4/07/2014

Top Bar Hive: Swarm Control

top bar beekeeping
Last year, my grandfather and I built a top bar beehive, and after being delayed buying bees, I caught a feral swarm and stuck them in the hive instead. After just over a year, braving small hive beetles and a rather snowy winter, they're doing great!
Domesticated bees are bred to be docile and not to swarm. My bees were feral, though. They may be mild mannered, but when I first caught them, they were one of at least three swarms out of the same hive. Last weekend, I did a hive inspection, and I pulled out around twenty queen bee cells. Not all of these were destined to be swarms. The first queen to hatch goes through the hive and kills as many of the unemerged queen cells as she can find. If she happens to run into another queen along the way, they battle to the death. They're rather feisty young ladies.
swarm control
Queen Cells removed from the hive in order to prevent swarming
If a new born queen survives all of that, she rallies some troops, drone and worker bees, and heads out of the hive, in search of a new home. This is a swarm, and though it's how I started my hive, I want to prevent it from happening. A new queen can take more than half of the population of a hive with her when she leaves, and this seriously hampers honey and pollen collection, in the old hive.

My father was there, this weekend, and he documented the process of a hive inspection when implementing swarm control. So here's a pictorial walk through of the process:
top bar beekeeping
Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing. Flip flops are optional.
top bar beekeeping
A smoker helps mask the bee's warning pheromones.
top bar beekeeping
Crack open the hive...
and get a good look inside.
top bar beekeeping
The hive tool is a small crowbar that helps separate top bars.
top bar beekeeping
Thoroughly inspect each honeycomb for queen cells.
top bar beekeeping
Clear away the bees and cut out the queen cells.
Smile! Now your hive won't swarm!
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