Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A day of hive maintenance

After weeks of rain we had a sunny day, so we made the most of it and headed out to check the hives. We'd decided to try to get out there (weather permitting) once a fortnight just to check the small hive beetle traps and to see how they are going and if they need harvesting.

It also gives us time to build our confidence working the bees, to see what's normal for them and hopefully to be able to spot any problems early on.

Because of the rain, not a lot of the frames were ready for harvesting, but with a few sunny days, we'll be able to have another harvest of honey.

These are the gloves I use. They are from Quality Beekeeping Supplies and seem to be doing the job (protecting me from being stung) quite well.

Another benefit of checking the hives regularly is that hopefully the bees will get used to use being around and with being handled.

Getting the smoker to lit and then to stay smokey seems to be our biggest challenge so far. Like a lot of beekeepers we use sheoak needles and hessian bags.

It's my job to keep it going throughout the time it takes us to check all four hives.

We have small hive beetles in our hives, but they seem to be being kept under control (fingers crossed) using traps filled with diatemaceous earth.

We use two types of traps - the one BELOW can slide in the entrance and provide some protection for the brood box (the box on the bottom), or it can sit on top of the brood frames just below the Queen excluder.

There have been some reports of bees getting in these traps, but we didn't find any in ours - we did find dead beetles though.

The other type of trap we use is one that fits between the frames in the honey super (the top box). We find the bees quickly block this up with propolis - which they haven't done to the one ABOVE - so each time we check the hives we take new, cleaned traps to replace the old ones, then take them inside when we're done, clean them and refill them ready for next time.

This has meant buying two sets of traps, but it's worth it for the ease of swapping them over.

They sit neatly between the frames and we find dead beetles in these too.

We always record our findings in our Bee Book - keeping a record of how the hives are going, how the bees are behaving and any maintenance work that needs to be done - for instance, we found one frame where the wire has come out, so next time, we'll take a spare frame with foundation and replace it.

it's wonderful to see the bees close up and we're getting a little better at beekeeping each time we go out there. It's good doing it together too, you can bounce ideas off each other while we learn and a spare pair of hands can come in very handy sometimes too.

We are coming into our winter here in Australia and we're in the subtropics, so we don't need to over winter our hives, in fact winter will probably be a better time for them, less rain, more sunny days, more blooms in our vegetable garden.

Next time I'll write about which native plants we've added to our garden as bee forage and what we've observed in relation to bees' drinking behaviour.

The Novice Beekeeper


  1. I took a bee course at the end of fall here so the weather turned too nasty before we could do the hands on. Just went for that a couple of weeks ago, loooooved it. They are the most fascinating beings, I'm so impressed with them. I may start with my own next spring but hope to find someone to mentor with this year.
    My hardest thing will probably be getting over the fact I'll kill many while working with them. The class joked with me and said you can't name all 60,000 of them ;-).

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