Cedar is on holiday this week, so Bianca is in the Flow Hive office answering your beekeeping questions. The theme is the most popular beekeeping questions on Google.
Good morning everyone, welcome to Facebook live this week. I am Bianca. Cedar is on holiday at the moment and Pete couldn't make it so I'm stepping to help our beginner beekeeping customers and everyone else with their beginner beekeeping questions. So we've got a bit of a theme, which is the most popular beekeeping questions on Google and Trace is going to ask them for me. But put your questions in the comments below and I'll help you out. I started beekeeping about five and a half years ago. I'm by no means an expert, continuously learning, but that's the nature of beekeeping and that's the beauty of it. Because it's a never-ending learning journey. There's so many different ways to approach beekeeping and there's so many variables to consider because it does change across different climates and locations around the world. So a good tip for a beginner is to consider what style of beekeeping, what kind of approach do you want to have with taking care of your bees. And then find a mentor, that's also really helpful, someone local that can help you with an understanding of the different range of answers and questions that you have. And to just observe your colony and understand what you're reading. Because that's the nature of beekeeping. It's all about the bees and helping them do their thing so they can look after themselves, which they're totally capable of. Except, because of the nature of beekeeping and how popular it is in the world, there's actually a lot of pests and diseases, which is a critical thing to understand as a beekeeper. So for example, Australia, we're in the midst of a huge, serious situation where varroa mites have just been detected about two and a half weeks ago. The DPI are still working really hard on the ground to contain it and there is a glimmer of hope that it is possible. So if you're a beekeeper in Australia, make sure your hive is registered and up to date.
And if it's not registered, go ahead and register it. There's nothing wrong with registering your hive, there's no fees or anything like that, in case you haven't done it. But that's just critica so people will be able to keep on top of the information about what they need to do. In New South Wales, the hives are still in complete lockdown. You can't open them up unless you're doing a varroa test. That means no tampering with, so no harvesting or anything like that. It's pretty intense at the moment, but to be kept up to date, I recommend looking at DPIand AHBIC. They're doing a great job on the ground, doing their best to contain varroa mite, destroy it before it establishes. So that's a critical thing right now. It's about containing it. So we can't just treat it because we need to contain it. So let's get into some beginner questions. Trace, what have we got?
Yeah, fantastic, it's so good to have Bianca in front of the camera and Callum on the camera. And also everyone can hear that whip bird call.
Yeah, it's quite close. It's super rainy and foggy outside at the moment. It's crazy. There's still lots of rain up here, but lots of whip birds and there's actually a lot of rainbow bee-eater birds eating all the bees at the front, which happens in the rain around here too.
What's the best season for bees?
Typically speaking it's spring and summer, but it really depends on your location. For example, we're in subtropical climate here where spring and summer is ideal, but it's all about kind of the warmth and the forage available and the diversity of forage. So when are things blooming in your location? And that's what the bees are looking for. The colony will expand when there's warmth and there's a lot of forage available. So if you don't know, ask local beekeepers, but typically it's spring and summer. It kicks off at the start of spring when you first get those warm days and you start noticing flowers blooming. Just be mindful of the seasons. And then you'll be able to understand when it's beekeeping season in your location.
Do bees really die after they sting you?
Yeah. The worker bees, which are the only bees that do sting, they die when they sting. The queen can also sting, the drones can't sting, drones are males. The queen doesn't die because she doesn't have a barb. Where the worker bees, they do die when they sting because they're essentially underdeveloped version of a queen bee. So their stinger has a barb. So when they sting it latches onto their victim and basically their bum kind of falls out and they slowly die. Sometimes they can fly after it, but she'll have a slow death after that. Yeah. So it's true.
I just installed a nuc in my Flow Hive and soon after found the queen bee queen dead outside the hive. A couple of days ago, I tried to do an inspection, but the bees are very aggressive. Any ideas as to why the queen may have died outside the hive?
Sounds like they've killed her and kicked her out. Did they supersede the queen or did the queen die and they've just disposed of her out of the hive. I would be asking your nuc supplier for some ideas. But also you need to inspect the colony to have a better idea of what's going on. And if you don't know what you're looking for, find a local mentor who has experience, someone at a club or something like that. So you know what you're looking for. It will be a good learning opportunity, but that's not normal.
Do the Flow Hives really work?
Ah, so that's a popular Google question. Do the Flow Hives really work? Yes. So they work for honeybees around the world and Flow Hive works in every area in the world where honey bees are currently being kept, that's been proven. So the people I find sort of misunderstand or don't understand is that every element of this hive, which is a Flow Hive, is identical to a Langstroth, hive other than the Flow Frame mechanism. Which is the invention in the super, which you can see through the observation window. So this dimension and this whole box is identical to Langstroth hive, which is the most commonly used hive in the world.
So the question is yes, regarding the Flow Frames. Yes, they do work. There may be some things to consider that people question, if they can be harvested when it's too cold? The questions I ask is, should you be harvesting from the Flow Frames when the Flow super is so cold? Should the Flow super be on the hive if it's so cold and it can't be harvested? Beekeepers prefer to only add the Flow super when there's a strong flow on during a season. And all of this information should be sourced with the local and experienced beekeepers, because all of the same care for the colony and application with the hive is the same as the local beehives. So for example, if you like to insulate your hives to give your bees the extra support they need to get through those extreme winters, then do that to your Flow Hive.
When you buy a Flow Hive does it come full of bees?
No, they don't come with bees. So you need to source bees locally yourself. So that's just there's generally five ways to do that, which is a nucleus, or nuc for short, and that's just basically a mini hive with five frames, a mated queen, brood and resources, and about 10,000 bees. You could actually buy an established colony from a Langstroth hive from a local beekeeper, Gumtree in Australia is a great place for that. Make sure they're a reputable supplier and you actually they're registered beekeeper and you actually fill out the paperwork because there's a few cowboy suppliers out there. So you gotta be careful, people taking the opportunity to sell bees and they don't really know what they're doing and it can be quite dangerous. Another one is catching a swarm. So that's in spring and summer, typically when a colony multiplies roughly half the colony will leave with the old queen. People catch that swarm and you can just shake it into the box, add the brood frames and they'll start building on the frames. Another way is a package of bees. So that's not quite so popular in Australia, but it is in the USA. So you just basically order it by courier, a big package of about 10,000 bees with a mated queen. That's actually a bit of a safer option in terms of there's no existing comb where you can retain disease such as AFB or sacbrood in the existing comb.
A lot of people think that you can just stick the hive outside and the bees will come. That doesn't happen. It could happen. You could put swarm commander, which is this product that smells exactly like the queen's pheromones and smells a bit like lemongrass. And that's what called is what is called a bait hive. So you could stick it out in an ideal location outside, put the product in and hope that the scout bees will find that location and all agree that it's fit for a permanent spot. And they'll actually all move in. It does happen, but it's a bit not too effective. You could be waiting a few seasons before getting your bees.
But bait hives are a great idea if you've got a spare box and you're not relying on it, just stick them out in in the forest. But the question is where are those bees coming from? Do they have any traces of AFB or anything? And so some people put those hives in quarantine and see how they're going, if they've brought in any diseases with them. And then if everything looks safe then they can use them as per normal and join them with their existing apiary.
I am outside the exclusion zone for varroa, but the weather is so rainy that I can't do an inspection. How can I be sure that there are no varroa mites in my hive?
The DPI have some recommendations on that. It's recommended or advised to do a sugar shake test every year as a beekeeper in Australia. And that is to detect any varroa mite. You can buy a little varroa test kit. You collect 300 nurse bees on the brood, because that's where the mite reproduces. And then you shake it with icing sugar, and then underneath, it has a bit of a filter and you pour the bees out and you can see if there's any varroa mites.
So that's great you're outside of New South Wales and you can inspect your colony. But it's a good idea to start getting experience with that because who knows what the future is going to bring and just to be on the front foot with that sort of stuff is a really good idea. People say it is inevitable, we may very likely have to learn to live with it. So I'm just looking at how other people in the world are dealing with varroa and what are the best ways to do it? Look at people in similar climates to ours to see how they're doing it. Because it really benefits if there's a brood break in your season, such as like harsh winters where it breaks the cycle of varroa. But here in a subtropical climate, we don't have that so much. So I will be looking at how other beekeepers in a similar climate to us in the world with varroa, what they find are the most effective methods for identifying and also treating it.
Can you still harvest honey from a Flow Hive in New South Wales?
So DPI are saying no tampering with hives at all. So that includes harvesting, even if you have a Flow Hive. At the moment in New South Wales, all that we can do is to a hive is do a varroa test. So no harvesting, even if it's from a Flow Hive. The DPI working so hard on the ground at the moment, so much is happening that things are also changing. So make sure that you're just following DPI and AHBIC for the most up to date information. And last night, they put out a notice saying that they're working on lifting this lockdown as soon as possible. So look out for more information from DPI, but no harvesting from Flow Hives in New South Wales, just to confirm.
Do you have any tips to get the bees through the hot summer months? (Illinois, USA)
So the critical thing with hot climate with bees is a water source. So they use water to air condition their hive, and they can actually go through litres a day, if the colony is super big and it's super hot. The foragers collect the water and they fan it at the entrance. And they actually need that water to cool down on those really, really hot days where you actually risk the comb in the brood box collapsing. You can take out the pest management tray in a Flow Hive 2 or 2+, or the corflute slider in the Flow Hive Classic. And under here we've got a metal gate and that just gives them more opportunity to ventilate and thermoregulate the inside of the hive.
Another technique for helping them ventilate the hive, is if you see the bees fanning really hard at the front, what they're trying to do is creating it in an entrance for the air and an exit. So you could even put something in the middle of the entrance to block this bit, and that will give the bees support to fan it going in and out. And that will more effectively ventilate hive. Another option is to also just shade the hive from the sun during the hottest part of the day.
Do you think is beekeeping good for the environment?
Wow, that's a big question, okay. Well, yes, but why? I'm just going to focus on Australia, because that's my experience. I think the most important reason why it's important is because what beekeeping does is give beekeepers the opportunity to have a more informed awareness of the environment. So for example, if you didn't really have an idea about what pollination meant, or the food system or biodiversity. But if you get a beehive and then you fall in love with those bees and you start closely observing those bees and you start noticing what they're foraging on or why are they hungry? Why are there no flowers? Or why there are flowers, but they're not foraging, the flowers are empty? They're empty because we're in drought. Why are we in drought? You start questioning and so you start having a bit of a perspective of the world through the bees. And so that way you start to understand what pollination means. You kind of have a more emotional understanding of the world because you're emotional because of the bees. And because if the bees are affected, then you're affected and the experience keeps just snowballing. And that has the effect on people having a more informed awareness of the environment, making better decisions. So they understand why buying local fruit and veg is really important and effective for the environment. Why biodiversity is critical for so many things, that in my mind is the most important thing - biodiversity. Because bees need forage to survive, they need diversity, we need diversity. But it's not just about the honeybees. It's also about all the native solitary bees all around the world. It's about pollinators.
And that's why we've got our online course, TheBeekeeper.org, that we use for funds for habitat conservation and Billions of Blossoms.
Habitat conservation is a huge one. It's not just about the honeybee. It's about all the pollinators around the world because it's just critical for life. So beekeeping, good, responsible and informed beekeeping is super critical as well. So jump on TheBeekeeper.org. It's so helpful. It's the best resource ever. I love it. It's so good.
Do bees really vomit honey?
That's a popular one and the answer is yes, sort of. I mean, what do you consider vomiting? The forager bees go out to the flowers and they collect nectar. They slurp it up with their proboscis, which is their tongue that they wrap in a bit of a tube. They put it in their honey stomach, which is just before their real stomach. And that honey stomach has enzymes that start breaking the sugars down and she'll regurgitate it into another bee. Then her role is to process that honey. And so by process, I mean, she'll drink up that nectar and put it in her honey stomach. She'll eat the vomit and process it in her honey stomach with her enzymes. And then she'll also vomit that honey and give it to another sister and that sister will do the same thing. I believe this happens about three or four times generally. And then the last bee will finally regurgitate or vomit that honey into the cell, up in the super. And then they'll keep doing that. And then they'll ventilate, the bees at the front will also be fanning their wings to dehumidify that enzyme-rich nectar to withdraw the moisture. And that process is what turns nectar into honey.
Is the Flow Hive produced here in Australia?
Yeah. Just down the road actually, which is huge. I think that's just so incredible. We're in Northern New South Wales in Australia, the timber is produced just down the road here. Then the Flow Frames, which is the food-grade plastic in the super, that is manufactured in Brisbane. So yeah, it's all made in Australia and then our office is also in Northern New South Wales. So we're an all-Aussie company.
Why do you have such a love of bees? Why do you think it is a good thing to get into?
What I said before, just that opportunity to really have that direct experience of being more connected to nature because you actually have a emotional connection. Beekeeping is also a neverending learning journey. I find that you go through this process where in your first year or two years, you're like, oh,, I got this, I'm confident. And then something else happens, you meet more beekeepers, you travel and learn more about beekeeping and then you realise, oh my goodness, you have the most humbling experience. There is so much to learn about beekeeping because the nature is, there are so many different ways to do it. And it comes down to so many different questions such as your location, such as your intention with the bees. Are you more like trying to be as bee-centric as possible or do you want to systematise it in order to make money out of it such as honey or propolis or royal jelly, for example. But it also opens up your mind to the broader scope such as it's not just all about honeybees. There's so many pollinators to really care for and inform yourself about for the conservation of the planet and life as we know it.
Why don't you use medium supers under the Flow supers, like we do in the US?
That's a great question. I'm happy to get into medium supers because they're just lighter. But in Australia, I guess it probably followed on from a climate thing. It's not something we do over here where. So for everyone who doesn't know what a medium super is, this is a deep box. A medium is a bit smaller and it has the same amount of frames. So I see a lot of value in a medium super because you can actually use them as a brood box. And you've also got more opportunity to support the colony with cavity with how big of a hive you've got. So rather than having to question, do I sacrifice taking a whole deep off and leaving them just with a single deep, if you've got three medium super boxes, then you've got more options. So in Australia, why don't we use mediums? I don't actually know the answer to that, but I could see it becoming something. That's a good idea.
What is royal jelly?
Royal jelly is what the queen consumes during her whole larval development life. So she's just like a worker bee as a larva. The queen is just fed royal jelly her whole larval life, which means from hatching of an egg to being capped brood, which is a pupa. So royal jelly is a mixture of proteins and other lipids and minerals and good things.The queen cell where she develops, because she grows so much bigger than a worker bee, it's actually looks like a peanut-shaped cell that's on the face of the comb. It's not in the cell of the comb like a worker or a drone.
What are the three most important things to have for the bees to use and store nectar on the Flow Frames?
Number one would be the colony is prepared. Is the colony expanding? Is the queen laying more and more eggs every day? That's typically coming into the longer days of the year where there's more forage available, the bees are expanding. They're overflowing. If you didn't give them extra space, they'd run out of room and that's where they swarm. If you put the flow super on, then they're going to expand and utilise the Flow Frames to store that surplus honey, which they're genetically geared to do. That's what they do. They just love working their butts off and storing honey. So that's the number one question.
Number two, if this colony is expanding, is there forage available for them to actually store surplus honey supply? So that means that are there trees blooming in your area and how close are they? Are they with proximity where the bees can actually reach them, which is five to seven kilometre radius generally for honey bees. The entrance of the hive actually can tell you a lot. If you've got bees going, boom, boom, boom, boom, like they know exactly where they're going and they're coming straight back in there, they're looking for as much forage as they can. And just most efficiently going in and out, that is a telltale sign that they are foraging, there is a flow on. A flow means that there's, for example, a tree just dripping with nectar. And you can actually go up to a tree and if you hear that vibration and then you look up and you can see just bees going crazy on all the flowers, that's, what's called a flow. So that tells you there is a lot of nectar coming in.
And then I guess the third one would be is your well, those two combined at the primary questions for bees taking to Flow Frames. Are there times where something's not working, it's usually about patience. So what I find, because I do actually help a lot of customers all around the world with troubleshooting. But a lot of questions actually are what they're finding is the bees actually start working on the centre frames. But from the outside, if you're looking through observation window, it actually looks like nothing's happening. Even though you can see bees and they look a bit lost. And if you actually inspect the super, the first thing to look out for is that little deposit of wax between the Flow Frame cells and then even nectar. Sometimes you'll even notice capped honey in a whole frame, but some bees like to leave the edge uncapped. That seems to be a bit of a genetic trait or preference that some bees do. If you're also finding that they're not progressing as you imagined, you've covered all those bases, are you running too many boxes? Maybe the colony is just not strong enough to be able to occupy that big of a space. So you might want to consider adding the Flow super before any additional boxes. But also considering further down the track about wintering and it gets a bit complicated, but I hope that helps.
So I think that's it for today. Thanks for joining everyone. I hope I answered your questions. If not, continue to ask them and we'll get back to you and Cedar will be back next week after he's had a well-deserved holiday. So thanks for joining, bye.
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