Springtime maintenance for your bee colony

Spring, swarms, splits and more...

With the warmer weather and longer daylight hours, this indicates the start of spring for bees – and oft the flowers too!

Throw a nectar flow and pollen bloom into the mix, and this will trigger the queen to start laying lots of eggs, expanding the colony’s population.

At this time, you may begin to notice a super—or brood box, if you only have a brood box on the hive—chock full of bees, perhaps beginning to overflow and beard on the front of the hive. Bearding can mean lots of things, however at this time of year it can mean that there are just so many bees in the hive that they can’t all fit, and a sign that the bees might swarm.

You can confirm this by doing a full brood inspection, and assessing how much space the bees have left to expand—you should see a really healthy brood pattern, lots of eggs and about 3 day-old larvae.

So, will you get a second colony going this spring, or allow your existing colony to build their numbers?

If you’re not going to be around to catch your swarm of bees—plus it’s considered good beekeeping practice to prevent swarming where possible—you may want to consider doing a colony split.

How to split a hive

You’ll need to suit up in full protective equipment to be able to dive into the depth of your brood box.
Take out 3-5 frames of brood with a healthy pattern.

Read in detail how to do a split here.

Watch how to make a split below.

One queen to rule them all

You’ll need a new queen for the hive split. You have the option to:

  • Let the colony raise one themselves … Make sure to transfer brood frames with eggs or larvae under 3 days old, and the worker bees will likely raise their own queen. If they do, you should be able to see an old queen cup—or cell—somewhere on the brood frames. Read more about tips how to spot signs of queen bee activity.

Queen cells on a brood frame. They are the large protrusions on the surface of the frame.

Don’t have a hive to split from?

You can also get bees by—

  • Purchasing a package. This is an artificial swarm of bees sent to you via mail.
  • Catching a swarm. An adventurous way to start your beekeeping journey. Make sure to get fully-suited up, and if possible, have an experienced beekeeper with you.

Read more about how to get bees on our blog here.

Add another brood box to grow your existing hive

Instead of splitting, you could instead add another brood box. This should subdue the bees for a time, allowing them to expand their colony without swarming or splitting them.

You may consider this option if your keep bees in a cold-temperate climate, with the requirement for a larger colony to overwinter, or stronger colony for shorter nectar flows.

Check in with local experienced beekeepers whether this option might be right for you.

A swarm of bees...

Hive swarmed and your bees are within reach? Been called to catch a swarm and not sure what to do? Don’t let them get away!

Read about swarm catching here.

Watch Cedar catch a swarm and learn how to, too! The two-part video is below.

Want to learn more about preparing for spring?

Read more about preparing for spring here with Hilary Kearney.