Posts Tagged ‘queen bees’

Swarm Control – How To Prevent Bees Swarming

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

One of the most important jobs of the beekeeper is swarm control. In the swarm season (usually May to July), strong colonies will be very prone to swarming, and this is definitely something you want to avoid if possible.

To understand how to do this, you need to know a bit about the timing of the swarm.

Queen cellIf bees decide to swarm, they will build queen cells – these are easy to spot as they are built on the face or bottom of the frame, point downwards, and are about the size of an acorn. To help prevent swarms, it is important to know the life cycle of the honey bee – and in particular of the queen.

The queen will lay an egg in these queen cups, and when they hatch (at 3 days old) the worker bees will feed the larvae with royal jelly. It is one of the fascinating facts about bees that the egg which grows into a queen is no different to one which grows into a worker bee – the only difference is the diet it is fed on (royal jelly rather than pollen and nectar).

The queen cells are sealed on day 8, and the new queen will emerge on day 16. On the day the queen cells are sealed, the bees will swarm – remember this fact! This is why it is important to open your hive and inspect your bees once per week during the swarm season. If you wait longer than this, you might miss the swarm. So, if there are no queen cells, then there will be no swarm for at least 8 days.

If there are queen cells, and they have eggs or larvae in them, then they will swarm when these are sealed – and you must take action right away.

How To Prevent Swarms

One of the main reason bees will swarm is because of overcrowding. If the brood box is too full of brood and stores (Honey & pollen), then there will not be enough room for the queen to lay eggs – remember she will lay up to 2,000 eggs per day at her peak, one in each cell, so she needs plenty of room.

If there is no room left in the brood box, you have several options. You can remove 1 or 2 frames of honey, and replace them with empty frames, so that the workers have comb to draw out and the queen has somewhere to lay.

If there seems to be too much honey and no room for brood, then add a super – the bees will start to store honey in this, leaving room for the brood in the brood box. Remember to put a queen excluder between the brood box and the super.

Another option, if you have a very strong colony, is to simply add another brood box. Some beekeepers recommend using a super instead of a full brood box, so that there is not too much space – this is known as ‘a brood and a half.’

Unavoidable Swarms

Swarm of bees

Swarms gather in the unlikeliest of places!

Sometimes, rather than being an ‘overcrowding’ swarm, bees will have a ‘reproductive’ swarm. If this is the case, their minds are made up to swarm and nothing you do will prevent them from trying. But all is not lost – you can create an artificial swarm, and effectively fool them into thinking that they have already swarmed.

Or of course you can just let them swarm, and then collect them when they do & put them into a new hive. The difficulty with this is that you might miss the swarm, and also in built up areas a swarm of bees can cause problems – especially for non beekeepers!

10 Amazing Bee Facts To Buzz About!

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Beekeeping is rewarding for lots of reasons. For some the main reward is honey, but often what really draws you in as a beekeeper is that bees as a species are just so fascinating. So here are 10 interesting honey bee facts – but believe me, there are many more!

1. Honey bees are the only insect that produce food eaten by man.

2. The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

3. A hive of bees will have to fly a total of 55,000 miles to get enough nectar to make 1 pound of honey – equivalent to flying twice around the planet earth.

4. Bees will fly up to 6 miles from their hive to collect pollen and nectar.

5. Bees have 2 pairs of wings, which move incredibly fast – about 200 beats per second. This is what makes honey bees buzz!

6. At its peak in the summertime, there will be about 60,000 worker bees in a colony, 2,000 drones and just one queen. The worker bees are all female, and do all the work.

7. Drones are the male honey bees. They are noticeably larger than worker bees, have no stinger and do no work at all. Their only job is to mate with a queen bee. Only one drawback – after they mate, they die.

8. The queen bee only leaves the hive once to mate, with up to 20 drones. When she returns to the hive, her only job is to lay eggs – up to 2,500 eggs per day when the colony is at its busiest in the summer months.

9. The queen controls the colony by releasing pheromones which get passed from one bee to another through contact. If these pheromones become too weak, it is taken as a signal that the queen needs to be replaced (or ‘superceded’).

10. The new queen comes from exactly the same eggs as worker bees – but because she is fed a different diet (of ‘royal jelly’) she develops into a queen rather than a worker. Definitely a case of “you are what you eat!”

Why not experience these fascinating creatures for yourself, and (more…)