Spring is here in the Atlanta area and the honey bee colonies are expanding exponentially with the workers bringing in pollen and nectar from the blooming trees and flowers and the queens laying eggs to make new bees 24/7.
The colonies overwintered in small tight clusters the size of a football – and some as small as a grapefruit. Now with the abundance of food, most all of my colonies here in the Alpharetta area are filling the better part of two hive bodies with adult bees, nectar, pollen and brood. Left on their own, the bees would soon start to think about swarming as the hive becomes too congested. When the instinct tells them that the hive is getting too full they will create a new queen and the existing queen will fly off with about 60% of the workers – leaving the new queen to take over the colony with the remaining workers.
Worker bees also can sense when a queen has either died or is failing to be productive by an absence of her normal pheromones. When that happens, the workers will take a larva that is 24 hours old or less and feed it royal jelly during its entire larval period transforming it morphologically into a queen.
These instincts, an abundance of food and a growing population of bees afford the beekeeper an opportunity to create new colonies by mimicking what the bees do in these conditions. I’ll cover a couple of methods that I am using to expand my colonies in the next installments.