry box of honey like that as well. If you are in one of those cold winter places then you'll need to remove the super for winter. Other people like to leave it on for the wintertime and simply remove the excluder and allow the bees to access the remaining honey in the Flow super over the wintertime. There's no right answer to all of this, but find out what you can from your local beekeepers and also from online tutorials and try and see what works for you.

Starting my first hive next year. Would bees and birds not get along if I have a lot of brood feeders?

Birds and bees will get along fine. There are some bird species that will eat bees, but it's kind of tit for tat the way I see it. We have the rainbow bee-eaters, which are a beautiful little rainbow bird. That's aptly named bee-eater. They eat bees and they will have a great time in the apiary coming in landing on top of hives, waiting for a bee to be airborne, and they'll catch it on the wing. Now they don't generally catch enough bees to actually be detrimental to your hive because remember your queen can lay up to 2000 eggs a day, 2000 bees can be emerging every day. And if some bird species are getting a few of them, then that's usually not a problem. So birds and bees will get along fine. Most bird species don't eat bees, but you will find a few that do. And I think that's okay.

I have just brought another Flow Hive and want to do a split this spring. What is the best distance to have the hives apart?

So when you first do your split, I find the best thing to do is actually to keep them right up against each other. Bees are really clever. They know which hive is theirs, even if the hives are right up against each other. So the reason why you do that is the bees coming home can then choose hive A or B to come home to. And you can use that to send some of the bees to the weaker one. So if you follow some of ourvideos on how to split your hive, what we'll be showing you is to put the new hive right beside the old one. And in fact, you might want to move the parent hive over a little bit to give the new one, which is usually the weaker one, the lion's share of the returning bees coming home. So that will just help pep up the bee numbers in your new hive, because bees are very location specific. Even if you move your hive over, they'll still return to the original spot. It's amazing how accurate their GPS is.

How do I move my hive from the front yard to the backyard? I can't do it gradually is there's not enough space down the sides of the house.

You've, got a few options here, just like everything in beekeeping. But what I would do if it was me, I would use a disorientation technique. Bees, as said, they GPS lock onto their position. When bees emerge from their cells, one of the first things they do is their orientation flight, weather permitting and that orientation flight is a little buzz around the entrance of the hive. It can get confusing for new beekeepers that looks like swarming, because they tend to do it in batches. Typically when the sun first comes out, if it hasn't been out for a little while and you'll see a whole lot of activity in the air. That's your bees orientating, taking the landmarks and locking on to that hive position. So in order to get bees to lock onto a new position, you need to disorientate them somehow. And one method of doing that is you could pick up your hive, move it to the new position, and that will be best done in the early morning. So you might even decide to close the entrance just before light and you can either move it then, or you can go back to bed and wait till a little bit later. Don't allow it to get too hot if you're locking the bees into your hive though, and do make sure they've got plenty of ventilation. Now get somebody to help you carry your hive to its new location. In your case, you're just moving from the front yard to the back yard. 

Then before you let the bees out set up an obstacle. So you can remove some really bushy branches of a tree or shrub and pile them in front of the entrance. Or you could get a piece of cloth and tape it around the front of your hive. You could even wet that cloth a little bit. And what will happen is, the bees will come racing out as they do enthusiastically out of the entrance and crashing into that foliage or that cloth. And they'll go, "hang on a second, something's different." And that's the trigger for your bees to reorient. Most of them will then do a new reorientation flight and lock on to that new position. Now some bees stay out overnight, they'll be hiding under leaves and things like that. Let's say they just didn't quite make it back before dark. They had too much of a nectar and pollen load and it was just too far. They might just hang out for the night. So any of those returning foragers will go back to the old position. Also, not all of your bees might reorientate to the new spot, in which case you'll get a few handfuls of bees at the old location still. So you can either let them work it out and hopefully they find the hive in the backyard. Or you can put some resemblance of a bee box there, or even a cable box there for them to go into. And in the evening you could take that to the backyard and shake them at the hive entrance of your hive and keep moving them from your front yard to the back. And that way you get the last remaining stragglers as well into the new position. So that's probably my most common way of moving bees a short distance and it works quite well. 

If you do need to remove them completely, let's say you're doing some earthworks in your front yard and you really needed them out of the way. Then it might not be appropriate to have, this ball of bees this big there, while the earth moving equipment is coming in. In which case you might need to move your bees more than six kilometres away, about more than four miles away, in order to go further than the landmarks they usually see. And leave them there for three or four weeks, and then bring them back to the new location you want them in. That's the surefire way to make sure you don't get many bees at all left behind in the old location. And as you said, in which case you don't have the ability to move them step by step. But if you are just moving them, say 10 or 20 metres, you can just go a metre or two at a time. That's an easy way to go as well, just by moving them once or twice a day, a metre or two, and the bees will follow your hive to the new location that way. A little bit there to take in, but it's amazing when you think about what bees are doing and really important to think about how they geolocate to that position.

At what stage do you need to do maintenance on the Flow Frames?

If you've left your frames in your hive, the bees look after them. There's a few caveats on this. So basically if you're doing textbook harvesting, everything's perfect every time, then what you find is the bees will look after them. And there really isn't any maintenance to do apart from unblocking that little leak-back point so that honey doesn't build up in the trough area. Now, if you've done that and everything's fine, you won't need to do any maintenance. If you find that little leak-back point is blocked and it happens to be a frame that gets some spillage into the honey trough area, then you might need to clean that honey trough area out prior to your next harvest. And you can do that by getting a dishcloth, one of those nice thin ones, wetting that, putting it around your Flow key and just poking it into that trough area to wipe it out. In an extreme case, you could even switch water in and out by putting the Flow tube in there, running a bit of water up from a hose and letting it swish out again. Don't connect the hose, you don't want water flooding into your hive, but just allowing it to swish in and swish out to flush out that area. Something I rarely ever do, normally it's clean enough to go ahead and harvest. 

If you've gotten into a situation where the cells weren't closed properly. So here's one problem that can occur with Flow Frames and you usually pick it up later on down the track. If you do a harvest, then you open your hive and pull out the Flow Frames, sometimes some of the cell lines haven't been harvested. Typical reason for that is the last time you harvested the cells didn't go back together properly. And what happens if they're sitting up a little bit, let's say you did a quick close and moved on, the idea is when you insert the key in that top position, that you allow a little bit of time, 30 seconds or so for the parts to move back into the fullycell-formed position. Wax and propolis move slowly. You want to move it all out of the way to get your proper hexagon shape. Now, if you were in a hurry and you just went flick, flick, and moved on to the next frame, you could get some that kind of bounce back a little bit. And the cells are sitting in that shape, not quite closed, but not quite open. The bees will still use that. They're incredibly tolerant to the shape of their cell, unless it's a bit more like that in which case they won't at all. But if it's like that, they will. So basically at that point, you'll get a buildup of wax and propolis in the very last bottom cell. And you can see if it's not lined up because you see the foot upwards like this. Now, if that's happened to you, what happens is then when you go to harvest, the mechanism at the top doesn't have enough force anymore to lift it to there. Because when you turn the key, the flexible member at the top, which is designed, so you've got some give in the system, if the parts are jammed completely with solid candied honey or something, if it's already sitting up, then it can't provide enough force to do the rest of the opening. So then you're in a situation where not all cell lines open. To cut a long story short, the piece of maintenance, if you get into that situation, is to take that frame out, leave a key or two in the top slot and put that frame in the sun to warm up. It's best in a black plastic bag to limit UV exposure. And what you find is the cells will then push back down into the correct position. You can go ahead and put that back into the hive again, and next time all the cells should behave themselves. 

So a few things there in maintenance, other things that could happen is you've left the box off the hive for some reason, for a while and wax moth and vermin have gotten in. You might want toclean them up a little bit before putting them back on the hive, just with a hot hose or something like that. Give them a wash, dry them out and put them back on the hive. Again, generally, if they're on the hive, the bees look after them and there's no maintenance you need to do. By the way, if you are having any trouble whatsoever with your Flow Frames, do get in contact with us. The idea is we're here to help you and help you get the best experience you can with using our invention.

I have external feeders as we are in a dearth. How will they affect my supers?

So dearth is the name for when there's not many flowers around. External feeding is feeding outside the hive. So if if you've got external feeders outside the hive, that means you're putting either a clip-on thing to the entrance, which has sugar water where the bees can lick it up from, let's say an upside down jar with holes in it. Or some people in some places are allowed to do outside feeding, where they've actually got a whole drum full of sugar syrup and they'll throw some hay or something in there. And the bees can go in there thinking it's one massive flower full of nectar and feed that way. So that can affect your honey crop because the bees may store that as they would nectar and create honey from it. But it doesn't taste like honey, it tastes like sugar. So in that case, you're polluting your honey harvest with sugar syrup. And the best thing to do is when the dearth is over and they're starting to store honey in the supers is stop feeding your bees. So typically people feed just prior to winter. So they've consumed all of the feed by the time the spring comes around. Or they will feed in a dearth, as you say, when there's not many flowers around and stop feeding as soon as the flowers start to show some nectar again, and the bees are really bringing in that nectar and pollen again.

If I rotate my frames and take out the honey frames, can I extract them and then place the stickies under the roof for the bees to clean the foundation?

I assume you're talking about the brood box. So you've got your brood box, which is the bottom box. You've got just normal frames in the bottom in the conventional way, which is either a wooden surrounds with foundation in them, or naturally drawn with a comb guide. The bees have been using them for their brood, the wax has turned old and dark and it's time to start cycling those out. After a couple of seasons, it's a good idea to remove those ones in the centre, to the edge of the hive, wait till they're all filled with honey and there's no more brood in them. And then you can take a frame out away from the edge and then you can replace that with a pre-prepared frame. Or if it's naturally drawn comb you've been working with, you can simply cut it out in the field, like we didlast week on live. We show you how just to simply cut out some of the old dark comb in the hive and put those frames straight back in for the bees to rework. 

Now, if you happen to have a little bit of brood in some of those frames, as you said, you could place a frame on its side, under the roof. You could only place one there, but it is a bit of a trick I have used, not very often. But let's say there's just a tiny bit of brood left and you're impatient. You don't want to wait any longer for that to emerge. You really just want to cycle out and move on to your next jobs. And in that case, you could put a pre-prepared frame back into the centre of your brood nest or nearby. Then take that one with a tiny bit of brood on it and put it on its side under the Flow Hive roof. Make sure there's a bit of space between the comb and the inner cover. You might need to prop it up on a couple of little props and bits of stick or something like that. And the bees will look after the remaining brood in that location, the nurse bees will come up and once they've emerged, you can then take that frame away from that location. So this is a little trick you can do if you need to.

I have a Flow Hive and have added my nuc hive, which was a five frame added with three new foundation frames. The bees are happily collecting a lot of pollen. Do I need to feed them sugar syrup to help them build a stronger colony? (Melbourne, Australia)

Spring is just around the corner for you. And I would talk to your local beekeepers about how far away it is or whether they would feed. You could probably go either way, if you really want to mess around and give your bees a bit of a jump on the season, you could make a feeder. We've gotsome videos where you just get the jar with holes in the lid. And you put it upside down on the inner cover and the bees can feed through that hole in the inner cover. So that's one thing you can do. It probably doesn't matter either way at this point, because spring is just around the corner for you. And you could just allow the season to start.

What if my bees don’t seem to bring in much honey? I've been feeding, but they don't seem to be storing. (Utah, USA)

So you're in your fall now. And basically you may or may not get much of a honey flow at this time. So it might be time to prepare your hive for winter, ask your local beekeepers what they would do in this situation. As you're doing, it might be good time to feed, let the bees make some stores. So they've got something to survive on over the wintertime. Or you might find that that you do get a light honey flow. Your local beekeepers will let you know whether you're likely to, in which case you still might get a honey crop yet. Okay. Well, it's not quite fall, but it's close. Spring starts early here in the last month of winter. So according to the bees here is springtime, but we're really still at the tail end of our winter.

It's the middle of summer and we still don't have much honey in the top. Can you give me an idea of maybe what we're doing wrong? (California, USA)

You're likely not doing anything wrong at all. The recipe for getting a great honey crop is a healthy hive with great bee numbers, coinciding with a great nectar flow, when the flowers are dripping with nectar. Beekeeping, like most pursuits, is a bit of a patience game. You get your good seasons, you get your poor ones. It's really exciting when you get an amazing season where the honey's pouring in, you harvest it all and it feels straight back up again. But equally you can have a poor season for whatever reason where you're not getting a whole lot of honey stores, and you might have to wait till the next one. Or you might get a nice autumn nectar flow as well. So ask your local beekeepers what to expect. And also one hive can be quite different to another. I always recommend having multiple hives and it's surprising how one might not do very well, might not bring in much honey while another one, you might've been able to harvest multiple times. And that way you can benchmark. And perhaps you've got a queen that's not very virile, perhaps is in the later stages of her life, when she's not laying many eggs or perhaps there's another problem in your brood nest, which is slowing your bees down. Now, if you've got multiple hives, you can start to benchmark that and decide whether one hive does have a problem, or it's just the season. Patience is probably the thing you'll need in this case.

Do you miss being a full-time apiarist? I assume most of your time is spent educating and company running.

What I miss most is being in the workshop inventing things. It's funny, you know, you set about doing something and it sounds like you probably have some experience with the business of running a company. You end up doing 90 something percent other stuff. And just a small percentage of the thing you actually set out to do which is, you know, mucking around with new inventions is my happy place. Particularly beekeeping ones. Having said that I'm starting to get more time. I've got an amazing team around me, lots of family helping and they're taking the lion's share of the myriad of things that needs to be done to make sure we can keep making Flow Hives and getting them out to you. And that means myself and my father were able to get back into the workshop and get back on to inventing things. Yesterday, we had a wonderful time in the shed testing things, making a big sticky mess, and that's my happy place. 

So yes, I definitely do miss that time just to really delve into delve into the projects. It certainly is no small undertaking. We have 40 or 50 staff and we were building the hives and shipping them all around the world. It does take time away from some of the things you'd love to be doing. But it's also wonderful as well in terms of being able to have this opportunity to share what we love doing. And one of the things I really love about it is the community that has formed around the Flow Hive and our invention. And the fact that now no matter what your views and values are, we can all agree that we need to save the bees and protect them and look after the habitat around us. So we've got a great community of people all around the world, like-minded, united by really wanting to make sure we're looking after our bees and doing the best we can for the habitat.

This spring, I am working on swarm prevention. What should I be looking for? (Sydney, Australia)

The primary trigger for swarming in your hive is overcrowding in the brood nest. So that's what you'll need to alleviate one way or another. So you can do that by adding more boxes and shuffling some frames upstairs, or taking some frames out. You can do that by cutting some of the comb out from the brood nest, as we showed you last week. You can do that by taking a split and taking some of those frames from your bottom box and moving them into a new one. And that will also alleviate that overcrowding in your hive. You can also do that by cutting down the queen cells. So that's another way some beekeepers like to do that. They'll get in there, they'll see the queen cells and they'll tear them down. And that will not limit the trigger for swarming, that will limit the actual swarming by not letting them raise a new queen. So there's a few options there. My preference is to take a split because that's something that's great to do anyway. If you don't want another hive, somebody else surely will. So taking splits is my preferred method. I simply go and see which hives are really building up in numbers. You can even do that just by opening the observation windows and seeing if you've got a lot of crowded bees in your window. If you can hardly see the combs, get ahead of the curve, take a split. If there are queen cells on the frames, you can move them in straight into the new box and that will give them a headstart.

Where are you located?

I'm located at the most easterly point of Australia in a subtropical region. We can harvest honey year-round usually. Although we do get times where you've got not much of a nectar flow, where for whatever reason, the flowers aren't flowering, and there's not much for the bees to bring into the hive. So I'm at home right now, living on a beautiful property with a forest around me, veggie gardens and so on. And it's a great place to do some beekeeping. But you can also do fantastic beekeeping when you're in urban areas and people get amazing honey crops in the city as well by having bees on their balconies, on their rooftops and people plant different forage all over the city. So you can really get some extended beekeeping seasons, often better in the cities than in the rural areas, which is a surprise. But that long season really helps them as people are planting such a variety of flowering species.

It's my first winter keeping bees. I know that the numbers have dropped significantly and there is evidence of wax moth droppings in the bottom tray. What should I be doing and looking for in my first inspections after winter, when weather permits? (Melbourne, Australia)

Fantastic. It's great you're really thinking about your bees and looking after them. So just clean out the wax in the tray. Typically you'll get wax falling through your screen bottom board into the pest management tray underneath. Just give that a good clean out and put it back and you probably won't see the wax moth getting through. Now, if you do get an issue where you've still getting wax moths actually coming down through the screens, then they could be an issue that's quite advanced in your hive. Most likely they're just feeding on the wax that's fallen through from your screen and your bees are keeping them out of the hive. What you'll need to do in your first inspection is just ascertain whether you've got a laying queen. In some cases, in a long, cold winter, the bees, for whatever reason, don't survive all the way through or the queen doesn't make it and you'll need to reintroduce a new queen in spring, or in some cases reintroduce a new colony to your hive. If the numbers are dropping, but there's still numbers, then that's normal. The bees will throttle the numbers down when there's no forage, so that all of the honey isn't consumed in a hurry and there's enough to last for the wintertime. So it's normal to have a reduction in numbers. So what you should do on the next appropriate warm sunny day is get in there, get into your brood nest and just have a look and see what's going on. Have a look around, have a look at my first brood inspection, we've done a couple of good Facebook live streams. Also take a look and have a look and see what you should be expecting and what is normal to find in the brood nest. You should see the queen starting to lay her eggs and little grubs down the cells showing that they're starting to increase their numbers in order to take advantage of the spring coming here in the Southern hemisphere.

Thank you very much for all your great questions and tuning in. I don't have the team with me here today, I'm simply just tuning in from on the veranda at my place. We are in lockdown here in New South Wales, Australia. Let us know what you'd like us to cover next week. And we'll see if we can keep answering your questions and helping you get started in the wonderful procedure of beekeeping.


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