How to manage a large colony


Last summer one of our colonies grew quite large to an extent that we provided it with a second brood box. Whilst this gave extra space for the queen to lay the second box was predominately used by the colony for stores. This was useful over the winter as it provided a good supply of food.

The colony is now (in April) expanding rapidly but we are concerned that the queen does not have much room to lay as both boxes still have a high percentage of stores and her laying is spread out over both boxes.

So we are wondering if it might be prudent to remove a number of frames that are mainly made up of stores and replace them with new frames and foundation.

We are also wondering that if we did this whether there would also be some merit in temporarily restricting the queen to one brood box. We are also giving some consideration to acquiring another queen and using some of the brood from the existing hive to establish a new colony whilst easing the crowding in the existing hive.


Sounds like a good question. You don’t mention supers. I would be tempted to:

  1. Take out half the brood frames that only have nectar & honey and place them in another brood box that goes on top of an empty box above the crown board. Hopefully they will think this is outside their nest, rob it and store it elsewhere leaving you with drawn brood comb – a valuable asset.
  2. Immediately below the crown board I’d have space for honey. SBs with foundation or drawn comb and of course the Qx below that.
  3. Now for the brood boxes. I’d keep this as a double BB for now. There will be vacant spaces where the brood frames containing honey came out. Assuming the colony is large I would place new foundation every third or even every other brood frame. A strong colony will quickly draw this out giving the q somewhere to lay. I wouldn’t worry about breaking up the brood nest.

In summary then and this time from the bottom up:

  • Floor
  • Double BB with some new foundation
  • Qx
  • Super(s) with room for nectar
  • Crown board (with holes left open)
  • Empty BB or SB (to create a gap)
  • BB with brood frames containing honey & nectar

How to Perform a Shook Swarm

How to perform a shook swarm to replace old, possibly diseased comb with nice, fresh comb. The shook swarm is much quicker than the Bailey comb change, but it’s much more stressful for the bees.

This should be done in the early spring, but late enough for the bees to build up strength.

In the case of EFB, the shook swarm should be done under the supervision of a bee inspector.

It’s not recommended to perform a shook swarm when bees have nosema, as it’s too stressful for the colony.

Thanks to Bronwen White for the following demonstration:

How to perform a shook swarm:

  • Move the entire hive to one side and take the roof and crown board off of the hive.
  • In its place, position a new hive with a clean floor.
  • Put a queen excluder on the floor underneath the brood box (to stop the bees from swarming during this process.)
  • Take about four frames out of the center of the clean hive and set to the side.
  • Take one dirty frame at a time and shake the bees into the clean hive, and brush in any remaining bees.
  • It’s best to have a spare box to put the dirty, bee-free frames in while you work through the frames.
  • Gently place the four clean frames back into the clean hive.
  • Place clean crown board on top of the clean hive.
  • Feed bees using a contact feeder.
  • Place a super and roof on top.


How to Perform a Bailey Comb Change

How to do a Bailey comb change to replace old, dirty comb with nice clean comb in the Spring.

The purpose of a Bailey comb Change is to get your bees onto nice, clean comb. This should only be done on a strong colony early in the spring.

If you think you have diseased comb, you can learn more about replacing your comb with a shook swarm here.

Thanks to Bronwen White for the demonstration:

How to perform a Bailey comb change:

  • Place a brood box of clean frames straight on top of the original brood box with dirty frames.
  • Place crown board on top
  • Feed with a strong sugar syrup with a contact feeder (as the weather could be cold.)
  • Put a super on the hive with some insulation
  • Then place the roof back on

After one week:

The queen should have moved up into the clean frames (in the top box) to lay, so we need to:

  • Inspect the top box to check that this has happened (and make sure the queen is in the top box.)
  • Place a queen excluder between the boxes (to keep her in the top box.)
  • Put an eke with a small entrance on top of the QE.
  • Put clean box on top.
  • Close up the bottom entrance completely.
  • Place crown board, feeder, super, and roof back on. Continue feeding until the foundation is built out.

After another three weeks:

All of the brood in the bottom box should have emerged, so we need to dispose of the bottom box:

  • Remove roof, feeder, + super.
  • Move the entire hive to one side.
  • Put a clean floor in place
  • Lift our nice clean brood box with our queen and new brood onto the clean floor.
  • At this stage, the brood should be drawn out and we don’t need a feeder anymore so we can put our roof back on.


Beekeeper Visits to Sheffield Schools

SBKA received a lovely thank you after visiting Nether Green Infant School:

We regularly make school visits to talk about the work of pollinators and depending on the time of year we can bring along an observation hive which shows the different types of bees on the comb. We can also bring honey, bee suits, and candle making kits for activities.

If you’re interested in a beekeeper visit at your school, get in touch with Steve at SBKA.

Apiary visit

The latest visitors to my apiary demonstrating the versatility of bee suits and veils. (And don’t worry, we made sure no bare skin was exposed to danger).

Katy, Sam & Benj Baldwin, Manchester.

photo: Paul Schatzberger

Notes from the hive: September 6, 2018

We checked the colonies where we’d found two queens and moved one to a queenless hive: The original hive was left with the new queen and this was doing very well with lots of eggs and brood at all stages. The mother queen (Queen Mother?) had been placed in an introduction cage in a queenless colony. She was now out and walking around quite confidently – BUT no eggs. We were hoping that she might still be laying and might produce enough for her new family to utilise in making queen cells. Sadly it seems she has has stopped laying altogether. We’ll give it another few days and then unite the colony with another…

Sheffield BKA Honey Show at the Sheffield Fayre

We had yet another successful honey show at our Norfolk Park venue over the Bank Holiday weekend 26-27 August. With 116 entries we achieved Blue Ribbon status – which we have managed for the last 4 years or more.

Competition was hot but it could have been fiercer. With only 16 entrants some prizes went to sole entries! All entries are a celebration of beekeeping effort and it contributes enormously to the SBKA community spirit when we have more entrants. You don’t have to wait until you have the faultless entry of course  – see the magnificence of the carrot entry below.

Class Class desciption First Second Third
29 light honey Mrs O Lane Tony Lane Ian Smith
30 medium honey Ian Smith Philip Khorassandjian Cathy Butcher
31 dark honey no entries
32 ling honey Cathy Butcher no award
33 naturally granulated Tony Lane Bronwen White no award
34 creamed honey Tony Lane Bronwen White no award
35 chunk honey Bronwen White Philip Khorassandjian Cathy Butcher
36 3 distinct varieties Tony Lane no entries no entries
37 honey for sale Cathy Butcher Philip Khorassandjian Nicky Campbell
38 cut comb Philip Khorassandjian Bronwen White Cathy Butcher
39 sections no award Tony Lane no entries
40 comb Bronwen White Cathy Butcher John Shaw
41 cake wax Mrs O Lane Bronwen White John Shaw
42 Wax commercial Bronwen White no award John Shaw
43 decorative wax Mrs O Lane Bronwen White John Shaw
44 Candles John Shaw Bronwen White
Philip Khorassandjian
45 photo Philip Khorassandjian Mrs O Lane Cathy Butcher
46 plain cake Sharron Henderson Bronwen White John Shaw
47 fruit cake Sharron Henderson Anne Whitworth Nicky Campbell
48 honey sweets Nicky Campbell no entries no entries
49 honey chocs Mrs O Lane no entries no entries
50 wholemeal cob Philip Khorassandjian Tony Lane Cathy Butcher
51 dry mead Tony Lane Bronwen White Helene Pigott
52 sweet mead Bronwen White Helene Pigott Tony Lane
53 melomel Tony Lane no entries no entries
54 blacked out jar Philip Khorassandjian John Shaw Mrs O Lane
55 two different honey/wax products Mrs O Lane Philip Khorassandjian no entries
56 6 pieces wax Bronwen White Nicky Campbell John Shaw
57 display beekeepng products Mrs O Lane no entries no entries
58 educational /interesting no entries no entries no entries
59 Novice Class no entries no entries no entries

Trophy winners

best in show Mrs O Lane
best honey Mrs O Lane
Blue Ribbon Mrs O Lane
best cake Class (46 or 47)
Sharron Henderson
wax trophy Mrs O Lane
dry mead Tony Lane
sweet mead Bronwen White
Novice Class no entries

BBKA Exams & Correspondence Courses

Congratulations to all 15 candidates who recently took their Basic Assessment. All were successful receiving either a pass or a credit. I will contact you when certificates and badges are available. The next Basic Assessments will take place in Summer 2019.

The closing date for the next Module Exams is 30th September 2018. Exams will take place on 10th November at a local venue (tbc). If anyone is considering sitting an exam this Autumn please download your application forms here and return to Nicky Hine by the end of this month. I need either your original application or a good quality scan. (FYI 23rd March 2019 is the following exam date).

If you would like further information on the BBKA Modules please go to

BBKA offer correspondence courses which currently cost £60 however SBKA is offering to pay this fee if you form a study group of 4 or more members. Please register your interest by filling in the form on our website. You don’t have to sit the exam to join a study group – you could just take the course out of interest. Our Library compliments these courses and offers appropriate specialist texts.

1 – Honey bee Management
2 – Honey bee Products and Forage
3 – Honey bee Pests, Diseases and Poisoning
5 – Honey bee Biology
6 – Honey bee Behaviour
7 – Selection & Breeding of Honey bees
8 – Honey bee Management, Health and History
Microscopy Theory

Summer Barbecue & Auction

We all enjoyed the association barbecue held 19 August with more than 30 people taking part (and some of them were vegetarians). Many thanks to Peter for organising it so efficiently and making sure we all had plenty to eat. Many thanks to Ron for making sure our sausages weren’t burnt to a cinder and many thanks to all who brought food to share.

The highlight for many was the spectacular auction that took place before the food was dished up. Members were able to purchase outstanding equipment at rock bottom prices – brood boxes for as little as 3 for £5, crown boards for £1, floors for £5. Not only did purchasers get amazing bargains, we helped a member raise over £300 for St Luke’s Hospice and we made space in our lock up whilst raising over £250 to bolster the Association coffers. It looks like we’ll have to make the auction a regular feature of the barbecue.

Preparing a double brood for winter


We currently have double brood boxes below our QE. There are mostly stores and some brood in the top box. There’s mostly brood in the bottom box.

For winter, do we need to rearrange the boxes so the stores are below the brood?

Last winter we had a slightly different setup, so we put the brood box with 100% stores under the brood and it worked really well.

Not sure if it’s worth messing with this year?


Yes, it’s worth messing around to get things right. I’ve consolidated some double BBs down to singles but I’ll wait until next month to put stores below brood nest, when I put on mouseguards.

If you have a question about beekeeping, please email us: