catching the swarm

swarming symptoms: how to prevent from swarming?

Here we are with the next chapter about swarming, are you getting more and more enchanted by the topic? I can bet that the more you read about it, the more questions you have, isn´t it? We have seen how it looks like, its causes,…but for example, when you find a swarm, how can you catch it again? And then how can you prevent swarming? Is there any way? Are there any warning symptons maybe? Follow with us this path into the beekeeping world and you’ll see!

Swarming: is it good or bad?

One day I was wondering: If bees are swarming, is this a nice or a bad thing? It’s their way of reproducing, it’s something extremely natural…so why granpa Heinz continues to repeat Scheiße?’ (this was more or less the thread of my speech to myself). The answer is at halfway. More specificaly, it’s good because it belongs to bees’ nature. In the end, it’s their way for reproducing. Moreover, we have seen that in most of the cases this happens when we have a strong and hyper active family. On the other hand, if it happens in reply of any disease or not so good external conditions, it is anyway a reaction from the bees to protect themselves.

But so what’s wrong with it?

The beekeeper wants to understand how to prevent a swarming because as pointed out here Why do bees swarm? i’m asking for a friend… – Gaeblini, when bees decide to swarm, they take with them half of the family and much honey provisions. In addition, Basti and I are lucky because we live next to our apiary, so most of the times we manage to deal with a swarming immediately, in real time. Nevertheless, if a beekeeper does not live next to the apiary, it’s probable that he/she won’t find any longer the swarm. This means that from a super strong and productive original family, there is the risk that you have to start everything from the beginning: a family that has to get strong again from the beginning and that has to collect much nectar. Moreover, even when we know where the swarm is placed, it’s not always so easy to get it back. A beekeeper can seriously risk to get hurt while trying to catch it!

Yes, indeed…what happens when the swarm is calm? How can you catch it??

How to prevent from swarming?
Our swarm-catching box

Once bees are calmer, how to catch them? Thousands of tiny flying beings…how can you make them understand ‘Go back to your hive!’. We have already mentioned here Which hive to choose and according to what? – Gaeblini, the boxes-structure of a hive (the broot box and the honey box). However, in the beekeeping world, it exists another kind of box: the one for catching swarms. It is made for these occasions. It’s a box with a handle, pretty practical to carry around and not too big. If for example the swarm is on some branches, the beekeeper set this special box below and shake strongly and firmly the branch. This all with the hope that the beequeen will fall in without getting damaged. If the beequeen is among those that have fallen in the box, all the bees will follow her inside. If by mistake you didn’t manage to get her in and for example she fell on the grass, the bees won’t care less to enter the box and they will fly away all together again to find a new shelter. As you can understand, it’s not a simple issue at all, imagine when the choose a hard shelter to reach…it’s even worst!

Hence, if everything turns out well and we managed to catch the swarm (hip hip Hurrayyy!), you can decide to put it back to the previous hive (taking care that only one beequeen will be in the beehive) or you can use it to make a new family starting from it. This choice depends on the families situations, the availability of an empty beehive, the swarm dimensions and origin,…there are different factors to be considered and from there you can decide how to proceed.

Quite a big head-scratcher here…is there any way to prevent from swarming?

As I was telling here Swarming: tell me, what does it consist of? – Gaeblini, Basti wanted to make a check to understand if bees were going to swarm (then, well we all know how it ended up 🙂 ). However, yes, inspections are essential to prevent from swarming: there are some truly signals that make you understand if the superorganism is going to swarm pretty soon. Do you remember when we were speaking of the importance of the first year inspection? If you want to get a refresh, you can have a look at this article The first hives inspection: in what does it consist of? – Gaeblini. The first inspection is very important, however, all the following ones are basic as well. Right through these, you can notice the very first signals that preceed a swarming.

How to prevent from swarming? what are the symptoms?

Among the the very first symtpoms of swarming you can find:

  • The cells of the future drones (bigger ones) are at the sides or at the upper part of the honeycomb, when generally they are at the below part
  • Building royal cells: royal what?? yes, those that are supposed to give birth to a beequeen 🙂 They have a special shape, they are completely different from any other cell – thanks God! Otherwise it would be very difficult to recognize them! When they are still little, it means that bees are starting to think that breeding a new beequeen so as to swarm would be a nice idea. When you notice this kind of cells, you can simply cut them away with a knife
  • The royal cells are long and big: step by step they change size, the egg has been layed down and from there bees seriously start to breed beequeens. Here too you can simply cut the cell away and if it’s not damaged you can keep it and breed the beequeen on your own

How to prevent from swarming even more practically?

So, shortly, what to do?? Cutting away royal cells during the inspections is the very first step. However, for sure, when you start to get many hives, it can become a problem: it’s not such a practical solution. Is there any alternative? Luckily yes! You can increase vertically the space of the beehive! What does this mean? You can move some honeycombs from the brootbox to the honey box, so as to leave the bees more room in the brootbox. This is a good solution for those families that are particularly active and strong. You can take a couple of honeycombs with broot, better if the closed one (that means that soon they’ll be born). Why is it better to avoid fresh eggs? Because in this case, there is the risk that bees decide to breed a second beequeen in the honeybox.

And then what can you do with the honeycombs taken from the brootbox? You put them in the honeybox! In the brootbox, you will add completely new frames with wax sheet – we had spoken about how to prepare them in this article The wax sheet: what’s this? Why to use it? – Gaeblini. After about ten days you should have a new hive check to better understand the situation status.

What should have happened in the meanwhile?

In the meanwhile, the broot from the honeycombs previously put in the honeybox should be born. These will be used from the bees to stock new honey. We are in the honeybox afterall, no? While as far as the brootbox is concerned, with this method you have given more room to the broot of the family, without taking away foraging bees, since in the meanwhile they are born in the honeybox and they will hard work to make the cells full of honey…and they will all live happily ever after!

So, swarming is a natural process that can become a great hassle for beekeepers. However, as Basti always tells me, there is always a solution. For sure, swarmings will take place anyway, but this is still a good method to keep it under control. What do you think about it? Do you have more ideas to suggest maybe? We’re all ears! 🙂

A hug,

The Gäblini

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