One of the first things I wanted to learn was how to start a bee hive. What do bees like in a home? Where should a bees be placed? What’s too hot for bees. I hope to answer some of these questions for people by writing about my own experiences
I researched a few designs and made my own which was slightly larger then others out there. If you want to make your own hive, a quick Google will show you what you want. Hive design is personal and later I will talk about what I like.
To start a colony of bees off you will need to have an existing bee hive to work from. Buying one or asking a friend with bees to help you is a great way to start.
I set about starting a couple of small colony’s by taking some brood covered in bees from another hive.
If you don’t know what brood is, it is simply where the queen bee lays her eggs. Brood is key to successfully starting off any native bee hive. Brood is often described as a comb looking structure within the hive. Along with brood the importance of a queen or queen cell is something to consider. Depending on what species of stingless bee you are working with you will need to locate a queen or a queen cell. Queens are a noticeably larger bee with an extended abdomen. You should be able to pick her if you see her. A queen cell on the other hand is a little tricky sometimes to locate. In tetragonula carbonaria the queen cells are located on the outside of the discs of brood. In other species they can be mixed inside the brood structure in seemingly random places. They look like are large egg in the face of the other cells. Again noticeably larger.
With the brood placed in a box with bees on it and a small amount wax/resin from the hive on the entrance hole, you can begin to watch what the bees do. I started my colonies just before winter which is the worst time to do this. If you can wait till winter has passed and the days feel comfortable to walk around in.
If you have added a queen she should begin to lay as soon as the worker bees have things ready. If you are waiting for a queen cell to hatch place it in an area where you can see it and check every now and then to see if and when she emerges. If she does not begin to work on the brood as soon as she comes out don’t worry. I have waited 2 weeks or more for a queen to mate and start laying.
Below are some pictures of what a colony looks like when it has struggled. Absence of a good amount of bees, variable colours in nest structure, lots of stringy random structure and brood cells that are half opened. If you see this in you own hive you may want to consider feeding them a little sugar water to give them a boost. Diluted honey/water mix is also helpful to them.