Werner Gysi’s modified springtime method of;
Swarm Control, Varroa Control, and Queen Replacement:
He calls it SMC, sustainable mite control (everyone has to have a three letter acronym!)
Timing: is when the dandelions are in full bloom. This will vary from one beekeeper to another due to the microclimates of the bee yard locations. Dandelion full bloom seems to coincide with the presence of sexually mature drones, which are required for this method to work properly.
There are TWO methods of doing the split, Procedure A. or B. below. Procedure B. is the easier one because you do not have to find the queen, which is helpful if you have a very strong, booming hive with a huge number of bees……… but you have to come back on the second day, which is not required in Procedure A. So read them through and see which may work better in your own case.
- For every one of your hives, set up another empty hive. If the new hive is right beside the original, turn it 90º. Or it can be a short distance away but it should be close enough to easily move frames from the original hive to the new, empty hive.
- Procedure A. You CAN find the queen…..
- Find the queen in the original hive and put the frame she is on temporarily into a nuc box.
- Find all the brood frames in the original hive (eggs, open brood, capped brood) and move those frames with the bees that are on them into the new, empty hive.
- Divide pollen/honey frames equally between both hives.
- Shake some more bees into the new hive to try to equalize numbers. Remember that any older field bees that you shake into the new hive will return to the original hive when they leave to forage.
- If the queen is on a brood frame (which is most likely), gently scoot her off onto a frame in the original hive and then add the frame that she was on to the new hive so that ALL the egg and brood frames end up in the new hive.
- In the original hive, replace the removed frames with some empty drawn comb frames for the queen to immediately start laying in and/or with new foundation frames to be drawn out into new comb. Do the same in the new hive to make up missing frames.
- Procedure B. You CAN NOT find the queen…..
- Find all the brood frames as in Step 4. above, but shake and gently bee brush all the bees off the frames into the original hive before you put the frames, now WITHOUT bees into the new hive box.
- All the bees are now in the original hive and no bees are in the new hive box with all the brood frames.
- Put a queen excluder on top of the original hive and an empty hive box on top of that. Then put the new hive box with the brood frames on top of that. Close the hive for the night.
- The next day, have your new bottom board set up. It can be right next to the original hive and can even be pointing in the same direction if you like, does not have to be rotated 90º.
- Move the brood frame box onto the new bottom board. All the nurse bees will have come through the queen excluder during the night to be with the brood, but the queen will be in the old, original hive.
- Remove the empty box and queen excluder from the original hive, and then follow Step 8. above. Close up both hives.
- In the following days you will see normal bee flight traffic in and out of the original hive but almost none at the new hive. This is because the bees in the new hive are house bees and have never been outside. As the older bees in the new hive become foragers, you should see traffic increase daily, and of course, these bees will orient to their new location and will consider the new hive as “home”.
Result: what you have done
In the original hive with the old queen you have created an artificial swarm. Basically you have let the bees “swarm” without having to chase them or worse, losing them. Since there is no brood in this hive, all the mites are “phoretic” which means they are on the bodies of the bees and not hiding in capped brood cells and therefore are exposed to treatment. You could therefore now treat this hive and achieve a very significant mite kill.
In the new hive, the bees will know within an hour or so that they are queenless. They will then make some emergency queen cells to make a new queen. If you check this hive in about a week, you should see several queen cells. The rest of the brood should be developing as normal and should eventually all be capped. The new queen will emerge from her cell after about two weeks and the rest of the brood in about three weeks (24 days for any drone brood). Since the new queen has to be mated (which is why the timing requires sexually mature drones) before she can start laying eggs, the mites in this hive are now also phoretic and you could also very successfully treat this hive.
So, in total then, you have done 4 things simultaneously;
- Created a break in the bees’ brood cycle, which also breaks the mites’ reproductive cycle,
- Made the mites phoretic for more efficient exposure to any treatment that you might use on them,
- Suppressed the swarming impulse by letting the bees swarm artificially,
- And created yourself a new queen.
Options: so now you have some choices to make, good ones!
- If you want to increase the number of hives that you have, you’re there. You now have twice as many hives as you had before.
- If you don’t want more hives, you then have to decide what you are going to do about queens. How old is your old queen? Is the old queen still laying well? Should you replace her with the new queen?
- If both queens are good, you can then decide if you want to sell one of the queens. Put her in a queen cage with 4 or 5 attendant workers and sell her.
- Or you can put the queen into a nuc with 2 or 3 frames of brood and a pollen/honey frame and sell that.
If you do get rid of the queen or nuc, you can then recombine the two hives with newspaper resulting a good, strong hive in time for the honey flow. This then puts you back to your original number of hives. If you chose to do this, make sure that the box with the queen is the lower of the two boxes, under the newspaper. Good luck and happy beekeeping!!