Preparing for the Flow

(Address to Tocal Field Day Oct. '86)


(Ed. Note: Way back when, as a beginning beekeeper who had just started trying to make a go of becoming a commercial beekeeper, I was avidly reading as much material as I could lay my hands on. I was also attending Field Days, and heard Graham Kleinschmidt give the following address at the 1986 Tocal Field Day. I was very pleased that the then Editor of The ABK, Bill Winner, printed Graham’s talk in The ABK. To this day, I still regard this article as the one that made the single-biggest impact on my success as a beekeeper, and to that end hope someone else may obtain from it the same value.)

Colony populations exceeding 45,000 bees (3 hive bodies) promote high honey production. This population level should be attained two weeks before the flow. The hive should also contain 40,000 cells of brood (9-11 combs) giving the hive two life times – theyoung adults and the brood that will replace them as they die during the first month of the flow.


Maximising the population of an average two story hive requires 8-10 weeks for brood manipulation, a prolific queen bee to fully utilise the comb area, nectar to stimulate egg laying, pollen to promote long lived bees and good combs that allow full bee development and also minimise contamination with disease organisms.


The colony requires a minimum of three completed brood cycles and the fourth well developed before heavy honey production commences. At the commencement of the first brood cycle the queen should be less than six months old. This will necessitate autumn requeening if the flow commences during October because the queen should be in and laying 1000 eggs/day by mid August.

Brood stimulation during late winter can promote nosema disease. If colonies average 100,000 spores/ bee, the colonies must be kept very compact and manipulations minimised until nights are warm and the comb area is well covered by bees. If spore levels are low, the nosema increase does not occur until the peak of breeding and it is then rarely a major problem. If nosema is likely the colonies must be well prepared for winter - requeened early in autumn, packed down so that honey is forced down around a solid brood area and entrances reduced to 90 mm. Now leave them alone, remember the beekeeper can be a bigger problem than the nosema.


A carbohydrate stimulus is the fore-runner of rapid egg laying. In nature this would be a nectar flow. In managed colonies it may be more economic to feed a sugar syrup (1 sugar : 1 water). In both instances the bees require ample pollen to feed the larva. Sugar stimulation in pollen deficient conditions could reduce the life span of actively working bees to 10-14 days whereas ample quality pollen promotes long life - 40-50 days. Protein supplements do not substitute for pollen, they merely develop a generation of weak bees that then need good pollen to strengthen them. This is also the situation with poor quality pollens.

The queen is now in 1st gear, shift her into 2nd with some brood manipulations. The autumn hive (Figure 1) will probably change to the Figure 2 configuration by late winter. The Figure 3 manipulation encourages brood from side to side of the brood chamber.


When seven brood chamber combs are well-filled with brood move two of the lowest quality sealed brood combs to the super and move two empty combs down and place third from each side (Figure 4). If emptysuper combs are available repeat in two weeks (if previous combs full of brood).If the season is kind and the bees expanding nicely, it is time to get into top gear. Super on the queen excluder with sticky combs and this time move up two combs of larva and two stickies down (Figure 5). After two weeks repeat but you might wish to move two old side combs up to make way for two new combs (The sticky supers should have four good combs in the middle. This is a good habit to develop when unloading the extractor).



At the Figure 6 stage the hive will be populous, drones being reared andthe beekeeper thinking of swarms. Now it is time to add two foundations to the brood chamber. Place foundations second from each side. If possible repeat this just after the hives have been moved to the flow and before it is really "on". Strong hives must be supered when the super on the queen excluder is one third full. Continue under-supering early until the flow begins to slow down.



A second flow may be worked after the first and again a brood increase is advisable. In this case commencement is often about the Figure b level.

As the last flow reaches its peak start to under super late to force honey down to finish with a compact unit as in Figure 1. Knowing when to call it a day and finishing with a unit that can be revitalised is an important aspect of building populations.


This experience must have whetted your appetite for further improvement in your management. Now is the time to register for the 1988 Bee Congress at the Gold Coast. While the queen and brood enjoy a holiday at the coast, the worker can participate in a congress that will emphasise practical beekeeping and ensure that the honey extractor keeps turning and the worker doesn't become a drone.

Author: Graham Kleinschmidt