what to do in spring


The way hives kick off in spring depends on the temperature, both days and nights.

DO NOT OPEN HIVES too early in spring as brood and bees can become chilled and die.

The thing to do early is:

  • Observe bees flying, to see how many and how much pollen is being brought in
  • Feel weight of hive by back handle method.   If light, stimulative feed, i.e., 1 part of sugar to 2 parts of water.  Feed warm and don’t give large amounts as whatever is not eaten quickly can start to ferment and alcohol kills bees.

After a couple of weeks of warm weather, both days and nights:

  • Inspect hives in the middle of the day
  • Look at the brood, observing the number of eggs, pattern of laying, larvae and sealed brood
  • Look for signs of disease – E.F.B., A.F.B., Chalk brood, Sac brood, Nosema and spring dwindle
  • Available food supplies

Now is time to FIND and CLIP and MARK the queens

Depending on brood and conditions

  • How much pollen
  • How much available nectar, shake frame to gauge
  • How many bees.  If necessary add additional super, lifting up frame of sealed brood.  Put drawn comb into space left vacant.

Look at the bees EVERY 3 WEEKS, unless wanting to breed queens.  Eliminate drone comb by removal.  In its place put worker drawn comb.  The drone cells on bottom bar of frames should be scraped with the hive tool.  Bees will clean them out.  The queen will lay again but as it takes 25 days for drones to hatch out, and providing you are looking every three weeks you just go through the same process again and again.


  • Congestion of brood nest.  DRONES help do this.
  • Insufficient room for queens to lay in
  • Plentiful supply of pollen and thin stimulative nectar.  Remember 1 of sugar, 2 of water to stimulate feed hives.
  • Old queens
  • Queens bred – or swarms gathered at swarming time (this genetic trait is bred in them)

As the season moves into late spring or earlier, depending on weather conditions, the signs to look for indicating bees preparing to swarm are:

  • Queen cups (drawn out of face of combs)
  • Congestion of brood nest
  • Lack of amounts of eggs
  • More larvae
  • Sealed brood
  • Maybe eggs in queen cups


  • Expand brood nest
  • Remove all sealed brood frames.  In their place spread out the other frames and interleave frames of foundation so as you have brood, foundation, brood and so on.
  • Place the new super containing the brood frames that have been taken out and repeat the same brood, foundation, brood process in that box.  Then add a super of foundation on top of that box.

As a result conditions of ABNORMALITY have been created in the hive;  and the bees that were thinking of swarming have to repair after this interference.

  • A hive works internally on a BEE SPACE and this has the backs of the bees on one comb just touching the backs of the bees on the next comb.  As new foundation has been placed in the hive this cannot occur and therefore the bees draw the foundation out to get the required bee space.
  • Also in the BROOD CHAMBER there cannot be gaps in the brood as this is unnatural and as such the bees feed the queen lavishly on Royal Jelly and her abdomen swells and she commences to lay up all those frames of foundation that you interleaved between the brood.

So as you can see the whole hive has to work to get their hive back into shape again and there is no time to think about swarming and queens in full lay cannot swarm.  In a couple of weeks look at the brood again, as well as the condition of the hive, and if the bees are preparing to swarm repeat the process all over again.

If you have any weaker hives you can take frames of brood and bees and add them to weaker hives to make them stronger.

If, on the next inspection, the bees are still making preparation to swarm create an artificial swarm by taking a whole box of brood and bees and moving this to a new place with a new bottom board and lid and in its place put a new box with frames of foundation and move up brood frames and do the interleaving process again.


However, if the queen cannot be found, look at both hives in the next two days and you will know which hive has the queen in it as the other one will have drawn cells.

Once, either a honey flow is found or the main honey flow has commenced then the bees will forget about swarming, the bees will get down to gathering.

If that extra hive is not wanted, and if the new queen that the bees have made and her progeny is quiet and easy to work then kill the original queen and UNITE the two.  To do this use a couple of sheets of newspaper with a couple of sharp knife splits or cuts in it resulting in a super honey gathering hive.


This is the time to start extracting.  It depends on

  • The honey flows and what is to follow
  • How much honey taken

This is the time to get good drawn combs by interleaving foundation between the stickies which have been put back on the bees.

Stuart Garske