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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Ferrum, Virginia
    Posts
    56

    Question

    I am trying to understand the issue of swarming. I have read that they swarm because conditions are not quite suitable i.e., ventilation, overcrowding etc. I have also read that swarming is a sign of a healthy hive. The way I understand it is that when the hive swarms it has produced another queen and a portion of the population is leaving with her. The population left behind contains the old queen and a reduced population. If you capture the swarm you can start another hive with it, as long as you have another set up ready to go. Am I right in these statements? How many beekeepers have extra setups on hand for this situation? Right now I have one hive, should I have another setup ready to go in case a swarm occurs? Also word has gotten around that I am keeping bees. I have gotten a couple of calls to come get some other swarms in the area. Do beekeepers in general take as many as they can as long as they can afford the setups?

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    J.J.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Bradenton, FL, and Davenport, IA, USA
    Posts
    930

    Post

    Swarms generally issue from successful hives (by the bees' standards). This is often determine by overcrowding, a restricted brood area, overheating from overcrowding. All these things which seem bad, give the bees a good reason to swarm. In nature, these conditions for the bees mean they are doing well. A hive that is managed well and still swarms is a very good source of bees indeed.

    Bees that leave a hive because conditions are bad general are absconding which means they leave the hive completely with usually the entire population.

    Swarming hives will raise new queens, and the first swarm that issue will take the old queen with them. The subsequent swarms if any will have one of the new queens, and a new queen is most often left behind with the remaining population of bees.

    An absconding hive doesn't raise a new queen, you just open the hive and the bees are all gone, and all you have left is a tiny handful of bees, many of which are likely robbers from other hives.

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    Scot Mc Pherson
    Foundationless Small Cell Top Bar Hives
    BeeWiki: http://linuxfromscratch.org/~scot/beewiki/

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Ferrum, Virginia
    Posts
    56

    Post

    So a hive that swarms due to good conditions, i.e. well maintained, will result in two colonies with two queens? A swarm due to bad conditions will just leave?
    Generally a hive may or may not ever swarm, is this correct?

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    J.J.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,794

    Post

    >I am trying to understand the issue of swarming. I have read that they swarm because conditions are not quite suitable i.e., ventilation, overcrowding etc.

    Overcrowding is what the bees had as their goal and when they swarm it's because they accomplished it. Ventilation helps keep them from perciving it as overcrowding. Not because it's a bad condition but it's the condition that triggers warming.

    >I have also read that swarming is a sign of a healthy hive.

    It is.

    >The way I understand it is that when the hive swarms it has produced another queen and a portion of the population is leaving with her.

    Not true. The OLD queen and a portion of the population leaves. If it's still too crowded then one of the new virgin queens leaves with some more etc. until the bees feel the population is correct, then they keep one queen and destroy the rest of the cells.

    >The population left behind contains the old queen and a reduced population.

    As above. No. The old queen is the first one to leave.

    >If you capture the swarm you can start another hive with it, as long as you have another set up ready to go.

    You can put them in a beer cooler with a hole in it for an entrance, you can put them in a carboard box with a hole in it. But it's much more convenient to put them in a hive.

    >Am I right in these statements? How many beekeepers have extra setups on hand for this situation?

    They all should.

    >Right now I have one hive, should I have another setup ready to go in case a swarm occurs?

    Absolutely and another besides that for splits to head off swarms and for just maniupulation of things.

    >Also word has gotten around that I am keeping bees. I have gotten a couple of calls to come get some other swarms in the area. Do beekeepers in general take as many as they can as long as they can afford the setups?

    If you want less hives, just get the swarms and then combine them. Then you'll have stronger hives and less of them.

    But if you really don't want to mess with getting the swarms, let them go. Generally they make up for winter losses etc.
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    Swarming
    Causes of swarming. First it’s a good idea to realize that swarming is the normal response of a hive to success. It means they are doing well enough to reproduce the hive. It is the natural order of things. However, it is inconvenient for the beekeeper to have them swarm, so let’s think about what causes them to want to swarm.

    There are a variety of pressures that push them toward swarming.

    No place to put nectar so it gets stored in the brood nest. Prevention: add supers.

    Honey or pollen clogging the brood nest so that the queen has no where to lay. Prevention: remove combs of honey and add empty frames so that they bees will be occupied drawing wax and the queen will have somewhere to lay and the bees will have more room to cluster in the brood nest.

    No place to cluster near the brood nest. The bees like to cluster near the queen (who is in the brood nest) and this clogs the brood nest making it crowded. Prevention: Slatted racks give room to cluster under the brood nest. Follower boards on the outside give room to cluster on the sides of the brood nest. These are a ¾” wide top bar with a sheet of plywood or masonite or similar material in the middle the size of a frame. One on each end replaces one frame in the brood nest.

    Too much traffic congesting the brood nest. Prevention: a top entrance will give foragers a way in without going through the brood nest.

    But sometimes they make up their mind to swarm anyway. Once they make up their mind I always make splits because not much will dissuade them. Destroying queen cells only postpones the inevitable.

    A cut down split with the old queen and all but one frame of the open brood in a new location is a nice swarm prevention method. Leave the old hive with all the capped brood, one frame of eggs/open brood, no queen and empty supers. Usually, the old hive won’t swarm because they have no queen and hardly any open brood. Usually the new hive won’t swarm because they have no foragers. This is best down just before the main honey flow.



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