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Swarm Control

County Wexford Beekeepers' Association held our first guest lecture of 2019 last night, the 4th of April at the Riverside Park Hotel, Enniscorthy. The speaker was Tom Prendergast who is a member of South Tipperary Beekeepers' Association and his topic was Spring/Summer Swarm Control. Tom is a highly experienced lecturer with over 50 years beekeeping experience. He also writes about a number of beekeeping topics and was a World Cup winner at the London Honey Show in 2017.

A beekeeper walking a swarm of bees into a hive along a white cloth
Walking a swarm into a hive

First, Tom looked at the population of a hive over the course of the year. The ideal is that the bee population reaches a peak of around 60,000 bees in time for the annual honey flow. However, nosema, parasitic mite syndrome and other diseases can severely reduce the rate of population growth in a hive.

A spreadsheet showing the life cycle of the honey bee, courtesy of Tom Prendergast, South Tipperary Beekeepers' Association
Life cycle of the honey bee courtesy of Tom Prendergast, South Tipperary Beekeepers' Association

It's important to prevent swarming if you want to get a crop of honey. According to Tom, in order to have a good understanding of swarming and swarm control, it's important to understand the details of the life cycle of bees, so Tom went through this in detail in his lecture using the chart above. Tom also discussed a number of swarm control methods including clipping and marking the queen and adding supers from possibly as early as April so the queen has room to lay. However, bees will swarm usually in May and June, so Tom also went through three options in detail for swarm control including breaking down queen cells, making up nucs and the artificial swarm method.

A small swarm of bees in a green compost bin
A small swarm of bees found in a compost bin in July

It was a very interesting and informative talk with many close-up slides to clarify the points Tom was making. The lecture was very well attended and there was a question and answer session at the end. A recommended beekeeping book was the classic Guide to Bees and Honey by Ted Hooper.

County Wexford Beekeepers' Association will be holding other beekeeping lectures during the year. Keep an eye on our Facebook page or on this website for details of the upcoming lectures.

Finally, many thanks to Tom for his excellent lecture.

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