Great Practical Beekeeping Information for New Beekeepers

(Courtesy of Joli Winer, Editor, May 2016 The Bee Buzzer, Newsletter
of the Northeastern Kansas Beekeepers’ Association)

Tips for May

  • Check for ticks, they love beekeepers
  • Wear as much protective clothing as makes you comfortable when working your hives. Work hives with slow, smooth movements. Jerky movements agitate the bees.
  • Use your smoker each time you check your bees.
  • Organize your bee tools in a toolbox so that you can always find them.
  • The best time to work bees is during the middle of the day when the field bees are collecting nectar.
  • Work each hive from the side or the back, out of the bee flight path.
  • Inspect hives by removing an outside frame first. Lift straight up to avoid damaging bees on the frame
  • When supering your hives add more than one super at a time if you have drawn comb. If you have new foundation add only one super at a time and start with 10 frames. Put your second super on after the first one is almost filled.
  • Use queen excluders to prevent brood in your honey supers and as a deterrent to wax moths.
  • Double check medication dates – safety matters. Don’t misuse any chemicals in the hive. Follow all time guidelines. Absolutely never medicate hives with supers on. It is illegal.
  • Keep the grass mowed in front of your hives – it makes it easier for the bees to land. Old carpet scraps, roof shingles or weed barriers can be used to keep grass under control.
  • Keep supers on until the honey is capped, unripe honey will ferment.
  • Do not feed sugar syrup during a honey flow since the bees will store the syrup in your supers rather than your honey.
  • Don’t get excited on hot humid days if the bees are hanging outside the hive. They are trying to relieve the congestion in the hive to cool it off inside. Earlier in the year this is an indication of swarming, but as hotter summer temperatures return it is natural, so don’t worry.
  • Keep up with your record-keeping so next year you’ll know which hives produced the best for you.

Swarm Call Questions

Here are some questions to ask if you get a call wanting you to come get a swarm:

  1. Have you called someone else?
  2. How big is it?
  3. How high is it?
  4. Do you have a ladder?
  5. What have you sprayed them with?
  6. How long has it been there?
  7. Is it on your property?
  8. What is your contact number?
  9. Do you have pets that might bother me?


Just before putting on your supers you’ll want to check your hives to make sure that you have a laying queen and that everything looks ok. You should have both hive bodies mostly filled with brood and some honey and pollen. Avoid opening up the hive to look at the brood area unless you suspect a management problem.

Weak colonies should be combined with stronger colonies or requeened.

How do you know if the honeyflow is “on”?

  • Fresh white wax is on the edges of drawn comb or top bars.
  • Wax foundation is quickly drawn out
  • Bees are fanning at the entrance
  • Bees are extremely active at the entrance – they are coming, and going like crazy
  • You can smell it – the odor in the apiary is incredible – it smells sweet, like honey
  • Bees are docile and easy to work

If you have supers with drawn comb put on more than one at a time, this encourages the bees to bring in more honey and gives them more room to let the honey dehumidify. However, if you put on too many at a time the bees will “chimney” or just go up the middle and fill out only the center combs. You can encourage them to fill out the whole super by taking the full center frames and exchanging them for the outside frames – move the outside frames in the inside frames out – voila!

Since bees are hoarders, the more space you give them, the more bees will go out to collect nectar.

If you are using supers with new foundation then just put on one at a time and keep 10 frames in the supers. When the super is almost full move your outside frames inside and add your next super.

Make sure to mark any comb honey supers or frames so you don’t extract them. Best to paint these supers a different color or paint a stripe on each side.

Move your full supers to the top and your newer supers lower (just above the queen excluder).

Keep supers on the hive until they are capped with beeswax (have a layer of beeswax covering the honey).