Malcolm’s Topical Tips – 2018 May 03

The swarming season is upon us - by Malcolm Wilkie

If you have a large colony (for instance seven frames of brood in a 14 x 12 brood box) you might consider pre-empting the bees and splitting the colony before they make queen cells. I am assuming that you are already prepared with a spare hive and frames made up with fresh foundation. However this would be a disaster for a small unit, so only do this if your colony is strong.

The bees in the box of brood will make Queen cells. Go back after 3 days and choose a good open queen cell. Mark the frame this is on with a drawing pin. Go back in another three days and destroy all queen cells except the chosen one.

On the original site you will have the Queen on one frame of brood. The rest of this box is nothing but foundation. This box needs a rapid feeder on as they require a lot of sugar syrup to draw out the new brood nest.

Your honey crop is placed above the brood nest where your bees are making Queen cells. As long as you only leave one Queen cell (remember you have to go back twice) your honey crop won't fly off over the hedge. This box should be ok to handle because the bees are younger, the foragers returning to the old queen on the original site. This box should continue gathering honey as for a month there will be no brood and they will have nothing else to do but collect honey for you.

Below is a YouTube video about how to do an artificial swarm using the Pagden method. It is quite clear, but I disagree with putting the supers onto the box with the old queen. In my experience the bees need a huge nectar flow in order to draw out the foundation. If you put a super of drawn comb with honey on top of the old Queen, the bees don’t bother to draw out the foundation you have provided them unless you have a huge nectar flow and a humongous colony. So you can only guarantee your foundation being drawn out by putting a rapid feed on and feeding a lot of sugar to them.

I hope this email arrives in time for you to be able to take pre-emptive action if it is required.

Malcolm – 3rd May 2018

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