Springtime brings busy queens and if you do not pay attention, your hive might swarm and you will lose half, or all, of your bees. If the queen runs out of room to lay eggs, they will swarm.
How to tell if your hive is getting ready to swarm:
- Are the frames full of brood?
- Is there a lot of drone brood along the edges of the brood frames?
- Are there queen (swarm) cells along the bottom of the frame?
Split your hive to prevent swarming:
Making a split is a skill all beekeepers should acquire. It is simply taking half of the frames from your strong hive(s) and placing them into another hive body.
Step-By-Step: You can see the queen.
- Leave the frame with the queen in the old hive. Some beekeepers like to capture the queen and leave her in a queen cage until the split is over. Other keepers will put the frame with the queen in an old NUC box so she is not lost when frames start to get shuffled around.
- Open your new hive box and transfer three frames of capped brood (from the original hive) into the new hive box. Do not shake the bees off! The adult bees will fly back to the original hive, but the nurser bees will stay with the brood.
- Take three more frames from the old hive and do shake those bees off into the new hive box. Be sure you do not take the frame that your queen is on! One or two of these frames should have pollen and/or nectar. This will help build the hive up quickly and keep the brood warm if the temperatures drop at night.
- Fill the new split with four more frames — drawn comb, partly drawn comb, or empty frames.
- Fill the original hive with frames that only have foundation on them. Be sure to “checkerboard” these frames with the frames already in the hive.
- Close up the hive and add an Entrance Reducer to the front of the hive. It is best to allow the hive to rest for 24 hours so the foragers can find their way back to the original hive.
- You will have to feed the new hive until it becomes established.
- The last thing is to add a new queen to the new split. There are a couple ways to do this:
- If there are swarm cells in the hive, transfer those frames in Step 2 into the new split. Those swarm cells are baby queens and they will hatch as new queens for your new hive.
- You can buy a queen from a local beekeeper or supplier and introduce her to the new split.
Step-by-Step: You cannot see the queen.
- Make sure there are eggs and capped brood in the hive you want to split.
- From an old hive, remove four frames out of the middle of the hive, and set aside.
- From the original hive, shake all the bees from a full frame of capped brood and place that frame into the new split. Do this to three more frames full of capped brood. Because you shook off the bees, you know you did not take the queen.
- Fill the original hive with the four frames you removed from the old hive in Step 2.
- Now, add a queen excluder to the original hive just above the box where the queen is located. Set the new split on top of the queen excluder. This will allow some of the bees from the original hive to come up into the new hive to help populate the split.
- The next day, come back to the hive and remove the split box. This is now your new hive. Set it on a bottom board, add an inner cover and a telescoping cover and place the hive where you want it to be located.
- The last thing is to add a new mated queen or introduce a queen cell to the new split.
Step-by-Step: Add supers to give more room.
- Since bees almost always swarm when they do not have enough room, give them more room by simply adding supers to the brood box!
- Be careful not to give them too much space because pests will move in.
- Also, if the temperatures drop at night, the extra room may prevent the bees from keeping the hive temperature up for the brood.