Honeybee Colony Management

  • Sometimes, hive occupation by natural means may fail. 
  • In this case, it is important to trap migrant colonies or divide stronger colonies and stock the unoccupied hives.  
  • For successful division, trapping and stocking certain conditions have to be met if the new colonies have to survive.

Trapping: 

  • Trapping is done using a catcher box or a net.  
  • The catcher box is hung as high as possible in a tree.  
  • All catcher boxes should be placed within migratory routes of bees, to ensure faster occupation.  
  • Otherwise, a swarm that has settled on a tree branch can be trapped using a net with a wire loop on the mouth.
  • After trapping, these are taken into the hive.

Division

  • This involves dividing a strong colony to end up with two colonies. 
  • It entails taking a comb with capped honey, a comb with stored pollen, one with small eggs (not more than 3 days old) and one with capped brood.  
  • These should be removed from the parent colony and placed in a catcher box. 
  • Then taking in several bees.  The bees will be able to raise a queen for the new colony.

Hive Stocking

  • This refers to placement of a colony of trapped or divided bees in a new, unoccupied hive.  
  • After a colony has been divided, the new colony raises a queen from fertilized eggs.  
  • They do this by building an extension from the cell, called queen cells.
  • Once divided, the new colony should be moved at least 3km away from the parent colony, to avoid drifting of bees back to the mother colony.  
  • After at least 2 weeks, move the bees back and placed them on top of the hive to be stocked, with entrances facing the same direction.  
  • As the colony multiplies, the catcher box will be too small for them.
  • When stocking, the combs should be placed nearer to the entrance.  
  • The bees are then shaken in and the catcher box left overturned on the hive.  
  • This is to allow the bees remaining in the catcher box to enter the hive.  Once the queen is inside the hive, all the other bees will follow.
  • After division, colony feeding should be done to help stimulate colony build up.  
  • This should continue until the new colony is able to establish.

Colony Transfer

  • Sometimes, a new site can be identified for the bees and this might require that they be moved to the new site.  
  • This usually happens where migratory beekeeping is practiced, like in Europe and Israel where bees are required for pollination services.  
  • Before moving colonies to a new site, all hive entrances should be sealed.  The bees can comfortably be moved at night.  
  • The new site should be at least 3km from the parent site.  Once in the new site, clogging can be removed to allow them explore their new surroundings. 

Honey Harvesting

Beekeepers should inspect their apiary regularly to know when the colonies are ready for harvesting. This is the most certain way of telling hive that’s ready for harvesting

  • A colony ready for harvesting will have the following signs 
  • The bees become aggressive in guarding the hive, and can sting at the slightest provocation. 
  • Presence of worker bees outside the hive in large numbers

Before going to harvest, preliminary preparations involve 

  • putting on the protective clothing.  The kit is so designed to offer the beekeeper complete protection from bee stings.  Beekeeper`s complete protection kit includes the smoker, hive tool, a knife, a bee brush and a bucket with lid.
  • The hive should be approached away from the entrance, then a few puffs of the smoke injected through the opening.  
  • Opening should not follow immediately, but bees should be given a few minutes (2-3 minutes) to feel the full effect of the smoke.  
  • Using the hive tool, top bars should be loosened and removed while observing whether the combs contain ripe honey.  
  • Work should proceed from being towards the entrance.
  • Avoid over smoking, for this irritates the bees.  
  • Combs containing ripe, harvestable honey should be at least 3/4 capped. 
  •  cut using the knife, and place honey  into the bucket.  The lid should always be in place to keep off bees.