Just in time?
When visiting the bees today, I saw something unexpected in Hive #3. I found swarm cells
being constructed on the bottom of one frame! What to do..?
Swarming is a colony's natural means of reproduction. When a colony of bees starts to run out of space in it's current dwelling, and conditions outside the hive seem favorable (good nectar flow going on, not too late in the season, etc.), they will swarm. When a colony "decides" to swarm, they will start to make preparations by beginning to raise a replacement queen, often many (just to be safe). Just before a new queen is about to emerge from her cell, about half the population of the hive will take off as a swarm, along with the original queen. The swarm will usually land not too far away, on a tree branch, picnic bench, what have you, while scout bees scan the area for an appropriate spot to move into more permanently. Meanwhile back at the hive, a new queen emerges and murders any queens still in their cells, taking her rightful place as the new matriarch. That's how it usually
goes, at least. Fun stuff, huh?
So, when I saw the tell-tale queen cells hanging on the bottom of a frame, I knew the process had begun. However, the cells had not even been capped yet and the original queen was still running around in the hive, so it had only just
begun. Lucky me.
I decided to let the bees swarm, or at least think
they did, by making an "artificial swarm". I set up a small hive, or nuc, and moved into it the old queen and a couple of frames of brood and honey, along with the clinging bees. I left behind the swarm cells and over half of the bees, mimicking what would happen if they had actually swarmed. And, I think I fooled them.
Now there is a slightly weakened colony, and a new mini-colony. I'm thinking I'll just recombine them at a later date, once all this swarminess is out of their systems, and hopefully have a strong viable colony again.
*Lesson learned: when using all medium-sized supers, bees can fill up a box fast and get crowded. I won't be slow to "super up" next time.