One of our beekeeping challenges for the upcoming summer is dealing with swarming. We got off easy last year; our bees are largely Italians, and since they were new hives, they were more inclined to work on the existing home rather than trying to create new ones.
But this summer? all bets are off. The way bees reproduce, basically, is by splitting 1 hive into 2 or more… and our hives are now mature, and thus eager to do this. (Remember that, for bees, in many ways the individual is the hive, not the single bee…)
So. We are needing to research swarming and its prevention. Now, we also need to research this with an eye to NOT splitting the hives; if we lived in a rural area and wanted and had a place for more hives… well, the bees want to make more hives, and we want more hives, so we just need to work out the details. But here? We could maybe add 1 more hive to our “bee yard”, and possibly another in a more visible area if it did not scream “BEEHIVE!!!” at anyone who looked at it. (Remember: we are very, very suburban.) So. Splitting the hives is not an attractive option.
Honestly, I don’t even have much objection to their swarming in principle, even though it does weaken the existing hives. The problem is that the older, proven queen will depart with the swarm, leaving an unhatched and- tellingly- unmated queen to take her place. Since we have not seen any amount of honeybees around before we got our hives, we are fairly confident that a virgin queen will not, shall we say, become “fulfilled” around here. No dudes. (And a well-mated queen needs 10-20!) And this means the hive dies.
So. I would rather we did what we can to prevent swarming at this point. We have Italians, which are less fond of swarming than most other strains, so that’s a help. And I am looking into re-queening our hives come Sept., preferably with queens that have been raised from more Northern strains of bees (our packages were from Georgia!). But- I do need to look into swarm prevention approaches, to minimize it as much as possible so as to not weaken our hives unduly. And, I hope, to not create more beehives than we know what to do with!