Honey Beekeeping part 4

This guest post by  Petticoat Prepper and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.

You can read part one here, part two here and part three here.

The first few weeks have passed and your bees have been busy. You’ve kept the 2:1 sugar syrup in the feeder and they’ve built comb and the queen has laid thousands of eggs. As you’ve done your weekly check you’ve noticed they started in the middle and began to work their way out.

Once your bees have filled 7 out of the 10 foundations it’s time to add the second deep super. There’s no big procedure; you just add it when doing your weekly check, the inner cover goes on top followed by the telescoping lid. The next couple of weekly checks you may find they’ve moved into the second deep and haven’t finished filling the lower deep. You can move a frame in one or two spaces in the lower deep to help encourage the girls to fill them. Just be sure not to break the brood area.

You can continue to feed them the sugar syrup mix. It encourages wax making, comb building and egg-laying. Once you’re into your local nectar flow, you can stop. In my area we have a dearth of flow for about 3 weeks; I may feed them during that time. I have planted many helpful flowers in my yard but it’s not enough to really assist them.

On your weekly hive check keep an eye on the second super. The Dummies book said 7 out of 10 frames drawn was when you added your honey super. I felt I’d been a bit early on adding the second deep so I made myself wait until 7 were drawn. I should not have done so. I should have listened to my gut as it was telling me to add that honey super. The next week, I was getting my gear ready to go down and check the girls only to see them swarming. Amazing sight but sickening at the same time. I did collect them from my neighbor’s yard but didn’t have a second hive and by the time I could drive to the store and return with one…they were gone.

This began the frantic attempt to re-queen. Queens are expensive, I still won’t tell my DH what they cost but he does know I made two attempts to re- queen. They killed each one off and made their own. From now on, I’m letting them make their own. The advantage to a swarm is that it disrupts the brood cycle which helps with varroa mite control. The disadvantage is it disrupts the brood cycle and impacts honey production as the girls leaving gorge on honey to help start the new hive. The only good thing about a swarm is when it’s someone else’s bees and YOU got them.

This year once the second deep is 5-6 frames filled, I’m adding my queen excluder and honey super. The queen excluder keeps her highness out of the honey supers so you don’t have to worry about eggs and larva. I found the girls didn’t work on the honey supers until after the two deeps were filled so honey supers are going on the hives before they need them. An old bee keeper told me (after my swarm) ‘gotta give them something to keep them busy.’

Swarms happen to all bee keepers. It’s a natural way for honey bees to reproduce. However, we should work hard to keep the girls home. Fewer bees mean less honey for you.

So remember to:

1 Avoid congestion. A crowded hive is one that will swarm.

2 In over wintered hives, reverse the bodies. (info on this in the next part)

3 Add the queen excluder and honey supers

4 Provide good ventilation. This is one reason I like the screened bottom board.

5 If your inner cover doesn’t have a notch on the edge for additional air flow, glue small sections of Popsicle sticks on the four corners

So aside from seeing the second deep nearly full, what could I have seen to know the bees were readying to swarm? When you’re inspecting you’re looking for the egg pattern, brood, etc. but you also want to watch for crowded bees and supersedure cells/queen cells. If you see these cells you must remove all of them. 100% of them, if you leave even one then the hive have the signal to bug out. I didn’t take any photos of my girls and their supersedure/queen cells and I didn’t want to link to anyone’s photos due to unknown copy right issues. Just do a photo search, there are tons of pictures out there.

If you find they are still moving forward with swarming then the other thing to try is to remove ALL the frames with capped brood and the bees on them to a new hive, try to assure the queen isn’t on those frames. Then replace those removed frames with new, empty frames. A hive won’t swarm if they don’t have capped brood equal to the number of bees leaving. Move the new hive as far from the old one for at least 24 hours. Two miles would really be good but for me not really practical so off to the other side of the yard.

After a week check to see if you’ve eggs in the old hive. If you do then yippee, the queen is there and working! If not, then you need to re-queen. So, order a new queen and go through the same procedure as installing her when hiving your first bees.

Check the new hive to see if they have queen cells. If they do then the girls are making a new queen and you can sit back and enjoy. I’d remove all but 2 or 3 queen cells. The first queen to emerge will kill off the others but I don’t want her to have to expend too much energy for that as I want my virgin queen to take flight and mate as soon as possible.

Things are moving along nicely in your hive and you’re doing your weekly checks. You notice there is a brown, sticky substance appearing on the frames, covers, your hive tool and maybe you. This stuff is like super glue what the *#$@ is this? It’s propolis. The girls gather this super stick stuff from trees and plants and use it to seal the hive, strengthen comb and sterilize their home. You want to remove as much as you can every time you inspect.

As you gather this uber sticky stuff save it to a small container. Propolis has amazing antimicrobial qualities that help fight bacteria and fungi. The Chinese have been using it for thousands of years. You can make a tincture with it. You can even make a fine wood furniture polish with it. Many bee keepers use a propolis trap to encourage their bees to make more. This trap looks rather like a queen excluder and goes where your inner cover usually fits. In cold weather propolis is hard and easy to crack and scrapes off your traps much easier.

Propolis tincture from the Dummies book:

Measure the crumbled propolis and add an equal measure of 100 proof vodka or grain alcohol. (For example, one cup propolis and one cup alcohol). Place in oven proof bottle with lid.

Heat the closed bottle in a 200 degree F oven. Shake bottle every 30 minutes. Continue until the propolis has completely dissolved in the alcohol.

Strain through a paper coffee filter or nylon stocking.

Bottle the tincture into dropper bottles.

Part 5 (the last in this series) will cover harvesting honey, setting up for winter and then finally spring and the over wintered hive.

This contest will end on February 16 2013  – prizes include:

Well what are you waiting for – email your entries today. But please read the rules that are listed below first… Yes

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of TheSurvivalistBlog.net. He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. I’m hold off on my comments until the last part, but this is good stuff. I’ve been wanting to do beekeeping, but I’m allergic to the little critters. I’ll need to find a way to do it without getting stung. It isn’t nice when you’ve got to get adrenalin injections. It hurts worse than the sting.

    • Petticoat Prepper says:


      Thanks for the encouraging words. Sorry you’re allergic, I can’t imagine having to stab myself. I don’t know that you’d be able to never get stung but for what little it’s worth….

      We hit 66 degrees F today. I just came in from my ‘spring cleaning’ on the girls. I’ve not opened the hive since fall honey harvest; aside from a really quick peek in January to assure they were alive and well. I came away with out being stung. But I suit up all the way. Were I you and venturing into this I’d get the best double layer suit I could find…and wear a layer of clothes under it too. Baggy is good! 😉

      • Grumpy Vermonter says:

        Thanks so much for this information, Petticoat P. I need to print it out as well – really great info. I hope the bees stay with us a long time to come.

    • Ah Crap,
      I assume you already have Epipens on hand. Although I’m not allergic, my doc wrote me scripts to keep a few here just in case, for me or a visitor.
      Although you can do a lot of things to avoid being stung, if you keep beesm you can at some point count on being stung, period. You can do a lot to avoid it, but it’s just part of the hobby / vocation.

  2. Encourager says:

    I am copying out all these instructions, PP. Thanks so much!

    • Petticoat Prepper says:

      Oh, thanks! Just remember this is a down and dirty tuitorial. Get additional information via books, bee blogs and/or clubs. We could take over MD’s blog with just the bee stuff.

  3. MountainSurvivor says:

    If I lost a hoard, I’d feel that way, too. If the shtf, it would be good to know where to find and how to handle a wild one.

    • Petticoat Prepper says:

      Collecting a ‘swarm’ is actually pretty easy. They don’t have a home with honey store to protect so they are generally very gentle. Often they will hang on a tree branch or something with the queen on the inside and the remaining girls clustered around her.

      My swarm landed in the neighbors small tree about 7 feet up. They formed a group of bees about the size of a salad plate and about 4 1/2 – 5 feet long. I set a short ladder against the tree and climbed up beside them. All I did was clip the branch they hung from and move the group over a box. Once I had them over the box I gave the branch a sharp downward thrust with a quick stop. They all fell into the box with a few stragglers.

      If you can get the queen the rest will follow. Smoke is a good thing IMHO. Had I a second hive I could have kept them. Thus I plan on always having an extra one around.

      • PP, ran into the same thing several times. Swarms available (right here on the farm) and no place to house them. The new equipment I’m putting together this spring will remedy that. Catching swarms is the one time you can pretty much work without suiting up, although smoke is always a good thing.

  4. I cant wait til the taxes come in so I can order!! Start up is expensive but I figure it will come close to paying for itself by the end of summer (assuming I can somehow manage not to lose my swarm!).

    Thank you for sharing this – I have passed them on to every one I know!

    • Jenna,
      I wouldn’t count on paying for things the first year, except for better pollination if you have garden,, fruit trees, etc. Once established though, you should be able to get between 50-100 pounds of honey per hive per year on good years, with honey going for $4-7 per pound around here. Keep in mind that even at $7.00 per pound, you’ll have the cost of a jar, lid, and label; plus the work involved.

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