3 Options for Preventing March Swarms
By Blake Shook
If you have to worry about this, that's a great problem! Keep in mind, when your top box becomes 80% full of bees, brood or honey, it’s time to take action!
There are 3 primary options to prevent a swarm this time of year:
- March Splits
- Add Boxes
- Equalize Brood, Honey & Bees
- Queens unavailable
- Allowing bees to raise their own queen is a slow & risky process
- Potential for insufficient drones to mate
- Potential for inclement weather for queen mating
- Exception- If hive already has swarm cells, then a split is the best option.
Adding Boxes (Recommended)
One of the key ways to prevent swarms is to add a second or third box.
- When the top brood box (or super) becomes 80% full, add another box.
- I recommend adding a deep box of foundation and lightly feeding. This will give the bees room & slow them down until you can split in early April.
- Plan to split once queens become available in early April.
Top box is packed full & at risk of swarming!
You can share brood, bees & honey
- Low mite levels
- No brood disease
- Leave original doner hive at least 1 box full of bees this time of year
- Gauge strength on warm days over 60
Another over crowded hive!
- Select frames of mostly capped brood
- Shake off the bees
- Add the frame of brood in the center of the brood nest, between other frames of brood.
- Make sure the weaker hive has enough bees to fully cover the new frame of brood.
- Add 1 frame of brood at a time.
- Replace the frame in the original hive with an empty frame on the outside edge of the brood box.
- Select a frame of capped or uncapped honey & shake off the bees.
- Add it to the outside edge of the cluster/brood area in the new hive.
- Do not separate brood with a frame of honey. Replace the frame in the original hive with an empty frame on the outside edge of the brood box.
- Select a frame from your strong hive that is full of larva, and thus nurse bees.
- Make sure the queen is not on the frame.
- Smoke the entrance of your weaker hive.
- Shake the bees off the frame into the entrance of the weak hive.
- Repeat with up to 3 frames of bees, but ensure the strong hive remains at least 1 box full of bees and has sufficient bees to cover all brood.