Updated: Sep 3, 2021
I had an interesting phone call the other day from a new beekeeper whose bees were coming out of his hive getting ready to swarm. He wanted to know what he should do. I told him to, pull up a lawn chair and watch one of the amazing miracles of mother nature. The creation of a new hive. Try to relax and enjoy the learning experience that few people (other than beekeepers) get to witness. It seems like caos and no method to their madness. But soon the beauty of their organization starts to gel. It is fascinating to watch happen and sad if watch them spin up and fly away to their new home. Once a hive has started swarming you can't stop it from happening.
Swarm season has begun in earnest. It is always best to preempt swarming before they are preparing for it (as discussed last month). But, when a hive has started developing swarm queen cells. Usually along the bottom of frames but also at the bottom any developed comb.any where on a frame (indicating they want to and are planning on swarming). Aggressive action is required. One such method is to do a "Walk A way split". You are dividing the hive (without having to find the queen) and moving her into a hive in a new location next to the existing hive. Here are the steps to accomplish this.
The original Hive we will call hive "A" and the new hive we are going to make is hive"B". This should be done around 10 am (during the morning hours) if possible (explanation in step 4).
Step 1: Set up Hive B with the entrance at a 90 degree angle different from the entrance of Hive A.
Step 2: Put an empty deep box at Hive B and then start going through Hive A. You want to divide the hives' resources by putting an equal number of frames of honey, pollen, and brood (with both eggs, open larvae, and capped brood) in each box with the bees that were on those frames (don't shake the bees off).
Step 3: Take the frames from Hive A and shake all the bees off into Hive B and return them to Hive A. When you're done, all the bees will be in Hive B - no bees will be in Hive A.
Step 4: Make sure feeders are in both hives and fill them with liquid syrup. Put the lids on and entrance reducers. Over the next several hours (this is why you should do this at 10am so the bees have enough time to repopulate Hive A before it gets dark), the foraging bees that have been away, and/or leave hive B, gathering and working will return to Hive A because that is where they are oriented to. The house bees that aren't flying will remain in Hive B. By the next day you'll end up with a pretty equal population of bees in both hives.
Step 5: Decide whether to let the new hive raise a queen (that will take about 25-26 days before she will be laying her own eggs) or buy a mated queen and put her cage in the hive to be released by the worker bees in a couple of days. If there are capped swarm queen cells you can leave 2 of the biggest nicest looking ones in Hive A to hatch and they will start laying 14-21 days later depending on how far along in the development process (Take care to not damage the queen cells when your moving them.).
Once you've checked both hives 5 days later to verify the queen is still laying eggs in Hive B and then you can add a second box. Wait to add a box to Hive A until your new queen has been released from her cage and is laying eggs (takes about 5-6 days with a 1 inch candy plug). If you're letting them raise a queen, then go ahead and add a box so they have somewhere to add nectar that they will bring in until, or the newly hatched queen is laying eggs.
So enjoy this time of explosive hive growth! This is perfect opportunity to take advantage and double your hives within a budget.
Action Items for this month:
1. Make an artificial swarm (split) to control where your swarm goes; into your own box!
2. Feed 1:1 sugar to water ratio, syrup to the smaller splits until you are adding your Honey super (now till the first part of June). Learn about supplements like Honey-Be-Healthy and Probiotic and decide whether to use in your feed.
3. Add a box or space as needed to the hive you started in April or May (once they have built comb on 80% your new comb, or are occupying 80% of the frames if already drawn comb.
4. Research and learn how to do a mite test and choose the method you prefer.
5. Do a Mite Test!! Make sure your mite-load is low as we start the month of June and treat as needed. You shouldn't have anything higher than a one mite count from a 300 bee sample. Treat in May if required. You'll want to wait to treat again until after your honey harvest in August.
6. Inspect your hive every 10-14 days keeping an eye out for swarm cells or indicators of a potential swarm (no eggs for example). Learn to read what your hive is trying to tell you. Listen and act accordingly. (The reason for 10-14 days is they can raise a queen in 16 days. Knowing about it before she hatches gives you choices. After she has hatched, they made your choice for you.
Stay Healthy everyone - and Happy Beekeeping from Homer's Honeybee!