Episode 108: Artificial Swarms Part Two


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Hi I’m Stewart Spinks and welcome to Episode 108 of my podcast Beekeeping Short and sweet. It’s most definitely swarm season, I’ve lost one, gained two and split another colony. This week, more about artificial swarms and how to perform one without finding the queen.

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This week’s update includes the inevitable news that some of our colonies have decided to swarm. It’s not a total surprise to be honest, we’ve been seeing rudimentary queen cells for some time now, those are the queen cups without eggs and more recently we’ve seen eggs and very young larvae in them making them queen cells in their own right. It was predictable that sooner or later the timing of these queen cells would work against us and I’d miss one or two and a few colonies would get away from us.

By that I mean, with a weekly inspection routine I’ve been removing queen cells regularly which should mean that by the time I come round to inspecting again there still shouldn’t be any sealed queen cells. Sealed queen cells are important because once sealed, the young queen larvae inside has been fed and nurtured as much as it can be by the colony and there is nothing more they can do now until the virgin queen emerges. This then, gives the green light for the colony to swarm as the sudden and dramatic reduction of the number of bees in the colony after the swarm won’t make any difference to the sealed queen cell.

What this means is that if you carry out regular inspections and you remove every queen cell you see it should be possible to prevent them from swarming, right? Wrong!
As I’m sure you either know or are finding out, bees will find a way to circumvent the beekeepers best efforts and find a way to swarm.

I once had a colony that persisted in producing queen cells, week after week until finally they produced 58 queen cells in one week, I methodically went through and removed every last one of them, or at least that’s what I thought I had done but alas, a week later I found they had swarmed, I had removed 57 queen cells and missed the one they had hidden in the midden of some drone brood created art such an angle the queen cell was completely hidden within the mass of drone brood. Fifty-eight queen cells is my record number in one hit I think, it looks quite impressive when you see frame upon frame of queen cells but it really isn’t what you want to see as a beekeeper. Some beekeepers might be tempted to use a great many of the queen cells to produce more queens for expansion but I suspect all you’re going to do with that particular colony is reproduce lots of swarmy colonies, not something I really want to have to deal with.......................

Have a great beekeeping week Stay safe and Please do remember to check out my Patreon page where you can access lots more content, that’s
www.patreon.com/norfolk honey

I’m Stewart Spinks and that was Beekeeping Short and Sweet.

156 episodes