The official launch of the dandelion flow is not far off. So, what to do? As the saying goes, “first year wax, second year bees, third year honey. You will need to decide, if you haven’t already, what your goals are with your honey bees this year.
1) Need More Wax?
Now this isnt saying that you cant produce honey surplusses in all of these years, but it is saying that you are going to have a greater honey surplus once you have the equipment and the means to get your bees healthy and growing over time.
Your bees should be booming now, and this always includes your brood nest. This is the time of year that you should be paying close attention to your colony’s development and growth. You will have lots of young bees in your hive right now, and with that, a growing population of foraging bees. The dandelion flow is the best time to push your bees to build up their wax production! Young bees produce the most wax, but also, the bees need a surplus of pollen and nectar to encourage this development.
So, how can you encourage your bees to produce more wax?
RULE: Always keep your open brood together and always keep your open brood UP or in the warmest location of the hive (heat rises)
Top bar management is very different than that of a Lang this time of year because you don’t have to be concerned with heat loss in the brood nest because of the linear hive design. The heat is evenly dispersed across the whole hive because the heat rises to fill the whole top of the extending hive body. So, here are some steps that you can take to encourage wax production in a TBH.
1- Make sure the brood nest is pushed toward the entrance of your hive. If it is currently in the middle or the back, push it forward. Always have 2 empty bars at the front of your hive, the bees will daisy chain from the 3rd bar to the entrance for the movement of nectar forcing them to build comb, as well, it will offer ventilation space for the bees to keep hive temperature down. This is done all year long.
2- IF YOUR AVERAGE DAYTIME TEMPS ARE ABOVE 15C AND NIGHTS ABOVE 10C. Otherwise, DO NOT CHECKERBOARD ANY BROOD. Once the brood nest is moved to the front of the hive with 2 empty bars in place, you are going to inspect the brood, and the bars that have capped brood on them (over 60%) you are going to place empty bars in between. This will not only encourage your bees to continue to build straight comb between the 2 drawn bars, but as the bees emerge from the capped cells, they will build comb quickly in between so the nurse bees can feed the newly lain eggs in the recently vacated combs. It is important that you do the checkerboarding between capped cells because temperature changes in the brood nest from the seperating of combs will not effect the brood in a negative way.
If you are a second year beekeeper, you may not have frames of comb available to you, or you are looking to pull from foundation or foundationless frames so that you can not only increase your bee production, but the comb that you are going to use for honey production in July (sweet clover nectar flow). You have a few options.
TO DO: Close the inner cover so the bees are forced to use the bottom board entrance if you haven’t already. This will force the queen brood nest lower as the heat in the colony increases, and also force the bees to festoon down to get the nectar from the foraging bees to storage.
Here are some considerations on how your hive should/can look.
RULE: IF YOUR AVERAGE DAYTIME TEMPS ARE ABOVE 15C AND NIGHTS ABOVE 10C. Otherwise, DO NOT CHECKERBOARD ANY BROOD.
1) You currently only have 1 brood box of bees with 10 frames- With foundation
You are going to want to add another brood box below your bees this flow, even if your brood nest is only 4 frames large. You are going to want to be smart about how you do this though.
- Take the middle frames of the brood nest and move them to the middle of your bottom brood box. (Move frames 4 and 5 to bottom box)
- Take frames 8,9 and 2 an place them beside the frames below. Fill box outside 4 spaces with empty comb
- Compress the frames of the top and bottom boxes to the middle so that it is like so: New Frame (NF)
Top Box: nf-nf-1-3-6-7–10-nf-nf
Bottom Box: nf-nf-nf-2-4-5-8-9-nf-nf
2) You currently only have 1 brood box of bees with 10 frames- Going foundationless
You have the same conditions as above, but foundationless, so you are wanting to be sure that the new comb built is straight. Do the same as above with the brood nest, but your hive numbering is going to be as follows:
Top Box: nf-1-nf-3-6-7-nf-10-nf
Bottom Box: nf-2-nf-4-5-8-nf-9-nf
This keeps the brood nest together, and also offers the insulating properties of the remaining periphery honey stores to keep the colony warm. The bees will build comb fast this way, but you need to have the inner cover closed or else the heat loss can stress your bees and brood development.
I hope that this helps you in getting your hives prepared for the coming summer months!