While conducting some tests concerning checker boarding(see checker boarding revisited), I noticed that the hives that swarmed or didn't make swarm preparations were far ahead of those that were prevented from swarming. See the addendum at:
Also, in the past, I attempted to establish a 'feral' bee population by letting my best hives swarm. All of my bee equipment was full of bees(I use natural and small cell), I didn't have any need for additional bees. These swarmed hives didn't experience a decline in honey production or hive populations for overwintering as might be expected.
Could it be that when a strong hive swarms, it's not put in a disadvantage for survival when compared to its non-swarming neighbors? Maybe, in the natural flow of things, a strong hive that swarms experiences the turbo charged activity and focus that has commonly been noted for the swarm itself. And that this focus and activity more than make up for the loss of bees and two weeks worth of brood.
Maybe working with the bees swarming tendencies, rather than against them, could be more productive. I wonder if a swarmed hive and a swarm are more productive than a swarm prevented hive? I'll bet they are, especially if the swarm is captured or lured to a bait box.
These concepts might not be very pratical for a large migratory commercial beekeeper. But they might work great for the rest of us.
What do you think?
Last edited by D. Murrell; 11-07-2007 at 08:46 PM.
Just got back from a workshop on organic beekeeping. The folks there agree that swarming incredibly increases the vitality of the bees, and echo your observations on making up food stores etc. in no time.
> hives that swarmed or didn't make swarm
> preparations were far ahead of those that
> were prevented from swarming
Should be obvious to even the casual observer.
Preventing swarming means somehow disrupting
the normal spring build-up cycle of the colony.
The bees don't swarm because the colony has
been prevented from building up to as large
a population as it might otherwise reach.
That's why many beekeepers admit that swarming
is reproduction for bees, and that
attempting to "defeat" such a basic instinct
100% of the time is an exercise in futility.
So, we make splits, and hope that the bees
don't notice the difference.
> ... a workshop on organic beekeeping...
EST for beekeepers? [img]smile.gif[/img]
> The folks there agree that swarming incredibly
> increases the vitality of the bees
"Vitality" - there's a suitably vague and
immeasurable subjective non-criteria, one that
defies even the most basic imposition of metrics.
Bottom line, colonies that are fed well before
the first blooms are bigger, and harvest/process
a bigger crop. Caging the queen is a very good
way to focus the bees on gathering and harvesting
that crop, and also a great way to avoid swarming
during the early blooms, not to mention a fine
way to avoid having lots of extra hungry brood
that will live their adult lives during the
Splits after the first flow can fool most, if
not all colonies into thinking that they have
But nothing is foolproof, not checkerboarding,
not cutting queen cells, not even making splits.
One could requeen every hive every spring, but
the current normal "failure rate" for queens
(maybe 5% to 10%) is higher than the number of
colonies that will go on to swarm even after
having their laying queen caged, and then being
split (maybe 1% to 2%).
I have no evidence to back up my opinion (!) but what you say makes perfect sense to me. I have long believed that 'swarm prevention', especially by cutting out queen cells, is a waste of time. When I worked at Buckfast Abbey last year, we wasted days and days removing queen cells in April and May, only to have nearly everything swarm in June (Bro. Adam no doubt rotating in his grave).
There's a really interesting video here http://mkat.iwf.de/mms/metafiles/040...0000000_lo.asx showing how German skeppists deal with swarms - I wonder why nobody else does this?
Jim - vitality - indeed difficult to define, but, like so many things, once you see it, you know what it is! Sometimes the 'scientific' approach just doesn't cut it...
Being familiar with "checker boarding," it seems easy to toss all "swarm prevention techniques" into one catagory which isn't necessarily relevant to the question as I understand the question. I think you may be on to something, Dennis, so long as we are distinguishing Nectar Management (aka checker boarding) from the traditional methods of swarm prevention.
I find it most interesting that Walt admits that there is lots still to learn now that he's open the door to a new way of thinking.
My question, Dennis, is: are you comparing hives (swarmed and not) which weren't Nectar Managed (NM'ed)? If so, I'm interested in a comparision of hives who didn't swarm but were NM'ed to hives that did swarm.
As for hives who didn't swarm and weren't NM'ed that seemed to fall into a state of indecision during the back-filled period, then I think you're probably right. They wanted to do something and didn't succeed and were confused. From what I understand NM to be, it actually keeps the bees from reaching a level of feeling confident that they can swarm while other techniques try to stop a process that's already underway.
Splitting is always an option for hives that want to swarm. In fact, I recommend it on my web pages. But my situation might be a little different than a guy who runs bees the standard way. All of my equipment has been full of bees for a number of years. I simply don't have any place to put more splits. And I certainly don't need any more bees.
What might not be obvious to a casual observer, especially one who runs bees in the traditional manner, is that a swarmed hive has more vigor and doesn't seem to suffer any setbacks from having swarmed.
With all the ink in the bee mags and literature about preventing swarms, it might seem that swarming is a bad thing for both the hive and the beekeeper. I haven't seen any recommendations about letting the hives swarm as a benefit to the hive.
>are you comparing hives (swarmed and not) which weren't Nectar Managed
This year I ran an entire yard the conventional way. The swarmed versus swarm prevented hives were all done the conventional way without checker boarding. Any comparisons with checker boarding are from my past experience.
Dennis wrote in the first post:
> Could it be that when a strong hive swarms, it's not put in a disadvantage for survival when compared to its non-swarming neighbors?
Dennis, you'll recall Walt dividing hives into three groups: 1) Succeeds in building brood to the reserve, accomplishing backfilling, and producing a swarm; 2) succeeds in building brood to the reserve, but fails to complete backfilling, and doesn't swarm; 3) fails in building brood to the reserve, never initiates backfilling, and doesn't swarm.
He suggested that the later 2 groups are weaker hives, and that only the strong hives are able to fall into catagory #1 above.
What I'm getting from your comments is that you're seeing hives in catagory #1 to continue to out perform those in catagories #2 & 3 (those that didn't swarm). I'm not sure we have enough info yet to determine why the non-swarming hives didn't perform impressively. Following Walt's concepts of pre-swarm operations, we probably would need to know which catagory they fell in (#2 or #3) and what else seems to go on with them. Perhaps what you're on to is "hives strong enough to swarm stay stronger than hives that weren't strong enough to swarm." If that's the case, then the issue might not be that the hive did or didn't swarm but that it could or couldn't swarm. and if so, then it becomes an issue of utilizing a swarm-control technique that doesn't reduce its pre-existing strength and capabilities (ie nectar management) in order to capatalize on its potential production.
As Jim points out, too often the swarm-control works by deminishing a hive's strenght and capabilities rather than enhancing them. And since you both are making great points, for those who don't know a good method beyond the traditional ones, perhaps it IS best to not do anything.
<<< Enter Walt's Nectar Management >>>
I've only tried it once, and wasn't able to make the desired observations that I had planned, but the hive was split on two occassions, which is a pretty good testimony (and that following a superceedure!!!). But I do beleive that, Walt's claims are that Nectar Management is just that, a swarm control that enhances the hive, to boot.
Walt's Nectar Management technique was first divised to prevent swarming, but he also recognized that it produces huge hives with monsterous yeilds as a side-effect. And for that reason, I don't think Dennis is suggesting that we lump it in among other swarm-control techniques. It's significantly different in approach and in results. However, anyone wanting to further what Dennis has done could compare these 4 hives: a swarmed hive, a nectar managed hive, a hive under traditional swarm-controls, and a hive that failed to swarm.
At any rate, I'm excited about your observations and your constant trials. You're always doing side-by-side comparisions, it seems. And you write them out for us so well.
I think wayacoyote's got something there when he makes the distinction between swarm prevention and nectar management. I'm by no means as learned as you guys. All I know is this is my fourth year as a beekeeper, second using Walt's NM method. I had one swarm last year--the one hive I didn't checkerboard. I've had none this year. My hives are the strongest and the most populated I've ever seen them. Last year's harvest was the best I've had despite a poor nectar year (too much rain). It's been my past experience that although swarms build up very quickly and are very strong, the hive they leave behind doesn't fare as well and are usually medium to good hives at best. Nectar management seems to keep everyone at home, busily working on building the colony and food stores. Therefore, it is my amateur conclusion that NM'd hives are every bit as strong if not stronger than swarms.
All the hives but one were in the first group. When they polished a queen cup and put an egg in it, I gave them more room by top supering and began cutting out swarm cells.
Checker boarding hives is the only way, that I know of, to control swarming and not diminish or confuse the hive. It works with the bees propensities rather than against them.
Splitting is also a great choice if a beekeeper needs or wants additional bees. This also works with the bees.
Letting them swarm is probably better than the remaining swarm preventing alternatives which mostly work against the bees.
Another factor that I probably should discuss is the timing of the major honey flow. Mine occures two to three brood cycles after most swarming ends. That length of time allows a swarmed hive time to recover. In areas with a shorter time interval between swarming and the honey flow, a different conclusion concerning the effects of letting them swarm might be appropriate.
[size="1"][ June 13, 2006, 10:54 AM: Message edited by: B Wrangler ][/size]