Inspecting your hive after a cold winter is one of the most exciting activities for a beekeeper (after honey harvesting of course!) and will help you to discover whether your pre-winter preparations paid off.
Top Tip: Make sure you choose a nice warm day to make it easier for your bees to maintain their optimal brood temperature.
Often you’ll find that everything isn’t perfect – don’t worry, things are rarely as you’d expect!
This is one of the advantages of owning two hives for side by side comparisons – you’ll learn more from each colony’s unique temperament plus you’ll be able to offer support from a stronger colony if one is ailing.
When inspecting, be on the lookout for good population numbers, a queen, healthy brood patterns and honey stores, and most importantly, look closely for pests and diseases and treat accordingly.
If you need support with your first spring inspection, we’re here to help! We have a swarm of resources available and a knowledgeable team on hand to offer support.
If you’re an experienced beekeeper, you’ll know it’s time to assemble your brood frames and get your spare brood boxes built.
With warmer weather, your queen will amp up her egg-laying which means your colony will expand. You don’t want to get caught out by a colony that’s ready to reproduce with nowhere to house them!
Top Tip: Many experienced beekeeper’s keep a swarm capture kit on hand (sometimes even in their car!) throughout beekeeping season, consisting of a brood box, brood frames, base, roof and a suit.
What type of Brood Frames?
“Beekeepers have many opinions on which is the best method. I am a total convert to foundationless frames. It’s a really tedious task waxing and wiring frames. It’s so much easier to let the bees build their own. It leaves the bees making their natural cells sized perfectly for their brood and it’s beautiful to watch them hang their natural comb in their brood nest.
Having said that, in some short season regions it is important to encourage the bees to get to the nectar flow as quickly as possible. It may be better to provide wax foundation as the bees will complete their brood comb more quickly” - Cedar Anderson
As things start to ramp up in the apiary, it’s a great time to check your equipment – there’s nothing worse than discovering a hole in your bee suit hood when you’re up close and personal with an open hive!
Inspect your safety equipment and make sure you have everything you’ll need coming into the new season.
Re-oil cedar hives or check to see if your Araucaria paint jobs need a new coat.
Top Tip: When re-treating timber components, use no VOC non-toxic treatments – these can be reapplied while the bees are in the hive. Make sure you wear protective clothing.
Swarming is the natural way bees reproduce and multiply, however, it’s considered good beekeeping practice to take steps to avoid. Feral colonies can pose a risk to the public, your bees, other beekeepers, and honey bee biosecurity in your country.
If your bees swarm, your colony will be reduced as will their nectar resources and your hive may be left vulnerable to pests and diseases.
Like most beekeeping practices, swarm mitigation is about understanding bee behaviour and attempting to meet their needs before they act.
Will you split your hive?
If you have a large, healthy hive it is possible to create a new colony from it by making a split.
The concept is that you take a portion of an established colony and transfer it to a separate hive thereby creating two colonies.
They'll each have sufficient worker bee populations, stores and either their own queen or possibility of creating one from existing fertilised eggs.
It’s a good idea to monitor your splits closely in the days following their creation. Make sure each has enough adult bees to care for the brood you have given them and take action if they do not.
The thrill of a swarm catch
When a colony has made the decision to swarm, sometimes it’s unavoidable.
Luckily, catching a swarm of bees is one of the most joyous parts of beekeeping and it is an easy and free way to bolster your apiary!
At this stage, they seldom have comb and are just a cluster of bees. Without the complication of comb, a beekeeper can easily scoop, shake or lower the swarm into their equipment and bring them back to their apiary.
Need extra help?
There’s always more to learn to grow and deepen your knowledge in beekeeping.