Q and A with a Natural Beekeeper for the New Beekeeper

I am new to beekeeping. A local bee guy set me up with bees and a queen in a Langstroth box in the beginning of May. The bees are  very active and 7 of the 10 frames are loaded with eggs and larva as well as some cells filled with what appears to be honey. Other cells  are filled with a clear liquid and still others are filled with something else, I have no idea what! I have some questions about natural beekeeping.

Sugar Water or Let Them Forage

Q) The bee guy told me to feed the hive sugar water since this is a new hive, but after reading your advice, I’m thinking I want to stop. Will that be dangerous to the new hive? I’m in Southern California and there are a lot of plants in bloom right now, but I don’t want to stress the bees. They suck down a quart of sugar water every three days!

A) Stop the sugar. The bees don’t need it and because of ph balance issues it may actually harm them. Bees need honey and pollen, not sugar water and other chemical substitutes. What you have is honey (good), pollen (good), and either sugar water (not good) or nectar that hasn’t been aged enough yet (good). Don’t sweat it, just stop the sugar now and the bees will do just fine going forward. The many frames of eggs and brood mean your bees are doing great. Make sure you give them plenty of  fresh water so that they don’t have to go hunting for that as well. A large plant saucer with small stones in it to help stop them from drowning is perfect. Place it on something low that gets it up off the ground about 15 to 20 feet in front of the hive and slightly to one side. You can even just put regular water in the feeder next time it is empty.

Frame Rotation and Adding New Boxes

Q) The frames are pretty full, only the 2 outer frames are empty, should I be moving the not full frames to the center? Should I add another box to the hive soon? If I want to continue foundationless, how would I do that? When adding supers, will the bees just naturally go up into the new box or would I need to move one or more of the frames into the empty box as encouragement? Thanks so much for your help. I’ve been learning about this on the internet and there is a lot of confusing information out there!

A) Move your outer frames to the center (with a full frame to separate) if you haven’t already.  Add another box only when the bottom box is mostly full and you need to pull out two frames to make more room. If you followed my advice and went all mediums you can just stick two frames with brood into the new box with an empty frame in between so that the bees well start working there. If you didn’t go all mediums then just get another deep and put it on as your super. Rotate out and up until the top box is full and then harvest from the outside frames on the top box. You didn’t mention if you had foundation in the bottom box. Make sure as you rotate up and out that you are replacing the chemical laden foundation with fresh empty frames with only starter strips. If you are already foundationless then great job!

Final thoughts

Just let the bees be bees and you won’t go wrong. Let the bees build their own comb in frames with just a starter strip and no foundation and you will have a strong healthy hive right from the start. I hope everything goes well for you and your new hive.

-Kevin

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