Swarm Cells And Honey

I opened my hives today and both are doing well. The swarm colony is fine, but they aren’t filling in the empty spaces as quickly as I would like them to. I moved a frame of 3-4 day old eggs over again to help boost their numbers. They have a full frame of ripening honey and lots of pollen, bringing their occupied space up to 6.5 frames. I’m debating whether I should put a shallow super on them or if I should just move the entire deep super over from the large hive. It would even both colonies out and give the swarm room to grow, while forcing the strong colony to fully draw out all of their frames.

The large colony is doing well, but they’re not filling in the new frames as quickly as I would like. They have wax on all the new frames in the brood boxes, but a fair amount of it was drone cells that needed to be cut out. The honey super is filling up quickly with honey, and surprisingly pollen as well. A few of those frames have been partially drawn out, and I moved one of those down to replace the empty slot left by the frame of brood I moved over into the swarm hive. The large colony is preparing to swarm, and had 8 or 9 swarm cells being drawn out throughout the colony. They were all brown and worn looking, but one of them did have a 2 day old larvae in it that I squashed. I’m not too sure what to do about it given how much room they have for expansion. The problem is that they aren’t drawing out the new frames quickly enough and the queen is running out of places to lay eggs because the workers are stuffing everything full of pollen and honey.

That frame of drone brood was full and capped again, so instead of freezing it I just took all the caps off and moved it up into the super. The bees will fill it in quickly with honey and the soft bodies of the developing drones won’t get stuck in the queen excluder if they try and drag any of them out.

Even though this large colony hasn’t completely filled in any of the new frames yet, none of the frames in the brood boxes were left untouched. They’re drawing out wax on all of them, with two triangle shaped pieces coming downward on either side. On the ground underneath the hive you can see hundreds of white wax pellets that fell off while wax was being made.

There are dozens of dark blue/black drones in this hive, and they’re definitely part of the swarming problem. I removed any drone brood I found, and I think with that full frame out of rotation things should be much calmer. I’ll be keeping a close eye on them to make sure they don’t swarm. If the blackberry flow continues they should easily be able to fill in the new frames. I’m very seriously considering that split though… Moving the top brood box from the strong hive onto the swarm colony would give that colony a huge boost, and it would reduce the population of the strong colony by almost a third. The top box of the strong colony is mostly empty, with 3 or 4 frames full of honey. Even just switching the hives locations would make a difference…

I’ll think about it and get back to you! Right now I’m running late for work.

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8 responses to “Swarm Cells And Honey”

  1. Emily says :

    I’m confused about why you moved the drone brood up into the super, as uncapping it will have let all the varroa out. Or was the point just to kill all the drones? Some people find the bees are more content when drones are around and also the drone’s large bodies can be useful for keeping the brood area warm. So they’re not all bad!

    • willowbatel says :

      It was just to kill all the drones and give the bees some extra honey storage immediately in the super. I totally forgot that uncapping the brood wouldn’t kill the varroa!
      This hive has hundreds of drones and is very close to swarming, so I figured another full frame of drones would not have helped things.
      That said, for the size of this colony its one of the (if not the most) nicest colony I’ve ever worked with. I don’t think I’ve ever had quite so many drones before but They’re also really well behaved and could care less that I’m in the hive at all. I’m not sure about how I should go about preventing a swarm but I think splitting them wouldn’t be a terrible idea. I have no idea where I would put a third hive in the garden, but it would certainly increase the odds of having bees make it through to next year.

      • Emily says :

        I think working with the bees’ natural instincts rather than trying to thwart them is an easier approach. If you are worried they may swarm, then one option is checking weekly for queen cells. Then as soon as you see queen cells, do the split. That way you work with their natural instincts.

        • willowbatel says :

          Yeah, i really need to figure out how to raise my own queens so I can split the hives without fear of ruining a strong colony. I’ve heard its easy but I’ve never actually done it. I’ve only ever done walk-away splits, and those have never turned out very well.
          My cousin is going to help me build a few extra hive bodies, and with those in hand I think it will be a lot easier to manage 4 colonies. I’ve been told before that you should always have extra hive parts on hand, but I never really have the funds to buy everything I need. And I have no idea where I’ll store everything come winter time. Right now the extra hive pieces have been staying in my room.

          • Emily Scott says :

            Don’t worry, you don’t need to figure out how to raise your own queens – give one half of the split a queen cell and they will do that for you. See this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQPQj_UhmMk

            I hear your problem about storage space… we have ended up having to store most of our equipment outside! I dream of having a huge shed instead of a cupboard in our little flat.

            • willowbatel says :

              I’m gonna try and make some new deep hive bodies tomorrow, and if it goes well I think I’ll try a split again. I’ve never had a split survive the winter, but with my new syrup feeders I’m hoping things go a little differently this year. And I’m also going to try using some miticide this year; any suggestions? You and Emma use Aqigaurd right?
              I’ve definitely had a problem with wax moths since I increased the amount of equipment I have. I even found a wax moth grub in my largest hive a few weeks ago!

              • Emily Scott says :

                Yes, we use Apiguard and finds it works well and is easy to do. There is also Api-Life Var which I think is a similar thymol treatment. If your colonies are strong hopefully they can fight the wax moths off.

              • willowbatel says :

                The wax moths have since vanished; I don’t know why they were even there to begin with given how big this colony is.
                Ok! I’m gonna try it this year. So far all of my colonies are doing really really well but I don’t want to take any chances getting them through the winter.

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