Natural Products From The Hive

May the time for a swarm

Swarm or not to swarm that is the question

This month is swarm time and we are inspecting our colonies on a weekly basis  in order to try and minimise the risk of swarming a time consuming process but it must be done so that we can maximise our honey production. However we are not always totally successful!

Sadly one colony is turning out to be rather aggressive and whilst a certain amount of feisty behaviour can be a good thing, being followed by a couple of defensive bees all the way back to the truck is just not on. So that queen regrettably is going to have to go and be replaced with a gentler lady. It always surprises me how doing this can have such a fast reaction. After a week or so the mood of the colony changes and they become much more docile and the joy of beekeeping returns.

New Queen Bee

Queen Bee emerging

The process of swarming is the way that colonies increase, when the colony gets to a size that is too large for their environment, in this case the hive, they will start to make new queens from some of the brood. And prepare together with the existing queen to go off and find a new home. As soon as the new queen cells are capped scout bees are sent off to look for somewhere suitable and the old queen and half the colony buzz off leaving the younger bees and brood to build up again. Before they decide on the most suitable home they settle in a rugby ball shaped cluster with the queen in the centre and wait for the scout bees to report back.

A swarm of bees

The perfect swarm

We try and avoid this by removing the queen cells as soon as we see them but if as often happens they beat us to it we perform an artificial swarm by moving the old queen and some of the bees into a new brood box a short distance away. They then think they have swarmed and start to build up again,at least we hope they do!

A bit of Bee lore

“A swarm in May is worth a bale of hay, a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon and a swarm in July ‘aint worth a fly”

The reason for this saying is that late in the year the new colony does not have enough time to build up to provide a crop of honey. So the earlier you get one the better.