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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Dudley, Massachusetts, USA
    Posts
    196

    Default First year beekeeper; hive swarmed this week...

    Hello,
    I am a first year beekeeper in Central, MA with 1 hive in my backyard. I hived a package on 4/13/09 to a new hive with plastic foundation. So far they have been doing wonderfully, building up the frames as expected. A couple of weeks ago I added a honey super to give them more room. Regular inspections showed nothing amiss, no swarm cells, etc.

    Then Thursday morning my son comes running to tell me the backyard is full of bees! It was, because my hive was swarming. I documented it on my bee blog:

    http://stevensbees.blogspot.com/2009/06/swarm.html

    I was worried because it looked like a lot of bees had left. Well, today I got a chance to inspect the hive. There still seemed to be quite a few bees left. I found no queen, but a lot of queen swarm cells (see http://stevensbees.blogspot.com/2009...n-6-27-09.html )
    So the swarm occured before they had a new queen available.

    The only thing I can think of regarding swarming was that we have had a spate of rain over the last 3 weeks, and the bees couldn't get out and forrage like they want to. Maybe they felt cramped and crowded and decided to swarm. I have a screened bottom board and the weather hasn't been hot, so I don't think heat was a factor (I've never seen them beard on the outside of the hive).

    What's done is done, but it makes me sad all the same. Does anyone have any suggestions or comments for me?

    Thanks - Steven

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Knox County, Ohio
    Posts
    2,694

    Default Re: First year beekeeper; hive swarmed this week...

    How long ago did you stop feeding the bees? Overfeeding a package can cause them to swarm.

    I glanced at your blog. You commented that being crowded causes bees to swarm, but you had added a honey super recently. If the super was added too late, it won't stop the swarming impulse.

    Did you add a queen excluder when you added the honey super? If the bees were not going through the excluder, they will backfill the broodnest with nectar, and cause them to swarm.

    If the bees had stored capped honey at the top of the frames in the broodnest and you add another brood box above that, the queen won't cross the honey to get to the open comb above. This is known as a honey ceiling, and you would need to checkerboard to open up the broodnest.

    And sometimes, bees just want to swarm. I got some packages this year, and put one in 2 medium boxes with drawn comb. The bees had moved into the 5 frames on the right hand side of the box in both boxes at the 2 or 3 week mark, and I didn't give them any more boxes because they still had the empty frames on the other half. A week later, there were about 20 swarm cells, and the bees still hadn't moved over on any of the other frames. I split them 3 ways. I moved the remaining 1/3 of the bees to thecenter of the boxes, and they are now using all 10 frames.

    Without knowing more, we can only guess why they swarmed. And maybe you had a situation like mine, and the bees insisted on swarming for a reason known only to them.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Pepperell, MA.
    Posts
    3,771

    Default Re: First year beekeeper; hive swarmed this week...

    The rain didn't help. Just cast a swarm here after weeks of rain. The hive had been booming and I just gave it space but the rain kept them in and crowded them together. Seems like once they decide to swarm, the odds are against you.
    "My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    College Station, Texas
    Posts
    6,973

    Default Re: First year beekeeper; hive swarmed this week...

    a chrissv snip:
    So the swarm occured before they had a new queen available.

    tecumseh:
    this is usually how swarming progresses.

    another chrissv snip:
    The only thing I can think of regarding swarming was that we have had a spate of rain over the last 3 weeks, and the bees couldn't get out and forrage like they want to. Maybe they felt cramped and crowded and decided to swarm

    tecumseh:
    if you were not feeding why would this encourage swarming? without anything coming in the front door how could the brood nest have become constricted?

    I would suggest that something in the configuartion of this hive is not quite working for you at your location (I think countryboy speaks a bit to this issue). at the simplist a honey cap (a capped honey plug) that discouraged brood nest expansion may be the culprit. a hive configuration where field bees must pass thru the brood nest (ie lack of alternative entrances) could also be a portion of the problem... thereby crowding the brood nest with field bees.

    as controyboy suggest opening up the brood nest area (I am not certain why this is called checkerboarding since it looks nothing like a checkerboard to me) above the bottom box would likely have helped. I call this (and every beekeeper I know calls this) opening up the brood nest. perhaps this terms is just too simple for some folks????

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    syracuse n.y.
    Posts
    1,979

    Default Re: First year beekeeper; hive swarmed this week...

    another reason is the queens that come with packages often swarm, as I think Michael Palmer and others suggested earlier this year in other post, to replace the package queen with a local queen, which I think is good advise.

    and sometimes you do everything correctly and they still go.

    mike

  6. #6

    Default Re: First year beekeeper; hive swarmed this week...

    Chris, I feel your pain. I used to get worked up when one of my colonies swarmed. Now I don't get excited. I tell my self they were mostly old bees anyway. I always put up a couple of swarm traps on the property. Sometimes I catch them, sometimes I don't. On the downside, your super strong colony has fewer bees. Either order a new queen now, or watch closely to make sure your new queen gets mated and starts laying.

    On the upside, you got to witness a swarm occur. How may of your friends can say that? BTW nice blog.

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