Who would have thought that beekeeping would be so challenging, I certainly didn’t. I inspected the colony on Monday and discovered the bees were building queen cells which is always a sign they are preparing to swarm.
It’s best to avoid a swarm because at least half of the colony flies away in an attempt to propagate the species and it reduces the amount of honey they’re likely to produce.
The procedure, called the Demaree method, requires shaking all the bees off the frames in the main brood box and moving them into a new box. It sounds simple but when you are standing in a cloud of bees it isn’t as straightforward as it seems. It wasn’t helped by me being so focused on the procedure I forgot to zip up my head covering and several bees found their way into my suit. Thankfully I didn’t get stung and managed to get them out quite quickly.
The pictures above and to the right show more queen cells on the top and bottom of the same frame. I had to remove them all before placing them into the new brood box. It was difficult to get clear images because the bees were flying in front of the camera and all around my head.
Once all the brood were in the top box without bees I could close up the bottom box, put a queen excluder above it, add the Supers (honey boxes) and finally add another queen excluder and the new brood box to the top.
In theory the bees in the bottom brood box think they have swarmed because there are no young, simply empty frames of foundation. The queen and foraging bees have to work hard to build a new colony. In the meantime the brood in the top box will hatch and join the others in the bottom box as they mature. In a weeks time I need to inspect the top box to double check there are no queen cells and if there are I need to remove them. If that all looks good I can leave them to go through the bees’ growth cycle which will take 25 days after which the top brood box will be empty of young bees and can be removed.