Swarming Time and Solving the Space Problem

The mini-plus tower was split into two

This is a time when some large discrepancies show up between colonies. One of my apiaries was absolutely booming and nearly every hive bursting with bees. In other places, the picture is more varied. However, I did find my first charged queen cell today, so the season is well and truly underway for me. Swarming time and solving the space problem – let’s do this!

Mini-plus hives

It’s not as bad as it sounds. Yes, I found a queen cell with a young larva in it, but it was in an over-wintered mini plus hive. I really like mini-plus hives for mating queens, and I take spare queens into the winter in such hives, but stacked up three boxes deep, to give them 18 frames (6 in each box). They nearly always come through winter in great shape, which presents a bit of a dilemma.

By now, even after adding another box to make a tower of four, my queens have packed each box with brood, and they are ready to explode. In an ideal world, I could remove the queen to a full sized nuc or hive, then break the tower of boxes into singles, arrange the frames appropriately, and give each a queen cell. There are a few drones about, not many, but lots of sealed drone brood in hives, so mating should not be out of the question.

Unfortunately, it’s too early for me to start grafting, and I’m not going to have queen cells made by selected queens for 6 weeks or so. I suppose if my other hives were making swarm cells I could harvest them to pop into mini plus hives, but I don’t like using swarm cells for such things, and I haven’t got any anyway.

Doing the splits

Today I split one of my mini-plus towers into a 2 box hive on the site of the original hive, and a 3 box hive nearby. The smaller hive contains my charged queen cell and the other one has the queen plus a box of drawn empty comb. It won’t be long before they need more space again…probably a week.

Another stack of 4 mini-plus boxes was so full that I decided to remove the queen in a cage and split them into two hives of 2 boxes. They can’t swarm without a queen, and it buys me a bit of time while they make replacements. It so happened that one of my nucs was bad-tempered (has always been) so I re-queened them with the one in a cage in my pocket. I used a push in cage because it is a safe way to introduce a queen. She is laying well and was only out of her hive for 30 minutes, so I hope she will be accepted.

Going backwards

One of my hives had only got a couple of frames of bees. They were over on one side of the Langstroth brood box, with much more space than they needed. What a contrast to many of the others! I couldn’t see anything wrong with them, so I moved them from a hive to a poly nuc. It’s going backwards, but hopefully, they will get going at some point. I might give them a frame of sealed brood soon.

A nuc next to a full sized hive
A hive was demoted to this nucleus box

Another ‘going backwards’ moment recently was when I noticed that a strong colony was not so strong any more. I think I made a mistake by adding a super too soon, but they did seem ready for one. Rather than growing into the space, they seem to have developed some chalk brood and gone backwards. So, off came the super, and I’ll have to see how they go. I expect them to die, but perhaps the forthcoming decent weather will be the tonic they need.

The weather forecast is rubbish

I have noticed that weather forecasts are a bit rubbish. Given the vast resources pumped into super computers and predictive models used by meteorologists, I’d hope that they were better. It really must be extremely difficult to get it right. I frequently go to bed feeling positive about the warm, dry day that tomorrow will be, only to wake up and see clouds and rain. Then I check my weather app and, sure enough, the forecast has changed to reflect this reality.

Furthermore, how many times do weather folk on TV start off by telling us what the weather was like today, or what it’s like right now. This, I submit, is not a forecast. The odds of getting it right are skewed strongly in their favour when they are describing the current weather rather than what it’s going to be like in a few days time.

Note to self: you live in Manchester, you fool – of course it’s going to rain!

Dealing with the boomers

My apiary of booming colonies was a new site last year. All the hives are brand new Honey Paw Langstroths, and they all started off on brand new everything. They also have, by and large, some of my best queens. Last year’s breeder queen was a beast, and her daughters seem to be laying machines too. As I needed to expand to a couple of new sites, I made up nucs using resources from these strong hives. They are still strong, but have work to do, so hopefully that delayed swarming by a few weeks.

a newly established apiary site
The mole (my son Alex) with nucs at a new apiary

My space problems

Notwithstanding what’s going on in my hives, my problem currently is that I know that I need more supers, but I haven’t even got enough storage space for the boxes I have now. I have ordered the refurbished portacabin which will become the honey processing place, so that will create some space. I have also made enquiries of a friendly farmer about using some of his outbuildings. Or, if he lets me build a shed on his property, I could use that.

This brings me to another space related issue – my van. It is already too small, and I only got it last year. It just means I have to be careful when I load it, think ahead lots and make more trips. If I got a bigger van, it would cause mayhem at my house because the Walrus driveway is not enormous. Plus, reversing out onto a main road, having to cross a cycle lane, is not a barrel of laughs with my diminutive VW Caddy. What would it be like with a Transit?

And, while I’m in a moaning mood, what possessed our council to build a cycle lane running alongside our road anyway? The cyclists whiz along it, seemingly unaware that at any moment a vehicle could reverse out into their path. The time approaches when this walrus will have to leave the city, but ‘the beekeeper’s wife’ may not be easily persuaded.

2 thoughts on “Swarming Time and Solving the Space Problem

  1. Hi Steve
    There was a weather forecasting competition a few years ago. It was won by schoolkids if I remember. They forecast that “the weather tomorrow was going to be like it was today” and used it for long term predictions. It might not be particularly scientific, but it’s often a pretty good place to start. Today I swapped a balmy 18°C west coast day for 11°C in Fife, to be met by boxes bulging with bees and brood because they were all ‘at home’ as it was cooling rapidly. However, it was good to see inside some boxes and the best colonies look great, with even the weak one or two being ‘OK’.
    I’ll be queen rearing in a fortnight on the east coast if it continues like this … 🙂

    • Hi David, I love the West Coast especially near Loch Fyne, but it looks like a tough place to keep bees. Lots of weather!

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