Chairman’s Chatter – April 2018

Over the winter months I thought I’d re-read my bee keeping books to see just how much I’d forgotten ……checking on that incipient senility problem I mentioned in my previous Chairman’s Chatter. (I am of course only joking and don’t mean to make light of a serious medical problem.)

When I read some of these books the first time around I was nearer the bottom of the steep learning curve of bee keeping and when new to a subject important points don’t always stick without having the all-important context.

Sure, enough I re-discovered many interesting things that had fallen out of the holes in my memory.

I was reminded of one thing I’d intended share when I saw Malcolm at the talk last week on Swarm Management, and now that spring finally seems to be on the way it is particularly apposite.

I recall well, when I started, the difficulty of remembering how to do an artificial swarm, which box went where, when and with which bees in …… a bit like the three-cup trick… confusing. And then as a new beekeeper I quite often had hives where I had not manged to find and mark the Queen early enough in the season and now I’m faced with a brood box heaving with bees, about to swarm and with almost no chance of now finding the Queen …. What to do? Sometimes in desperation I would simply split the brood box in two taking half the frames off into another box. It often worked but was clearly sub-optimal and I’m sure I probably lost casts.

In the Green Guide to Beekeeping which we provide to new members taking the course we give, I re-discovered during my revision what they refer to as a ‘Simple Swarm Control Method’ on p145. It may prove useful to new beekeeper’s (and maybe even not so new ones too) who find themselves in that self-same position …. burgeoning brood box, about to swarm and un-marked / illusive Queen.

Simple Swarm-control Method*

  • Wait until you see unsealed queen cells
  • Move the parent hive to a new permanent stand at least four feet away
  • Place a new brood box (or nucleus box) on the original stand
  • Select a comb with a good-sized, unsealed queen cell
  • Gently brush every single bee from this comb and destroy all the other queen cells
  • Put the selected comb into the new brood box; the flying bees will find their way back to this box but the old queen cannot be present as no bees were transferred
  • Add at least two frames of food stores (and pollen) plus one frame of sealed brood — brushing off all the bees first
  • Fill up the new hive with frames of drawn comb or foundation and reduce the entrance
  • Replace the frames removed from the old box with frames of foundation; this will both improve the ventilation of the hive and give the remaining bees something to do apart from thinking about swarming, although the reduction in population should quell the swarming urge
  • Divide the supers between the two hives
  • Feed both parts as necessary

It will take about three weeks before the new colony has a functioning queen and it is very vulnerable during this time. Keep a careful eye on things without disturbing it too much.

I hope you may find this helpful.

*I’m sure this contravenes copyright law but hope they will not object on the basis it is good publicity for their jolly good book.

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