Apiary Answers to your questions

Apiary Management Q&A’s

Session 4

Video: Making Mini Nucs 


Upon inspection this time of year (March) with warm weather, I have noticed I have a very small cluster still but a lot of honey stores still in the top super. I am a new beekeeper but would rotating honey from the available stores in the hive be a detrimental decision? My rationale is that the bees wouldn’t have to travel out of the cluster as far. 
Do not manipulate frames in the hive in winter/late spring except to add full boxes of honey on top.

After estimating the weight of my hives I decided to add a honey super to each, but one of the two seemed suddenly much weaker (quieter). It is a warm day here (Deer Isle), so there is a lot of activity in the strong hive, and none in the weak hive. I believe I have set up a situation where the strong is robbing from the weak. In fact, the weak sounds totally different–there is a scratching sound–is that the sound of robbing?  
If the strong hive is actually robbing the weak hive at this time of year, the weak one is probably actually dead.


Please go over the difference in a split vs your artificial swarm.
A split is is anytime that you divide bee hives. An artificial swarm is a specific practice of splitting that involves taking a few frames of brood and a queen and creating a new hive.

Do you recommend putting an artificial swarm into a nuc (5 frames) as opposed to say an 8 frame box?  
The artificial swarm is too small for an 8 frame box, since it is only two frames of bees and brood.  They will do better in a properly sized box.

Why should I mark my newly mated queens? Is it just to make her easier for me to see? Or are there other reasons?
Marking queens makes it easier to find them, it’s a date stamp, and it marks her as the queen that you picked out the last time in your hive, and not a new one.
Years ending in 1 or 6 = white
2 or 7= yellow
3 or 8 = red
4 or 9 = green
5 or 0 = blue
Ex. 2021 = white water based paint pens.
These marks can last for years.

How do you go from a 4-way mating nuc to a regular nuc box or super? 
LIke this:  https://www.betterbee.com/mating-nucs-and-other-queen-rearing-supplies/qmn-queen-mating-nuc.asp

I have been overwintering bees in three deeps and I want to get it down to two. How do I manage this when at, say the start of September, I have a big colony of bees, the bottom deep is full of pollen, the middle deep has brood and honey and the top deep is full of honey? Which do I take off and won’t this affect the arrangement they have set up for winter? Thanks.
The time to change your wintering configuration is now.  Remove the bottom (empty) deep and repurpose it elsewhere in your apiary.
As your bees expand this summer, keep your two deeps as your brood boxes and use honey supers to collect surplus honey rather than a deep brood box.
When you remove the supers for fall harvest, the bees will backfill in the two deep boxes for their winter stores.


Is there any concern about generating HMF heating corn syrup and powdered to make queen cage candy?
Not that Erin is aware of. This method of making queen cage candy is how it’s been done for years.

How important is it for you to find out why a hive didn’t make it through the winter? Do you always do a thorough “postmortem” on each dead hive, or do you just guess sometimes?
Look to see if you have AFB. If it’s not that, it’s likely starvation, or mites, neither of which are contagious.

Can you discuss colony collapse disorder?
The rate of CCD in Maine is very low. It is not really of concern to beekeepers these days.
Link to recent ESPHPA virtual conference if interested: 2021 EHSHPA Winter Conference

Session 3


Is there science on if pheromone bait lures are more effective than lemongrass oil in swarm boxes? Is lemongrass essential oil the best to attract bees to the swarm trap?
Lures are really just about catching the hive of the hives. The quality of the location is more important than the lure.
Better to have limited high quality options for the bees than several great ones. Maybe just one big good swarm trap and one small one.

Is it ethical to set up a swarm trap near an apiary that is not our own? Like along side the road.

If you destroy emerging queen cells, doesn’t that reduce your backup plan if your virgin queen doesn’t survive her mating flights, etc?
Yes, it reduces your backup plans, but also limits the number of new colonies you need to manage.

For the small apiary is there any concern for “inbreeding?” We have only 1-2 hive and long distance to any other known hives.
This is not a problem if there are other hives in the region.
If you are really secluded, you still likely won’t have a problem due to the diversity. Make sure to have at least a few hives and maybe don’t start a breeding program.

In your experience what are the tricky parts of handling swarm catching boxes and how have you solved them?
Being up on a ladder. Knowing if a swarm is happening if you’re away.

Are they more likely to swarm southeast or does it not really matter?
Direction of leaving the hive does not matter. In their new site, they prefer a hive opening that faces south or southeast, but their direction of swarming can go anyway.

Queen Excluders?
Only to keep mice out of equipment and for queen rearing.


To conform with the last class, do you only recommend to treat the whole apiary for mites in the fall, and treat hives individually based on mite counts at other times?
Yes, every fall around labor day, with either HopGuard or ApiLifevar.

When is it warm enough to take the winter bottom board out from under the screen? 
Remove bottom board inserts in June and reinsert them in September when you treat for mites.

What happens if you give damaged comb back to bees? How much, and what kinds of damages are acceptable? And when is it safe to introduce resources with clean up issues? [context: as someone with just 2+ yrs. exp. I was glad to learn about reusing nasty frames, mold, fermenting and fermented honey, etc. so I have done an inventory of what I have from a dead-out from last spring, but I am concerned that the comb damage will get them to build drone comb, or misshapen comb–and is this even a problem?
Cut the wax, rewire it and let them reuse it. ½ frame is better than no frame.
Don’t give black comb back to them, but always better

How old is “old” comb?
If it’s been used a lot but hasn’t been in the hive for long that’s OK. Typically, transfer in two new frames per year, so no frames in a 10 frame hive should be more than 5 years old.

Can you store your hive boxes inside a plastic bag to prevent Wax moths?
What are your thoughts on using paramoth crystals when storing boxes for the winter, if you vent the boxes for several days before you add them to a hive in the spring?
Do not use paramoth crystals.

I lost a hive to yellow jackets in Sept.  I tried manually killing them as they were trying to get in but I couldn’t keep up. 
Your hive was probably weak to begin with, and the yellowjackets were just taking advantage.


Please review the supplementary feeding schedule. Pollen patties – when/when not to use? 
Erin will hit on this next week.

I believe I saw in a photograph of some of your own hives a round hole mid-box and off-center in every box. Did I see correctly?.
Just about where you pick up the hives, and locating the hole to minimize contact with the bees if/when you pick up the hive.

I am thrilled to have two colonies that are alive as of right now. That suggests my varroa interventions were at least partially successful. For sure I get about 75% wrong, and so I am wondering about food. With some weeks to go, I can imagine them starving to death because maybe I didn’t leave them with enough resources. So, as an insurance policy, is there any FEEDING I can do now to assist? If so, how? The textbook discusses Crisco patties, and then there is dry sugar–should I do either of these? Also, what about syrup if we get some warmer weather? I am guessing that in an ideal scenario I would know that I left them enough resources, but since I do not, would precautionary feeding be wise or possible?
Don’t feed early pollen. Don’t blame yourself for questionable past decisions.
If you did feed early, you have to keep checking on them, and make sure that pollen patties are available. Don’t feed them early and then forget and let that supplemental food run out.
If a hive is alive in early spring/ late winter, that’s great. If you think they need more resources, and have other colonies that have died, take resources from those hives to supplement the living colony. Take the whole box and add it to the live hive under the inner cover.
Do it early morning on warm spring days.
Lift the hive to test the weight.


This is a pretty fussy technical equipment question and so is maybe outside the scope of the course: I have a bunch of plastic foundation in wood frames that is as yet undrawn. I would like to switch over to wax foundation (the person I first learned from recommended plastic, but I just think plastics in general should be avoided if at all possible, if we care about sustainability.) I’m simply overwhelmed by the number of choices for frames with wired foundation. Some have wood wedges at the top, and some don’t how do I choose? And would it be possible for me to retrofit my frames from plastic to wax foundation? Thanks.
Almost anything can be transferred to wired wax frames.

Session 2

Varroa Management

After seeing the process of obtaining a package of bees, looks like I should treat for varroa mites; should I take a sample? sugar roll? what is the best treatment at this timeframe for varroa mites in a new package –
See slide #1 from Week two slide deck pdf.

For packages/nucs, do we just start the management plan with what you have laid out for May/June, or is management different?
See slide #2 from Week two slide deck pdf.

What if buying packages or nucs in states outside of Maine, where there is no state inspection program? Should they be concerned about varroa coming in in packages?
Not every state has an inspection program, but any state with significant bee sales should. This shouldn’t be a concern if purchasing bees from a commercial source.

Related to Varroa artificial swarm – split? Would the main hive still have a queen and lots of brood?
We removed the queen from the main hive, after the artificial swarm/split the main hive just has queen cells.

Erin recommends just Apilife Var and HOPGUIARD for varroa treatment.
Most other options are either too toxic or too complicated to use.

When moving frames between hives to support weak hives, should you shake the bees off of the frames. 
Focus on taking frames from several hives (at least 3 hives).
If really weak, you will need to bring over workers just to help keep the hive and brood warm.

When splitting for varroa control, do you introduce a new bought queen in the box that doesn’t have one? 
Best choice is to raise the queen yourself.

Varroa Management

Would you use drone frames for varroa management. 
Drone brood removal is a bit like Russian Roulette.
There are strategies to invite the bees to draw comb and build out drone brood.
Varroa will be under capped drone brood cells.
It needs to get out of there. If you take it out, that’s great.
If you forget about it, after encouraging drone brood, you could triple the varroa population and make a bigger problem. .

Winter Care

I have two colonies that both survived the winter as of today. Is there anything I can I do to assist at this time?
Because of the lack of snow pack, be sure to shut any open bottom screen boards.
Strap the hive incase we get another wind storm.
No feeding or anything like that at this point. Just be patient.

What if there is a cold snap just after putting in you new package?

Feed inside under the outer cover, to get those bees through until there is adequate natural food sources.
Paint hives dark to keep them warmer at this stage and during the winter.


How often do you kill queen cells to prevent swarming?
Just killing queen cells doesn’t prevent swarming, but it can delay it.
Capturing and removing the existing queen would prevent a swarm.
Not advised to kill the queen just to prevent a swarm. Maybe capture and relocate.

Can the swarm catching method also be used for removing a honey bee infestation in a house wall?
No. Be sure to get everything out though, because if you get one hive out, another will move in.

Hives with 2 deeps, why do that?
Bees aren’t concerned about size. Deeps can all be used, if a commercial operation isn’t having to lift them by hand.

Could an extra deep be put on to prevent a swarm?
Won’t prevent it. Extra space may delay the swarm, but won’t prevent it.

Is it possible for a hive to swarm and not know it? 
Yes, this can happen easily.
The hive will be way less the next day.
The next week, the population may be back up because new bees have been reared. You can see hatched queen cells.
First baby queens start to pipe at night. Right before a swarm, if bad weather comes, house bees will hold cells shut, keeping virgin bees in their cells.
Juliana Rangel. The University of Texas has done extensive research on swarming.

Session 1- Apiary Management

Erin Videos – See Other Resources

Hive Inspection Form- See Other Resources

Cornell pdf bait hives for honey bees- See Other Resources

Honey bee democracy

Several small incremental changes to the hives is much preferable to big sudden changes.

If you were to reuse that equipment are you cleaning or wiping it down with something or letting the bees clean it themselves?
If you are certain that there are no diseases, the bees can handle it. Bees can handle mold and “junk” bubbly honey if done in late June on, so that they have capacity to poop as much as needed.

2 feet or 3 miles for moving hives. 
If moving hives 10’, your field bees won’t be able to find it. You’ll have to wait until the new bees graduate to field bees from the new location. A bucket feeder on top could address this lag time where there are fewer field bees, and hold over the hive until enough new field bees graduate.

Wrapping hives in tar paper
Tar paper is feasible, but just painting hives dark is sufficient (in Maine/ the North), for solar gain. Those dark colors are really never a problem of overheating here in Maine. Erin prefers just painting dark.