May 1999 Special

George Imirie’s PINK PAGES

Concern About Swarming

Perhaps I shouldn’t bother to address you like a “school teacher” to a class of children; but each year, I see the downtrodden faces of those that lost swarms and hence much of their honey crop. They become discouraged, and I blame myself for my poor instruction methods. Therefore, allow me to assist your thinking.

Today, Tuesday May 18th, I checked my supers and was astounded to see the honey gathered and even capped so quickly from the black locust that has been in bloom for just a week. Some of my colonies have THREE FULL ILLINOIS SUPERS and the rest have TWO FULL SUPERS! My tulip poplar trees are almost ready to go into full bloom and then the nectar will really flow if this fine weather holds up. Hence, I am hunting up a 6th super for each colony just in case. You better check yours.

Let me REITERATE why swarming occurrs during a nectar flow. Bees do NOT gather honey, but they collect thin watery nectar that requires a lot of storage space and time before the bees can “cure”, or “ripen”, the nectar into thick heavy honey. Unlike we humans who can plan ahead, if the bees do NOT have storage space (empty supers) for this nectar, they swarm and usually die of starvation by not having enough stores to get through the coming winter. When this happens to your colony, you are left with a poor yield, fewer bees, and an UNKNOWN new queen; all of which causes discouragement.

What options do you have? The first and best is to install another super of drawn comb. Not having drawn comb, use foundation, but only ONE super per colony and 10 frames (never 9) in the super. In the event, you don’t have a super, frames, or foundation, there is always ERNIE’S BEE SUPPLY or Brushy Mountain Bee Supply RUSH ORDER, telephone 1-800-BEESWAX. There is another program, but labor intensive and sure disrupts the bee’s “nectar collecting”, and that is: Get frames, install foundation, and swap those with FULLY CAPPED frames of honey in your colony. You can either store these fully capped frames in your freezer or extract them early and give them back to your bees for a REFILL.

By the way, for the same reason that I am sending this PINK PAGE to you at a 33 cent extra cost, you can NOT WAIT until it is a “convenient” time for you to inspect your colony, and upon finding little or no super space left, you have to make a choice. Leave your job for a day, get equipment and install it OR LOSE A SWARM.

All of this honey should give you great enthusiasm to win lots of blue ribbons at the Montgomery County Fair in August, as well as entering it in the EAS Honey Show in July down in Tennessee where I will surely be.

George Imirie
Certified EAS Master Beekeeper

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