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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Claremont, NH, USA
    Posts
    783

    Default Swarm Traps as Indicators Before a Swarm?

    Weve had a very wet June with no end in sight. Most of my hives are booming, so I figure that, once the weather breaks, swarming will be a distinct possibility. I dont have much experience with swarms, not so much, Im sure, to any beekeeping skills, but more a result of not being around to see them and not realizing a hive had swarmed. Saw my first one earlier this spring, when one colony stubbornly refused to move up into the third deep brood box and swarmed instead (they have since moved up, duh). By coincidence, the day of the swarm, I set out a couple of my 5-frame nucs as swarm traps. Again, this is something I have never done before. The nucs have some drawn frames and lemongrass oil. That day and for a couple of days thereafter I saw a lot of scout bees in and around the swarm traps/nucs. But, it was too late. The swarm, which was 30 40 feet up in a tree, moved on that same day to parts unknown. Since then, there has been no bee activity around the swarm traps.

    So, my question is, if/when the weather breaks, if I suddenly start to see scout activity around the traps, is that an indicator that a hive is about to swarm? Or, does it mean a colony - mine, someone elses or feral - has already swarmed and is sitting in a tree somewhere? I guess what I am asking is, do scouts reconnoiter possible home sites BEFORE the colony swarms, or only after? From what I have read, it sounds like the scouts head out after the swarm has left the parent colony. If so, then my traps will not be indicators of swarming, only indicators of a swarm in the area. On the other hand, if the scouts actually head out pre-swarm, then activity at the traps could be an alert to be on the lookout for a swarm.

    Sure, I could go into the hives and check for swarm cells, but I try to avoid mucking around in the brood area after the spring cleaning, unless I have to requeen, or have some other reason to dig around in there.

    Thoughts? Experiences?

    Bill
    If you want to gather honey, don't kick over the beehive. - Dale Carnegie

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Chittenango,Ny (upstate)
    Posts
    309

    Default Re: Swarm Traps as Indicators Before a Swarm?

    Good question. Here is what I think. Scouts are out looking before a colony swarms. My traps often have bees checking things out days and even weeks before a swarm moves in. It's likely that the scent of comb and lemongrass oil catches the intrest of passing foragers and they check things out. Do they remember where the trap is and revisit when swarm time gets close? I don't know but when I see a big jump in the number of bees visiting(like 4-5 to 10-15) then I know a swarm is likely coming in the next day or so.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Clinton, Illinois
    Posts
    92

    Default Re: Swarm Traps as Indicators Before a Swarm?

    I'd also like to see opinions as I have wondered the same.

    I have 3 seperate traps within 1000 feet of my beeyard (4 strong). We've also had rainy weather keeping colonies from swarming. When we had good weather days about a week or so ago, I did notice bee activity around all 3 traps. Several days later my kids called me at work saying one hive was set to swarm and did so in a tree about 30 feet up directly above the hive. So was this hive scouting my traps? It's seems possible.....unfortunately they didn't like my traps and moved on. Once the swarm left it the activity around the traps stopped.....

    Or, were the scouts from other wild bees in the area.... not mine? I dunno.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    1,333

    Default Re: Swarm Traps as Indicators Before a Swarm?

    Yes to both questions. They do scout for nest sites before issue, and activity at a potential site is an indication of interest in that site.

    Nest site scouting starts at population of the primary Q cell and they want the swarm out the door before she emerges. This gives them about two weeks of Q developement time to find a suitable site. The settled swarm that moves on in the same day already had their site picked out before issue. The selection process can take several days and the swarm that issues without a destination selected is forced to hurry the process - they only have limited provisions on board.

    They normally have several nest sites under consideration at the same time. The scouts cycle from site to site for comparision. They select the site that most agree is the best. Re traffic to your trap location, that means that there may be some traffic coming and going all through the selection process - even though that site is losing favor. Pay attention when traffic is accumulating - it may the selected destination.

    Walt
    Free advice is often overpriced.

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