Was it a swarm? A declaration of independence on July 4th?
Inspected the hive this morning. Plenty of capped brood in the lower box. Didn't see the queen but saw numerous cells containing single eggs. Saw one capped swarm cell and removed it. Saw 5-6 drawn frames in the upper box with plenty of capped honey and four nearly virgin frames. Replaced upper and lower boxes and the hive top feeder and refilled the feeder with 1:1 syrup.
Then ~2 hrs later I was out having a catch with my son and we were struck by the activity around the hive....a storm of swirling bees from near-ground level to 40-50 feet up. Like an endless wave of them emerging from the front, crawling part way up the face of hive and taking off. All of that eventually settled down except for a persistent focused hovering near one tree top, a false cypress about 40 feet up. I never saw a cluster, but persistnet hovering. Potential siting of a cluster compromised by lots of under and overgrowth in and around the tree(s).
Was this a swarm? If so, any ideas why? It is hot and humid in Baltimore today, heat index > 100 today in Baltimore.
Does the colony ever depopulate temporarily (during the hottest part of the day) in hot conditions to help cool the hive?
[This message has been edited by dcromwel (edited July 04, 2003).]
Sounds as if you did have a swarm cast off. Often you will see a "play flight" or recess in front of a colony. Lots of bees will be swirling about in front of the hive for several minutes. Your bees and the activity and height described sounds classic for a swarm. Look toward the top of the tree where you last sighted them and you may spot some flight activity in that area. Good luck.
Sounds like a swarm to me. I think you just can't see the cluster because it's high in the tree.
Bummer....so in retrospect, I goofed by destroying that capped swarm cell?
If they were swarming, I think there are more cells, but you'd have to look to find out. They hide them well and the bees are always all over them even when they are capped. You may have left them queenless and you may not. I just don't think they only had one cell.
Plus, if there are lots of new eggs, the bees can make a queen from one of those.
Usually in preparation for a swarm the queen quits laying so she can slim down to fly well. If so, then there won't be any fresh eggs. But I'm still betting they had more than one swarm cell. Still it would be good to keep an eye on things and try to find one, careful not to destroy it when moving frames.
Beekeeping for Dummies says to wait a week before re-inspecting the hive. Do you think I should follow that advice, or check right away. Michael, it sounds like you would advise ordering a new queen if I don't find a remaining queen cell. Is that so?
Also, any sense based on my initial description as to what prompted the swarm?
By the way, I have finally spotted and confirmed the swarm cluster. Large, bigger than a football. About 40-50 feet up. Is the colony remaining in our hive boxes at increased risk of robbing with such reduced numbers?
Actually, its nature way of furthering the species. What you had was a swarm cell, and a virgin actually emerged 3 days ago. She took a mating flight, and the bees followed her. If I were you, I would go thru the hive frame by frame looking for queens, and cells. If you have more queens, expect more little swarms. Sometimes, if the queens emerge together, as in my case, they will be separated in the hive, but will pipe. It is actually pretty cool to hear. But get the hive down to one queen, spread out your frames, so virgin frames are separating full ones. Pyramid up,meaning move some of the brood to the top box. That will bring the nurse bees up, and the queen as well. With that much room, you should be good, but make sure there is only one queen. Was your queen marked? If it was, it will be easy to tell which is mated. If not, generally the mated one will be longer, but not always. Virgin queens are smaller, but grow rapidly once mated. Look long and hard at your frames. Virgins also tend to be shy and hide under other bees. And, normally you will find the queen near the brood, but virgins can be anywhere. Like I said, get rid of all remaining swarm cells. They can be on the bottom, but they may even have made emergency or supercedure type cells in the middle of the frame. Look for a growth out then down. If it sticks straight out, it is probably drone, but if it goes down, it is a queen cell. Before removing them though, find a queen or multiples. Maybe you got lucky, if you call it that, and things will settle down now.
I can go on and on, but inspect that hive today. Don't wait, or you may lose more bees than you have already.
As for robbing you always have to pay attention, any hive may find itself being robbed if something reduces the numbers, but I wouldn't be expecting it to happen if there is a honey flow on.
You could try the "shotgun" method of shooting the brandh off the tree with a box, or maybe a tarp below?
They are probably gone by now anyway.
Dale and Michael, thanks for your responses. My queen was marked, but I assumed that the swarm was with her. Dale, you're indicating that the swarm was likely with a virgin queen? What is piping? Never heard of it? And if I'm understanding your instructions, I should expect to find my marked queen still there, eliminate any queen cells, try to find and eliminate any other queens as long as I find my marked one, separate full frames with virgin ones, and pyramid up as you explained. I thought that separating full frames with virgin ones made it harder for the colony to temperature regulate.
Also, this hive is in full sunlight from about 9:30am to 2:30pm. I'm now afraid that it's too much for our frequently sweltering Baltimore summer days and that I should do the wheelbarrow thing and move it 1-2 feet a day until I can get it to sun-dappled ground.
Michael, I have a few shotguns, the hive is still there, but it's illegal to discharge a firearm in the Baltimore metropolitan area, and it would be a remarkable shot that would require taking off the top 5-6 feet of this false cypress evergreen tree.
Maybe I'll consider it tomorrow if they're still there. I was hoping that I might catch them when they moved on, but thus far they're still hunting for those happier grounds.
>Dale and Michael, thanks for your responses. My queen was marked, but I assumed that the swarm was with her.
That would be my guess. If she isn't then she left in a earlier swarm.
>Dale, you're indicating that the swarm was likely with a virgin queen?
If it's an afterwarm.
>What is piping? Never heard of it?
Queens in a cell make a sound like "quack quack quack" very distinct. Virgin queens that are emerged make a "zoot zoot zoot" sound which is generally called piping.
>And if I'm understanding your instructions, I should expect to find my marked queen still there, eliminate any queen cells, try to find and eliminate any other queens as long as I find my marked one,
I don't think you'll find the marked one, but you need to make sure you have a queen before you destroy all of the swarm cells. You could end up queenless.
>separate full frames with virgin ones, and pyramid up as you explained. I thought that separating full frames with virgin ones made it harder for the colony to temperature regulate.
It will, but I think he's trying to get them to spread out so they won't want to afterswarm.
>Also, this hive is in full sunlight from about 9:30am to 2:30pm. I'm now afraid that it's too much for our frequently sweltering Baltimore summer days and that I should do the wheelbarrow thing and move it 1-2 feet a day until I can get it to sun-dappled ground.
From my experience full sun is a good thing as long as the entrace is wide open. Better if you have some kind of ventilation in the top (a top entrance, propped up inner cover etc.). I've tried them in full sun and partial shade and the ones in full sun always out produced the ones in partial shade.
>Michael, I have a few shotguns, the hive is still there, but it's illegal to discharge a firearm in the Baltimore metropolitan area, and it would be a remarkable shot that would require taking off the top 5-6 feet of this false cypress evergreen tree.
I certaily wouldn't suggest you do it in town.
>Maybe I'll consider it tomorrow if they're still there. I was hoping that I might catch them when they moved on, but thus far they're still hunting for those happier grounds.
If they are still there they may have gotten lost. The scouts that find the new place are field bees and the ones in the swarm are nurse bees. The nurse bees and the queen don't know the territory. If the scout bees gave up and went home then the swarm is on it's own. They may even set up house in the open if someone doesn't find a suitable place. Have you tried setting some old, empty equipment on the ground? Spray it with some lemon pledge. It has citronol in it and smells very much like nasonov pheromone. Maybe they will find it and move in.
I tried "shooting" down a swarm this year. I am in a rural area where I was able to do it. The swarm was on the end of a small limb. Third shot with a 22 brought them down from about 30 feet up. As the limb was falling bees began peeling off so when the swarm finally came to ground it was noticably smaller. Bottom line, within about 3-4 minutes the entire swarm was in flight and settled back down in close proximity from where they fell. I gave up on that swarm and the next day they were gone.
Thanks for the input fellahs. I'm not actually in town. We're in a rural feeling part of the suburbs but within the Baltimore Beltway, hence the law disallowing firearm discharges. I can't tell for sure if the swarm cluster is still there; backlighting and height conspire to make visibility difficult. But there's clearly still some activity in that tree top with a frequent solo bee flying out of or into the vicinity into the clear and therefore more visible. I'm gonna go inspect the hive now and queen hunt. Michael, your thoughts on sunlight are important. Do you guys have the combo of heat and humidity that we have here in Baltimore (mid 90's for both with the "heat index" > 100)? Does that matter? Or just prop up the inner cover?
Would a queenless hive behave any differently re: traffic in and out or temperament of this previously very mild-mannered colony?
I wouldn't count on being able to tell if you are queenless by anything exterior. You need to look for a queen or signs of a queen (eggs, very young larvae etc.)
Just finished long inspection of the hive; went thru each frame 2-3 times. Didn't see a queen, but might have rookie inspection skills and did see a sparse number of single-egg cells. Saw 8-10 swarm cells, including one in the food chamber. About half of them capped. One capped supercedure cell (at least a queen looking cell ~1/2 way up the frame). A fair amount of young larvae. The swarm was only 2 days ago. I made an executive decision and, seeing the eggs, figured that I might still have a queen and so I removed all seen queen cells. Truth is I have little confidence in this strategy. There were lots of empty brood cells, and a fair amount of other brood cells with nectar in them leaving me wondering about heat as the possible explanation for the swarming. Should I have left one queen cell? The supercedure cell?
Boy, is this educational.
What I learned from my queenless hive:
Lots of drone cells
Lots of drones
Extremely spotty laying pattern--brood scattered all around in several frames, no significant blocks of capped brood or larvae.
Eggs not in bottom of cells, multiple eggs in some cells
No queen. I looked and looked and looked, but never found her. Duh...She wasn't there.
Beegee, Michael, anyone else, what do you make of the sparse but definite presence of single eggs in some of the brood cells?
Also, if there's no queen and there's a remaining queen swarm cell, will she stay put or swarm once emerged?
When does one throw in the towel and prder a new queen? And any recommendations from whom to order? Dale, you're in the mid-Atlantic. Where do you get new queens when needed?
[This message has been edited by dcromwel (edited July 06, 2003).]