A packet of information gathered from different sources about swarms was distributed to all present. The information within the packet addressed causes - the why's of swarming, what happens within a swarm when honeybees swarm, preventing swarming, and how to catch a swarm. Tips that emerged from the group's discussion included:
Before a hive swarms
- Reverse brood chambers in February to give the queen more room to grow into and lay more eggs. The queen will be laying eggs in December and January most years (weather permitting)
- Add supers in March of each year to reduce overcrowding during brood build-up.
- If the bees are bringing in pollen - they're also gathering nectar. Check your hives early.
- Make sure your queen is strong and laying well. Some recommend replacing queens every 2 years; for the hobbyist (as opposed to the commercial beekeeper with hundreds or thousands of hives) a strong queen that is older than 2 years old might be worth consideration. It's questionable if hives with strong queens swarm as often as those with weak or failing queens.
- When honeybees swarm, in a primary swarm, the bees decide to move first then the newly hatched queen catches up to the swarm and joins it. Then the swarm moves to another location - they scout for a permanent 'new' home that they select- and they move one last time to their new home. You as the beekeeper might decide that you want them in a different 'permanent' home. Read on for how to make that happen.
- Not all bees leave when a swarm occurs - a large number of bees remain in the hive usually.
- The beekeeper can often catch swarms on-the-fly by setting up a 'swarm box' from existing woodenware. This can be done along with your existing hives or somewhere else you think a swarm might land. Set up the box with 1 frame of brood, 1 frame of honey
- Put them into a woodenware box. Add a frame of brood and a frame of honey. Flat wax frames can be added to the box, swarming bees produce large quantites of wax to draw comb. As they are drawing comb, feel free to move the frames around within the woodenware to ensure that all the comb is drawn (they draw from center outward - it's OK to take outer frames and put them closer to the center).
- Spray the bees with sugar water (1:1 sugar to water). This will calm them.
- The queen will be evident in a few days; she'll be small since she's yet to be mated. She'll mate in flight with multiple drones. A rule of thumb is to expect 10 days to elapse from when the queen hatches to when she begin laying.
- Check in 7 days for eggs. If no brood in 3 weeks, the queen needs to be replaced.
- Leave the swarm in that location for 10 days or more before moving the hive to another location. Then move slowly to the 'other' location.
- Wear your BEE SUIT when working with swarms; after 3 days, they have used all the stored honey in their 'honey stomachs' and begin to get aggressive and will sting. If a bee stings when their honey stomach is full, they 'dump' their honey when stinging.
- A swarm can be added to an existing weak hive. Use the newspaper/hive joining method [1 sheet between the two hive bodies; the bees will eat it away and become a single hive in the process].
- Check out YouTube for more tips. Try 'single Georgia beekeeper's' entries for example.
- Queens are available from Flint River Queens - Bill Mullins is the contact at 256-682-4372. He is located in Meridianville, AL and can ship or offer pick-up.
- Banana oil in beetle blasters causes aggressive behavior? Lisa H reported such behavior after adding banana xxx to her beetle blasters. After the blasters with the banana xxx were removed, the happy mood of her honey bees returned. No one else in the group expressed the same reaction.
- Suggestions / ideas about Cheatham County Beekeepers web site - Wondering out loud about use and usefulness of the website was another topic. The membership is diverse in interest and familiarity with the blog. Suggestions included 1) add a month x month listing of what needs to be done withe the hives, 2) heads up via email and web site when formic acid can be used (temperature sensitivity issues) or other issues that are time sensitive and offer guidance, 3) can categorize all posts on a month by month basis to make it easy to find what is being looked for, 4) maximize the calendar more, and 5) need a lesson in how to subscribe to the blog posts so they will automatically be emailed to subscribers. [Kevin will give a lesson at next months's meeting]. Brief discussion also centered on if the name of the group makes it hard to find on the web. Discussion to continue next month.
- Bill Mullins from Flint River Queens is offering on-site 'How to Raise Queens' workshops - Are we interested? There is a fee for his time and will also include costs for overnight accommodations, food, and travel costs. Further discussion to continue next month.
- Repayment of Paul Carter for copying costs approved - Without objection, reimbursement was made from petty cash.