Well I am no longer in anticipation of Spring because it has arrived. The grass has gotten greener and the tasks in the apiary have increased tenfold!
There is lots of pollen and nectar coming into the hives with the some what warmer temperatures. It’s beautiful and prime time for swarming!!
Last year I caught a swarm in May of 2021. It was relocated to my apiary where the colony established itself well. On 22nd April 2022 around 11:30AM – Noon, this same colony, decided to swarm just before I had to leave to meet someone. Thankfully someone retrieved them for me.
Today is 29 April, 2022, a week later. Perfect day to drive to the Amish man who makes wooden hive ware. We had a wonderful visit with him and his family. On the way home the neighbor called and said one of his colonies had swarmed and had some questions. We pass his house on the route home so we stopped and could see the swarm from the driveway. We parked and walked to the tree and just that quick they had flown away. Then it was homeward bound. The wooden ware was off loaded into the garage for painting and then I was off to the apiary. I was greeted with a colony with extreme bearding. I scratched my head because it wasn’t really hot enough for the bees to do this. Plus this isn’t normal behavior. I went to the she bee shed and grabbed a bottom board and a single deep and lid. When I returned to the colony I stood in front of it still perplexed. Then my eyes dropped down into the hen bit growing on the ground. Almost like a homing beacon there was the blue dot 🔵 marked queen! This was a miracle. I happen to know this queen’s wings are tattered because she is actually getting old. The best she could do was land in front of the hive. So I brushed the bees on the side of the hive into the new deep along with the blue dot queen who will get replaced this season season.
So with a sense of accomplishment I worked my way to another colony. I no sooner cracked the lid and I hear that familiar sound from another nearby colony. That’s right, another swarm at around 4:00 PM 😵💫 This time I was going to have to earn the bees back.
So what have I learned? Yes you can split in March when the weather is cool.
I haven’t had my bees for a complete year just yet. I still have two weeks to go. So Spring presented a whole new set of experiences. I went from being an enamored newbie beekeeper; happily feeding my bees, treating for mites and doing the Winter prep to a full fledged beekeeper in the speed of light.
The mindset of the bee colony coming out of survival mode in Winter is reproduction. This Spring, the weather became extremely warm at the onset and really flipped the switch to trigger the reproduction cycle which in bees is manifested in swarming.
The residing queen will lay eggs in queen cups. They develop into cells made on the face of the comb or toward the bottom of frames and as they mature resemble a vertical hanging peanut. Therefore upon inspection of a hive this is an observable sign the hive will begin making preparations to swarm. Just prior to the new queen emerging the resident queen will deliberately leave the hive with approximately half of the hive population.
My bees made it through Winter successfully in a robust way. So the combination of a large crowded population of bees in the hive and the warm weather along with an abundance of pollen and nectar provided the optimum conditions for swarming. I was fully aware of these conditions and as a beekeeper began to apply the management portion of beekeeping. This is known as splitting the hive. It is a controlled swarm by the beekeeper.
I successfully split one hive into a deep and a nuc. The other two hives were on schedule to have the same procedure done to them. But the gals had their own time table. I had one hive decide to do a dramatic swarm. I was out talking with the neighbor and I could hear the familiar buzzing sound. I passed it off as flies sunning themselves on the side of one of the outbuildings. When the conversation ended I headed toward the apiary and that’s when I went into frantic mode. I was literally standing in the midst of a full on swarm. Thousands of bees were swirling around the entire apiary. Thankfully they landed on an old fence post ten feet from the bee yard on the apiary side of the creek. I had already placed empty woodenware in the yard. I was pretty hyped as I had never retrieved a swarm before. But my desire to get my bees back took over and my focus kicked in. I successfully got the bees in a single deep hive and transported them away from the bee yard. Whew!
Spring is an exciting season as all of God’s creation awakens with life once again. Regeneration and bountiful hope of an abundant harvest. These amazing bees have taught me so much allowing me thankfully to become a better beekeeper.