I started May with one hive… now I have two hives and 3 nucs! its been a busy month. My first hive was brimming over with bees but to be quite frank they really were not doing alot, mostly lollygagging around at the top of the hive. I also noticed a substantial increase in drones. I suspected that all this “hanging about” was because they wanted to swarm.
The recommended advice at this point is to “open the brood nest” by splitting, which I did on the 6th May, removing three frames in total ( two with capped queen cells ) and placed them in another prepared hive with another frames worth of shaken bees. This hive settled down well, though I was concerned that I placed the queen cells too near the entance, thus exposing it to colder conditions at night. two days later those cells were gone. I guess I’ll have to wait and see if the queen is there, but generally they seems to have settled down and are bringing pollen into the new hive.
The problem was that this did not apear to be enough. My main hive still seemed very full of bees and Every time the sun came out bees would still come pouring out of the hive and I got a real sense that the hive would swarm again. The weather forcast showed a spell of hot weather coming… so I did another split, into a nuc box this time. Another two frames of brood (one with a capped queen cell) and one of honey, plus a shake of spare bees.
That done I thought all would be well, I believed that this “opening up” of the brood nest would quel the hive’s desire to swarm and they would tear down any remaining queen cells. I really should have checked again because May 24th was very hot. My relaxed morning start was interrupted by a shrill call from the kitchen “the bees are swarming“! Outside a cloud of bees was slowly drifting in the sky about three meters up, the air was full of the sound of buzzing.
There was really nothing to be done immediately but observe the swarm as it slowly began to settle onto the branch of a nearby yew tree. I did go over to the swarming hive, remove the entrance reducer and lift the crown board slightly with matchsticks with a view to “cooling down” the hive and discourage any further absconding.
Fortunately I did have a couple of spare nucs ready to go, so after a breakfast sitting in the garden observing the swarm slowly coalesce into four distinct clusters. It seemed like we were dealing with more than one swarm. I got the nucs and with some excitement, collected the bees by cutting the branch that held each cluster and putting them into boxes.
We ended up with two nucs and a cardboard box of bees. It soon became apparent which had a queen as these were the boxes the bees wanted to go into, the box without a queen – the bees just wanted to exit… so I was able to combine the cardboard box of bees into the one nuc. Now I had two hives and three nucs of bees. Whew! A busy beekeeping day… now I can relax… wrong!
My brother Steve had come over for a visit and I had told him how he had missed all the morning’s action. Next morning ( sunday) we were sitting having breakfast again, chatting and enjoying yet another beautiful day when once again the sound of buzzing and another huge swarm of bees started forming. It was almost a repeat performance, but this time my bro managed to get a video clip of the event! I had to use another emergency cardboard box which I sealed up once I had shaken the bees in. Punched some air holes in and placed in a cool location to let the bees settle.
That evening I went through the main hive and removed about 14 swarm cells, I just hope I haven’t left the hive queenless… I also noted that one of the nucs, really didn’t seem that active and didnt have many bees so I combined it with the bees I captured that day. I figured, if there were two queens there they would sort it out between them.
So a busy keepeeping weekend with lots of excitement, lots of mistakes and lessons to be learned. Generally, I think it is a good thing to let bees swarm as it is their natural form of reproduction and is likely to increase the number and bio-diversity of bees in the wild. However on this occasion I was looking to increase my own bees. Hopefully they are done swarming now, but I will be keeping a regular check.