Opening and handling the bee colony

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Changes in external circumstances (phenology, weather, food balance) have a powerful influence on the performance of the A. m. mellifera bees. Brown bees are calmer in spring and fall, but they become more aggressive during bad weather in comparison to other bees. They have a wide behavioral ability to react to environmental changes. As a result, you might be very surprised to see very different kinds of bee colonies in different years and places with the same origin of bees.

Some differentiating features of Nordic brown bees in comparison to Italian, Carnica, and Buckfast bees include:

  • Worker bees form small clusters during handling and move to the lowest corner of the comb when the comb is lifted up. The queen can also be in these small clusters. As such, the queen can end up outside of the beehive and can be lost on the ground, because these little groups of bees can easily fall down. Because of this, the frames should always be handled above the bee hive so that falling bees will drop into the hive.
  • Bees move remarkably quickly on the frame’s surface. In fact, staying on the comb gets a value of 2 when the performance is evaluated on the BeeBreed scale from fast moving 1 to very peaceful bees with grade 5.
  • The queen is living easily three years and is commonly kept two seasons before changing. During collecting this material the longest reported lifespan for queen has been seven years.
  • The queen is very good at hiding herself on the comb by hiding under the worker bees, by hiding in the holes of the comb, and by moving side to side during the inspection.
  • The queen has the same color as the worker bees, so marked queens are easier to find.
  • The A. m. mellifera bees are a little bigger and darker, and have longer hairs on their body. Additionally, they don´t have any yellow stripes on the abdomen.
  • The queen usually goes to a newly supplied comb.
  • The colony can be sensitive to chalk brood disease in spring and early summer. The normal temperature of sealed brood is +34℃. Disease spores are activated if the sealed brood’s temperature goes down to +27 ℃. There can be more than four pupae for one worker bee to warm up in early summer. As a result, the brood area should not be opened until the temperature is at +17℃ in order to avoid a temperature drop in the sealed brood area and thereby inducing the chalk brood disease.
  • Compared to other subspecies, Nordic bees usually have fewer worker bees in spring, but they still collect the same amount of honey.
  • Nordic bees fly and collect pollen and nectar in lower temperatures in comparison to other bees.
  • Pure Nordic bees can be very tame, but when cross-bred with other subspecies, they become aggressive and challenging to manage in later generations.
  • Nordic bees are not good at defending against robbery, and Italian bees are particularly eager to rob other bee colonies when nectar flow is poor. The Nordic bees, on the other hand, are not so eager rob other colonies.

When opening the Nordic brown bee colony, you should have the same attitude as you do when visiting somebody’s home; don´t clank or kick, but work calmly, as if you were in a slow motion movie.

  1. Take off the roof and give the bees a moment to adapt.
  2. Use water spray on warm days to calm down the bees in the hive. At other times, very carefully use smoke.
  3. Remove the first frame from the edge. For safety, shake the bees back into the hive in case the queen happens to be on the first frame.
  4. Keep the first frame out of the hive and put it onto a special holder or onto the roof. By doing this, you will have some extra room for handling the other frames in the box.
  5. Inspect one frame and put it back before taking out the next one.
  6. Always keep the frame with the bees above the open hive. This way, the bees and queen will drop back into the hive if they are clustering in the frame's corner.
  7. Don't shake the same bees away from the comb several times.
  8. Take the inspected hive body out of the hive and put it onto the roof. The roof is usually upside down. Take care to not crush the bees under the box.
  9. Give the hive enough room during the active season.