On inspecting the hives in my garden today, I found one of them had two soon to be sealed queen cells. This means the hive was very close to swarming, so remedial action was required.
To prevent the bees from swarming, which they would do once the queen cells are capped, I carried out an artificial swarm;
1. Moved the original brood box and floor to one side. This is called the ‘Parent Colony’; the younger bees will remain in this box.
2. Placed a new brood box and floor filled with foundation on the original site. This is called the ‘Artificial Swarm’; the flying bees will fill this box.
3. Examined the brood combs in the original brood box (parent colony) and took out a comb containing eggs and young brood. I carefully checked this frame for any queen cells, as any such cells must be removed.
4. Placed this comb in the centre of the new box (artificial swarm).
5. Replaced the vacant space in the original box (parent colony) with a new drawn comb or foundation.
6. Placed the crown board and roof back on the hives.
I will now Leave alone for seven days then;
7. Examine the new brood box (artificial swarm). If there are no queen cells then the queen is probably in this colony and eggs should be visible. If there are queen cells select one with a visible larva and destroy the rest.
8. If the queen is not present in the original box (parent colony) then emergency queen cells will be built. Knock down all queen cells bar one opened cell with a visible healthy larva. From this, a virgin queen will hatch and take over the colony. However, if the queen is present then due to the reduced number of bees they will break down any queen cells and eggs and young larvae will be seen.
The benefit of doing this, apart from preventing a swarm, is that I have now made two colonies of bees from the original one. This process is called ‘making increase’ and is probably the easiest (and cheapest!) way of increasing the number of hives you have.
It was another hot day to be humping hives about, and doing big manipulations while wearing a bee suit, so I decided to treat myself and ordered a ventilated bee jacket from Bee Equipment, as they are on sale and it’s my Birthday today. A vented Bee Jacket ensures you stay cool on hot days in the apiary. A layer of rubberized netting is sandwiched between two layers of finely woven netting. This durable triple layer mesh allows air to circulate, keeping you cool and the bees out – got to be worth a try, especially if they work as I’m fed-up with melting into my bee suit.