New tricks

February’s club meeting was both interesting and informative. The speaker, a certified master beekeeper, talked about many things. As always, I learned new techniques and got excellent beekeeping tips from the speaker’s experience. One notable idea for me was that drone activity in late March and early April is a good indicator of the hive’s desire to swarm. If drones are going out in the early morning and coming back in, they are not ready to mate. If they are going out in the early morning but not coming back in, they are congregating to mate with a virgin queen. This almost guarantees that there are queen cells in the hive with the solid probability that the hive is going to swarm.

A hive management concept is that stacking more than 4 or 5 total supers during the honey flow can dilute the queen’s pheromone and cause summer swarming. A better way is to harvest by the frame – taking fully capped frames off and adding empty comb or foundation to the outsides of the honey supers. The partially capped comb is moved to the center. I tried this on a limited basis last year and found it worked well.

One other suggestion that I plan to try on one or two hives is to move the old queen into a nuc and either replace her with a queen cell or add a new queen to the hive. This nuc can be used to boost other hives.

These suggestions add to the richness of my experience. Beekeeping is a grand experiment!