In my last blog, I discussed how to identify signs of swarming. If you have strong and multiplying hives like me, it is inevitable that your little buzzers are gearing to split. Don’t lose half your bees. Take action to prevent it!
There are numerous ways to prevent swarming. Don’t believe me? Just ask three beekeepers what they do to prevent swarming and you’ll likely get three different answers. I have found that the decision on how to prevent swarming must begin with the answer to this question – do you want to grow your apiary by adding some hives?
If the answer is yes, try these options:
Split it! Splitting a booming colony separates the ready-to-swarm queen from some of her brood. This discourages swarming because the queen suddenly “lost” a chunk of her colony’s population and she is likely to try and build it up again. It is best to use a nuc (nucleus hive box) when splitting a hive. This is essentially a miniature hive.
- Option #1 is to find the frame in your booming hive with the queen on it and move that frame to a nuc. Additionally, you will want to move three other frames of brood to the nuc. Double, triple, quadruple check that there are no queen cells (they look like peanuts) on the frames you move over. This option replicates swarming in a sense. It has removed the queen from her parent colony and she’s found a new home elsewhere, in the nuc you gave her.
- Option #2 is to move frames from your booming hive that have queen cells on them over to the nuc, leaving the original queen in the parent hive. Again, ensure you do not leave any queen cells on the frames left with the queen.
If the answer is no, look into these:
- Equalize colonies. There’s a chance that some of your hives may have come out of winter very strong and some less strong, or even weak. If this is the case, you can equalize your colonies by taking beautiful frames of capped brood from a strong colony and adding it to a weaker colony to boost the population. You can replace the spot with a new frame or an empty one from the weak colony if there are no signs of disease.
- Modified Demaree method – this method requires a blog of its own, but for now, I will include this article to describe it further.
The modified Demaree method option allows you to split your hives, temporarily, one atop the other. You can recombine them later. It’s a great option if you want to attempt harvesting lots of honey this year!
Selling a nucleus. Heck, you can make money in more ways than just selling honey. Sell some bees too! Use the splitting method I noted above and sell the nucleus colony to a starting beekeeper (or one whose hives didn’t make it through winter).
Believe it or not, there are actually more options to prevent swarming than just this, but most are all variations of the above methods. In fact, I did something different than what was noted above! This is the beauty (and frustration) of beekeeping. There are often numerous ways to complete a task and most of them are correct. At the end of it all, you as the beekeeper want to feel knowledgeable and confident in the choice you made. Test it out, see what happens, and learn. It’s a wonderful thing! I’ll discuss in my next blog the steps to take if your hive still swarms.
Keep your bees buzzin’ y’all! (And in your hives!)