Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Travels With My Aunts

I like the swarm box for many reasons. If you have tons of young, well-fed nurse bees with no queen and no brood to feed, especially young, well-fed nurse bees that have been feeding brood until all of a sudden they find themselves in a box full of food, pollen and nectar, and nothing else, then what you have is a box full of bees that want to make queens very badly. After two hours in this deplorable condition, the larvae are introduced and are the hit of the party. The larvae are then well cared for and by the next day, bigger, and their cups have been enlarged with wax rims. And, all going well, there are too many of them for these bees to finish. It is time to separate them into doable groups in order to keep the quality up. Queens started like this are started under what is called the Emergency Impulse.

In this case, the cells with the little princesses within, are transferred onto cell frames for further feeding and cell sculpturing in queenright colonies. To complicate the matter, the Cell Finishers, as these queenright colonies are called, are in different apiaries many miles from each other and from where the breeder queen lives. That is where the swarm box becomes a veritable suitcase to pack the young larvae off to foster care in the Cell Finishers to be finished under what is known as the Swarm Impulse, traveling in style with their thousands of attendants.

One of Dennis's Apiaries
Transferring cells to cell bars that go into cell frames. With four hands the bees stay in the box!

The cell frame goes into a box set up with a Cloake Board. This colony has been arranged so the young bees are in the upper box in a very crowded (and irritable) state. The queen is down below, unreachable. In a few hours the Cloake board will be pulled and the worker bees will be able to pass through the queen excluder, but a strong urge to swarm, combined with a feeding since this area is essentially nectar-less, will cause these cells to be drawn out beautifully!

Frames with foundation give the bees useful work when being fed.

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