Swarm Prevention

Swarm Prevention 

How do you control swarms in your own hives?


We all want our bees to survive the winter. When they do, we want them to flourish in the spring. But, if the beekeeper does not have the knowledge to prevent swarms and make splits, the colony might not do well. 


We have two Spring Management classes for 2018, one is onsite and one is online.


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We'll be covering these topics: How soon to inspect after winter? Feeding solutions in the spring. How to make a walk away split. David's easiest spring split method. How to make splits without buying new queens. Swarm prevention techniques. Split for more hives vs. not splitting to make more honey. Be aware of disease which are more common in the spring. Techniques to equalize hives in the spring. Replenishing the bee yard with more packages vs nucs? How to collect pollen in the spring. Is it okay to reuse old comb from a hive that perished in the winter? Tips on finding your queen. How to install new packages of bees. How to inspect your spring hive. Seasonal management calendar. Feeding solutions for each season.

Click here now to sign up for our ONLINE Spring Management Course. Take this course from the comfort of your home, on your schedule, at your pace, without having to travel. Once you sign up, we'll send you an email with links to our teaching videos and worksheets. Then, study as your own pace.

Swarm prevention is vital for a good honey production year. Swarming is a natural instinctive behavior and is how a mature hive multiplies into two hives. Attempting to prevent a swarm is a challenge, and sometimes after doing everything to prevent a swarm, they still swarm. If a hive swarms and 50% of the hive leaves with their old queen and they will raise a new queen. The hive that swarmed usually will not produce a good honey crop that same year due to the reduction in bees. If you are fortunate enough to capture the swarm, the good news is that you now have two hives, but the bad news is, neither will provide a honey crop that year. You can usually place the swarm back into the hive it came from, and the swarming instinct will have been satisfied.

So, the best honey crop comes from operating a hive slightly below the swarm congested level, while preventing a swarm.

Congestion vs. Crowded --you need open cells!

Many beekeepers have been taught to provide more space in the hive to prevent swarms but this is only partially true. Placing a super of undrawn foundation on the hive will not help if you've waited too long. Hives swarm because of congestion and overcrowding and more so from congestion. Congestion means that there is incoming nectar and pollen in large quantities, and the queen is laying well, thus there are not enough empty cells to accommodate the need. This is why undrawn foundation (more space) does not always help. They need drawn comb with open cells, not just more space. Sometimes, you can pull out a frame or two of brood from the brood nest area and add two frames of either drawn or undrawn foundation, and this might be a temporary solution. But by this time, you may have waited too long.

Remove swarm queen cells. The obvious swarm sign is the presence of queen swarm cells. These queen cells are called swarm cells because the are usually located on the lower section of a frame in the brood chamber. You can tilt back a deep hive body and look for these swarm queen cells hanging from the bottom of the frames. Another type of queen cell is the superseding queen cell, which is located higher up on the drawn comb. A superseding queen cell means that the old queen is being replaced because she is not productive or injured or dead. Leave these superseding cells alone! The bees know what they are doing, and why they need this replacement. But, if you want to try and prevent swarms, remove the swarm queen cells from the bottom of the frames.

What do queen cells look like? They are shaped like peanuts and hang out either from the foundation, as with superseding cells, or they hang from the bottom of a frame, as with swarm cells. They are about the size of the first joint on your little finger.

I usually save the cells in a mason jar with air holes in the lid, keeping them in a warm spot in the house, just in case I need a queen. I also have several small hives (nucs) that I store these queens in. It's cheaper than buying queens. Sometimes, I'll have two or three jars full of queen cells on the kitchen table. I'll wake up and while eating breakfast, watch a queen emerge, then take her to her nuc box using a queen cage, slow introduction method.

In closing, I've got to tell you about my swarm capture stocking cap! I got the idea from reading what Langstroth did in his bee yards. He would hang dark woolly items from trees, so that a swarm would light where he had placed the item, instead of high up in the tree. I use a black stocking cap, fill it full of cloth, and hand them around my bee yards. It may not work every time, but when it does, it sure makes the capture much easier. To the bee, the dark, swarm shaped stocking cap looks like the place where other bees have landed.

In our next lesson, I'll explain how to split or divide a hive in the Spring to prevent swarming as well.


Here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, we enjoy providing online beekeeping classes. We are a family operated business that has a passion to see more people enjoy the art of keeping bees. We also believe that to offset the dwindling honeybee population, that more people need to start keeping bees. Feel free to contact us at: 217-427-2678.

We manufacture all hive parts, and we also carry a complete line of everything you need in keeping bees.

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