How To Manage A Hive Post-Swarm

Post-Swarm Management

Managing bee colonies in April can be quite challenging, especially when bees are inclined to take to the trees rather than staying in their hive.

A queenless brood chamber, devoid of eggs or young larvae, and having a higher drone-to-worker bee ratio may be indicative of a recent swarm. The reduction in bee population might not be immediately evident based solely on the number of bees remaining in your Keeper's Hive. Depending on when you inspect the hive in relation to the swarm date, you might also observe capped or emerged queen cells. Identifying a post-swarm hive becomes relatively straightforward once you've seen a few.

So, what steps should you take next?

  1. Record the Inspection: Make a note of the inspection date on your record card and clearly indicate that the hive has swarmed (e.g., "4/23: SWARMED").

  2. Reduce Hive Size: Remove any supers above the exchange box to reduce the size of the hive. Seal off all upper entrances.

  3. Entrance Reducer: Install an entrance reducer on the hive to limit the size of the entrance.

  4. Manage Queen Cells: If there are still capped queen cells present on the frames, consider making splits to prevent secondary swarms. Otherwise, remove all but two of the largest, undamaged swarm cells. This helps control the possibility of further swarming.

  5. Hands-Off Period: For the next 2-3 weeks, avoid opening the hive. During this time, the newly emerged queens will embark on their mating flights and begin laying. If you don't observe signs of a laying queen during the next inspection, consider adding a frame with young larvae and worker bees to see if they create emergency queen cells.

  6. Avoid Buying Queens: Resist the urge to purchase a queen and introduce her to the hive. You likely already have a virgin or newly mated queen in the colony, and introducing another queen could lead to her being rejected and killed.

Here are some recommended strategies for preventing swarming:

  1. Weekly Swarm Cell Inspections: Regularly inspect the brood chamber for any uncapped swarm cells. It appears that bees are more prone to build swarm cells on the undersides of wooden frames compared to plastic frames. Swarm cells can also be found on the sides of the frames.

  2. Manage Burr Comb: Remove any burr comb from the bottom of the frames. It can be challenging to distinguish between uncapped swarm cells and uncapped drone cells within burr comb on the frame's bottom. In a single brood chamber setup, it seems that bees tend to construct more burr comb on the frame bottoms.

  3. Demaree Method: Implement the Demaree method on the brood chamber every 2 weeks during the nectar flow. This technique entails moving emerging brood frames from the exchange back to the brood chamber, reducing the likelihood of them being backfilled with nectar. Keep in mind that the timing for Demaree can vary depending on colony size and weather conditions.

  4. Emergency Cells:ย with The Keeper's Hive, we have not encountered any emergency queen cells in the exchange box while performing the Demaree. Consequently, I can confidently state that if your exchange box is separated from your brood chamber by one medium nuc box (the standard configuration), you don't need to check for emergency cells one week after performing the Demaree. It doesn't hurt to briefly inspect, but missing a week won't result in a two-queen hive.

Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all solution in beekeeping. For more information on post-swarm management, you can read this resource: Bee Culture - What's Happening in the Hive.

Happy beekeeping! ๐Ÿ๐Ÿก๐Ÿฏ

-George