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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

March Splits

Cons:

  • 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!

Equalizing (Recommended)

You can share brood, bees & honey

Prerequisites:

  • 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!

Equalizing Brood

  • 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.

 Equalizing Honey

  • 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.

Equalizing Bees

  • 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.

 

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