What up Gangstas? I got a call from a fellow beekeeper this week. He wanted to make sure that he had prevented a swarm correctly. He did not.
Here’s how it went down. He found a dozen or so queen cells that had larvae in them. Realizing that swarming was imminent, he got himself a nuc and decided to proceed with a swarm prevention split. Unfortunately, his queen wasn’t marked, and he didn’t feel like looking for her. So he took a frame with some queen cells, a frame of brood or two, a frame of honey or two, and put them in the nuc. He then pinched whatever queen cells he could find in the parent hive, and moved on.
A week or so later, his parent hive swarms. Not once, but twice. Awwwww dayyum. Luckily he caught the first, large swarm, but that’s not the point. So what did he do wrong?
His hive was already producing queens. They were ready for swarming and had decided to do so. The purpose of a swarm prevention split is to trick the hive into thinking they already swarmed. The best way to do that is to remove the old queen from the parent hive. This step is critical. You remove the old queen with a few frames of brood at various stages, some honey, and then take them a few miles away so the foragers don’t return to the parent hive. He thought that by reducing congestion he would prevent the swarm. That might have worked a few weeks back, but once they decide to swarm, it’s really too late. The frames he removed were replaced with frames with new foundation. So, he took some bees away, but he also didn’t give the queen more space to lay, and so he did not really solve the problem.
In addition to not removing the original queen, he also must have missed some queen cells, because a week later the hive still swarmed, twice. If he had pinched all of the queen cells, it would have taken closer to three weeks.
There are hundreds of articles on the internet about how to prevent swarms. There are hundreds of articles that describe how to make splits. So this isn’t meant to be the only solution to the problem. But in beekeeping we definitely learn from our mistakes. This Gangsta has made plenty. Hopefully, by posting this, you can avoid this situation. Until next time, Gangsta, out!