It’s been busy this year with an early spring leading to lots of swarm activity. Over at The Urban Beehive we have inspected all of our hives and detected preparation for swarming in almost every hive we looked in.
What we look for is signs of queen cells. If you get an uncapped queen cell that contains a larvae then your hive is going to swarm within 7 days. If it’s capped it’s going to happen in a couple of days. In the past I have read you should destroy queen cells to prevent swarming but the girls just make a new one so that doesn’t help.
I have tried making space by moving brood fames up and adding undrawn frames but that doesn’t work either. I have been told that different hive construction (ie. topbar or warre) means no swarming but when you think about the trigger for swarming (warm weather with a good nectar flow) and the reason for it (spawning a new hive elsewhere) then I can’t see that the hive size or shape is relevant.
At any rate I found a swarm in a chimney cavity last week and that’s a pretty natural hive so I don’t believe it’s a brood space trigger but a pure season trigger. So our method this spring has been to check a hive for a queen cell and if one is found, then you false swarm the hive by taking two frames of brood and two frames of honey along with the old queen and split to a new hive.
I was alarmed yesterday by a call from a hive location on a busy shopping strip, telling me of a swarm. I was confused because we had split the hives two days earlier and there were no queens so a swarm was very unlikely. By the time I got there the swarm had moved on and I tracked it down to a nearby street, close to its source: a hive in a chimney that had swarmed a day or so earlier according to the neighbours.
It’s hard to explain that a swarm may fly in and not actually be from your hives, most people think you’re spinning a story.