Wine Barrel Bees

Hi yesterday Dave Chatterton and I transferred the bees from the wine barrel into a 10 frame large langstroth breed box. Being a first time for both of us the event did not go as smoothly as many YouTube videos suggest.:grinning: Opening the barrel was not too difficult, But once opened we were confronted with a mass of capped and open honey combs which we had to remove before getting to the limited brood combs .As a result sticky gloves and lot of honey spilled on the ground. Anyhow we managed to get 3 frames of some kind of brood. Added the remaining 7 frames. I left the hive cover half open at the front for the day. To day I closed the hive and added a feeding tray. At the moment the bees are frantic and I have the impression they have a bit difficulties to enter through the new low level openings instead of the big round bung hole in the middle of the barrel. Although we did not find the queen she is most probably inside, if not we found enough young larvae which could be made Queen ??? I got some nice photos but do not know how to upload them.mounting the brood brood framefirst harvest of Wild Honeylast frame in the boxbrood combopeningh the barrel, lots of honey combsso many honey combs ! Apparently uploading worked. Could not manage to put a title at every picture but I assume you get the drift. Any comment welcome so we can improve on next challenge.


Looks like you managed to salvage a decent amount of brood, how many Langstroth frames did you have at the end of the exercise?

Also looks like there is a sizeable amount of honey in that last photo, how much honey did you manage to extract?

Thanks for posting the photos :smiley:

Hi Sam, managed three and half frames. but a lot of honey combs, difficult to put a figure on it but it would at least have covered eight frames. Have now crunched the honey combs in absence of a centrifuge , and let them drip out like a flow hive seems to do. The only thing I am not familiar with is how to ensure the bees have sufficient reserve to survive the winter. Assume sugar feeding as a syrup or dry sugar ??


I would place the four frames of brood you have in the centre of the box, and if possible add some frames of collected honey/pollen. For the remaining space in the hive, add frames with foundation (ie. three on each side of the brood).

I would feed them sugar syrup through a top feeder at this stage (a few litres), and keep an eye on their progress repairing the recovered frames, and possibly drawing the new frames. They should still be out foraging and depending on what’s available may be able to build up some additional stores before winter.

You can determine more specifically what’s required for winter based on how they handle the transition over the next couple of weeks.

Hey Wouter,

thanks for sharing your post in this forum, sugar syrup made from white sugar only in a 1:1 solution feed to the bees via the feeder is the go, They need to draw the other foundation frames out that you have provided them ASAP and they need a fuel source for this to occur, which is the sugar syrup via the feeder.

The feeder you have will take 4 litres of syrup, they will typically consume this overnight if not faster under the unique circumstances that they are now in so feed them and then feed them some more and let us know via the form what progress that they and you also make as a result of all of this in the coming weeks.



Update: It is now a week ago since we transferred the bees… Topfeeding since , with some initial problems of bees getting into the feeder. Really don’t know what happened but since the last three top ups no bees in or around the feeder. Still at a loss what happened… Checked the frames. The 3 transferred broods almost filled and connected to the frames. Of the remaining frames comb drawing on 6 of them. Found the queen ! Nice looking dark and slender lady of Italian heritance I gather:grinning: Will now be away for 4 days and hope the bees will survive without their daily top up of sugar . Will send some pictures when back.


Hi Guys, need a bit of advise to prepare my new brood box for the winter. Gets cold already here in Cooma and little available to collect nectar and/or pollen . Am presently feeding the bees sugar syrup on a regular basis. However need to get a pollen source. Any body knows where to get this. Hope to have some 8 capped frames before the real winter start. If not may I wonder whether it is a good idea to move the hive to the coast with friends. Appreciate your comments. Cheers


I tried some custombeefeed
last winter as
a) the bees put away very little pollen in our miserable autumn
b) I wanted to kick them along early in the spring/late-winter as I have a lot of red ironbark in the streets around here which starts flowering while it’s still cold and miserable

The bees really got stuck into it on any day the sky cleared, even freezing cold days so I figure they knew what they wanted.
My problem this autumn is at the other end of the scale; they’ve been packing away so much pollen I’m going to have difficulty cutting them down to size as I don’t really want to store frames of pollen in the shed.

If you’re up this way (Theodore) you’re welcome to grab a bag to see if your bees take a liking to it as I won’t use what I have and I don’t expect it will keep definitely.

Hi Laurie, thanks for your offer. will check the frames once I have relocated and inspected the hive once again and come back to you


Hi Laurie,looks like I have to boost the hive before winter sets in. would gladly accept your offer for some pollen substitute. Could mail you a return post bag enveloppe for mailing me some powder. Pls let me know if this is ok with you, and also what the costs are. You could reach me on my mobile 0407012674 to cut our conversation short. Happy Easter


Hi Laurie, I notice that you present the powder to the bees in the open, in a perforated plastic tub. Judging from YouTube this seems to be the normally accepted method. However I read in the Australian Beekeeping Manual that the author prefers to rub the powder in open brood combs. (page 124 of the manual). Anybody has experience with this method?. Also would it be ok to feed the bees some honey I have extracted from their wild combs ?


I’d avoid feeding honey to bees. It risks spreading disease; is more likely to induce robbing than sugar syrup and rather surprisingly they don’t do as well in it.

Feeding the powder.
If you’re at a serious scale this is how Victor and Dave feed it:

At a smaller scale if you can find pvc plumbing cheaply this is a common technique (that I will use when I stop being lazy)

I used a clear plastic tub that I drilled holes in the side of so I could see what was going on; they could get in and out of easily, was weather proof and not too accessible to other critters that might like a diet of pollen substitute.
I tried variations of hanging it from a tree, sitting it on a hive and now… on top of some racking under the pergola at the back of my house. If they want it they’ll find it wherever you hide it.

I would think rubbing it into a brood frame would only be of relevance if you have seriously miserable weather so they can’t get out. I’d prefer to let them access it if/when they want tit rather than force feed it to them.

Iin the meantime I have my “wine Barrel Bees” for a little bit over a month in a decent ten full frame hive. Had to move them away over 5km to have them 2.5 weeks later transferred to their final place on the property. For the 2,5 weeks while they were on agistment with .David Chatterton I fed them 3 litre sugar syrup every second they, and they finished it all. Also I gave them some pollen substitute, kindly offered by Laurie. However I noted not a fantastic uptake of this yellow powder. I also noticed that since I returned the hive the quick uptake of the sugar syrup stopped. May be they found some nectar in this part of the Monaro. To day I inspected the frames. I found that overall an equivalent of about 6 to 7 frames were filled with captured honey. Could not find an indication of the presence of pollen. May be my inexperience. Some good brood frames in the middle and the Queen was spotted.(see pictures) Since the winter will set in soon in this part of the world I am a but concerned that I still have not enough honey stores and certainly not enough pollen. Would it be an idea to mix the pollen substitute and sugar on top of a frame cover… ? I have attached some random pictures to get the idea.