Free returns on all items + Free shipping on orders over $350

Hive checks - queen and brood condition

May 03, 2019

Hive checks - queen and brood condition

Our newest video from a mid-April Meet The Beekeeper session takes us through the process of opening up an overwintered hive to assess colony strength, queen activity and management options.

A cooler day with no wind is an ideal time to open up the hive. Our bees are seen in the top box, closest to  their remaining stores of honey and also to the pollen patties that supplement their feed. Use of the sugar syrup is low in this one case, possibly because they have enough of their own honey in the hive or the colony is weak.

Take out one frame to give yourself room to operate, then work your way into the brood nest. You might see some natural pollen on a frame, and some shiny, watery substance in the cells which is the new year’s honey forming already.

What's on your frames?

See if you can spot pollen, new honey, capped brood and larvae.  Capped brood means there is a laying queen in the hive. In the video these bees are occupied on the cells and not angry. When you see this sense of diligence among the bees, it is another sign there is a queen present.

As you move into the brood frames, they will feel much lighter than those with stored honey. In this particular hive, the colony has dwindled somewhat. There are signs of nosema, but it is not too bad. Adding a package of bees would add workers to boost the queen`s success.  

Next we check a hive that shows a lot more activity and noise You can see a distinct difference between the bees - the very old winter bees bees are darker, while new spring bees are lighter. The darker ones will still forage, but are not going to live much longer.

Where is nectar and why?

We put in some new frames, and within an hour we can see a frame that is filling with nectar from lower down in the hive. Forager bees bring nectar to house bees waiting for them. During the day the house bees deposit the nectar in the lower box. During the night they move it up to the top box, with each transfer involving four bees. This exercise is part of the dehydration process,

The frames in this hive are very busy already, and when the dandelions bloom the activity level will escalate even more. At this time, around mid-April, the bees are feeding on willows.

Prepare to split hive in May

This level of activity is a very good example of what a hive should look like right now. And if it does - splitting the hive must be done, or you will lose the bees to a swarm, and then you have lost your honey for the year.

When the bees are building comb in the top box, they are plainly looking for more space. If you knock the colony back by splitting the hive in May and then let the bees build comb in June, the spring flow will come to an end and the bees will not want to swarm. They will stay home and be ready for the main flow to begin in July.  If you don’t make a split and add a new queen, the hive will swarm July 1 as soon as the canola flowers.

Split now, or queen splits later

Making a split in May makes for an easier management practice, in that you don’t need to keep looking for swarm cells that indicate the queen and colony are about to leave. Make the split by the May long weekend, then add more honey boxes by the longest day in June.

You will find this and many more videos on how to assess and manage your hive(s) at hiveworld.ca. Our Meet The Beekeeper nights on the east side of Edmonton are free. Participants should register online, and at the same time sign the online waiver if they are attending for the first time. Bring your own bee suit and gloves, or pick up whatever you need at hiveworld.ca or at our retail store, 5418 - 136 Avenue, Edmonton.

In the meantime, don’t forget to subscribe to our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels for all the latest news and tips.  

We're Canadian, we’re beekeepers, and we have the courses, mentor support and supplies you need - free shipping on everything.




Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in Education

Inside Your Spring Hive
Inside Your Spring Hive

March 15, 2022

If you are a beginner beekeeper, knowing if there are enough honey stores can be hard to figure out on your very first overwintered hive check. The simplest way to check if there are enough stores is to gently lift your hive from the bottom board (without disturbing the hive too much). If it is very light and easy to lift, you DO NOT have enough stores.

Continue Reading

2022 Honey Bees
2022 Honey Bees

February 14, 2022

The new beekeeping season is just around the corner, and we can't wait for the sounds of buzzing bees and sights of flowers blooming. Depending on what you’re beekeeping plans are for 2022, here are our live bees that will suit your every need.

Continue Reading

Thank you
Thank you

December 24, 2021

We thank you for joining our hive and doing beekeeping with us. We have been busy bees behind the scenes working on exciting new projects that we want to tell you about.

Continue Reading