What's wrong with a little swarming?

It's been a very mild winter which means the bees have got off to a good start. Two hives were chock full of bees and had even made Queen Cells; a sure sign they are preparing to swarm. 

What's so bad if they swarm? This is the bees natural way to reproduce and what they do in the wild. The issue is that when a new Queen emerges, the 'old' Queen leaves with up to 80% of the bees. And the honey crop for the year. All that hard work getting them through autumn and winter and nothing to show for it. Even worse, no way to pay for the varroa treatments and equipment needed to get them through another year. 

Swarm control involves splitting the hive into two. I took two frames of brood (one had a fresh Queen cell on it) and two frames of food. I shook some nurse bees in (making sure the Queen stayed with her original hive) and put them in a polystyrene 'nuc' box. This means I'll still get a decent crop from the original hive, as I'm taking the minimum amount of bees and food out, but this is preventing the swarming instinct. 

I often take a frame of brood from a very strong hive in the summer and top up a nuc or a weaker hive. It's all about getting balance in the apiary and having the hives going into winter nice and strong and able to defend themselves. 

We shall see if my nucleus hive produces a good Queen bee and gets going. If we're lucky, we may even get a small honey crop from the hive. 

 

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