Midnite Bee-Beekeeper's: Article April 2000
Ready or Not, It is Supering Time
I said SUPERING, not Swarming. That is, if you have a young queen, reversed brood chambers
to reduce brood chamber congestion, and follow the rules that will be given
in today's PINK PAGES, your chances of a swarm in our April
swarm SEASON will be minimized.
With our warm weather in early March, maples, alders, and willow trees have provided much pollen needed for brood rearing. My colonies have 9-12 Illinois frames Filled with brood, so the brood area is about to get heavily congested which is the Number ONE cause of swarming. This congestion needs relief, and I will explain HOW.
If you can reverse your brood chambers right now without splitting the brood, reverse so the queen's laying space is in the bottom brood chamber and capped brood is in the top brood chamber, add ONE super of preferably drawn comb (or foundation if here is no drawn comb available) and NO queen excluder, and wait one week. At the end one week, something should have happened in that new super: If it was drawn comb, some nectar and maybe some OPEN BROOD can be found on the center frames of that super.
If you find 3-4 frames will nectar or brood in them, MAKE SURE THE QUEEN IS NOT IN THAT SUPER, and place a queen excluder under that super.
Now that super is " baited" and the bees will continue to take care of it going back and forth through the excluder. If you have to use foundation, it will take longer and you should be feeding 1:1 sugar syrup through the inner cover hole to aid in drawing the foundation into comb. When 6-7 of the center frames are drawn and filled with something, nectar or OPEN BROOD, move the untouched frames to the center and the drawn frames towards the outside, make sure the queen is below, and put a queen excluder under this super.
The addition of one super about April 1st relieves congestion by providing space f or the worker bees to MOVE nectar out of the brood frames, deposit it "upstairs" in this super, and open up cells in the brood area frames for the queen to lay fresh eggs. Bees WILL MOVE NECTAR OR HONEY to new-locations in a bee colony in order to give the queen additional laying space in the brood chamber area!
In this SWARM SEASON period, the queen is laying eggs at her peak and can fill 10 deep frames or 15 Illinois frames with brood in a 21 day worker bee gestation period .The other brood area frames are filled with pollen, and nectar surrounding the brood making larvae feeding easier for the workaholic nurse bees.
However, a major nectar flow can start as early as April 15th here near the ration's capitol of Washington DC, and surely by May 1 st Supers of drawn comb have little or no value sitting in your garage or basement, so add 4 supers of drawn comb to that one super on the bees on INCOME TAX DAY, April 15th; and don't forget some entrances in the super area, either Imirie shims or holes in the supers, and an upper entrance. This will keep the forager bees from "drudging back and "forth" through the brood chamber and creating MORE congestion than already exists there.
I have been asked "where" I put Imirie Shims: On top of the queen excluder are two supers, then a shim, another 2 supers and then a second shim, then the 5th super topped with an upper entrance cut in the inner cover.
Lastly, for those that still don't understand "WHY 5 SUPERS?" Nectar is thin and about 80% water, but there has to be a lot of storage space to hold all this nectar until the bees can ripen it into thick honey that is only about 16-18% water. If there is not enough super space to store all this thin watery nectar, the bees will stop gathering nectar and prepare to swarm. If your colony swarms during a major nectar flow, it was not a bad queen or crazy bees, it was 100% YOUR FAULT; because you did not provide enough super space AHEAD OF TIME.
GET YOUR SUPERS ON!
Disturbing Your Bees Too Much
Almost 70, years ago, I have never forgotten some wisdom Dr. James L Hambleton gave me: He said, "Get all your hive work done by the time the nectar flow starts, then leave the bees alone, let them work, and don't disturb them with inspections." When you light your smoker, gently smoke the bees, remove and inspect some frames, you have totally disrupted that colony for the rest of the day and they cease foraging for nectar while they try and clear the hive of smoke, empty their stomachs of honey that they have sucked up in preparation of flying to a new home , repairing the broken comb that you caused by moving frames, and resealing things with propolis to keep the weather outside where it belongs.
If you inspect your colony one day each during a nectar flow, you might lose 1/7th of your honey yield because you stopped their normal work schedule for a whole day out of seven.
Is the queen that you see on July 4th the SAME QUEEN that you saw on April 1 st?
MARK YOUR QUEENS
So often I hear of beekeepers who won't requeen because they have suffered the loss of a brand new $10 queen before, and, of course, blamed the loss on the queen breeder, the weather, poor post office handling, and Mrs. Smith's Red Underwear. Rarely does a person who lacks knowledge think that their lack of know-how night be the problem.
At the risk of being anthropomorphic, allow me to use an example. The mother of a large family of children is killed in an auto accident. A year or so later, the father remarries to a fine Christian woman with high ideals, lovely personality, and s very fond of children. The elementary school children think this new mother is wonderful, the teen age children tolerate her, but the young adult children totally resent this new mother and strongly feel that their father should not have remarried.
Many of us have witnessed this very circumstance in our lives. Young nurse bees who are genetically programmed to take care of every necessity of the hive queen readily accept a new queen in the colony; whereas the older forager bees, having been relieved of all hive duties and destined to only forage until their death, are reluctant to accept a new queen PARTICULARLY IN THE ABSENCE OF A NECTAR FLOW.
What about the "absence of a nectar flow"? You are not real happy when there is nothing to do and you have to eat "leftovers". After all, nectar is the food of choice for a bee, while honey is a "winter survival" feed a "leftover"!
Lastly, the queen's job in a colony is LAYING EGGS, and the bees are not happy about a queen who can't lay eggs or doesn't lay enough eggs to keep the colony well populated, and ultimately, the poor queen will be superseded in the hope that the daughter queen can do a better job for the colony.
Hence, a queen ready to lay an abundant number of eggs shortly after being released in a colony is far better accepted than a virgin queen or a laying queen that has been in shipment or banked too long.
The success in requeening is the responsibility of the beekeeper, and it is this beekeeper that is going to try and release a laying queen as quick as he can after acquiring her from the post OFFICE (not his mail box) release her to a group of young nurse bees only with few forgers, and make sure of a steady supply of "nectar" by feeding 1:1 sugar syrup. He is going to let this group of young bees get the queen "settled" and make her feel "at home" and wanted for about three weeks when the first eggs hatch. Then, he goes to the colony he wants to requeen, kills the old queen, waits 24 hours until all the bees in that colony know the queen is dead, puts a single sheet of newspaper on top of the colony, and then adds the new young colony with the new queen and 1:1 syrup on top of all that.
You have introduced a laying queen quickly to a colony of young nurse bees with few forager age bees, provided an artificial nectar flow, given them time to "settle in" together, and then merged this happy group with a colony of older bees who have no queen. By doing this, you will get about 99% queen acceptance and rarely any supersedure.
One might say, "George, this takes too much time and too much work." I did not know that time and too much work was important for hobbyist beekeepers! I thought time and work was important ONLY to commercial beekeepers who have to not only PAY employees, but pay by the HOURS WORKED. You have to decide if always having a new young queen who can lay more eggs to build a larger nectar gathering population and young enough to produce enough queen pheromone to prevent colony loss by swarming is worth the $10 cost of a new queen and your time in successful requeening so that your colony can always produce large yields of honey is worth it or not. I don't sell a drop of my honey for less than $3.50 per pound. and I always get over 100 pounds per hive. Do you gross $350-$450 per colony?
Have you ever thought about finding out about different bee races or bee stocks by YOURSELF rather than listening to my thoughts or Tom, Dick, and Harry's ideas.? Why not requeen one of your colonies with a Buckfast, Midnite, or Minnesota Hygienic queen each year and see what you like about a different race or what you don't like about a different stock.
You remember the tales that "some people, like redheads, while others like blondes" I love Carniolans, Bill loves Italians, and maybe your pick will be Buckfast; or many people swear by Wilbanks Italians, while others have had super good luck with Shuman's Italian stock, but some always buy York Italian stock. Why don't you find out for yourself? Put a little scientific thinking in your life, have some fun, but most important, LEARN, LEARN, LEARN!