There’s so many queens, this could be K Road!

By | May 1, 2013

Turnham Green, Chiswick

Turnham Green, Chiswick

Things have been happening pretty fast in the hive this week.
The lovely Spring weather (if not a little late) has made the population boom! in the colony – and the bees have also been growing new queens.

New queens are good if you want another hive and it’s the natural way the colony reproduces. However the tendency is for the old queen to fly away with half of the bees to find a new home. Not good if you want to produce honey, as that’s half of your workforce gone! You’re also at risk as you can’t be certain a new queen will mate successfully, and become viable – or able to lay fertilised eggs in other words. Additionally, your neighbours wont be very happy with a rogue swarm flying about, trying to find a new home.

So, you have to manage the process. You usually want keep hold of the full colony of bees, but also allow the bees to go through their natural reproductive behaviour. I’ve chosen to do an artificial swarm, using the “Snelgrove technique”.

Essentially, you take the existing queen, and put her in the bottom part of the hive with all new and blank frames, so she thinks she’s swarmed to a new location.
In the top of the hive, you put all the existing frames with the developing queen cells, also all the developing larvae and pupae. This lot think they are in the “old” hive and the old queen has left, so go about growing a new queen.

To relocate the queen, I used this clever little alligator clip, designed for it to be hard to squash the queen.

To relocate the queen, I used this clever little alligator clip, designed for it to be hard to squash the queen when closed.

A Snelgrove board separates the bottom part of the hive from the top part, in a sense creating two separate colonies on the same land footprint.
A Snelgrove board is a clever system of doors, which allows you to control the exit and entrance of bees from both the top, and bottom sections of the hive.

Now that I’ve separated the top and bottom parts of the hive, it’s a matter of waiting to see if the “old” queen and bees build out the bottom part of the hive and start laying eggs. In parallel, I need to watch the top part of the hive to see if they develop new queens. It takes 16 days for a queen to develop from egg to virgin adult, and she should mate within 20 days of birth. Seriously, these little beasts work like clockwork.

With the two parts of the hive separated, artificially constructed yet satisfying their natural urge to reproduce and swarm, they should now remain in place and be more easily managed.

But in the meantime, I’ve can now enjoy this genuinely fantastic British Spring weather.

The Snelgrove board, and its position in the hive explained

The Snelgrove board, and its position in the hive explained


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