Swarm season is upon us.
Are you ready? What do you do if your hive swarms? Can you catch it? who owns the swarm? Do you have the equipment to hive it? These are all questions you need to be asking your self.
Are you ready if your colony swarms? Have You given it much thought? If you are a first year beekeeper than probably not. But you should. When you first added your bees to your hive you where told to feed, feed, feed. But once the bees start bringing in their own pollen and nectar, if your not careful your hive will end up honey bound. This is what happens in nature when honey bees build in small cavity in hollow trees. The queen runs out of space and they throw a swarm off to find a new home. And it can happen to you if your not checking your hive routinely. New hives can and will swarm. It's natures way. If you open the hive and see a peanut shaped cell hanging down from your frames, then the bees are getting ready to swarm. It's a new queen cell. Look close, if you see one, there are probably many more hidden under the bees on the frames.
Now you have choices, do you save them? cut them out? split them? That depends on your goals but I will get into that in a later blog. For now lets say you missed them and the hive swarms.
Many times you will not even know that it has happened till you go back into your hive looking for your marked queen and cant find her. You notice the bees aren't building up as well as you thought they should have, but the frames are full of honey. The truth is your bees built up very well and you lost over half of them. This swarm can contain thousands to tens of thousands of bees. Swarming is mainly a spring phenomenon, usually within a two- or three-week period depending on the locale, but occasional swarms can happen throughout the producing season. Secondary after-swarms may happen but are rare. On the good fortune that you do see them swarming, you must follow them and stay with them as they land.
If you are lucky they landed some place easy to get to and hopefully on your land. Beekeepers own bees, but there is a grey area on who owns then when they swarm. There are many thoughts on this but it's hard to find a definitive answer. If they land on some one else's yard that person can go collect them and hive them. but if you followed them most people, being afraid of honey bees, will be happy to see you showing up with a bee vale and a box and smoker. Always get permission to enter someone elses' yard.
Hiving a swarm takes a little know how. It's not hard unless they landed 80' up in the top of a tall tree. The big question is, do you have an extra box, bottom board, inner cover, top and frames? Some of these you can get around for a day or two, but you should have frames for a swarm right from the start. When honey bees swarm they eat honey and fill themselves so that they are ready to start building honey comb as soon as they get into their new nest site. If you box them with out frames they will start building wax cells right onto the lid of any box you put them into. Consequentially that's a lot of wasted resources for the bees. They need that wax cell right away to start storing new nectar and to give the queen a place to lay her eggs. If they have to start over a couple days later they may be at a complete disadvantage, not build up as strong, or even not be able to build up at all unless given a feeding of sugar water.
There are many things to learn and to know about when it comes to swarms. Are you ready? Have you read a beekeeping book about it? Taken any beekeeping classes? You can learn a lot from the class instructors. How many varroa mites are you bringing home? Do you know how to check? How soon do you need to treat for mites? (hint...before the brood gets sealed).
You are becoming a beekeeper. Do your part. Keep the honey bees safe. Learn every day about what you can do, what new treatments are out there, and be ready. Honey bees DO tell us when they want to swarm. Are you paying attention?
I Hope Your Having a fun spring with your honey bees and hope your looking forward to a great honey harvest.
Have a Great Day!