Apicultura Wiki



SWARMING is nature's method of increase, but it is so uncertain and this with the possible loss of swarms emerging during the beekeeper's absence, has led professional beekeepers to adopt artificial methods of increase that are absolutely under the control of the operator. Generally speaking, natural swarming is a very uncertain dependence for increase, as there are many years when it will hardly more than make up for winter losses, and he who would increase his colonies materially must adopt methods of division that will give him the desired number of extra colonies.

When it comes to a matter of simply doubling the number of colonies, division is comparatively easy and safe even in the hands of an amateur, but when the increase is rapid, involving a splitting up of a ten-frame colony into five or ten little colonies, great care should be used or failure is sure to follow. The late Mr. E. W. Alexander of Delanson, New York (than whom there was no better beekeeper in the world), had a method of doubling his colonies for increase, by which he did away with all possibility of loss of brood, and was still able to secure a good surplus at the same time, whereas under most of the methods followed, increase was carried on at the expense of the honey crop, for it is almost an axiom with beekeepers, The greater the increase, the less honey for that year.

It can be readily seen that in the splitting up of colonies for increase there would be no surplus gathered, as each of the divisions would require the entire season to draw the frames of foundation out to full combs, and get strong for winter quarters.

While in rapid increase there is an entire loss of the honey crop, yet the increase of one colony to five or even ten would represent an increased equipment many times the value of the surplus that would have been gathered by the colony had it been run for honey. There is, therefore, a gain and not a loss, though the gain is in bees and not in honey.

Mr. Alexander's method of course meant the increase of but one more colony for each strong colony in hand, but as it carried with it the assurance of a surplus at the same time, it is a most excellent plan to follow where a rapid increase is not desired.

In Gleanings in Bee Culture, an illustrated bee journal published by the A. I. Root Co. of Medina, Ohio, we find in the issue of one of the months of 1906, page 423, the method outlined as follows :

When your colonies are strong enough to swarm naturally, and you wish to divide them so as to make two from one, go to the colony you wish to divide; lift it from its stand and put in its place a hive containing frames of comb or foundation, the same as you would put the swarm in providing it had just swarmed. Now remove the centre comb from your new hive, and put in its place a frame of brood, either from the hive you wish to divide or some other colony that can spare one, and be sure you find the queen and put her on this frame of brood in the new hive; also look it over very carefully to see that it contains no eggs or larvae in any queen cells. If it does, destroy them. Now put a queenexcluding honey-board on top of this new hive that contains the queen and frame of brood with their empty combs, then set your full queenless colony on top of the excluder; put the empty comb or frame of foundation into the body from which you took the frame of brood; and close the upper hive except the entrance they have through the excluder into the hive below. Leave them in this way about five days, then look over the combs carefully, and destroy any larvae you may find in the queen cells in the top body, unless they are of a good strain of bees that you care to breed from, for they frequently start the rearing of queens above the excluder very soon after their queen has been placed below the excluder. If so, you had better separate them at once; but if they have not started any queen cells above, then leave them together ten or eleven days, during which time the queen will get a fine lot of brood started in the lower hive, and every egg and particle of larva that was in the old hive on top will have matured, so it will be capped over and saved; then separate them, putting the old hive on a new stand.

It will then be full of young bees mostly, and capped brood, and in about twenty-four hours they will accept a ripe cell, a virgin, or laying queen, as they will then realize that they are hopelessly queenless. I would advise you to give them a laying queen, as I never like to keep my full colonies for even a day longer without a laying queen than I can help. In this way you have two strong colonies from one, as you have not lost a particle of brood nor checked the laying of your queen; and with me it almost wholly prevents swarming. This is the way we have made our increase for several years, and we like it much better than any other way we have ever tried. In doing so you keep all your colonies strong during the whole summer, and it is the strong colonies that count in giving us our surplus. The mere fact of having a large number of colonies does not amount to much unless they are strong in bees and are well cared for at all times. This is a fact that many have sadly overlooked ; and when the season comes to a close, giving them a small surplus, they feel disappointed and lay the fault on many things that have had but little to do with their failure.

In making your increase in the above way, your new swarm on the old stand is in fine shape for a clamp of sections, as it has a large working force backed up by having its hive nearly full of brood, and but little honey, as the bees have been in the habit of storing their honey in the old hive that was on top. They will soon go to work in the sections, with no intention of swarming. Then the old hive that has been set away can usually spare fifteen or twenty pounds of honey, which can be taken with the extractor, giving its new queen plenty of room to lay, and in a short time will be one of your best colonies, with no desire to swarm.

Now, if you have done your duty by your bees since taking them from their winter quarters, as I have recommended above, keeping them snug and warm, and feeding them a little thin warm syrup nearly every day for the first thirty days after they have begun to fly, you can have two good strong colonies in the place of one, ready to commence work on your clover harvest, which will probably come about June 15.

From an extensive experience along this line I find I can get nearly twice the amount of surplus by dividing as above stated, over what I was able to acquire either by letting them go undivided or dividing in a way that caused the loss of a greater part of their brood. This losing of brood we must guard against at all times if we expect to secure a fine surplus. It costs both time and honey to produce it, and it is the principal factor in obtaining those strong colonies that give us tons of honey, Far too many beekeepers think that the value of their apiary consists in the number of colonies they keep. This is so only to a certain extent ; for if you had one thousand colonies and they were all weak in bees, so they would give you no surplus, they would not be worth as much as one good strong colony that would give you two hundred or three hundred pounds of honey.

Several years ago one of my sons bought nine colonies of bees in common box hives, about the first of June. He brought them home and transferred them at once to movableframe hives, and in about three weeks divided them, making twenty colonies of the nine he bought, using some queen cells I had on hand for his surplus colonies. He then attended to those twenty colonies so they were all strong at the commencement of our buckwheat harvest. I then loaned him twenty hives of empty combs to put on top of his colonies to extract from. He took two thousand eight hundred and forty-nine pounds of extracted honey from those nine colonies and their increase, and left them in good condition so that every one came out the next spring in fine order. Another son, the same season, took one colony, divided into three, and received three hundred and forty-seven pounds of extracted honey. They also came through the following winter in good condition. I speak of these cases simply to show that it is not necessary to keep hundreds of colonies in order to get a little honey. If you will keep only strong colonies and give them the best of care, you will soon find both pleasure and profit in bee-keeping.

Now, in regard to the criticism on this way of making our increase, which has been published in "Gleanings." I find that nearly all who have made a failure of the method have taken colonies that had already made some preparations for swarming by having eggs or larvae in their queen cells, as did J. D. Ronan, of Chesterville, Mississippi, and also Don Mills, of Highland, Michigan.

During the summer I received a few letters from persons who had made a failure of this method in much the same way. Some had taken colonies that had capped queen cells in their hives at the time they put the queen in the under hive, and, of course, they swarmed in a day or two. I cannot see that these failures are any proof of fault in the method. When we work with our bees we must always use some discretion in such matters. If a colony is very strong in bees, it certainly requires different management from that given to one rather weak.

The above plan is a most excellent one; I have used it with unfailing success, and the beginner will make no mistake in adopting it where a rapid increase is not desired ; it will result in a doubling of the colonies and a goodly surplus at the same time There are other times, however, when the beekeeper desires to increase his colonies several fold, and if great care is exercised, it is possible to increase the number of colonies to ten times the original number in one season ; but one had better wait a season or two for experience before going in for a wholesale multiplication of colonies. Personally, I was able in one season to increase ten colonies up to one hundred, and, by a little feeding which will be described later on, succeeded in building the one hundred colonies up to strong swarms for winter quarters, and the following spring had one hundred prime colonies ready for the honey flow, all made from but ten colonies the season before. The increased value of the apiary was from $100 to $1000, and though there was no honey surplus gathered by the increase the season the division took place, yet the increased value of the apiary was many times what the surplus from the original ten colonies would have amounted to had they not been divided. Let us suppose that you have a good strong ten-frame colony of bees, strong in bees and brood, and you wish to increase it to five colonies by division so that the apiary at the close of the season will be five times its original size.

About the last of April, if the colony is strong, and the weather permits, and honey is coming in rapidly, have on hand five extra hives all complete with full sheets of foundation wired in the frames, and above all four extra queens in their mailing cages that have been secured in advance from some breeder. You are now ready for the division. Toward evening after all the bees are in, open the strong colony, and when you have found the frame with the queen, lift it gently from its hive and place it in one of the empty hives, removing two of the frames of foundation from the empty hive, in order to make room.

Then lift another frame of bees and brood from the strong colony with all adhering; bees and place it in the new hive beside the frame that has the queen, and when they are in place, put on the lid, and close the entrance with a strip of wood nailed on. The new swarm, or nucleus, is now ready to be carried and placed on the stand it is to permanently occupy. This new hive will contain two frames of bees and brood with queen and eight frames of full sheets of foundation.

Now take another empty hive and set aside two of its frames of foundation, and in their place put two more frames of brood and bees from the strong colony. As these two frames of brood and bees and all others taken will be without queens, take one of the little cages having a queen, and, tearing off the piece of cardboard from the end of the cage holding the feed, insert the little cage with the queen, the feed end down, between the frames of brood and bees in the new hive; push the frames close together, and, closing the entrance of the hive, place it on the stand it is to occupy. In about two days the imprisoned bees will eat a passageway through the feed to liberate the queen, and by the time she is liberated she will have acquired the odor of the colony and be accepted, whereas if she had been liberated at once at time of division, the bees would have perceived her to be a stranger and killed her. Treat the remaining empty hives the same way, and when all have two frames of bees and brood with a new queen you will have five little colonies all ready to get to work as soon as we take away the strip of wood from their entrances.

The original hive that was divided should be left on its old stand with the last two frames of bees and brood and the cage containing the queen. (See chapter on "Queen Rearing" in reference to introducing queens.) In three days you can remove the block from each entrance, and, using the same entrance strip, so tack it to the entrance of the hives, that there will be a small outlet about a half inch wide. Place a piece of board slanting from the top of the hive to the ground so that the bees when coming out will mark their new location and not return to the old stand they occupied before the division. If this rapid increase is done early in the season, and it should be done early to give the little colonies the entire season in which to build up, the weather will be sufficiently cool, and the number of bees in each hive so few that there will be no danger of the bees smothering while imprisoned, which certainly would occur if a strong colony were so imprisoned during warm weather.

In about a week the little colonies can be opened and the cages taken out, and if you find the queen, or even eggs a day or so old, you can know that she has been accepted.

There may be rare cases where the queen will be destroyed, but this will not occur more than in one case out of a hundred, and when her loss is discovered, a new queen should be introduced at once by the method described. Of course it is understood that a caged queen is not to be given to the first division that was made, as that nucleus has the original queen given to them when the division was made. If you desire to increase one colony up to ten, the method of procedure is identically the same, and differs only in that you give each empty hive but one frame of bees and brood instead of two.

A few days after the division has been made it is well to examine each nucleus, and when it is found that the bees have begun to work on the frame of foundation next to their frame of bees and brood, it can be lifted out and inserted between the two frames of brood, as this will facilitate its rapid completion. In this way the completed combs can be spread every few days until all the sheets of foundation are drawn out to full combs.

If the honey flow should cease before the sheets of foundation are fully drawn out, each little colony should be fed daily about a half pint of syrup made from mixing equal parts of good granulated sugar and boiling water, as this has the same effect upon them as though the natural flow continued, and will force them to work out of season, build good combs, and rear a numerous brood.

A good feeder for this purpose is the Boardman entrance feeder, which has a quart jar with perforated cap inserted in a block of wood which can be placed at the entrance safe from robber bees, and the glass jar enables the operator to tell at a glance how rapidly the feed is being taken up. Other feeders will be described in the chapter on "Feeding." The danger attending very rapid increase is that the operator will either make his divisions before the colony is strong, or else will defer it so late in the season that the little colony will not have time in which to build up before cold weather. Personally I have made divisions as late as August 1, but this necessitated constant feeding and great care, and the addition to the nucleus of an occasional frame of sealed brood from some strong colony. Late increase, however, is only successful in the hands of an expert; the course of wisdom for the beginner is to make the increase early, and as the season progresses, if there are other strong colonies in the apiary that have not been divided, it is an excellent thing to encourage the struggling nuclei by giving them a frame of sealed brood every once in a while from one of the strong colonies. Be sure that you do not give them the queen from the strong hive, or you will make your strong hive queenless and possibly sacrifice a good queen, as the little swarm will be sure to kill any additional queen that may be accidentally given them. The empty space in the strong colony from which the frame of sealed brood is taken can be filled by a frame of foundation taken from the little swarm, after all adhering bees have been shaken in front of the hive to which they belong.

The reason we give the little colony sealed brood is because such sealed brood does not require attention and feeding by the bees, for if we gave the weak nucleus unsealed brood, there might not be sufficient bees present to properly care for it, with a consequent loss of brood and bees. When the brood is once sealed over, all that it requires is the proper temperature of about ninety-eight degrees to insure its hatching, and when these frames hatch in the little colony, it is astonishing what a multitude of bees will result to the colony to which the frames were given.

The above methods are the very best, and have proved their worth over and over, but, as has been said, the Alexander plan is the best for the novice. As experience is gained, rapid increase can be resorted to; but in any case keep your eyes on the increase, and give them all the encouragement possible in the matter of slight stimulative feeding, and an occasional frame of sealed brood if conditions demand it.

If the increase is started early, and the flow of honey prolonged, it is possible to make rapid increase without either feeding, or addition of sealed brood, but at all events watch the colonies closely, and meet any emergency that may arise.