In our part of northern New South Wales, it is common for swarming to occur from the 1st of August. However, this can vary from season to season, and your location will influence how you manage your bees in springtime. Proper beehive spring management will set your bees up for a successful year.
Good beehive spring management must always include a thorough brood check. You must:
Every beekeeper must be sure that they can recognise healthy brood.
If you don’t think that you have the skills to look through your brood box or recognise the signs of disease ask a more experienced beekeeper for help.
Common diseases of importance include:
If you have never heard of these diseases or you are unaware of how they present in a beehive then you must take steps now to familiarise yourself with them.
There is a lot of reliable information available online and we recommend the following websites:
Honeybees swarm due to the brood box becoming congested with brood, honey and pollen. When the bees run out of space, they will build swarm cells. Soon after a large number of bees will leave with the old queen to start a new colony.
Swarming can set your hive back quite a bit, and some colonies fail if they don’t successfully requeen.
Proper beehive spring management should include the removal of frames with honey, pollen or capped brood. They can be replaced with empty frames, frames with foundation or drawn comb (stickies). If your hive is strong enough, you could remove and replace up to 4 frames from the brood box.
Sealed brood frames can be pulled up into the honey super above the queen excluder so that the brood can hatch. Splitting the hive is another good way of reducing the incidence of swarming. A suitable method of dividing a colony is to remove a couple of sealed brood combs, a frame of eggs and larvae and a frame of honey with plenty of nurse bees and start your nucleus hive.
Excess honey or pollen frames can be stored in a freezer until required when the hive gets stronger.
The main advantages of replacing frames this way are:
Of course, if your bees are doing well enough, you can add another honey super and pull 3 -4 frames from the brood box into the new super. The balance of the super is filled with stickies or frames of foundation.
Your beehive spring management check is a great time to ensure they are getting the right nutrition to set them up for the year ahead.
Spring feeding bees is rarely necessary in Australia. A beehive that has had a harsh winter due to a lack of nectar and pollen may have used up a lot of honey stores. All beekeepers should ensure that their beehives have a good population of bees and up to a full box of honey to see them through a tough winter. This is particularly relevant in the colder areas of Australia.
It is difficult for bees to raise brood in spring if they don’t have a good source of pollen and nectar. A healthy hive in spring should have a couple of frames of honey and a pollen source coming in to get a good start. If it is not feasible to move hives to better location beekeepers, have a range of options for feeding pollen substitutes and 1:1 sugar/water which can save a starving colony in spring.
Mt. Coramba Apiculture recommends that every beekeeper should read Fat Bees Skinny Bees published by AgriFutures Australia (RIRDC).
The NSW Department of Primary Industries also has an excellent factsheet called Feeding Sugar to Honeybees.
Never feed honey back to honey bees.
It is essential that the hive has a healthy queen capable of laying an excellent even brood pattern.
Queens that are laying patchy brood or displaying signs of failure, e.g. drone layers should be earmarked for replacement as soon as queens become available.
Hives that are failing due to a poor quality queen can also be joined with better performing hives once the failing queen is removed.
Any hive that is showing signs of aggression must be requeened if you are beekeeping in an urban or residential environment.
It is not necessary to requeen every year however young, vigorous queens reduce the incidence of disease and swarming.
Lastly, Mt. Coramba Apiculture recommends that every new beekeeper should consider completing a good quality beekeeping course.
Mt. Coramba Apiculture can deliver beekeeping courses and workshops to beekeepers who need more information about spring management. Our beekeeping classes and workshops are flexible and competitively priced.
For new beekeepers, we also recommend Beekeeping Basics. Beekeeping Basics is an Armidale based operation however the owner Allan Thomas can run courses anywhere if there is enough demand.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries has an excellent fact sheet on Spring Management of Bees.
The owner of Mt. Coramba Apiculture, Glenn Locke, has had the beekeeping urge since the early 1980’s as a 14-year-old teenager.
The Warwick (QLD) high school agriculture department had a few beehives and beekeeping was taught as a subject. Glenn’s agriculture teacher Jim Caird let him have a nucleus hive, and the addiction started.
The move to the mid-north coast of NSW and particularly the beautiful Orara Valley means that Glenn now has the space to commence beekeeping again. Glenn has managed beehives in the Orara Valley since 2009.
We also supply high quality local, raw honey.
Do you have questions about beehive spring management?
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