This Saturday, I had a bee day! The morning started with a field day for the first bee school offered by Durham County Beekeepers Association (opens in a new window), and then I helped a friend inspect her hives. Afterwards, I inspected my hives. I knew that all three hives made it through the winter because the bees were flying on the warm days. Right now, the important issue for overwintered hives is swarms. I was hoping to prevent a swarm by creating splits.
So, in my first yard with one hive, I reversed the two hivebodies because the top was full of honey and brood, and the bottom one was empty. This hive did not have any swarm cells, so I was not worried about splitting this hive yet.
In the second yard, I added a honey super to the smallest overwintered hive, which is still pretty small because it overwintered in just one hivebody. The other hive was huge and full of swarm cells, so I split it into two hives.
…but on Sunday morning, I was sitting in the yard reading and watching the bees when I heard the sound of flying bees–lots of flying bees. At first, I looked to the hives but there was no more activity than normal, and then I saw a swarm slowly forming into a large cloud next to the tree in my front yard. Apparently, the swarm had been there all morning. I followed them down the street as scout bees checked out a variety of landing spaces and ultimately decided on a 100 foot tree about one block from my house. I was too late for the split to prevent swarming, and the tree was too tall to recover the swarm. The good news is that that second hive is now split into two, and both are full of bees.
Ultimately, I would rather have hives that are strong enough to swarm than hives that didn’t make it through the winter.