Beemused: A Blog

OMG! Too many BEES! aka, swarming

18th March 2008

OMG! Too many BEES! aka, swarming

posted in Our Hives |

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!

-Amanda

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There are currently 5 responses to “OMG! Too many BEES! aka, swarming”

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  1. 1 On March 18th, 2008, Stacey Derbinshire said:

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Stacey Derbinshire

  2. 2 On March 18th, 2008, AF said:

    Thanks for your interest! I’m really enjoying the bees- even the parts that challenge me (because I have a long-standing “bug” phobia). We’ll be posting more as the season progresses- right now we see the occasional bee wandering around on warm days, but there’s not much action in general. Still- at this point it looks like all 3 hives survived the winter, so that’s really cool!

    I hope to be lots more involved this year, even with the actual hands-on bee manipulation (eep!).

    -Amanda

  3. 3 On March 20th, 2008, David said:

    Hi, you need to keep one step ahead of the girls. Give them plenty of room and keep up with your checks for queen cells (kill them if you find them). However an easy mistake to make is to diligently kill off all the queen cells after the bees have swarmed thus leaving the colony queenless. So find the queen first then destroy the queen cells. I speak from experience!
    If the weather is nice and there’s lots of activity they may need a super putting on. This will give the flying bees somewhere to go when they all come home for the night so (hopefully) stopping them feeling too crowded, which is one reason why they swarm.
    Finally try to get your bees to read the same books as you do, this way they will know what they’re supposed to be doing.

  4. 4 On March 20th, 2008, AF said:

    Thanks for your good advice, David!

    We were, I’m afraid, a bit lax about checking for queen cells last year. And I’m not even sure that we can reliably identify the queen. We’re definitely novices at this!

    So- we’re hoping to contact a local experienced beekeeper and ask him or her to pay us a visit, help us look over the hives, ID the queens (which we will then MARK!), etc. (We’re certainly willing to reimburse for this, because it would be such a help for us.)

    And then, we’ll have a lot more confidence ourselves. And hopefully we will not kill off queen cells after a swarming, though to be honest we may well screw up that way. We are also pretty concerned that a hive-raised queen won’t get well-mated, but that’s a separate issue. Personally, I’d adore to raise our own queens and allow the bees to have a lot of input into the process… but I suspect that’s only effective when one has rather more than our 3 hives.

    I do know we need to make sure they have stuff to do, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on them and super them at the first sign of them needing it.

    And I will encourage the girls to read the books we do. *giggle* That would be SUCH a help!

    -Amanda

  5. 5 On December 17th, 2009, BeingGreenOnline said:

    Talking about swarming I wish that I knew about these bees a lot more sooner as I would have experimented in catching some of their swarms.

    As it stands I’m going to have to try and relocate them!

    Check it out (picture too!): I’m Going to Get Stung for Doing This to the Bees!

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