Posts Tagged ‘swarming bees’

How To Create An Artificial Swarm

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

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.

  1. Move the original hive to one side onto another hive stand
  2. Put your new floor and empty brood box on the stand on the original site
  3. 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
  4. Fill the new box with frames of foundation, and put on the crown board and lid
  5. 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.

Honey Bee Swarms

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

If you keep bees, sooner or later they will swarm. This means that the queen and about half the bees in the colony will leave the Hive and try to find another home. Swarming is the natural way for the bees to propagate their race – after a swarm, instead of 1 colony of bees there will be 2, and if both survive, the overall bee population will increase.

So, in the interest of nature, should you not let the bees swarm? Well, no – for several reasons.

Firstly, mainly because of varroa mites, honey bees will not survive for long in the wild. Without treatment, varroa will eventually kill of the new colony – and this is obviously not in the best interests of bees as a species.

Also, if you are an urban beekeeper, it is obviously doubly important that you prevent swarms – a swarm of bees is not very welcome in a populated area, and if they set up home in the roofspace of someone’s house, they can cause real damage.

And of course, if your bees swarm it will seriously affect honey production – you lose about half of the bees, and the rest of the season is generally spent building up the numbers again, so you will be unlikely to get any surplus honey.

Bee swarmIf your bees do swarm, they need to be collected (by you or by someone else) and put into a beehive of their own. Normally they will gather on a branch or gate post close to the hive, while scout bees go looking for a suitable new home. They will stay here for between 12 and 48 hours – this is your window of opportunity to collect them and put them into a new hive.

This is of course the positive side to swarming – that is provided you don’t lose them – you now have 2 colonies instead of one. Or if you are just starting beekeeping, getting someone elses swarm is a great way to get your first bees. And provided it is still early in the season, the new colony should be productive.

Remember the proverb – A swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July is not worth a fly!

Swarm Image courtesy