A Curious Beekeeper Explores
Swarm Prevention (after queen cells are seen)
Once swarm cells are found in the colony, the bees have decided to swarm and started the process. The beekeeper has essentially two options: The beekeeper needs to make the bees think they have already swarmed or 2) they (meaning the beekeeper) need to stand on their head and mutter incantations to the bee Gods and hope that the fancy equipment they’ve bought to stop swarming works.
You might be able to tell that I do not place great hope in the second strategy. The methods may and probably do work, but they require regular and frequent inspections & manipulations of the hive in order to work.
The most common way to implement the first strategy is by splitting the hive, removing roughly 50% of the bees and the current queen.
If you are seeing more than two swarm cells, it is safe to assume that the colony will issue a Prime Swarm with the current queen AND that it will issue After Swarms headed by a virgin queen. You may have heard that an emerging queen will kill her rivals. True enough, but when there are swarm cells younger than her by a day or more, those are usually ignored and not killed.
The After Swarms can be stopped by cutting the queen cells – destroying them or transplanting them to be used somewhere else. If they are all on the same frame, cutting is usually the best option, leaving what the beekeeper thinks are the two oldest cells.
The split that has been created could be recombined with the parent hive (usually using the newspaper method) before Maine’s late summer honey flow.
Or it could be sold, or used to start a new hive.
As I call them “the stand on your head methods” require that you use additional equipment.
The Demaree method for example, has the beekeeper use a special board dividing the colony in two, with the box on top separated from the bottom by a Snelgrove Board. The current queen goes in the bottom box and all brood goes in the top box. All queen cells and cups are cut in the top box (but 1) every three days. On that same schedule, all new brood is removed to the top box.
What has happened is that the old queen has plenty of room to lay, and that all of the young brood has been removed to the top box, where they are able to raise a queen. If everything works as it is supposed to, there is no swarming. There are lots of web references on the Demaree Method, many videos on You Tube, and even Snelgrove’s 1921 book.
Oh yes, honey supers and little doors in the board are involved too. Check your web resources for details. In some variations, this is done as soon as queen cups are seen with Royal Jelly in them.
There is lots of other equipment you could get.
Then again, you could just let the bees swarm.
This is the final A Curious Beekeeper Explores column. I hope you have enjoyed reading them. The column may return in the future on a different schedule. Thank you!
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