Bees’ natural instinct is to swarm, and you want to prevent this if possible. If preventing a swarm is not possible, then one option is to create an artificial swarm. To know when to do this it is important to know about the timing of a swarm.
When you find queen cells which are close to sealing (containing larvae or royal jelly), you can create an artificial swarm. If they are already sealed, you are too late! As with all things beekeeping, there are several ways to do this, but here is one of the simplest methods.
To do this you will need a spare hive, including hive stand, floor, brood box, frames, crown board and lid. (If you are not sure what these all are, see components of a modern beehive.) Be sure to have them ready before you start.
- Move the original hive to one side onto another hive stand
- Put your new floor and empty brood box on the stand on the original site
- Open the original hive, find the queen and place her and the frame she is on in the centre of the empty brood box. Make sure that there is plenty of unsealed brood on this frame, and NO queen cells
- Fill the new box with frames of foundation, and put on the crown board and lid
- Replace the frame you removed from the original hive with a frame of foundation, and replace the supers (if there were any), crown board and lid
Your artificial swarm has now been created. The queen is in the new hive, but as it is on the original site, all the flying bees will return to it. This mimics what happens naturally in a swarm, as the queen leaves the original hive with the flying bees.
The original hive, in its new position, is full of nurse bees, brood and stores, but is queenless and has no flying bees. But it has several queen cells which will (hopefully) soon produce a queen. Because it now has no foraging bees, it is a good idea to feed sugar syrup to this colony for the first few weeks. This should get it off to a good start, and hopefully you will have 2 strong colonies before the winter sets in.