Although honeybees can swarm from the hive at anytime, they tend to swarm most during spring. Sometimes honeybees swarm when they believe they have outgrown their hive. However, other times there is nothing that you can do to prevent swarming from happening. The bees simply have an instinctual desire to create another colony. Here are some tips for swarm prevention. These are not fail-proof against a swarm, but they might help you with your beekeeping plans and management.
Plan on making splits in the spring. When the colonies come through winter strong, plan on making early splits. This not only creates another hive but also helps to decrease the bee population temporarily and provide more room in the hive.
Reverse the deeps. In the spring, once the weather is warm enough, reverse the position of the deeps. This moves the brood down to the lower deep and permits honey storage above. It also moves the bees down to the bottom of the hive so they have room to move up.
Re-queen. Re-queening the hive comes down to the management style of the beekeeper. Some religiously re-queen each spring while others wait for the hives to re-queen themselves. Regardless, new queens have less of a tendency to swarm as they are just getting established themselves in the hive.
Know your bee breeds. All bee breeds behave differently and are certainly known and bred for particular characteristics. Some bees are better at producing honey, others are better at overwintering. Some bee breeds are more prone to swarming.
Regular spring inspections. It is important to regularly check the hive for available room, queen productivity, and signs of potential swarming (presence of swarm cell on the bottom of the frame). If you notice a swarm cell, the swarm will be inevitable. Leave the swarm cell there. This is the hive’s new queen. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to prevent the swarm. The bees have been already planning their course of action for weeks. You can simply wait for them to swarm and then retrieve them to place them in another empty hive.
Monitor Mother Nature. Honeybee activity is dependent on the weather. When the weather is warm and sunny, they are out foraging. During long spells of rain the bees are “trapped” inside their homes working. Sometimes bees can build out hives very quickly during the course of a few rainy days. This leaves little room for growth. Be sure to do regular hive inspections. Do not rely on watching the front entrances alone.
Give them space. Try to remain one step ahead. Be sure that your bees have enough space between now and the time you plan to do another inspection. When supering the hive, try add two supers at a time- especially if the comb is drawn out already. This gives them plenty of ample space.
Click here to learn how to catch a swarm.
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