A spring update on the Prep School’s bee hives

Posted: 20th May 2021

On World Bee Day, Mr McCarthy shares a spring update on the Prep School’s bee hives.

It’s been a late start to the beekeeping season with the bluebells still out in force in the Brendon Hills offsite school apiary.  However we are now on full alert for swarming. Swarming is the process by which a new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees. In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen.  Beekeepers want to artificially manage this natural behaviour so that bees are not lost and the honey harvest not affected.

We have already carried out two artificial swarms using the nucleus method and getting stung in the process, a constant reminder that we need to be gentle when handling bees. In this process we look for the tell-tale swarming signs of charged queen ‘cups’, when egg or larvae swimming in Royal Jelly are present in a cell. When the colony looks as though it’s preparing to swarm we remove the old queen, some stores and some bees into a nucleus hive (half the size of a small hive). This keeps the queen safe in case things go awry with the original colony.  We then returned a week later and removed all but one queen cell in the original colony. The virgin queen emerges, mates, returns and starts laying.  A month or so after starting the original colony is headed by a new queen and now we have two ‘spare’ building up in the nucleus box.  We will likely build up another hive over the winter and gift a swarm to other beekeepers.

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