April 2000

George Imirie’s PINK PAGES

Ready or Not, It is Supering Time

I said SUPERING, not Swarming. That is, if you have a young queen, reversed brood chambers to reduce brood chamber congestion, and follow the rules that will be given in today’s PINK PAGES, your chances of a swarm in our April swarm SEASON will be minimized.

With our warm weather in early March, maples, alders, and willow trees have provided much pollen needed for brood rearing. My colonies have 9-12 Illinois frames filled with brood, so the brood area is about to get heavily congested, which is the number ONE cause of swarming. This congestion needs relief, and I will explain HOW.

If you can reverse your brood chambers right now without splitting the brood, reverse so the, queen’s laying space is in the bottom brood chamber and capped brood s in the top brood chamber, add ONE super of preferably drawn comb (or foundation if there is no drawn comb available) and NO queen excluder, and wait one week. At the end of one week, something should have happened in that new super: If it was drawn comb, some nectar and maybe some OPEN BROOD can be found on the center frames of that 3uper. If you find 3-4 frames will nectar or brood in them, MAKE SURE THE QUEEN IS N0T IN THAT SUPER, and place a queen excluder under that super. Now that super is “baited” and the bees will continue to take care of it going back and forth through the excluder. If you have to use foundation, it will take longer and you should be feeding 1:1 sugar syrup through the inner cover hole to aid in drawing the foundation into comb. When 6-7 of the center frames are drawn and filled with something, nectar or OPEN BROOD-, move the untouched frames to the center and the drawn frames towards -.he outside, make sure the queen is below, and put a queen excluder under this super.

The addition of one super about April 1st relieves congestion by providing space for the worker bees to MOVE nectar out of the brood frames, deposit it “upstairs” in this super, and open up cells in the brood area frames for the queen to lay fresh eggs. bees WILL MOVE NECTAR OR HONEY to new locations in a bee colony in order to give the queen additional laying space in the brood chamber area!

In this SWARM SEASON period, the queen is laying eggs at her peak and can fill 10 deep frames or 15 Illinois frames with brood in a 21 day worker bee gestation period The other brood area frames are filled with pollen, and nectar surrounding the brood making larvae feeding easier for the workaholic nurse bees.

However, a major nectar flow can start as early as April 1 5th here near the nation’s capitol of Washington DC, and surely by May 1st. Supers of drawn comb have little or no value sitting in your garage or basement, so add 4 supers of drawn comb to that one super on the bees on INCOME TAX DAY, April 15th; and don’t forget some entrances in the super area, either Imirie shims or holes in the supers, and an upper entrance. This will keep the forager bees from “drudging back and forth” through the brood chamber and creating MORE congestion than already exists there. I have been asked “where” I put Imirie Shims: On top of the queen excluder are two supers, then a shim, another 2 supers and then a second shim, then the 5th super topped with an upper entrance cut in the inner cover.

Lastly, for those that still don’t understand “WHY 5 SUPERS?” Nectar is thin and about 80% water, but there has to be a lot of storage space to hold all this nectar until the bees can ripen it into thick honey that is only about 1 6-1 8% water. If there is not enough super space to store all this thin watery nectar, the bees will stop gathering nectar and prepare to swarm. If your colony swarms during a major nectar flow, it was not a bad queen or crazy bees, it was I 00% YOUR FAULT, because you did not provide enough super space AHEAD OF TIME.


Disturbing Your Bees Too Much

Almost 70, years ago, I have never forgotten some wisdom Dr. James I. Hambleton gave me: He said, “Get all your hive work done by the time the nectar flow starts, then leave the bees alone, let them work and don’t disturb them with inspections.” When you light your smoker, gently smoke the bees, remove and inspect some frames, you have totally disrupted that colony for the rest of the day and they cease foraging for nectar while they try and clear the hive of smoke, empty their stomachs of honey that they have sucked up in preperation of flying to a new home, repairing the broken comb that you caused by moving frames, and resealing things with propolis to keep the weather outside where it belongs.

If you inspect your colony one day each week during a nectar flow, you might lose 1/7th of your honey yield because you stopped their normal work schedule for a whole day out of seven.

Is the queen that you see on July 4th the SAME QUEEN that you saw on April 1st?


George Imirie
Certified EAS Master Beekeeper

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