June started summery but southern Alberta weather seems to be reversing into spring mode. Thankfully the long days help, so the hive populations are growing fast and the nectar flow is steady. Right now our bees are finding nectar in late dandelions, all the clovers, sainfoin and early alfalfa. Monitoring hives to prevent swarming at this time of year is very important. Swarming is the honey bees natural way to expand their colony or ‘supercede’. For the bees it’s a planned event so a beekeeper must read the signs. The first step is to ensure they have enough room by adding supers regularly. Inspect each colony for queen cells – any hive may have small queen cups but until there is an egg inside it isn’t considered a queen cell. Removing all occupied queen cells will discourage swarming. Conversely, removing the queen cell frames with a small nucleus of bees may also work and at the same time create a new colony if a new queen successfully emerges. Another method is to separate the queen from the brood. Take the frame that the queen is on (removing any queen cells), place it in a new box with a queen excluder above, then add one or more honey supers above and top them with the old box (containing bees and queen cells). Not a method but an additional measure, some beekeepers (not ourselves) clip the queens wings. It likely won’t prevent swarming but it should be easily caught since the queen cannot travel far!
Obviously there are a number of ways to prevent swarming. They involve careful observation and management but unfortunately none of them are foolproof. Sometimes a hive is determined to swarm and no beekeeper can stand in their way!