How do I prevent my bees from swarming?

by Flow Hive 5 min read

 

 

What we're going to talk about today is swarm management. And it's more important than ever here in New South Wales to do some spring management to reduce the chances of it swarming. And the reason for that is we're trying to gain control of the Varroa mites that came into the Newcastle port and have been spread around, unfortunately. So the DPI and a whole lot of people, beekeepers are working hard to try and contain that. And one thing we can do to help is make sure our hives aren't going to swarm because swarming bees means spreading bees, perhaps with the mite to another location. So just a reminder, we are allowed here in New South Wales now to do our brood inspections, to do our spring management to harvest honey, but we cannot move a hive yet.

A swarm is a natural thing that bees do. That's the natural way they divide. What happens is they will build up and build up and you'll notice that you cannot even see the comb in here. Typically in the springtime, they've got a lot of nectar and pollen and they're going "yes, time to lay a lot of eggs time to get going." Now, if you look in here, we're not at that point yet. So we're ahead of the curve, but I wanted to show you prior to spring here in Australia, what to do in order to do your swarm prevention.

Reduce congestion in the hive

Now there's quite a few different things you could do. The primary trigger for swarming is congestion, not enough room for the queen to lay eggs. Now that can happen for a few reasons. That can happen because there's too much honey in the whole hive and the queen hasn't got anywhere to lay. So harvesting honey in the springtime is something you can do. And what they'll do is bring up some of the honey from below, allowing room for the queen to lay eggs. That will relieve a little bit of congestion down here, which is what you're trying to do. Free up some cells for the queen to lay eggs in.


Split the hive

My favourite thing to do is to take a split - that's taking half the frames out of the brood box here, then putting in fresh frames and that frees up a whole lot of room for the queen to lay. And that is a really good way to prevent swarming. And if you don't want another hive, then somebody else surely will.


Remove brood frames to create space

But what I'll be showing you is how to take out some frames on the edge and replace some new frames towards the middle, giving the queen some new area. The bees will draw comb very quickly with brand new cells for the queen to lay in, and that's, that's the primary trigger for preventing swarming. So if you're not going to take a split, then do that, add some fresh frames in the middle. Or add another brood box or another super, if you want to do that. I tend to like to keep them in this configuration - just a bit easier to manage, less to lift and just take splits.

I'm going to take the top box completely off. So I'll start by just taking the roof off here. So here we have the brood nest and I'm looking in seeing quite a lot of honey. What we need to do is choose a nice honeycomb frame on the end that we can actually take away. And once we take that away, we can put a fresh one back in. Now, if you are using naturally-drawn comb, like these are, we don't actually need to prepare new frames. If you're using wax and wire, you'll need to prepare yourself some frames to swap out, but have a look at this. What we can do is simply lift a frame out and cut the comb out and take that away and enjoy that comb. And then move that, put that straight back into the hive towards the centre. I'm going to choose a frame that's going to come up easily, this edge one. So we're lifting that up now. We've got a bit of pollen and we've got some honey. We don't want to take a frame out if it's got brood on it, we want that brood to stay in the hive.

So that could be a good one to take. I'm gonna have a look at the next frame as well, just to see what it's like. See if we've got one that's capped we can take. So the aim of the game is to take some honey out, to then make space for the queen to lay. Now, this one we can't take because it's got brood already and we want to leave that in here for the bees. Typically the honey ones are right on the edge. Now let's go and have a look at the other side as well. So there's a nice frame of honey. It's still not ready, but we are jumping the curve here.

Now look at that naturally-drawn comb. It's gone slightly wonky down here, but that's okay. And what we're going to do is shake the bees off. And now get a bee brush or in this case, I'm just gonna use some foliage from over here and brush any bees off that on the frame. I'm taking this honeycomb away, we'll take it back to the to the Flow Hive HQ, to enjoy the honeycomb. Now here, it isn't capped. So normally you wouldn't be harvesting honey that isn't capped like that, but it will look fantastic on a cheese platter with those beautiful hexagon shapes. So we may as well take this one away and enjoy it.

And now, because we're naturally drawn comb, there's no wax or wire foundation. We can simply just chop this out. It's really quite a simple thing. You go around like that and that beautiful big piece of honeycomb you can take away and enjoy. And this frame just goes straight back in the hive. So that's one of the benefits of naturally drawn comb is you don't have to go through that process of preparing frames to swap. Now, what we do is this goes back into the hive and typically we'll put that further towards the centre. So we're gonna make some space just here and we're gonna drop that frame right in there. And all of a sudden they've got fresh new space to lay. And what it also does is cycle the frames from the centre that have probably been used a lot for brood out towards the edge of the hive. So it's a good way to cycle out frames as well. Now this just simply slides in, and now there's a whole lot of new real estate for the bees to draw comb and and the queen to lay, which is the primary swarming trigger. So you go for it and do the same with another frame or two and they'll be much less likely to swarm.



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