February 1998

George Imirie’s PINK PAGES

Cake & Eating it Too! Part ll

I hope you enjoyed Part l in January, and as promised, this part will provide you with details of the most important procedures. However, not unlike your elementary school teachers, I will first remind you of some salient principles that I hope you will never forget!

These are: A colony must have a Lot of forager age bees to gather a crop, and our main Maryland crops are only in April and May; there are 40 days between the laying of an egg and that bee produced becoming a forager, meaning if you want a forager bee by April 20th, the queen has to lay the egg before March 10th; the younger the queen, the more eggs she can produce and the more pheromone she can produce to “glue” her progeny together to prevent swarming-a 12 months old queen is NOT considered a young queen; contrary to most thinking, Swarming is considered and planned by the worker bees as much as 10-14 days in advance of swarming and not a great deal of productive work is done by the colony during this time including egg laying and cell construction; bees and particularly larvae eat nectar and pollen- they only eat honey if it’s diluted with water to a nectar consistency-hence, a pollen supply is a must and the storage of thin nectar requires a lot of cell space until it can be cured into thick honey. This is why 1:1 sugar syrup is used as artificial nectar. Remember,in the case of real nectar, 1:1 sugar syrup, and honey, bees will favor them in THAT order, honey last! NEVER FORGET THESE IMPORTANT FACTS!

Now let’s stagger through the details: First, we ‘trick” (fool) the bees into believing that “spring is here” by feeding them artificial nectar, 1:1 sugar syrup starting about Feb 15th but no later than March 1st (in Montgomery County, Md.) I prefer 5 lb. bags over all other sizes because of ease of handling (spilling sugar on the kitchen floor makes my wife furious). Put a bag plus a half bag (7-1/2 lbs.) in a gallon glass jar or can, fill with warm water and stir. Punch four holes in lid with frame nail or drill 1/32 holes. Throw away all boardman feeders! Invert that jar over the inner cover hole, or right on top the 10 brood frames. Check every other day.


Start reversing brood bodies about Feb 1st and continue every 10-14 days (with deep bodies) or every 7-11 days (with Illinois) and don’t stop until you make the split in April. By doing this, you are trying to keep the queen in the bottom story along with the nursing bees and the capped brood up in the second story. As the brood hatches out in the second story, the queen will move up to that new laying space, and you reverse again, etc. etc. Reversing is puzzling to many people, so ask any Master beekeeper to help (not good old Tom because he has had bees for a long time, ’cause maybe old “Tom” has never heard of reversing – Find a Master beekeeper).


Don’t be scared. It is simple if you follow my directions, and you will learn! You should have ordered your new queen already and have a known date of arrival. If you have not, do it Now and tell them George said “please and Marked!” Ten days before the queen’s arrival, divide your brood chambers with queen excluders to isolate your old queen to make it easy to find 10 days later. Finally, your new marked queen arrives. Give her 1-2 drops of water for a drink (not on the candy and not too much), put the cage in a dark, cool spot (your basement,maybe) .

You should have already set up your new hive outside ready for a new queen and bees, brood, pollen and food from your parent colony, plus 1:1 sugar syrup. In the warmest part of the day, carefully examine the brood in your parent colony using as little smoke as possible, and whichever hive body has OPEN brood (eggs or larvae) is where the queen is. Find her, and place that frame in a separate closed hive temporarily, so now you can go through the parent at will with no fear of damaging the queen.

Go through the frames of the parent hive and select 2 frames of CAPPED brood with the adhering nurse bees, 2 frames of larvae with adhering bees and place these 4 frames with 2 larvae frames in between 2 capped brood frames in the NEW HIVE along with 5-6 frames of foundation or preferably drawn comb.

Then select 2-3 other frames from the parent hive and shake the adhering bees off of them onto the frames in the NEW HIVE. The nurse bees (less than 19 days old) will stay in the new hive, while the others will return to the parent hive.

Put 4 new frames in the parent hive, remove the queen excluders, and finally replace the queen cage in between the two larvae frames, put the feeder jar in place, and DON’T TOUCH THIS HIVE FOR AT LEAST 3 DAYS.

If the queen is released, do NOTHING except remove the queen cage and refill the syrup jar. If the queen is not released, close up and check 3 days later. Super the parent colony now. Your new Colony: keep feeding 1:1 as long as the bees will take it (maybe until fall), but put second brood chamber in place about 2-3 weeks after you installed the queen.

Also, since none of this honey will be used for humans, I put 2 strips of Apistan in this new colony and remove it after 56 days, near the 4th of July. Now you have almost assuredly prevented the parent colony from swarming, it will produce good honey crop, and you have EITHER an added colony or a colony with a new queen that can be united with the parent colony before fall.

Ad nauseum, I have written about “how to get drawn comb”. Repeating, the bees will not draw comb unless they have immediate need for it – either brood or nectar! Hence, there must be some kind of nectar flow on, real or artificial (1:1 sugar syrup), or the queen laying space to make bees build comb. Swarms are super comb builders on foundation if they are feed 1:1 sugar syrup, because they are starting a new colony fresh and need queen laying space plus nectar storage space. Since, in Maryland, our early nectar flow does lend itself to making surplus honey, I catch swarms for the purpose of building comb from foundation, and I do not want that old queen anyhow. I use this new drawn comb to replace old comb in existing colonies.

Keep a “pedigreed” queen on hand from early spring to fall just in case you suddenly need a laying queen for one of your colonies, or to replace an unknown swarm queen.

How? In the spring, buy a pedigreed marked queen and start her in a split as above, and just treat her as a new colony, except if you suddenly need a good queen for an observation hive, to replace an accidentally killed queen, or to replace one of your queens that is producing nasty worker bees, or a dozen other reasons, YOU HAVE A PROVEN MARKED QUEEN IN YOUR BACKYARD at a cost of only about $9. Anyone with 5 or more colonies is foolish not to have a spare queen on hand! Nine dollars is expensive you say. It is just 3 jars of honey @ $3/pound.

That’s it!! Simple, just follow the directions in Part I and Part II. By asking master beekeepers for advice, you will requeen, make more honey, curtail swarming, upgrade your bee knowledge and have FUN!

©George W. Imirie
Maryland Certified Master Beekeeper
Started Beekeeping in 1933

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