Beginners Information

National Hive NR31

Over time we'll add some pages to help you through your first difficult months.

It is assumed that you will usually be doing weekly inspections from March/April until September. If you have a nucleus colony in March/April, it should build up quite quickly and there's a chance that a super will be needed at some time. If you start with a summer nuc, then the main aim will be to build it up and treat it for varroa before winter so that it is a good strong colony for next season.


A simple guide for a weekly inspection is to check for food, (both pollen and honey/liquid stores), check for potential swarming (queencups developing to queencells) and to check for space. A disease check is also advisable. If all is well, the job will not take long. If you need to do something, you will need longer.

TIP: Allow yourself enough time and if you are not sure what to do, I was given some advice some time ago which is worth heeding. Put the top back on the hive and make a cup of tea. This will give you time to decide what course of action to take rather than crashing in and making the wrong decision!

Identifying brood frame. Norfolk Bees

Here's a labelled corner of a frame of brood. Note the biscuit coloured sealed brood with lighter cappings of honey. Some open brood can be seen - curled up white larvae. The pollen is of different colours showing the bees have been foraging on a wide variety of flowers.

Please see the subpages section below.

1) Transfering a colony from a nuc to a full-sized hive.

2) How much should I feed.

There are two sources of food that bees collect; pollen and nectar. Pollen is the protein source and it can clearly be seen in the pollen baskets on the back legs of returning worker bees. Our view in general is that bees should not need feeding pollen or pollen substitute on a regular basis. If they do, they you need to move the apiary to a better site. For nectar, bees bring it into the hive in their honey stomach so you can't see it coming in directly, however if their legs are tending to hang forwards as they return, it's to act as a counter-weight to the honey they have inside them. During spring and summer you need to ensure that there's a couple of frames of sealed stores or equivalent. This will be enough to last until the next inspection. If you open the hive and there's no liquid stores in there - even if they are flying, then they are consuming sealed stores. For winter you'll need to ensure they have enough to last for months - see the page on winter preparation. For most times of the year the syrup should be thin - 1:1 ratio of sugar to water (1 kg of sugar to 1 litre of water) as this mix of 50% is most easily assimilated.

For winter feeding a thick mixture of 2:1 is best. The reason for this is that some of the water in the syrup needs to be evaporated off before it is sealed over in the cells, so thick syrup means they have less work to do. However, when making up syrup feed, there's no need to get too worried about the concentration of it. For example, if you have made thick syrup and not all of the sugar has dissolved, then simply slosh some more water in until it has. There is no need to heat the syrup in a pan or anything like that. Simply use household hot water (or cold if you can wait longer). The syrup should finish up a pale straw colour. And if bees fail to take it for a while, check that the syrup is not fermenting. If it is, then discard it, clean the feeder very well to remove the yeasts, and start again.

3) Use of a Dummy Board.

4) The Cold Way or Warm Way.

5) Regular Inspections.

6) Queen introduction.

7) Drone Cells.

8) Castes of bees.