June 2011 – and the swarming season continues

It seems like the last three weeks of June have gone mad, there seems to have been a swarming frenzy with bees deserting their hives everywhere but luckily with with my friend Paul from Forest Garden Foods on board we have been able to collect and retain many of these swarms.

Swarm in a tree

My last blog explained how I carried out an artificial swarm up at one of the apiaries. There  was only the one hive there so once the artificial swarm had been carried out the risk of a real swarm occuring was very minimal, although having left five new queens cells in the hive there is always the risk of a cast (a smaller swarm leaving with the first born, or subsequent, virgin queens) but on the whole I have now left them alone to get on with re-queening, mating and re-building the colonies.

Close up of swarm in a tree

I was at work in London a couple of weeks ago and the phone rang, my wife has literally stumbled into a small swarm on the ground on the local common whilst walking the dog so Paul popped up and mopped it up, then the very next day a large swarm was seen in flight crossing a field in the Teisse Valley and settling about 200m from the out apiary there.

Again Paul bravely donned his bee keeping suit and happily collected the swarm. Two days later and one of my hives, Ogwen, decided to surprise us with a large swarm which settled in a tree near the Spa Valley apiary and Paul duly collected it into a cardboard box and re-hived in one of the the prepared ‘swarm control’ hives.

Swarm collected in a box

This new swarm stayed for a few hours before deciding to head out again, but due to a well placed queen excluder under the brood body the bees left but returned when they realised they were missing their queen, without which the colony has no chance of survival. I have been contacted yesterday and again today being requested to collect swarms but we seem to have run out of luxury bee accommodation in which to re-house the bees with all the hives now occupied. Buying additional hives right now isn’t an option so we are having to pass these on. Swarming of different colonies in the same area often occurs around the same time each year, I assume some of the factors outside of the beekeepers control that then lead to swarming are common across an area, being weather and forage availability.

The last three weeks have seen high pressure and unseasonably hot weather and as the colonies near their peak numbers life in the hives must be very warm and congested. The long dry spring has allowed the bees to work hard and bring in much nectar and the supers are filling very fast. Time to crop some honey …..

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