Swarming is natural and it is my human right to let my bees spread around
I’m a dog owner and have strict responibility for my pet and if it runs away I have made a fool of myself. Nothing to do but go find your dog and apologize to all that have been disturbed. Shouldn’t same rules apply to bee-keepers and same responsibility for swarms and should not any decent bee-keeper take all measurements to avoid swarming, and if a mistake is done, take all actions possible to collect the swarm? We believe so but we experience that some bee owners (bee owners ahve bees but Bee-keepers take care of the bees) have a frivolous attitude towards swarms and almost brag about how many swarms they had, especially a year like this when it was so easy to blame that it was a “swarmyear”, whatever that means.
We strongly advice everyone to carry out swarm dampening actions and if done correctly it is quite easy to avoid swarms (1). This article will not have many referencies sincce most is very basic – one need to create a good plan and stick to it (1).
To avoid early spring swarms the bees need space, space and space. When the bee explosion comes they need plenty of space which is one of the reasons why two boxes during winter is such a good idea – a spring like we had with good wheather in early may followed by three weeks of rain they have plenty of space to grow. Because once they started the brooding there is no turning back. In addition young bees are wax builders and they must get this urge satisfied (put in fresh frames to wax up) or they start to get bad ideas. The third parameter that triggers swarming is excessive food store in early June so it is a good idea to remoive honey frames every week so they have just enough to make brood. We make sure they always have 2-3 frames during this period whereas lazy be owners usually only remove frames 2-3 times per year – its a given way to have a swarm in early June.
Lets summarize: A crowded colony on 10 frames with too much food and no job to carry out will surely swarm. A colony with plenty of space, new frames to build and right amount of food will make brood, collect nectar and pollen. In short a colony in full harmony.
In 2nd half of May and June you need to keep a close eye to ensure they do not swarm, it can happen even if you have done everything right and hence it is good bee-owner practise to go in once a week to check Varroa level, cut out droon broad to reduce Varroa, change old wax, remove honey frames and check for queen cells. Does it sound complicated and time consuming? Not at all if you have a actionplan and what I just described takes 15 m per hive to complete and it gives you full control on the hive status.
Why is it bad with swarming – its natural, right
Yes it is but:
1. Diseases and Varroa spreads with swarms
2. Poor ethics, since the bees dindt choose us we choosed to keep them and hence we need to take care of them.
3. A swarm will most likely die during winter-Varroa will kill them
4. There are no natural homes for bees anymore (hollow trunks) so it means they will choose poor places like chimneys and walls which will make our neighbours irritated. End of the day the bug killer will come and gas them due to poor Bee management – shame on us. We work as swarm catchers and we managed to salvage 5 swarms but had to give up on another 5 where the bug killer had to be
Lets say we did everything right and the colony start to build queen cells what then. The common strategy is to remove the cell to stop it but that is a generally poor idea (1) since the instinct to swarm is so strong that once it started you cant stop it, if you try the colony finally becomes completely passive and stop foraging. A far better strategy is to make a Queen right split of the colony which creates a super foraging colony since ther is nobrood to take care of. In addition the hive gets 1 month with no brood which will reduce the Varroa (1) so win win. We will describe the split process in other articles.
The results for us with this method is zero swarms, we never had any swarming in 10 years of bee-keeping – not even this year when swarming bees were everywhere.
(1) Jano’s artiklar i bitidningen 2017 samt Jano’s blogg