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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Claremont, NH, USA

    Default The Russians are swarming, the Russians are swarming!

    Yesterday I checked my bee yard (guess I have enough going on in there now, that I can call it that). Right now I have six hives, two NWC, two Buckfast and two Russian, all started from packages at various times this spring, and six nucs with Minnesota Hygienic queens started earlier this month. Beautiful, warm, sunny day, bees flying every which way. As I approached the yard I heard a loud buzzing. Saw a huge beard of bees on one of my Russian hives. Looked over into the trees and, sure enough, there was a swarm, high up in a pine. Now, all six queens in the hives are marked and clipped, so I figured they werenít going anywhere, and I went about my business.

    Checked the nucs first. All had their queens and eggs, brood, honey and pollen Ė everything looked well. By the time I was finished, the swarm had returned to the hive and everything seemed more or less normal. Worked my way through the hives, checking for eggs, her highness, if she was readily visible, general health, saving that Russian hive for last. I run three deeps for the main hive and all had eggs and brood in the top deep in nice patterns (one sluggard NWC is only in two deeps), so I didnít need to go any deeper to know they were queenright. Saw a couple of the queens, too, which was nice. Nothing in the supers, yet, but we had a very wet and cool summer, so they are only now getting a good shot at foraging, now that the weather has improved and the goldenrod is in full bloom.

    Finally, I went to that Russian hive. I found a huge number of capped queen cells. I waited, until I found the queen, before I began destroying them. I must have taken out 15 or 20 easy across all three deeps. A couple had fully developed queens in them only a day or less from hatching out. When I broke open the cells, they actually crawled out, fully formed and colored. It was my first time seeing new queens like that, and they were much larger than I thought they would be. It was a real shame to destroy them, but I donít have any more equipment available (will address that over the winter), and itís too late to start another hive, anyway. Iím guessing that their piping is what set off the swarm. If I had been a day later, Iím sure at least one would have hatched and then the fight would have been on. And, I have no confidence that I got all the cells, either.

    This is when it is a bear to run three deeps. Checking all those boxes was a real pain in the back. Literally. But, I did it. Then, I thought, ďWhat about the other Russian hive?Ē It was started with the same stock at the same time. So, I dug into that one all the way to the bottom. Not a single queen cell could I find. Donít know why one hive went queen cell crazy and not the other, but who can figure out bees? Both have healthy queens, same age, laying great patterns. They have plenty of space, not having filled all three deeps, yet. And, they are only just now hatching some drones. I didnít think the conditions were very conducive to swarming. Wrong.
    I have read that Russians are prone to throwing swarms, but I did not expect to see any this year. If this is what they are like, then I probably wonít keep them in my program, since digging through three deeps every couple of weeks is not in my game plan. Or, I could run then as only two deeps, but thatís still a lot of work.

    Is my Russian experience typical? I will say that the bees were remarkably well-behaved. Very little aggression towards me, even in the hives I tore down. Guess with the nice weather they were too busy doing their own thing to waste much time on me. Whatever the reason, Iíll take their behavior and be glad.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Concord NH


    I would be happy to take those Ruskies off your hands if you want to make 'em go away either this fall or in the spring.

    I'm just a few miles up the road.

    I've got two nucs of russians that I recently started that are into their second brood cycle and are really cranking on the Goldenrod/Aster...they seem to fly earlier and in slightly cooler weather than my other bees...Its fun watching them flying in loaded up with pollen when my Italian/Carni's are still hanging out on the landing thinking about getting started.....but once they out!

    My NWC's are by far the most gentle and the queen is always easy to find....she doesn't seem to be runny like my Italian/Carni's

    Anyhoo...shout if you want to find them a good home.....I'll be happy to work a fair price with you.
    Milk Cows Not Taxpayers

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Oxford, Kansas

    Default not a good way of preventing a sswarm

    be careful. I wouldnt recommend tearing out and destorying queen cells as swarm prevention tool. Once they get the swarming urge it is tough to stop. They will keep reissueing the swarm. the clipped queen can fall out onto the ground trying to leave and not be able to reenter the hive. or if you miss one queen cell it can swarm with a virgin queen. Any how they willl ussually leave daily until they have a queen leave with them. If the clipped queen leaves the hive and you have destroyed all the queen cell you could very well end up eliminating one of your russian hives by rendering it queenless. You mentioned you had some nucs. I believe I would have took a long shot and split the hive If the new queen ends up not working out you could combine with one of the weaker nucs

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Seneca, sc

    Default Swarm 25 August

    Went to my outyard to place a frame of larva in a hive that I cut queen cells out of about 10 days ago and then realized that they did not have queen. Hope this will fix this hive.

    Looked down the row had a hive bearded up with a lot of bees out front flying. Walk around behind the hive and there on the ground was my marked queen. I picked her up opened the top cover and slid her in. 10 Min later the bees started calming down and then it started again bees pouring out the entrance again. 5 min later I see a softball size swarm on the ground 5 ft in front of hive, and there was my marked queen in the middle. Picked her up again and returned her to the hive, under the top cover down on the frames. Then it hit me, I am not going to stop this, go get a box. I jumped in the truck drove 15 miles got a box, bottom board,4 frames of foundation, inner cover and a top cover and returned to the yard. They were still on the ground picked the queen up on the hive tool and placed her in the hive, she crawled right out the front entrance back to the ball of bees. Picked her up again and this time with a few bees and put back in the box this time i kept picking bees up in my hand and putting them in the hive with her and they clustered on the middle frame. I will feed them in the morning. I did not see anything I could have done differently. It was to let her fly off with maybe 2000 bees out of a weak hive or do what I did.
    Any suggestions.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Claremont, NH, USA

    Default Thanks for the advice


    Thanks, but Iím not looking to give up the hives, although I might requeen them next year. My plan this year was to observe how the three different varieties of bees Ė New World Carniolan, Buckfast and Russian Ė 1) built up from packages, 2) behaved during the season (e.g. aggressiveness, activity, robbing, swarming) 3) produced (honey, if any), 4) survived the winter, 5) built up next spring and 6) produced through the spring flow. So, I am only in the early stages of my experiment. Granted, running only two hives of each is not statistically significant, but it will help to determine if a hive that behaves differently than I expected is likely really different (i.e. the other one of that type is Ďnormalí) or if that is more typical behavior for that variety (i.e. they both exhibit the trait/behavior). Of course, so much depends on the source, so I donít know what Iíll really learn by next spring. Probably have more new questions than answers to the old ones. But, thatís what keeps it interesting.

    If all goes well, I will select my best hive and, hopefully, raise queens from it to requeen the others mid-summer. I have a Nicot system. Tried it this year as a test run (fun fitting it into a Pierco plastic foundation), but did not get any eggs (left it in the hive for two days before adding Her Highness and fed then, too, but we were having really bad weather). So, we shall see how next year goes. I will be posting lots of questions, when I start planning for that step.

    If there is interest (and probably even if there isnít) later this year Iíll post my observations so far on the three varieties of bees. As I mentioned, I also have Minnesota Hygienics now, but they are in nucs, so it wonít be a fair comparison for them.


    Thanks for the advice. My experience with swarming hives is very limited (Iíve only ever seen one before), and I know from what I have read that my method is not the preferred way of dealing with it. But, I donít have any spare equipment (boxes, boards, covers, etc.) to do any splits. So, I did the best I could under the circumstances. So far, I have not seen any new swarms, yet, from that hive. If all goes well, I will have six nucs to put up into new hives next spring, so I plan to order a lot of woodenware over the winter. At that time I will buy enough extras to set up at least one additional hive, so I can better deal with the unexpected.

    If I do screw up that hive and it goes queenless, I suppose a fall back would be to combine with one of the nucs.


    I get stung, therefore I scratch

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Venango/Crawford Pennsylvania


    I would have caged her and made something up. Even though it is late you could have started a nuc or an observation hive. My vote... Observation Hive.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Auger Hole, MN

    Default i keep russians

    and they were more prone to swarming this year. much more then usual .

    my theory is we had a cool spring/summer which allowed flowers to bloom really long. lots of pollen = lots of brood. nectar has been scarce at times too.

    i would let them swarm. they seem to recover quickly. only problem for you is then you have a russian hybrid.

    i keep my 200 russians isolated.

    they rock - low nosema counts, tracheal resistant no treatments for varroa mites and usually little to no feeding even in fall.

    its possible that frequent swarming in Africanized and Russians have something to do with their ability to co-exist with varrora.

    swarming get over it - its been bred out of the italians and NWC, but then again those lines need feed, treatments and can be tracheal or nosema prone.

    we have very very low winter loss in the russians. its amazing, few dead bees in the winter on the snow.

    go russians!


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