Its the beginning of November and the bush is alive with the buzz of bees visiting all the flowers. Within a week the main source of our bush flow, Kamahi will start to flower so best to put on those extra supers. However, if your apiaries are away from urban or bush areas, you may have to feed the hives right up to the main pasture flow.
Seems that the flowering of the Hawthorn around Wellington has triggered swarming. There hasn't been many yet but a lot of hives have queen cells. It doesn't take very long for a crowded hived, short of storage space to make a few cells and then swarm.
When you open up the hive, if the bees are on all the frames (as well as those in the bottom super) its time to put on another super. In fact I give supers when the bees have starting storing honey in the middle three frames of the top super. Just before you put this on, check for queen cells along the bottom bar of the top brood super by tilting it back. Be careful not to push your veil in too close to the super. I was having a quick look the other day and only lifted the super slightly. To see under, you have to get in close and that's when a bee reminded me the veil was flat against my forehead - and it does hurt. A reminder not to take short cuts.
Now if you find cells you have a number of options:
1. Cut them all out and check again in 9 days. The only problem with this method is that if the bees really want to swarm, they will choose three day old larvae for cells and then swarm five days later and this method is not the total answer.
2. Take two or three brood frames with cells plus two frames of honey with bees and make a nuc, above or separate from the main hive, depending on what spare equipment you have.
Kill all the remain Q cells and replaced the frames with drawn or foundation frames.
3. If you have more than one hive (and one is stronger than the other), swap them over in the middle of the day. The flying bees will end up in the weak hive without fighting and that should stop the swarming impulse.
Sometimes after you think you have caught the hive in time, it will swarm an hour or two later anyway so bee prepared.
There are many more methods than this but these are the simplest. For those who requeen regularly and have new queens in their hives, they are expanding rapidly with not a hint of queen cells. In this area, it pay to put autumn queens in your hives as spring ones are too hard to get.
When checking your hives, first observe the entrance activity.
Are they flying normally, is pollen coming in, does everything look ok. Hives with only a few flying bees get attended to first as there is usually something wrong. Check that hives have at least three frames of honey, are free from BL (don't forget to send your inspection forms back to MAF-QUAL), cull out old and broken frames (move these up or to the outside of the super) check for Q cells and see that there is a good expanding brood patten. Its not necessary to find the queen. Keep the grass down and prepare new foundation frames for the flow, (put a few on now inter spaced with drawn frames).
For those who use queen excluders, they can go on now but remember to entice the bees up into the next super, by placing a frame of uncapped honey in the centre.