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A Year in the Apiary - May

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

It's swarm season! Or is it? It certainly should be but the stormy cold weather is suppressing the bees ability to successfully swarm. I am on the County swarm list and I haven't had a single call all month. But, looking in the hives, the bees are certainly making Queen cells, and there are loads of drones around, so they are wanting to swarm.

I walked into my Apiary on one of the few days of the month that was warm and sunny, and walked straight into a colony swarming. Here's a video of what was happening.

They are all gathering on the front of the hive instead of swarming into the air. Why is that? Well, it's because I manage my bees. My Queens all have at least one wing clipped, which means she can't fly off in a straight line. She is probably in the grass there somewhere after having circled for a time. The bees have just gone back to the original hive, and you can see them collecting on the front. This is good for two reasons. Firstly, I don't lose half my bees through swarms. Secondly, the swarm doesn't go off and find a home in your chimney, which can cause some irritating and costly problems. People who keep bees in their back garden and just let them do what they want are really being somewhat irresponsible for this reason. Bees have to be managed.

Queen with clipped wings.

The other thing I do when they are preparing to swarm is to split the hives in two. That means I have gone from 5 colonies to 9 colonies at the moment. This procedure makes the bees think they have swarmed, as half of the colony has disappeared, and in one half, the Queen has also gone. So, when the swarming impulse has gone, I can perhaps re-unite them. Or, I can let them develop a second Queen and have extra colonies which I can keep, or give away to beekeepers who have lost theirs. I have already donated two colonies to a Mental Health Charity called 'Lindengate' who want to have an apiary for therapy purposes.

Photo: Splits ready for transport to the Lindengate Charity.

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