To give you some brief history, this is my third spring keeping bees. I stared with a package from Hardeman apiaries, with a Russian hybrid queen. I fell in love with beekeeping instantly. Due to lack of knowledge, I had plenty of swarms last spring and summer. I was able to catch most of them, so now I have four hives, plus a six frame observation hive. Two hives are located in my backyard, (Annapolis), and two hives at a nearby farm. I successfully re-queened all of them last September. All of them have survived the winter so far. I want to manage my colonies for honey production, so I would like to keep swarming to a minimum.
On February 14, I reversed hive bodies and began spring feeding. The weather was still a little chilly (52), so I did not inspect frames within the cluster. The two colonies in my backyard still had ample honey reserves, and the clusters covered about five frames. The colonies located at the farm also had plenty of honey, but contained a lot more bees. The clusters covered almost all ten frames. I am concerned that the latter two hives that I described will be boiling with bees by mid April, and issue swarming behavior. I don't really want any more colonies at this point. My questions on this subject are:
1. Do I need to be concerned about the seemingly high populations at all?
2. Can I take some frames from each hive, (to relieve some congestion) and combine them in a new hive without the bees fighting?
3. If this is a good option, what is the best way to do it, and what sort of timing should I be concerned with?
i.e. nectar flow, queen availability, etc.
4. Is there another option that I am overlooking?
>1. Do I need to be concerned about the seemingly high populations at all?
I've always thought high populations before the honey flow are good.
>2. Can I take some frames from each hive, (to relieve some congestion) and combine them in a new hive without the bees fighting?
Yes you can if they are frames of open brood or emerging brood then they are probably mostly nurse bees who will get along fine. Especially if you spray them a bit with sugar syrup
>3. If this is a good option, what is the best way to do it, and what sort of timing should I be concerned with? i.e. nectar flow, queen availability, etc.
If you want to requeen, reduce congetstion and maximize the honey, you could do a cut down split. Do this shortly before the main honey flow. Basically you want to leave half the nurse bees, all the capped brood. all the field bees, one frame of brood with eggs and NONE of the queens in the established hives. Put ALL the open brood except one frame each in the established hives and half the nurse bees, most of the honey and the queens in the splits. The splits won't swarm because they are working they butts off trying to care for all that brood (which is why you left them the honey). The established haves get all the field bees, all the emerging bees and half the nurse bees to forage because there is no queen. Some of the abudance of nurse bees will raise a new queen.
The established hives won't swarm because they are queenless. The splits won't swarm because they are short on field bees.
>4. Is there another option that I am overlooking?
Things I usually do to reduce swarming:
Easiest is add lots of supers so there is somwhere to put everything.
Keep the brood nest from getting honey bound. This is one of the reasons people do the reversing (which I hardly ever do) because the bees rearrange the entire brood nest everytime you do this. It's a lot of work for the bees, but they won't swarm because they are busy rearranging it. In the process it opens up areas for the queen to lay. I prefer to just add some empty frame in or near the brood nest. Or uncap some of the capped honey around the brood nest so they can move it easily out of the queen's way.
Put on a slatted rack. It gives the bees somewhere to cluster and reduces congestion in the brood nest.
Add ventilation. An open SBB or some kind of vent kit http://www.beeworks.com/images/mk711.jpg or just prop open the top of the hive.
All of this helps.
To add to Michael's comments - adding undrawn frames into the bottom of the broodnest helps give the bees something to do.
I sometimes forget to mention. I usually have some sort of top entrance. This also helps keep so many bees from trapsing through the brood nest reducing congetstion.
Thanks for the tips. Greatly appreciated. I think I will give them some super space, and keep a close eye on them.