Last Saturday, Amy's sharp eye noticed a swarm cell on one of our hive frames. About an hour later, a blog commenter spotted another in a photo we posted.
On Kirk's advice, today I took the whole hive apart and looked at each of the fifty frames for swarm cells. The top two boxes were pretty easy, but as I got further down I found one swarm cell after another...on a total of five or six different frames.
So, a Kirk-recommended hive split ensued. I took the frames with swarm cells and put them all together in a new box, with empty (starter strip only) frames filling in the remainder. That single box now sits in the spot formerly occupied by the entire hive—the idea being that all the bees out foraging will return to this box and fill out its population and food supplies.
The original five-box hive, now with new frames in place of the ones that had swarm cells, is now about 15 feet north of its old spot.
In theory, one of the emerging queens in the new single box will kill off the others, and that will become a new hive that will grow like our first one did. The original five-box hive should get oriented to its new spot, the bees inside will think they swarmed, and it's back to business as usual.
A few observations:
—The bees get a bit restless and annoyed when you take their entire hive apart. I guess I can't blame them. If you break off some fused honey comb in the process of pulling all the frames apart (as I did), that raises the excitement level another notch or two as well.
—Rubber gloves get ridiculously hot and comically sweaty in the course of a job this large. I also caught a couple of minor stings through them. We're graduating to the real ones.
—Next time I'll do this job when Amy's around to collaborate. Teamwork is a huge bonus.
Anyway, it was a fun project and everyone appears to be settling in now. Kirk asked if I'd managed to avoid moving the existing queen into the new box with the swarm cells, and I had to admit that I had absolutely no idea. We'll see how it turns out.