Friday, April 19, 2024
HomeBeekeepingYour second season - The Apiarist

Your second season – The Apiarist

Synopsis: In your second season of beekeeping use swarm management to create an extra colony. It can enhance your beekeeping and supply insurance coverage towards calamities. Make plans now and purchase gear within the gross sales.


Going by the sound of the wind and the rain exterior, the beekeeping season is now properly and actually over. Solely appropriately, because it was the autumn equinox on Saturday, the primary of the equinoctial gales (Storm Agnes) is at the moment battering the west coast and I didn’t see a single bee once I checked the hives earlier.

Storm Agnes

It’s too quickly to evaluation the season however, with the Nationwide Honey Present approaching and end-of-season gross sales from some suppliers, it’s not too quickly to consider gear wants for subsequent 12 months.

If 2023 was your first season then I hope it was profitable … you’re allowed to outline success utilizing broad and beneficiant standards.

Do you continue to have the colony you began with? Did you handle to get any honey? Have you ever began feeding them and treating them to regulate Varroa?

For those who can reply sure to these three questions then it was most likely profitable.

For those who answered no to the final query then it’s good to get a transfer on to make sure that you’ve bees on the begin of subsequent season.

And, to be frank, it’s provided that your bees are doing properly at the beginning of subsequent season that you may correctly conclude that this season was successful. Getting the colony to the autumn is like being three beneath for the primary 9 holes of a spherical of golf … it may possibly nonetheless all go horribly improper .

And, if it was your first season and it was profitable, then it’s not too quickly to be eager about what you may anticipate subsequent 12 months as there will probably be some new challenges and alternatives.

Years of expertise

I do know nearly nothing concerning the readership of this web site, aside from people who usually remark or who’ve made contact about talks.

My net server information the place the web page is accessed from, the browser used and whether or not the consumer is on a laptop computer, desktop or cellphone. Nevertheless, the stuff that’s actually vital when it comes to understanding bees i.e. the years of beekeeping expertise (‘hive years’), stays an unknown.

It’s subsequently tough to know the way to pitch articles; all of the fundamentals with no assumed data dangers shedding the skilled reader, whereas hardcore stuff on the science of bee behaviour or rearing queens from eggs will inevitably disenfranchise newcomers.

And if I cater for each audiences the posts will turn into (much more) ridiculously lengthy.

So, my assumption is that the readership displays the cross-sections of beekeepers I meet or give night talks to.

A really approximate graph of ‘hive years’ vs. numbers

When it comes to years of expertise a major proportion solely have one or two years expertise, a smaller quantity have a handful of years, and quite extra have accrued a decade (or many years) of expertise.

I believe this displays that lots of people who begin beekeeping surrender after a season or two. Their colony dies overwinter, or swarms, they lose confidence (or by no means acquire it within the first place), get distracted or discover it too tough i.e. they’ve an unsuccessful first season.

Partly it’s because – completed correctly – beekeeping is fairly tough.

Certain, the basics are simple, however this assumes good observational and interpretative expertise. It’s an intensely sensible pastime and you can not be taught it from books, or do issues to a fastidiously choreographed calendar.

Difficult whenever you take latitude, altitude and completely different years under consideration.

The identical however completely different … your second season

Each season is completely different. Some years are hotter than others, some are so moist you’re feeding the bees for months at a time, some begin late and finish early leaving you feeling such as you blinked and missed it.

One among my winter talks is on making ready for the season forward. It covers (inevitably briefly) spring growth, swarming, queen rearing, the honey harvest, feeding and treating. In it I make the purpose that the timing (and even prevalence) of a few of these occasions relies upon upon geography, local weather and the vagaries of the actual season.

However there are a few factor which are prone to be new in your second season, regardless of the geography, local weather or whether or not it’s a chilly, moist, dry, scorching or no matter sort of 12 months.

The primary of those is that you just’ll have an opportunity to look at the early spring construct up of the colony. After a protracted winter it feels nice to be opening hives once more and scrabbling by the frames to see what’s taking place.

Hive entrance activity ...

Hive entrance exercise …


At the least, don’t do it too early. You’ll be taught nearly nothing and also you’ll disturb the colony unnecessarily. Simply allow them to get on with issues. In the event that they’re bringing in pollen on good flying days then all needs to be properly.

What’s too early? All of it relies upon upon the place you might be and the climate … right here (Scotland) it’s generally early/mid Could, with an unusually heat Spring or additional south it is likely to be 4-6 weeks earlier.


The second main distinction is that you’ll nearly definitely should take care of swarming.

Most newcomers begin with a nuc obtained in late Spring, or maybe an early June swarm collected by an affiliation member. That being the case it’s unlikely both may have swarmed in your first season.

A small swarm

A small swarm …

The nuc was most likely headed by a brand new queen, ideally homegrown, or imported from someplace unique like Italy or Malta. Being a present 12 months queen her pheromone ranges will probably be excessive and the colony shouldn’t have swarmed.

A captured swarm (no less than a prime swarm) may have been headed by a queen from the earlier 12 months, nevertheless it’s unlikely to have the time to construct up strongly sufficient to swarm once more.

Bear in mind, the bees don’t learn the books … I’m speaking about “normally” right here. Some will inevitably swarm in your first season.

However, assuming you began with a brand new nuc or swarm, you might be nearly sure they are going to attempt to swarm in your second season.

One, two or three?

Top-of-the-line methods to achieve beekeeping expertise is to examine extra hives. For those who’ve solely received one colony you may solely do ~12-15 inspections a 12 months .

Whenever you do these inspections how have you learnt issues are all OK or whether or not they’re going horribly improper?

Are there no eggs as a result of there’s a nectar dearth and the queen has stopped laying?

Alternatively has the queen stopped laying since you made her the filling in a ‘Hoffman-sandwich’ final week, crushing her between the facet bars as you returned frames to the field?

By far the best option to decide this and harder eventualities is by comparability.

If two colonies sharing an apiary are each egg-free it’s extra prone to be a nectar dearth quite than clumsiness.

For a number of years I’ve thought of the most vital factor a brand new beekeeper can do of their second season is to get a second colony.

Two are higher than one

It’s not solely the comparisons which are helpful. For those who do squash the queen after which – in a panic – bloodbath all of the ensuing queen cells you continue to have the chance to rescue the scenario by transferring a body of eggs/larvae out of your second colony.

Late within the season, ought to one colony be terminally queenless, you may unite the colonies and nonetheless be a beekeeper the next spring.

More and more nonetheless I believe three colonies is the optimum quantity. Partly that is primarily based upon psychology; there’s a reluctance to make use of the final of one thing and uniting leaves you with a singleton. One thing for a future publish.

In sync together with your bees

So, as you enter your second season you ought to be considering of getting a second colony.

You must also expect that the primary colony you might be at the moment overwintering is prone to swarm.

How handy … each you and your bees are in sync and need to broaden.

Charged queen cell

In future years, assuming you proceed to build up expertise and perception and understanding – you’ll be taking a look at methods of decreasing, or no less than not growing, your colony numbers. However in your second season you might be within the pleased scenario that each you and the bees have, or ought to have, comparable objectives.

However that doesn’t imply that there’s nothing to do till subsequent Could when swarm preparations will probably be underway.

Actually, these preparations ought to most likely begin within the subsequent few weeks with the end-of-season gross sales. There’s additionally some extra preparations to be made through the first or second inspection of the season.

For my part the only option to make improve in a managed and managed manner is to make use of the nucleus technique of swarm management, both reactively or proactively.

Making up nucs

Timed accurately, this barely impacts honey manufacturing.

Finished correctly, it’s 100% efficient at stopping swarming.

I’ve mentioned the nucleus technique of swarm management beforehand and you need to re-read that publish for additional particulars. The feedback beneath are actually concerning the preparation wanted and making use of it proactively i.e. earlier than the colony begins to make swarm preparations.

The nucleus choices

A nucleus hive – no less than so far as this publish is worried – is a hive that takes full-sized frames, simply much less of them.

Much less normally means 5 or 6. There’s no exact definition and I’ve additionally received ‘nuc packing containers’ that take 2 or 8 frames. For the aim of this publish let’s follow 5 or 6.

The field takes fewer frames and is subsequently narrower than a ten or 11 body hive. Aside from that it consists of all of the bits you may anticipate; a ground, brood field, crownboard and roof.

They are often constructed from all types of issues together with Correx, polystyrene (poly) or cedar. My recommendation could be to solely think about poly nucs. Cedar are beautiful, however costly and poorly insulated. Correx are too skinny for something however actually good climate.

For swarm management and making improve i.e. for housing small colonies in the summertime it most likely doesn’t matter what the nuc is constituted of, however for overwintering (which you ought to need to do sooner or later) then poly is the one sport on the town.

Here's one I prepared earlier

Overwintered Everynuc in April

I personal or have used about 5 completely different makes of poly nucs. Most are Thorne’s Everynucs, however I’ve purchased some from Maisemore’s in the previous couple of seasons.

My recommendation could be to purchase the thickest poly nuc which has a separate ground and brood field. This presents the most effective insulation and essentially the most flexibility for stuff you may need to do sooner or later.

The thicker the higher

If the suppliers promote the poly thickness they typically base it on the thickest a part of the field.

‘Quack, quack, oops’ … what’s vital is the thinnest half as this determines how properly insulated the field is. There’s little level in having 60 mm finish partitions, if the massive recessed handhold areas are solely 20 mm thick, or the roof is ‘wafer skinny’.

Similar producer … completely different thickness

Ask round your affiliation. See what different beekeepers are utilizing. Have a very good nosey at what’s on provide on the Nationwide Honey Present. Go to the suppliers. A poly nuc will value you £50-75 and will final you 30+ years.

It’s an funding, so make investments properly.

Branding on Thorne’s Everynuc

My selection, of these I’ve used, could be:

  1. Maisemore’s poly nuc, the model with a separate ground and brood field
  2. Thorne’s Everynuc
  3. (A really distant third selection) Maisemore’s poly nuc with the built-in ground and brood field
  4. Anything

I talk about a few of this in additional element, together with the measured wall thicknesses on the nucs I’ve, in a latest publish on overwintering nucleus colonies.

And, when you’ve purchased one, defend your funding by portray it correctly. Two coats of Hammerite Storage Door Paint will present safety towards the weather (UV and rain). It additionally makes them look quite sensible .

Oxbridge Blues – a couple of painted poly nucs prepared for the season forward

And, when you’re spending your hard-earned cash, purchase a appropriate eke (for those who feed fondant) or syrup feeder. Some intelligent designs do each. Don’t assume they’ll be accessible subsequent 12 months … it’s commonplace for designs to be improved change.

That’s the primary little bit of the preparations over. Have a very good Christmas!


A nucleus of bees is only a small colony. As such, it needs to be comparatively self-sufficient, no less than if the climate and the setting are benign. Nevertheless, if circumstances are hostile it’d wrestle; to broaden it must rear new brood which takes employees to nurture the growing larvae (‘it takes bees to make bees’) and extra employees to forage for the protein and carbohydrate they want.

Since bees can’t be in two locations directly it’s vital that the nuc is supplied with enough shops.

Which brings me to these first couple of inspections of the season.

For those who fed your colony properly the earlier autumn it’s doubtless they are going to have an outer body of sealed shops nonetheless largely untouched whenever you examine within the spring. In the event that they don’t then it’s doubtless your bees are prolific Italian sorts, otherwise you didn’t feed them sufficient, or each.

A body of sealed shops … good for feeding nucs

As soon as the bees are flying properly and the season has correctly began (e.g. there’s recent nectar being collected) they will spare these shops. Consider it as conveniently prepackaged shops for the nuc you’ll be making in a month or so.

Take away the body of sealed shops and exchange it with a body of basis. I’d usually insert the muse between an outer pollen-filled body and the sting of the broodnest; this permits the bees to broaden the broodnest as soon as the brand new body has been drawn.

Hold that body of sealed shops in a bee-, wasp- and mouse-proof location … your beforehand painted new nuc field with the doorway closed is nearly as good as any.

Splits or swarm management? It’s simply semantics

The best option to get the timing proper for the preparation of your nuc is to attend for the colony to provide queen cells. It’s at the moment that the colony is robust sufficient and the climate prone to be greatest suited to get the brand new queen mated.

That’s what I like to recommend you do … most likely in mid/late Could, relying upon your latitude and altitude.

The bees decide the timing of occasions and are much less prone to get it improper than you might be. They’ve had a couple of million years of evolution to optimise issues, you’ve completed 19 inspections and had bees for lower than a 12 months.

Queen cell

Queen cell …

Full directions are in my earlier publish on the nucleus technique of swarm management.

Alternatively, you are able to do it proactively.

You don’t watch for queen cells, however you break up off a 2-3 body nuc from the colony. The nuc incorporates the queen and frames of rising brood. They construct up into a brand new colony.

The unique colony is now queenless, it raises some emergency queen cells. Six or seven days after making the nuc you undergo the de-queened hive, eradicating all however one well-formed queen cell.

A month later (or much less in a very good 12 months, however let’s not be bold) you’ve a newly mated queen heading your hive, and a quickly increasing nuc.

Is that this swarm management or a break up?

It’s really each .

Timed correctly, the unique colony shouldn’t swarm. It additionally has minimal affect on honey manufacturing. Within the pandemic 12 months I did this with all my colonies in Fife, misplaced no swarms and achieved a wonderful honey crop.

Timed correctly

The explanation I like to recommend – no less than in your second season – that you just wait till queen cells are produced is that that is extra doubtless to make sure a profitable final result.

Timing is crucial.

Utilized too early and the nuc struggles to construct up because it’s not heat sufficient or there’s inadequate forage accessible. On the identical time the unique hive could not requeen promptly if circumstances for queen mating are borderline.

There’s tons to go improper for those who begin too early.

Ready for the equinoctial gales to begin

Alternatively, utilized too late, you might discover queen cells seem in each the nuc and the unique hive. I interpret this because the colony being already intent on swarming however that I intervened too late and made the nuc up too robust. This case is rescuable, nevertheless it’s maybe not very best in your second season.

In the end the nuc will want a full-sized hive (so purchase a type of within the gross sales as properly). Chances are you’ll not get a honey crop from it in your second 12 months – although it’s not out of the query – and the ageing queen is likely to be changed by supersedure late within the season, or will overwinter and possibly attempt to swarm in your third season.

However by you then’ll know precisely what to do and when to do it.


Don’t be tempted to separate 2-3 frames off your hive with out the queen. A small break up like that’s unlikely to provide good high quality queen cells (or queens). Make a small queenright nuc and let the rest of the hive – maybe 7-8 or extra frames of brood – rear the brand new queen.

Supply hyperlink



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments