Thankfully it was bright enough on Monday,Tuesday and Wednesday of this week to allow a quick but thorough inspection of each hive. I found 4 out of 40 hives with queen cells either sealed or furnished with royal jelly. Action needs to be taken immediately on finding queen cells or you will lose a swarm which means you will lose half the bees from that hive and get no honey crop.
On discovering queen cells I go through the hive and look for the queen who is usually easy to find if she is marked.I then put her into the bottom brood box with most of the sealed brood and lift this box on the hive floor 180 degrees so it is facing the other way.
A simple split board is then placed on top of the bottom brood box and the top box ,containing queen cells is put on top.There is now a separate entrance for the top box facing the same way as the old entrance.
In a nutshell we have tricked the queen and flying bees into thinking that they have already swarmed.
The top box can now crack on with making themselves a new queen and once they sucessfully have we can knock the old queen on the head and unite the 2 boxes back together resulting in a strong hive capable of bringing in a good honey crop.
There are many different ways of making this split. You have to decide what system works best for you and be ready with the equipment to take action on hives that are thinking about swarming.Providing plenty of space and some fresh frames of wax goes along way to dissipating the urge to swarm.Remember the big highlights in the bees year are swarming,drawing out fresh wax and a good nectar flow.
Several days later I sneak back into the top box and take out 2 frames,1 of which must have a sealed queen cell.Make sure you still leave at least 1 queen cell in the top box.I put these 2 frames into a nucleus box,add a frame of stores,a shake of bees off another frame and some fondant.
Note the dummy board wedging the frames in tightly and keeping them warm.For extra warmth I add insulation to these early nucs.
Note the post card on top of the insulation to remind you which hive the nuc has come from and the date.Stuff up the entrance so bees can’t escape.
I then take nucs up to my mating apiary and place them on pallets.Unblock the entrances and leave them be for at least 4 weeks and probably 5 until you have a newly laying queen.I only have a quick peek in during this time to see if they need more fondant.
The weather has been pretty chilly and although the bees are building up nicely and there are a lot of flowers out,there really hasn’t been a decent nectar flow yet. You need to be vigilant in ensuring your bees aren’t going hungry and add a frame of stores if necessary.
I noticed yesterday lots of bees sucking up water from damp ground which might suggest stores consumption was going on,after all the population in each hive is growing daily.