Avoiding a swarm (or at least giving it my best shot).
I’m a third year beekeeper. Last year I had a hive really get big on me and throw off two or three swarms. This year, I had one hive (different one) come out of winter pretty strong and again – build up and large quickly. Two weeks ago, I decided to do a “walk away” split – and on Saturday, I opened the hive up to do just that.
I noticed that there were bees on the front of the hive – many, though not what I’d call swarm many. It wasn’t warm enough for ‘bearding’ and the only hive in the apiary that had this going on, so I figured they were prepping to swarm, and as I made my way through the hive (looking to make sure I was taking equal amounts of brood and resources for each hive), I cut out about 10 or 12 queen cells. I’m fairly certain I got all of them and that there were none that opened – all closed – but they looked “complete” and very close to hatching.
Let’s assume for argument’s sake that I got there before the swarm (of this I’m confident – many bees were there, and last year’s swarms were all in my apiary and easy to find) and that I also cut out all the queen cells. I know that this is not enough to alter things if that impulse has genuinely started. But would the split?
I did insert a few empty frames (foundation) – but I didn’t have drawn foundation from a prior year to give in order to open the brood nest. I did use a few undrawn new frames. In the end, I split the large into two hives- each with 3 medium boxes – each with plenty of stores of honey, pollen and bees.
This was Saturday. The next day, Sunday, I went out and put a mated queen in each hive – knowing that one wouldn’t live but I had no time to find the queen or determine which hive had/hadn’t the queen – before I'm judged, quick explanation here: I have such little time that though this was an obvious waste of a good queen (to the hive that would kill her because the original queen was there) – it was the easiest way for me to make sure that the hive without the queen got one. On this note – I know that I could have put queen cell(s) in it and let them raise their own, I chose to get a mated queen.
So today – Monday – I went out after work for the sole purpose of catching the swarm that may still happen. Here’s a link to the pic:
<a href="http://s1302.photobucket.com/user/closetbeekeeper/media/swarmprep_zps3db52055.jpg.html" rel="nofollow" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1302.photobucket.com/albums/ag129/closetbeekeeper/swarmprep_zps3db52055.jpg" border="0" alt=" photo swarmprep_zps3db52055.jpg"/></a>
or try this one:
Again, many bees on the outside of the original hive. So my question is this (finally): that I know of, I’ve done a successful split of the hive. The original hive has original queen and no queen cells – plenty of brood and stores. ½ the bees. It’s smaller (had 6 boxes, now 3). If all of this is true, would the swarm impulse have been likely dampened with my actions – and if so, would the bees still take a few days for that impulse to dissipate? So ok – they’re still gathering on the outside of the hive and clustering a bit – but they’ll slowly retreat and not swarm? Or is it most likely that this horse has left the barn and these bees are still going to go? I’m interested in others’ experience in terms of avoiding swarms with splits even once a swarm has been likely and signs were in that direction. If my split was successful, would these signs of swarming go away immediately or would it take a few days for things to settle down and go back to normal (meaning not swarm). From what I can see – these puppies are about to jump.
Any experiences appreciated. For the record, the other hive – created from the split – looked very good today. A lot of in/out activity – bringing in pollen – I’m hoping the mated queen will be accepted and it will do well.
I guess I could also go through that hive with the bees on the outside – find the queen and pinch her – but I’ll tell you that it was no easy task working with that hive with the bees clustering on the front of it – smoke or no smoke – and I wouldn’t look forward to that inspection. I guess it’s understandable they’re a little twitchy if they’re in swarm mode – any experiences with working a hive about to swarm?
Thank you – still learning!
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