Plans for swarm control

Day length is becoming noticeably longer and will increase by over 75 minutes in the next 30 days (see Day Length Chart 2013).

Now is the time to plan Spring swarm control which in the past, has not been my high priority. In previous years, I have focused on April Nuc production and encouraged the hives to buildup so that I could remove bees and frames of brood. These frames were replaced with empty comb. I have found that my strong hives swarmed even after removing these frames of brood and swarm cells. I think that once the bees decide to swarm nothing I do will stop the process. There is ample information to indicate that the swarm process starts well before Spring nectar flow so that the swarm colony can become established in time to utilize the flow. The information suggests that solid honey stores with restricted space for nectar storage and brood rearing lead to the colony’s decision to reproduce. It is interesting reading and to me, makes sense.

For many different reasons, I am opting to forgo Nuc production this year and focus on spring swarm management. The hope is that I can prevent my hives from swarming. If the strong hives don’t swarm I should produce a larger honey crop. I can split my hives after the Spring nectar flow has tapered off, over winter these Nucs and add hives in 2014. If (when?) I find swarm cells, I will make split using these cells.

I plan to follow a process named Checker Boarding or Nectar Management. See Helpful Beekeeping Links to connect.  Many well written Internet sources are available for those who wish to read about the process. The basic idea is to alternate frames of empty comb with frames of honey in the supers above the brood nest. This breaks the solid honey storage above the brood nest and allows the brood nest to expand upward. It also allows empty comb for storage of pollen and nectar that is starting to flow in from the early March sources.

The time to do this relates to the normal schedule for switching the empty bottom super to the position above the expanding brood nest. For me, this will be at the end of February. I plan to remove the empty bottom super and depending on the condition of the comb, re-use the comb or if it is more than 3 years old, replace it with foundation. The supers above the brood nest will be reorganized to have alternating frames of comb and honey. I also plan to convert my hives to 9 frames. All I need is a warm February day.

The enjoyable part of beekeeping is trying different things.