Swarm Prevention


So, the first thing we want to think about in preventing swarming is relieving congestion. And we do that by adding the appropriate amount of space for the number of bees that are in the colony and that are soon going to be in the colony with the emerging group. Here for example, we have a hive that’s got about six frames of bees, or if we add it too soon, then we set this colony back ’cause you’re eating extra space. This colony had eight frames of bees in it times about six streams of brood. It was ready for super. So, we’ve added that on there, that super not only provide space for honey, but more importantly this time of year, and we’re in late May right now. More importantly, it gives space for the expanding population of bees to move up into and relieve congestion. Swarming occurs just prior to the main nectar flow. So, that’s the time period we’re at right now. If you think of it from an evolutionary perspective, that makes sense. The bees would swarm at that time of year. That way, both the parent colony and the swarm have the opportunity to build up their populations, store away food for the winter and survive the fall of the year. 

So, once they get into the major nectar flow, they totally abandon this swarm behavior. And all we can just then focus on honey production. Well, we got to get them through the spring, prevent that swarming if we’re gonna get produce that honey. So, a second method of swarm prevention is dividing colonies. And what we’re doing by dividing colonies is basically simulating a swarm. We divide the hive ourselves. We get to keep both halves in this case, but we prevent the colony from swarming by relieving that congestion. We can do this splitting even after we’ve super colonies, you don’t need to do wait to sweep your colonies until you have a queen in hand that can split your colony. I would super colonies and then split them when you have queens available to do so. That way you prevent the swarming, but also get your split later on. The splitting happens right before the main nectar flow. So, it works in our favor, too, because our both are split and our parent colony can build up and store away honey crack. 

A third method of preventing swarming is by re queening colonies. So, in other words, keeping colonies with relatively young queens in them because young colonies with young queens are less prone to be swarming. So, just regular re queening, make sure colonies that go into their third year with the queen get re queened will help to prevent swarming. A fourth method of preventing swarming behavior is to use stock that has a low tendency to swarm. We work with Buckfast bees that are specifically bred for low tendency to swarm. It’s not easy behavior to breed towards, but some strains of bees are much more prone to swarming. And one management method we can use that helps to break foreswarming, it’s pretty easy to breed for it, is by dividing hives that are preparing to swarm and using those swarm cells in making the device. That way we’re actually actively breeding for swarming behavior and pretty soon all our hives are swarming all the time. A fifth method is clipping one of the queen’s wings.