Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's a swarm-y kind of day...

A natural tendency, when a beehive is doing really well, is to swarm. In this way whole beehives reproduce (think of it like budding of a branch). If it weren't for swarming, feral hives would die out (since swarming increases the numbers of hives, and not all hives survive winters).

But what is good for bees is not good for beekeepers. A hive which swarms takes about 1/2 of the workers away, and a lot of the honey. Plus, the bees need to make a new queen, which sets back bee production by a little over a month. If you are interested in collecting honey, you want to minimize swarms. Besides, the hives really don't need to reproduce since they are being managed by the beekeepers.

Last year in June my hive swarmed unexpectedly. I wasn't too aware of what to look for, but this year I was prepared. I've been reading about performing a walk-away split with the swarm cells as part of swarm prevention. When you do that, you have the option of putting the current queen with the new split, or leaving her with the existing hive. This queen was the queen from Janina that she made up for me last year. Even though that hive started in August, it came through the winter very well. The queen has been laying well also, so I might as well keep her in the main hive.

So when I looked into the green hive yesterday and saw two frames with swarm cells on them, I knew what to do. I also noticed that a lot of the brood nest area was being filled up with nectar, which is how the bees slow down the queen laying in preparation for swarming. You can see here that there are a lot of bees in this hive (this is the view of the top box):

So here's what happened today. I have a couple of nuc boxes already ready to use. I first found the frame with the queen on it and set it aside (so as to not accidentally include her in the nucs). Then I pulled out the two frames with swarm cells on them, and put one into each of the nuc boxes. I found another frame of capped and uncapped brood, as well as a frame of honey and pollen, and put them over in the boxes. I then shook some extra (nurse) bees into the nuc, to make sure there are plenty of bees to tend the larvae. Last year I made a nuc and it failed - I think it was because I didn't have enough nurse bees and enough food.

Here's what the nucs looked like:

To the three frames I took from the hive I added two new frames (one wired wax foundation, the other one foundationless) to let the bees have something to do while the queen cell matures and hatches. The brown things are pollen patties I added to the nuc just for some extra insurance.

The remaining frames (including the frame with the queen) I redistributed in the lower hive body, in the typical order of frames (brood toward the center; nectar and pollen toward the ends). I added some wired wax and plastic foundation primarily to the top box.

By doing this, the intent is to "open up" the brood area, and make the hive think that there has been a swarm. They should kick into wax-building mode and draw out the foundation, and the queen should start laying again.

I buttoned up the nuc boxes and moved them a little way away from the main hive. I know any foragers which were in the nucs will probably return to the parent green hive, but that's OK - that's why I shook extra bees into the nucs. At first I didn't see any activity in front of the nucs, but after about an hour, I did see a few bees flying around the front of them.

I'm running out of places to put beehives!!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Widget by LinkWithin