Cake & Eating it Too! Part ll
I hope you enjoyed Part l in January, and as promised, this part will provide
you with details of the most important procedures.
However, not unlike your elementary school teachers, I will first remind you
of some salient principles that I hope you will never forget!
These are: A colony must have a Lot of forager age bees to gather a crop, and
our main Maryland crops are only in April and May; there are 40 days between
the laying of an egg and that bee produced becoming a forager, meaning if you
want a forager bee by April 20th, the queen has to lay the egg before March
10th; the younger the queen, the more eggs she can produce and the more pheromone
she can produce to "glue" her progeny together to prevent swarming-a 12 months
old queen is NOT considered a young queen; contrary to most thinking, Swarming
is considered and planned by the worker bees as much as 10-14 days in advance
of swarming and not a great deal of productive work is done by the colony during
this time including egg laying and cell construction; bees and particularly
larvae eat nectar and pollen- they only eat honey if it's diluted with water
to a nectar consistency-hence, a pollen supply is a must and the storage of
thin nectar requires a lot of cell space until it can be cured into thick honey.
This is why 1:1 sugar syrup is used as artificial nectar. Remember,in the case
of real nectar, 1:1 sugar syrup ,and honey, bees will favor them in THAT order,
honey last! NEVER FORGET THESE IMPORTANT FACTS!
Now let's stagger through the details:First,we 'trick"(fool) the bees into
believing that "spring is here" by feeding them artificial nectar, 1:1 sugar
syrup starting about Feb 15th but no later than March 1st(in Montgomery County,Md.)
I prefer 5 lb. bags over all other sizes because of ease of handling(spilling
sugar on the kitchen floor makes my wife furious). Put a bag plus a half bag
( 71/2 lbs.) in a gallon glass jar or can, fill with warm water and stir. Punch
four holes in lid with frame nail or drill 1/32 holes. Throw away all boardman
feeders! Invert that jar over the inner cover hole, or right on top the 10 brood
frames. Check every other day.
Reversing: start reversing brood bodies about Feb 1st and continue every
10-14 days (with deep bodies) or every 7-11 days(with Illinois) and don't stop
until you make the split in April. By doing this, you are trying to keep the
queen in the bottom story along with the nursing bees and the capped brood up
in the second story. As the brood hatches out in the second story, the queen
will move up to that new laying space, and you reverse again,etc.etc. Reversing
is puzzling to many people , so ask any Master beekeeper to help (not good old
Tom because he has had bees for a long time,"cause maybe old "Tom" has never
heard of reversing-find a Masterbeekeeper).
Splitting: Don't be scared. It is simple if you follow my directions,
and you will learn!) You should have ordered your new queen already and have
a known date of arrival. If you have not, do it Now and tell them George said
"please and Marked! Ten days before the queen's arrival, divide your brood chambers
with queen excluders to isolate your old queen to make it easy to find 10 days
later. Finally, your new marked queen arrives. Give her 1-2 drops of water for
a drink(not on the candy and not too much), put the cage in a dark, cool spot(your
You should have already set up your new hive outside ready for a new queen
and bees,brood,pollen and food from your parent colony ,plus 1:1 sugar syrup.
In the warmest part of the day, carefully examine the brood in your parent colony
using a little smoke as possible, and which ever hive body has OPEN brood (eggs
or larvae) is where the queen is. Find her, and place that frame in a separate
closed hive temporarily , so now you can go through the parent at free will
with no fear of damaging the queen.
Go through the frames of the parent hive and select 2 frames of CAPPED brood
with the adhering nurse bees, 2 frames of larvae with adhering bees and place
these 4 frames with 2 larvae frames in between 2 capped brood frames in the
NEW HIVE along with 5-6 frames of foundation or preferably drawn comb.
Then select 2-3 other frames from the parent hive and shake the adhering bees
off of them onto the frames in the NEW HIVE. The nurse bees (less than 19 days
old) will stay in the new hive, while the others will return to the parent hive.
Put 4 new frames in the parent hive ,remove the queen excluders and finally
replace the queen cage in between the two larvae frames, put the feeder jar
in place, and DON'T TOUCH THIS HIVE FOR AT LEAST 3 DAYS.
If the queen is released , do NOTHING except remove the queen cage and refill
the syrup jar. If the queen is not released, close up and check 3 days later.
Super the parent colony now. Your new Colony: keep feeding 1:1 as long as the
bees will take it(maybe until fall), but put second brood chamber in place about
2-3 weeks after you installed the queen.
Also, since none of this honey will be used for humans, I put 2 strips of Apistan
in this new colony and remove it after 56 days, near the 4th of July. Now, you
have almost assuredly prevented the parent colony swarming, it will produce
good honey crop, and you have EITHER a added colony or a colony with a new queen
that can be united with the parent colony before fall .
Ad nauseum, I have written about "how to get drawn comb". Repeating, the bees
will not draw comb unless have immediate need for it-either brood or nectar!
Hence, there must be some kind of nectar flow on, real or artificial (1:1 sugar
syrup), or the queen laying space to make bees build comb. Swarms are super
comb builders on foundation if they are feed 1:1 sugar syrup, because they are
starting a new colony fresh and need queen laying space plus nectar storage
space. Since, in Maryland, our early nectar flow does lend itself to making
surplus honey, I catch swarms for the purpose of building comb from foundation,
and I do not want that old queen anyhow. I use this new drawn comb to replace
old comb in existing colonies.
Keep a "pedigreed" queen on hand from early spring to fall just in case you
suddenly need a laying queen for one of your colonies, or to replace an unknown
How? In the spring, buy a pedigreed marked queen and start her in a split as
above, and just treat her as a new colony, except if you suddenly need a good
queen for an observation hive to replace an accidentally killed queen, or to
replace one of your queens that is producing nasty worker bees, or a dozen other
reasons, YOU HAVE A PROVEN MARKED QUEEN IN YOUR BACKYARD at a cost of
only about $9. Anyone with 5 or more colonies is foolish not to have a spare
queen on hand! Nine dollars is expensive you say. It is just 3 jars of honey
That's it!! Simple,just follow the directions in Part I and Part II. By asking
master beekeepers for advice, you will requeen,make more honey,curtail swarming,upgrade
your bee knowledge and have FUN!
© George W. Imirie
Maryland Certified Master Beekeeper Started Beekeeping in 1933