Spring is here !
It is always exciting for a beekeeper when spring comes along. For months we did not look at our bees and now is the time to open the hives and see how the little ladies have fared during winter.
This winter was particularly mild in the Sydney region and we had a fair bit of rain.
The first inspections show that there is a lot of honey in the hives. That is a good thing as most colonies are healthy with queens laying like crazy.
It also has some issues as many hives are honey bound and not enough room is available for the queen to lay. This is the time when the beekeepers need to help out a bit. The easiest way to resolve a honey bound brood box is to take a few honey frames out and replace them with drawn comb or frames with foundation.
Typically we use the frames second to the outside (2&8 in 10 frame box, 2&6 in an 8 frame box)
This does not always help preventing the swarming instinct of the bees, but it certainly helps the bees to build up more brood and grow into the summer population.
Swarming is a natural instinct of bees and this time of the year we can see this amazing event quite often. I caught already 2 swarms this season and my swarm box on my balcony shows a lot of interest. Swarming allows bees to multiply. Generally, in spring when it gets a bit crowded in the hive the bees build queen cells and the queen lays eggs in those cells. The lava hatching from the egg is fed with Royal Jelly instead of beebread (a mixture of pollen[protein] and honey[carbs]) that the normal workers get. The Royal Jelly triggers the lava to develop into a queen.
About three days before the new queen hatches the old queen and half of the worker bees leave the hive. First, they land on a branch near by. This is what we normally call a swarm. Bees in the swarming state are quite tame and do not sting generally, unless provoked.
Scouts are send out to find a new home. Often you can see these scouts flying up and down your home looking for little openings. They enter spaces they find and measure the size of the internal room. 40L is the ideal space for swarms to take on a new home.
I love watching them checking my swarm box out. They fly up and down the wall. Check the outside by flying back and forth measuring the size of the box. Go inside and do the same. Then they fly back to the swarm and wiggle dance with excitement. Other scouts come and do the same until a critical mass is reached.
The swarm makes a decision for the new location and everybody takes off and moves in. It is an amazing thing to watch when thousands of bees are in the air circling the new home. Check out my video on swarming from last season.