Rapid and early spring buildup in some parts of Texas present ‘a-good-problem-to-have’ for beekeepers in those parts.
Swarm control, that is preventing the better part of your bees and the potential for early spring honey to escape you, can be practiced many ways.
First, from a swarm prevention standpoint, choose a strain of bees that are not prone to swarming. For instance BeeWeaver queens, (thanks to the relentless selection program my Father, Binford, used from 1943 to the end of his queen-breeding life) are reluctant to swarm and will produce prodigiously strong colonies before starting swarm cells.
For instance, colonies headed by our queens, and managed as we often do for queen rearing, we want them big and busting out with bees and drones galore. But even with our stock, once the population reaches densities where the queen’s pheromones are so diluted that bees are not getting the required dose, swarm cell building will begin. Also bear in mind – Once colonies start raising swarm cells it is more difficult to impede swarming.
Such colonies are illustrated by the photos shared day-before-yesterday on Instagram – These colonies had 7 and 9 full combs of brood and bees, the former with 3 partial combs of honey and pollen in the hive body, the later with 1 partial honey and pollen. Both had a mostly-full modified super of honey and some brood on top. They would swarm soon but had no swarm cells as yet. I pulled brood and bees from these two hives and replaced with foundation.
The opposite end of the spectrum are colonies headed by queens captured as feral colonies or as swarms themselves. Highly Africanized bees are also more apt to swarm. Colonies headed by these types of queens will swarm at the drop of a hat. Extra vigilance is required to suppress swarming.
But at this point you need to manage what you have, and the more prone your bees are to swarming, the more aggressive your management should be.
So what to do? I recommend one of the following – and there are several variations on these themes. Do both if you have colonies prone to swarming, swarm cells already started or you want to be maximally cautious.
First add room – putting an empty honey super on top will usually work. Adding an empty hive body above the brood nest can work, but be careful not to cut off access to honey near the brood nest if cold weather is expected.
Second, remove bees or brood, or both, to reduce the population of bees in the colony. Replacing removed brood comb with foundation is an added suppressor. This is an ideal resource for boosting any weak colonies under your control, and accomplishing two objectives at once. Or you can use the excess brood and bees to start new hives should you be prepared to do so.