What a crazy crazy time we live in at the moment, we have never seen activity like this around hives and there will to swarm like they have this year.
So what's driving this? This year if you are just starting out in Beekeeping it is like no other, the abundance of nectar and pollen very early in spring and consistent springs rains then warmer than average days are the perfect conditions for bees to populate very quickly, as most have found out this year already.
So what can I do to mitigate my hives from swarming.... (and I say mitigate because bees will do what bees want sometimes, so you'll never always prevent it)
- Firstly ROOM- Room for the colony to expand is so very important. Once the brood box is full of bees - they will need extra boxes on top to "grow into". You as the beekeeper Must keep up with this expansion. Its about the number of bees in each box, Not the amount of honey or waxed frames. i.e.- when you first put a honey super on and have a look two weeks later yes there some bees up there they have started waxing some frames and maybe even putting in some honey, 2 weeks later you look and every frame has bees on it, some more wax built but not all frames, 2 weeks later again the box is so full of bees now you can hardly see the frames...... but they still have work to do and only a one or two frames have capped honey........you may actually be too late And missed your window of opportunity.... The queen and bees feel as though there's not enough room and that a lot of new bees are about to be born now, so they will have already identified this before you and made queens in preparation for their departure.
So when is the right time to add another super - easiest way to identify it is once you see bees working on every frame regardless of honey store or wax building.
Why is this different to the brood box where we wait until its full with bees? because the brood has to be kept warm, honey doesn't - once you have enough bees scatted through the honey boxes they'll keep working as they don't need to tend to the babies.
So keep up with the amount of bees..... you may end up with a hive that's 4 full boxes high or higher if your queen is crazy amazing - once at this height you can rotate full frames of honey to empty frames over an over always giving the bees more space and constant work to do, if they dont have work they'll fill everything up and you guessed it- half will leave.
Second easiest way to mitigate swarming is know the Queens age- the worst part of beekeeping is needing to euthanise you queen at the age of two. We know that the swarming sensation or instinct increases from about that 10% inclined - to 90% inclined by the age of two. Replace the queen every two years will go a long way to help mitigate swarming.
Thirdly - Inspect regularly, watch their activity and if something changes or something is out of the ordinary - have a look... that's the only way to know for sure you don't have queen cells on the rise...
so - I have gone on about room quite a lot above but let me leave this thought with you as a human analogy of the bee hive and why room is so important in spring....
imagine yourself in winter, and you travel and live on a train... when the suns comes up your allowed on and off that train but when it goes down you HAVE to be inside.
warmer weather comes along and more people begin to get on that train.... every 20 days the amount of people on that train double.....
before long you are struggling to get in and out of the train it's getting hotter and hotter.... every 60 days 1/3 get off but the numbers getting on are still double...... how long do you stay on that train???? I'll let you decide.... this is close to the life of a bee in spring...
Moral of this story is that sooner or later you want to get off the train.... but what happens if I add a couple of carriages or in bee terms super boxes.... you can spread your wings a little hey and make life more comfortable....this is keeping up with the bee numbers - not the honey stores 😉
I'll leave you with that image and these ones below for your hive thoughts...
The Backyard Beekeeper