Spring is approaching in Australia. In previous years, a number of my hives have swarmed once the warmer weather of Spring arrived. From what I've gathered, this is a normal biological response from the bees. that can be to some extent, avoided if the bees have enough room to expand within their hives. I've also gathered that, once the bees have decided that they want to swarm, it's quite difficult to encourage them to change the mind, that the only effective means in doing so is to split the hive.
I've learned that my hives are predominately of the Apis mellifera mellifera subspecies, and I'd like some Apis mellifera ligustica, as they seem to be a better subspecies for my region. Seems like the main advantages of Apis mellifera mellifera is that they're better adapted to snowing, wintering conditions; it doesn't snow where I am nor does it become particularly cold. Apis mellifera ligustica seems like they're simply more able to create larger yields of honey.
My spring time plan was to purchase a number of Ligurian queens, and then to create splits from all of my large hives just before the warm Spring weather hit, to mitigate the chances of them swarming. However, I've contacted a number of queen bee breeders who sell Ligurians across the country, and not a single one of them is able to provide me with a queen for the first month of Spring. Apparently, it's not a practice in this country to buy queens, to create splits with to mitigate spring time swarming.
I'm now unsure about what to do come Spring time. The warm weather could arrive in seven weeks time. For various reasons I never did a honey extraction in Autumn/Fall, so I believe my hives are currently very full of honey, some are likely very crammed, with comb on the lid and all. This winter has been rather warm, so I believe they've still largely been foraging thus far.
Is it possibly too late to merely do a honey extraction and free up space? Is it possible that, they've already decided that they want to swarm in the spring time, and regardless of how much space I provide, this is what they'll do?
My hives don't have queen excluders. I'm under the impression that, they're more likely to swarm if the queen doesn't have sufficient space to lay eggs, rather than the workers not having enough space to add honey/pollen. From what I've gathered, the queen likes to mostly stay in the bottom, centre part of the hive, regardless of whether there's a queen excluder or not. This, in turn becomes the "brood chamber" essentially, and that, it can be good practice to take frames that are full from the brood chamber, move them higher up in the hive and replace them with a mostly empty frame, so that the queen has all that extra space to lay eggs, which in turn reduces the hive's desire to swarm.
I still want to create some splits, as I want more beehives. If I can simply free up space now to largely mitigate the chance of swarming, that's what I'll do, then I can simply receive the Ligurians during October(one month after warm spring weather), and make the splits then. If it's too late to do this and if there's a decent chance of my hives swarming regardless, then it'd be best to create my own queens, and make splits using them.
From what I've gathered, the best way for me to make my own queens to split, is to choose the hive that I deem has the best genetic stock. Find the queen, and remove her; the bees will notice the absence of a queen, and will then create multiple queen cells to correct this. I can then go to the hive, and remove all of these queen cells except one, and then place each queen cell in it's own nuc, alongside nurses bees, eggs/larvae, honey and pollen: the queen will hatch, she'll get mated and the nuc will grow into an established hive. This method will equate to only one of my hives losing bee production.
My strongest, my productive high, happens to be my most aggressive hive. It's the only hive that I have where, if I walk near it for the first time in months, they might sting me without being provoked. I wish to replace this queen, so that the bees are more gentle. I'm somewhat concerned about replacing this queen with a Ligurian though, because of one of the disadvantages that comes with Ligurian stock: they breed in excessive numbers, and don't consider enough the flow of honey in the area. This hive is located in an apiary site that I very much like, as there's lots of biodiversity and plants with flowers around. However, I've only had my bees there for a year, and during the Summer the bees did not create a net profit of honey. It took until Autumn/Fall, for them to replace the honey that I took in Spring time. I believe this is likely due to their being a bush fire a few years ago at this apiary site; I believe that, the flowers should largely have recovered either this year, or the next. However, I am concerned that about giving this hive a Ligurian queen, and her then laying many eggs, then a poor flow of honey comes in and they end up eating through all the honey reserves. It's also quite difficult, and none worthwhile for me to move these bees to another site. I suppose if I was going to create my own queens, then I could simply give this hive one of the queen cells? Would that work?