Honey Bee Swarming

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Apiary’s reproduction – How to control swarming

The natural proliferation and reproduction of the apiary is called swarming. The proliferation of apiary takes place during spring (April). In a nutshell, the queen accompanied by a number of workers leave the apiary in search of a new nest. Meanwhile, in the hive there are enough bees and some queen cells, from which new queens will be raised.

First we must look to find the flock left with the queen of the primary cell. Most probably it has moved to some other place nearby, often over a branch of a tree. We then add combs in an empty hive and we place it near the flock. In some very rare cases, we may have up to 4-5 queens in a flock, so first we have to count how many queens we have. We carefully watch the queen, because it can escape again (if the beehive -that was caught- escaped by replacing the queen, the beekeeper needs now to make the replacement).

In general, swarming hives do not store enough honey that can be collected by the apiarist, nor do they offer good pollination service in nearby crops. Furthermore, the beekeeper runs the risk of not being able to spot or capture the swarm. Instead of waiting for the flock to swarm and then chase it, we can carefully create the suitable conditions that will promote the split of a single colony in two under controlled conditions, before natural swarming takes place. In this case, we will benefit from the controlled swarming by dividing the colony, while avoiding the risks. We can carefully place an empty hive close to the one we want to divide. We remove half of the frames of the old hive and transfer it to the new (there should be 2 to 3 frames with open and sealed broods as well as broods of the same day). The configuration must be from outside to inside: honey-pollen-spawn. We transfer the new “orphan” hive to the desired location and leave the door open. In five days we check for “queen cells” and we only leave 2. We add food. We check if the old beehive (in which we have left the queen) develops normally. In the same way, we can cut a two roofs beehive in more suckers of five frames. Of course, such complex handlings require some experience. It is better to be accompanied by an experienced apiarist during your first split effort.

There are several anti-swarm measures, from clipping one wing of queen so that it cannot fly, to rearrange the hive and decrease the bees’ population, so that the queen can communicate better with all the workers through pheromones. One of the most common causes of swarming is the reduction of pheromone creation by an old queen. Thus, many worker bees do not listen and take orders from the queen. The queen is frustrated from its inability to control and motivate the hive, so it escapes in order to create a new smaller society, consisted solely of loyal and willing worker bees. Thus, for once again, having a young (up to 2 years old) and thriving queen in our hive will save us from a lot of trouble.  

You can enrich this article by leaving a comment or photo of your swarming control methods.

1. Beekeeping Basics

2. Understanding Bee Society

3. How Honey is made by Bees

4. Beehive and Equipment Supply

5. Beehive Location

6. Honey Bee Swarming

7. Beehive Wintering

8. How to feed Bees

9. Honey Harvest

10. Bee Diseases

11. Q&As Bees

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