“But I only Wanted 2 hives!”
A Second Year Beekeeper’s Conundrum
We hear this story every year. The beekeeper’s vision is to only have two hives, but the bees are going to do what they are programmed to do and make more colonies every year. Your colonies/hives are going to double every year. Like every animal on earth, they are driven to reproduce – and they do that by swarming. Despite the fact that all beekeepers know this, they often seem surprised and alarmed when they realize it is going to happen every spring (yes, EVERY year, again and again). Part of this surprise stems from the fact that they only wanted two hives, so their planning stopped there. Well......
The bees are going to do it whether you like it or not. You can’t stop swarming. So you need to plan for what to do with those new colonies. Are you going to keep them and have more colonies? Are you going to give the swarms/splits away to the youth program or some new beekeeper? Are you going to sell those splits as nucs and put some money back into the operation? Make a plan.
It is unethical for several reasons to intentionally let the colonies swarm. Less than 20 percent of swarms survive and once a colony starts swarming, they often keep throwing off swarms until the parent colony is too weak to survive. Like much of Mother Nature, the parent often perishes and offspring are left to carry on the survival of the species. In nature, bee colonies usually only have a lifespan of 1-2 years.
If you know they are going to swarm every spring, then use it to your advantage and theirs. Channel that swarm energy into growth. Split the colonies just at the start of swarm season. The parent colony will rebound stronger than before and make a powerful honey crop. The split (an artificial swarm) will have a much better chance of survival with your support and a good home (a hive). Everybody wins.
So plan now how you are going to manage this natural increase of your colonies this spring (and every spring). Make a plan. Learn how to split a colony – its not hard. And decide where those splits are going; your operation, the youth program, a new beekeeper, sell it......? Be prepared and you will be a happier beekeeper. The bees will be stronger and happier too.