Splitting is swarming. It's just called "artificial swarming"... ;)
Maybe this will help...
Most beekeepers are sold a bill of goods in regards to “preventing” swarming. I think that is a bad way to present it, and many don’t fully understand it. Swarming has advantages. Swarming is a function of nature that is programmed to allow bees the BEST chances for survival. Let me write this out, and maybe you will understand better.
To understand swarming, you must go back and understand how bees are programmed in nature.
A few things hold true:
1) Bees prefer a certain size cavity. (a little more than a deep)
2) If they survive winter, they will fill up that cavity and be prepared to swarm early season, giving them the best chance at the swarm surviving.
3) If left to their own control (In other words, a feral colony, or a managed colony that is not manipulated) a hive will swarm in 9 out of 10 colonies. They will also swarm again in about 5 out of 10 hives 30-45 days later.
4) Nature always plays the best odds in her favor. Which queen is cast out first? The old queen. In other words, nature plays it’s best chance, that the established colony has the best odds with the first year queen.
5) First year queens are more productive, hives swarm less, and winter survival is increased.
So along comes a beekeeper, and what is the average goal in regards to swarming? To stop it completely. By either clipping a wing as if that will helps, cutting out queen cells, or by splitting prior to the flow dooming the colony to never reach peak production and killing your honey harvest to some degree.
Now, we can lower the swarming impulse….or better yet, delay it. This can be done by reversing boxes, expanding the brood chamber, and other tricks. What we are doing is delaying the swarm urge. (although flow has more to do with swarming than most realize)
The beekeeper is at odds with what many try to do with swarm control. After all, don’t we want the strongest colonies possible? But by feeding, and expanding the brood chamber, are we not also increasing the swarming urge?
What one should do, is use good swarm “control” and quit thinking about “prevention“. Because after the honey flow, what is a good thing to do? Why, that is to perform “Artificial swarming”, which has many benefits. Swarming is a form a supercede. So when you do these splits, replace the old queen (which would of happened naturally if NOT for the beekeeper) as well as introduce a new queen in the queenless split.
I have many beekeepers call me up and ask “I had a swarm and can’t figure out what I did wrong”. Or “I had queen cells a few weeks back and I cut them all out, but it looks like the queen left anyways”. Both of these comments tell a story of bad information being passed and a lack of understanding within the hive.
My advice….suppress swarming as much as possible. Then perform your own artificial swarm (splitting) later in spring and allow your bees to take advantage of the lost benefits that we take from them in trying to optimize honey production.
I’ve had beekeepers in the past suggest bees “normally” only swarm every 2-3 years. What a crock! There are some insects programmed to perpetuate their species at long intervals, such as the 7 year locust. And some insects only reproduce when environmental circumstances dictate (rain in arid areas). If not for beekeeper intervention, honey bees are programmed, and will perpetuate their species every year. And more than that in good years. BTW….AHB’s can swarm up to 18 times a year!
So try to understand swarming as to the benefits it provides. It’s not about “prevention”. It should be about “controlling” it, till a more opportune time so a beekeeper can manage it, allow the bees to benefit from it, and give the hives the best chance for survival, with a young productive queen.
I do what I can to delay swarming, but also know that pre-flow splitting, cutting out cells, and many other advice given to beekeepers….is usually far worse than the swarm to begin with.
Hope this helps.