Finally! The last chunk of my notes from the Michael Bush BeeSpeakSTL event. The first bit covers the tail end of Michael Bush’s presentation, covering swarm prevention while the last bit covers what the “swarm panel” discussed.
Swarming is instinctual. It perpetuates the species. The individual bee is unimportant — the colony is the organism.
Difference between Swarm and Supersedure Cells
Swarm cells: Lots of queen cells, a dense hive, “that” time of the year, tend to be around the edges of the frames.
Supersedure cells: Few queen cells, not a dense hive, tend to be around the middle of the frames.
Causes of Swarming
Overcrowding — if there’s no room for nectar, add supers.
Honey or Pollen clogging the brood nest — remove combs of honey/pollen and add empty frames for brood.
No place to cluster — put in slatted racks, follower boards, and/or supers.
Not enough ventilation — switch to screen bottom board and top entrances.
These are natural and the purpose of a successful hive. Preparations for reproductive swarms are started in the winter with the intent to set in the spring. The bees will put away excess stores and work to increase their population in late winter in order to swarm before the main flow. They will backfill the broodnest with nectar once the population peaks.
One frame of honey + one frame of pollen + one frame of water + one frame of brood — Starting in spring because they’re quickly burning through their resources for reproduction. <— Wow. My notes sucked here. I have no clue what this point was. I’m putting it in anyway so it’ll annoy the snot out of me. Maybe I’ll remember to ask Russ if he caught this bit.
When the bees backfill the brood nest:
- There is no place for the queen to lay.
- The queen doesn’t eat as much
- The queen slims down until she’s skinny/light enough to fly.
- Unemployed nurse bees warble.
- Queen cells are built, staggered.
- After the queen cells are capped, swarming begins.
- The old queen and unemployed nurse bees meet on a nearby branch.
- Scout bees find a new home.
How to Stop a Swarm
Once it’s not too early/cold, open the brood nest and pyramid up. Put in some empty frames, giving those unemployed nurse bees a job drawing comb. Then the queen will begin laying eggs again and that, in turn, will give the nurse bees more jobs of raising brood, etc.
Once the bees are committed to swarming, different measures are in order. Instead, do a split for each frame with queen cells. Put a queen frame in each nuc with a frame of honey.
You can build nucs in any size you need. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, etc. Build what the bees need (hopefully, all in mediums for reasons covered earlier!) so they have less area to defend. As they expand their numbers, you can move them up a size or two. This makes it easy to build up nucs for overwintering.
This was a “panel” of Michael Bush and two other fellas, during which they each gave their own take on swarms. Michael Bush’s ideas are presented above and on his website so I’ll not repeat those. (That and my note taking here completely dropped off. I’m going from memory. LOL)
The first fella, whose name I forgot, had a really interesting swarm box. (Sorry, panel guy, for forgetting your name if you ever read this!) I talked about it on the first installment. The only thing to add to that is that he uses lemongrass essential oil. Michael Bush, who earlier in the presentation, seemed to be against using even essential oils in the hive, seemed to support it for the lure. It’s the “same” as the swarm pheromone and briefly exposing the bees to it as a lure, to make them feel your box is a good home, would be acceptable. At least that’s what I got out of it. Very good to know.
The other fella was Arvin Pierce. I also talked a bit about him in the first installment — he’s a fella who does a lot of cut outs. He has a great website with amazing pics here: ACBees Apiaries Seriously, you need to spend some time on his website. Good stuff there.
Okay, peeps, that’s all I got. I hope to attend all of the BeeSpeakSTL presentations and will attempt to keep up with sharing my notes.