Here are two swarm cells, two of a dozen or so that I found in one of my hives about five days ago.
Swarm cells cut from a swarmed hived. (May 30, 2012.)
The swarm cells were found at the bottom edge of the frames in the top box of the hive. I found a similar scene in another hive a day later and took some swarm prevention measures that I’ll describe in detail as soon as I have the time. Many momentous events have occurred. Changes are on the way.
I picked up two shots of Epinephrine today in case I, or someone near my honey bees, has an anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting. I don’t want anyone dying on my watch.
It’s called an EpiPen.
Basically it’s a shot of adrenalin. Remember Uma Thurman’s shot to the heart in Pulp Fiction? Not exactly the same thing, but close enough. It’s for emergencies.
I had to get a prescription for the EpiPen from my family doctor. I explained that I keep bees in my backyard and I’d like to have Epinephrine on hand just to be safe. My doctor asked me if I had any known allergies. I said no. She checked my medical file and wrote me the prescription. Continue reading →
April 2019 Introduction: This was one of the first times I thought one of my hives had become queenless but wasn’t. Another time was in the fall, September or October, when I found no brood in a hive. That turned out to be normal behaviour for that time of year. Some queens, depending on genetics, stop laying in the fall as soon as it begins to get cold and the days get shorter. Finding no brood in the middle of May, however, especially when all my other hives were full of brood, seemed like a potentially queenless situation to me. But it wasn’t. A beekeeper causing too much stress and disturbance inside the hive can throw the queen off her rhythm and trigger defensive behaviour in the bees (which was a strong possibility during my first couple years of beekeeping), but in this case I think it was genetics again.
In general, queens with Carniolan and Russian genes seem more sensitive to environmental changes, shutting down early in the fall and starting up quickly in the spring. Italian queens, on the other hand, seem to lay eggs well into the fall but are slow to start up in the spring — which is what I think happened in this case.
The rest of this post has been heavily edited.
I checked one of my hives today for the first time this year and saw no sign of the queen. No worker brood of any kind. Just a lot of empty cells and plenty of honey on the sides. I saw about twenty or thirty open drone brood cells about to be capped and some older capped drone cells, but not much else. No fresh day-old eggs. No sealed worker brood. Nothing. Here’s a quick video of some of the broodless frames I found during the inspection (there’s not much to see):
April 2019 Introduction: Checkerboarding is another method of controlling a potentially over-populated hive so the bees don’t swarm. Some argue that the bees make more honey after the hive has been checkerboarded. I don’t know about that. I used to have massive colonies in the spring, some swarming as early as May, because I fed dry sugar, protein patties and then sugar syrup to my bees early in the year no matter what. I thought that’s what beekeepers were supposed to do. But I was wrong. A honey bee colony with plenty of honey and pollen stores doesn’t need any help from me. My general approach to beekeeping of always making sure the queen has room to lay pretty much keeps most swarms at bay these days. I would checkerboard a hive only if there were so many bees covering all the frames that I couldn’t tell what was going on. It can be a shock, for instance, to pull up a thick frame of bees and think, “Great, looking good,” and then clear the bees away to reveal a dozen swarm cells poking out of the brood cells. That’s too many bees.
I checkerboarded a hive for the first time yesterday. It wasn’t planned and I didn’t have my camera with me, but I whipped up a nifty little diagram to illustrate what I did — and I’m not saying what I did is right. But anyhow… I reversed the brood boxes on one of my hives last week and didn’t have time to scrape off the bridge comb / burr comb that had built up on the frames over the winter. Unlike the last brood box reversal, all I did was exchange the positions of the boxes. I didn’t touch the frames. So yesterday during a brief hot spell (17°C), I decided to pull the frames, clean them up and inspect the hive while I was at it. Well, in my 661 days of beekeeping, I’d never witnessed so many bees packed into one hive, and most of the foragers weren’t even home.
The frames in the bottom box were full of brood and pollen and some honey — and drone cells packed into every crevice. The frames in the top box had some brood in the middle, but most of the frames were being backed-filled with nectar on the way to becoming honey — thus reducing space for the queen to lay. So that was it: I decided to checkerboard the hive right then and there. Otherwise the queen could become honeybound and trigger a swarm, and that probably wouldn’t go over well with my neighbours. So here’s what I did:
H = honey / nectar frames (mostly uncapped).
B = brood frames (and some pollen).
F = foundation (empty).
D = drawn comb (empty). Note: Imagine the frames in the box below this one packed with brood.
April 2019 Introduction: I’d be extremely pleased to see any of my colonies in early May looking as good as the colony in this video. The colony probably got that way because I was feeding it syrup all throughout April and the population was exploding. Reversing is an okay thing to do. I don’t think it hurts the colony and it’s debatable whether or not it prevents swarming. For me, I just use it as an excuse to do a full inspection early in the year so I know exactly what shape the colony is in and can gauge its development throughout the summer by only looking into the top box. Which means the reversing / early colony assessment often ends up being my only full hive inspection of the year. I also like to knock my colonies down to a single deep early in the year instead of reversing because they seem to build up quicker when they only need to focus on 10 frames instead of 20.
I performed the first full hive inspection of the year yesterday. I also reversed the brood boxes while I was at it. Next year I plan to reverse the boxes shortly after the bees start hauling in pollen from the crocuses (instead of waiting until the dandelions bloom). Whether from dandelions or crocuses, if the bees bring in pollen at a steady pace for about a week, that’s my cue to reverse the brood boxes. Had I reversed them a few weeks ago, I might have been able to avoid the disgusting mess of scraping off drone comb between the frames of the top and bottom boxes. I could have avoided splitting up the brood nest too. Check out Honey Bee Suite for more info on reversing boxes.
Check out the tongues darting out as honey bees suck up water from a corrugated plastic floor of a screened bottom board.
From what I can tell, morning dew forms naturally inside the corrugated plastic. The water doesn’t pool inside the plastic. The hive is slightly tilted downwards to the front entrance where the water drains out slowly — and the bees drink it up.