Welcome to the fascinating world of beekeeping! As a beginner, one of the most essential skills you’ll need to develop is frame reading. It’s the art of interpreting the story your bees are writing on the frames within their hive. Whether you’re starting with package bees on new foundation, dealing with a swarm, or managing a nucleus colony, understanding how to inspect your frames is crucial. Let’s buzz through the basics to get you started on the right foot with your new hive.
Starting with Package Bees on New Foundation or Foundationless Frames
When you introduce package bees to new (undrawn) foundation or foundationless frames, it’s like giving them a blank canvas. Initially, the bees will be busy drawing out comb. During your first inspection, look for:
- Wax Production: Bees should start producing wax and forming comb structures.
- Queen Activity: Ensure the queen has been released from her cage and is starting to lay eggs.
- Feeding: Feed your bees sugar syrup to stimulate wax production, especially if natural nectar sources are scarce.
How to Inspect Frames After Bee Package Installation
About a week after installation, gently inspect the frames to see how your bees are settling in. Here’s what to look for:
- Comb Building: The bees should be building comb and filling it with brood and food stores.
- Egg Patterns: A good queen will lay in a solid pattern, typically starting in the center of the frame.
- Bee Behavior: Check for signs of stress or aggression, which could indicate queen problems or other issues.
A Swarm Hived on Undrawn Foundation
A swarm comes with its own set of challenges. They’re looking for a new home and will work quickly to establish one:
- Quick Inspection: Check in a couple of days to ensure the swarm hasn’t left and is beginning to draw out the foundation.
- Queen Sightings: Look for the queen and verify she’s laying eggs.
- Resource Management: Ensure there are enough resources (sugar syrup and pollen patties) to support comb building.
A Package or Swarm on Empty, Drawn Comb
If you’re lucky enough to start with drawn comb, your bees have a head start:
- Brood Check: Expect the queen to begin laying almost immediately. Look for eggs and larvae.
- Population Growth: Monitor the growth of the bee population closely, as they can expand quickly with available comb.
- Disease Monitoring: Be vigilant for any signs of disease or pests, as pre-used comb might carry risks.
Starting with a Nucleus (Nuc) Colony
A nuc is a small, functioning colony with a laying queen, and it’s the easiest for beginners:
- Transfer Inspection: When transferring a nuc into your new hive, be gentle and try not to disturb the frames’ order.
- Space Monitoring: Give the nuc time to expand and start drawing out on new frames you add.
- Integration: Check for integration issues between the nuc bees and any new bees you may introduce.
Tips for Successful Frame Reading and Hive Inspection:
- Be Gentle: Slow and steady movements will keep the bees calm.
- Use Smoke Wisely: A little smoke goes a long way in calming bees for an inspection.
- Document Your Findings: Keep a beekeeping journal to track the progress and any peculiarities.
- Regular Checks: Consistent inspections will help you catch issues early.
Frame reading is a nuanced and vital part of beekeeping. It tells you the health and status of your hive and what your next steps should be. Remember, every hive is unique, and while the basics remain the same, you’ll learn to understand the specific language of your bees.
Whether you’re a novice beekeeper or looking to refine your skills, Dadant is here to support you every step of the way. With our supplies, resources, and expertise, you’re well on your way to becoming a master of the frames. Happy beekeeping!
Photo by Arthur Brognoli: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-collecting-honey-2260934/