Swarming is one of the things many beekeepers find extremely difficult to control. The natural instincts of the bees will drive them to swarm at any time from about April onwards and often well into June, depending on location. Outside these times the occasional swarm can also issue from a colony but generally the prime swarming season is April to June.
Although swarming is a natural instinct for the bees for most beekeepers it is a major annoyance, apart from the potential loss of a good queen a swarmed colony will yield significantly less honey in a season compared to a colony which does not swarm. This is due to the loss of the vital foraging force at a critical time of the year.
Beekeepers have developed many different management techniques to prevent swarming. The simplest are to avoid the triggers which encourage swarming such as ensuring the bees have sufficient space by adding supers when needed, the replacement of older queens with young queens and of course selecting for bees which are less inclined to swarm.
However, All colonies will try to swarm eventually and then the beekeeper has traditionally had to perform a manipulation such as an artificial swarm.
The Paradise Honey hives were designed by one of the most successful and innovative bee farmers in Finland, Juhani Waara, who operates about 3,000 colonies in the south of the country. In the late 1990S Juhani tried a new way of swarm prevention, using the simple trick of preventing the queen leaving with the prime swarm. This is not in itself innovative as beekeepers have used methods such as putting a queen excluder under the brood box to contain the queen before, but Juhani’s insight was to use a second entrance above the brood box. The result was a system which allows the colony to continue to forage normally, gathering nectar and pollen, but which will prevent the queen ever leaving with the prime swarm. Today, over half Juhani’s colonies are fitted with this system during the swarming season and he will soon roll them out to all his colonies.
The system can be fitted before the swarming season providing the upper entrance is closed using a standard entrance reducer. If open queen cells are found during routine inspections, or if the beekeeper thinks the bees will be starting swarm preparations soon, the lower hive entrance is closed, and the upper entrance opened. Initially, we recommend the upper entrance reducer is removed completely for the first few days, after which it can be replaced in the horizontal position to act like a flight board. If the flight board is insert at the same time as the lower entrance is closed it will act as a barrier to bees climbing up the front of the brood box, delaying the time it takes them to find the new entrance.
The system can be left in this configuration (lower entrance closed, upper entrance open) for 3 weeks if open queen cells were observed. If no queen cells were observed the system can remain like this for 4 weeks. It is not necessary to perform any inspections during this time for swarm prevention, although the beekeeper may wish to check on things such as space for the queen to lay and the presence of any disease.
At the end of this time the entrances are reversed, the upper entrance closed and the lower entrance opened. We recommend that at this time the beekeeper inspects the colony to see what has happened, which can be one of three things. Firstly, the old queen remains and the bees have abandoned any plans to swarm and torn down any queen cells. Secondly, a new queen may have emerged and has killed all the others, including the old queen. Finally, a new queen may have emerged and the old queen still remains supercedure has occurred.
Whatever is found the hive is then left with the lower entrance open to allow any new queen to mate and the bees continue to forage. Routine inspections should then continue, and the system used for a second time if signs of swarming are seen again.
The system can be left in place throughout the swarming season, but we strongly recommend it is removed before the winter.
The queen trap system comes with a new queen excluder, two entrance reducers and the parts to make up the frame. The parts are a push fit and adhesive are not required but if it is desired to use an adhesive one suitable for PVC window frames should be used.
We recommend the system, once assembled, is left together. Therefore we provide a new queen excluder, even though the beekeeper may already have a suitable excluder.
Please note that this system is for a Langstroth hive only.