It was D-Day for the strongest of my hives on Saturday.
D being for Demaree, the swarm prevention (or at least delay) method that I currently use. The strongest of my hives (five in total) in the field apiary that has OSR (Oil Seed Rape) planted in it this year got to the point that I believe they would start to think / prepare to swarm over the next week or so. In fact I found two charged queen cells (still fairly fresh) in one of the five colonies.
So with my car loaded up with the equipment I needed I headed out to the field just after midday to begin.
Two of the colonies were still on double brood (2 national deep brood boxes) and for these two colonies it was simply a case of finding the queen and moving her to the bottom of the two brood boxes. In both cases she was fairly easy to find (mainly because earlier in the season I had marked all my queens) as she was on only the 3rd or 4th frame in.
Once found I put the frame she was on in a Polynuc and put the lid on for safety as I moved the top brood box to one side and checked all the frames in the lower brood box for any queen cells and to see what the frames contained. Satisfied that there was plenty of room for the queen to lay eggs I then put the frame the queen was on into the lower brood box (after checking that there were no queen cells on that frame!). The queen excluder went on top of this then the honey supers and then my demaree board and the original brood box on top. Next the task of checking all of the frames in this top brood box and removing any signs of queen cells.
The demaree boards, I made myself, are a crownboard with a section of queen excluder cut to size and covering the feed hole(s) with a entrance cut into the side of the board that allow bees from the upper brood box to exit / enter.
The theory is that the queen, now in the bottom brood box with 11 frames of drawn comb in which to lay will have plenty of room to lay as fast as she wants and therefore the bees will not be inclined to start swarming. In the meantime the brood in the top brood box will hatch out over the next three weeks and as the brood reduces in this top box the nurse bees will move down to look after the new brood in the bottom brood box. The foraging bees will leave the top box to forage but return to the bottom box as that is the entrance they know.
If you get the timing right and the weather is good and there is a decent flow happening, the number of bees in that colony will increase rapidly and the supers will fill up!
After 3-4 days the top brood box will need inspecting again and at this point thee will be queen cells drawn as the bees are separated by enough distance from the queen to feel that they have no queen! At this point you have a choice of making up Nucs with the best looking queen cells or removing them all.
For the other 3 colonies in that apiary I had prepared a 2nd brood box with 10 frames of drawn comb and 1 frame of foundation (as this is swapped with the frame the queen is on).
The procedure is the same except obviously once the queen is located and put into the Nuc, the original brood box is removed from the floor and moved to one side and replaced with the brood box with drawn comb.
The other advantage of this procedure is that you can remove any old comb / frames that you want to after all the brood is hatched. I was told by a more experienced beekeeper that it is important that most if not all of the frames in the new brood box as already drawn as if most s foundation the queen will have nowhere to lay and the bees could swarm anyway!
A few hours work later and all five colonies were done. I must say that in 18+ degs. with sunshine, blue sky, little wind and the nectar flow from the OSR all of the colonies were very easy to work on. I almost didn’t need to use the smoker at all.
With the good weather comes another important resource the bees need. Water! Bees use water in many different ways but when there is not a natural supply nearby it is important to give the bees some.
I use possibly one of the simplest water sources I can think of.
An old (preferably black) bucket into which I put a piece of stone. The stone weighs the bucket down in high winds and gives the bees something to land on to take the water. The reason for the bucket being black and another reason for the stone is to heat the water from the sun so that it is not so cold for the bees to take. The other advantage is that if it rains it should refill the bucket by itself!
Finally I was very happy to see that all of these colonies are filling the two supers they have on. At the rate they are going they will need a 3rd super next weekend (if the weather holds).