Friday, May 8, 2015

Split the Hive Today -- Will the Bees Swarm Anyway?

We went into our strong hive today and the bees were busy making more queen cells so they are surely considering swarming. The queen has also reduced laying, another sign of her resting up before the swarm.

We couldn't find the queen (as usual) but there was capped brood and larva so she's there. I looked for eggs but couldn't see any, but that doesn't mean they weren't there. I have a hard time seeing them any time.

We took three frames of brood and bees with one capped queen cell and put it in the split. We also put in two frames packed with nectar, pollen, some capped honey, and forager bees.
We'll keep the bees enclosed in the hive for several days with a bag of sugar water and hopefully the foragers will recognize their new home and not return to the old hive. It's called a walkaway split and we'll see how it works. We'll face the hive entrance in a new direction from the old parent colony and put a little oil of lemon in the hive to give it a distinctive smell. Will any of this work? Who knows. That's why I'm keeping this journal.

Back in the parent colony we put two empty frames in the second box down on either side of a frame of brood with bees working on two open queen cells with a queen larva. Breaking up the brood chamber and encouraging lateral laying can delay or prevent swarming. We'll see. We also added another super on top of the honey super that is currently very full of honey and being capped. I've been reading up and bees that are busy working in the top supers are less likely to swarm. The queen in this box is only a year old so hopefully she will decide to stay put.

Our strategy may not keep the bees from swarming. There appeared to be some evidence of backfilling where, after the brood hatches, instead of the queen laying more eggs, the workers fill the empty space with nectar. Anyway, we'll be keeping a close watch the next few days and see what happens. Hopefully if they swarm, we'll be able to catch it. If they don't, we'll check early next week to see if the queen is laying in the empty frames.

Beekeeping is certainly more of an art than a science.

Meanwhile, I'm cleaning up boxes in case we need to catch a swarm. St. Ambrose and St. Valentine, please keep an eye on our bees and make sure we're there if they swarm. The Poor Clares would love some honey this year!

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