Upon completing spring maintenance on my hives and comparing the notes for each, I realized that they all did pretty darn well through the winter. All but one is busting at the seams. I also looked for the promising signs of the “best of the best” queen and colony traits to promote her to the rank of breeder for my queen rearing venture this season. There are four queens that are in the running. One common thread, through all of the colonies, is the strong proliferation of drones. Of course, spring ushers in drone production but what I am seeing is reminiscent of last year’s explosive drone hatch just prior to a swarm crazy spring. Remember that? If you keep bees, you could hardly forget.
What I see is this year’s cold spring held off the red maple, willow and skunk cabbage bloom long enough to make it available to the bees. The bloom didn’t get lost to a cold spring. The bloom paused several times because of the cold but is still strong. The bees responded by bringing in tons of pollen as it became available. The dandelions are now pushing out buds which will bloom very soon and flow pollen and nectar. There are several dandelion blooms along the south side of my house now. With strong hives going into the dandelion bloom there is a need for beekeepers to watch the population of the hives carefully.
Swarm control including splits, no matter how you do them, is necessary with very populous colonies. Remember, control is before they build swarm cells and prevention is after. You want to control swarms preferable to prevent swarms. The outcome is much more predictable. If a split is not wanted because you don’t want more colonies, there is the double screen method of swarm control (Snelgrove board). There are vertical splits, NUC splits, Even splits, Typical splits, Walk Away split, Cut Down splits, etc. You get the picture! No matter what your goal, now is the time to read up on your preferred method, get your equipment ready, stand firm against the day of swarming and be as ready as need be. Remember the old adage, “a swarm in May is worth a load of hay. A swarm in June a silver spoon. A swarm in July, best let them fly.” If you ignore the conditions of swarming, they will swarm. If you miss the catch, some other lucky beekeeper will welcome your bees to a new home and your honey production will be less than ideal.