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  1. #1
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    Nov 2010
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    Default Always requeen a captured swarm?

    Two of the three colonies I have right now were started with swarms captured in the last three or four months. All seem to be bustling with busy bees; all are bringing in loads of nectar and pollen. The oldest swarm-start recently needed to have a second brood chamber added. The most recent is less than a month old in a five frame setup (ten-frame box with division boards installed to keep the volume low until brood starts to hatch).

    So, a couple of old-timers at a meeting I went to earlier this month were saying (and I'm paraphrasing, here) that since swarms were always accompanied by the old queen from their former colony, the beek should replace her because she's already a year old and will be drying up pretty soon.

    Is there any credence to what they said? Is a queen who leads a swarm almost past her prime? I like to listen to experience, but that didn't sound right.
    Learning to swim was pretty easy. The hard part was getting out of that burlap sack.

  2. #2
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    Jun 2009
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    Malabar, FL
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    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    not necessarily true, a "swarm" queen can be a viable and great queen....we re-queen swarms because we are in AHB territory...if your not in AHB territory....evaluate her before you squish her....she might be a great mother
    A government large enough to provide everything you need is strong enough to take everything you have. T. Jefferson

  3. #3
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    Sep 2010
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    Auburn, Washington, USA
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    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    I am glad you asked that question. It made me think about that topic.

    I would prefer a queen that swarmed. That queen is probably a survivor queen and is successfully doing what she should. When she beings to fail, then they will make supercedure cells, so her genes will continue to live in her daughter.

    What the old timers are doing is maximizing your probability of a good honey crop. If the queen is young, she will head the colony successfully. If the queen is old she might not. So why loose time if you can fix things right away. Well, I bet you can see their point too. It is valid.

    So, I guess if you have a young queen, then compare your swarm queen to her. If the swarm one is keeping up, then you are ok. Otherwise wait untill june, pinch the swarm queen and let the bees raise a replacement. That will have the added benefit of breaking the mite cycle, getting a new queen without incurring an extra cost and housekeeper bees collecting nectar while their babysitting services are not needed.

  4. #4
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    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    Why would a keep replace what isn't broke? What is her brood pattern like? I never replace a queen unless it is failing. I don't know any keepers who do.

    Think about it this way. If thew queen is good enuf for the bees, why isn't she good enuf for the keeper. W/in reason, of course. After all, a drone laying colony "thinks" it has a queen, when it doesn't really.
    Mark Berninghausen #youmatter

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    Columbia county, New York, USA
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    1,535

    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    I agree with Sqkcrk. Especially so since in the North we don't (yet) have to worry much about any Africanized strains in a swarm. I welcome local genetics that have already adapted to the winters in my area!
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    Nelson, South Island, New Zealand
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    532

    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    generally I dont like swarm queens, If the hive has swarmed it means she is getting a bit old to hold her hive together,
    also I don't like to encourage swarmy hives in our outfit by keeping all the swarmy queens, next thing I know come honey time they will all be hanging from the trees rather than bring in a crop.

    I would never breed from a swarm queen, for me the tendency to swarm is not a desirable trait.

    frazz

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Richmond, Virginia, USA
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    168

    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    There is no 'always' in beekeeping.

  8. #8
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    Jul 2010
    Location
    Pittsburgh, PA
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    151

    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    Dont forget as well, that sometimes swarms will contain virgin queens if they are afterswarms. In which case you already have a fresh queen ready to go!

  9. #9
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    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    Quote Originally Posted by frazzledfozzle View Post
    generally I dont like swarm queens, If the hive has swarmed it means she is getting a bit old to hold her hive together,

    frazz
    I don't mean to be argumentative, and you are certainly entitled to do what you wish in your own operation and you have good reasons for doing so, but, do you requeen overwintered colonies too? Isn't a queen in a swarm, in all likelyhood, an overwintered queen?
    Mark Berninghausen #youmatter

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    Nelson, South Island, New Zealand
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    532

    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    I would say she has moved from being an over wintered queen to a swarm queen as soon as she swarms,

    To me an overwintered queen is a queen still in my hive come the following years honey season not hanging from a tree down the road.

    Over wintered queens still in my hives for their second year and producing a good crop of honey are very valuable to me I wouldn't requeen it, A swarm queen thats done one honey crop and then leaves is of no value to me.

    If the tendancy to swarm is an inheritable trait then I dont want to encourage that trait.
    I wouldn't expect a queen coming through her first winter to swarm I would expect it more after her second.
    If you are having hives swarming with queens barely a year old then maybe you need to look at how many swarm queens you are holding onto it could be that you are promoting a swarming tendancy in your bees.

    frazz

    frazz

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Bristol,MA,USA
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    727

    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    Bees can inherit and even develop a "swarming tendency". The more the swarm queens are used the more this tendency seems to be inherited and increased. In order to avoid this swarming tendency in your bees' genetics, it is better to requeen incoming swarms with your own queens, regardless of whether they are old or new queens. OMTCW

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    Clifford Township, PA
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    1,994

    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    Is there any evidence that swarming (or what some here are calling a "trait" or "tendancy") can actually be bred out of the honey bee? Isn't swarming actually not a trait but a primary reproductive instinct that has been apis mellifera's sole means of colony reproduction for over twenty million years with the exception of perhaps the past hundred years or so? Even in Langstroth's day, catching swarming hives was the primary means of increase in an apiary. I've been reading in books and journals back into the 1800's, speculation by those that believe breeding a non-swarming bee would be desirable but haven't come across any research supporting the possibility.

    As I understand it, sick, weak or declining colonies are not apt to swarm. When a queen leaves with half the hive population, is it not typically when they are at peak strength, with a queen that was capable of, at least leading up to the swarm, producing sufficient eggs for an optimum amount of new brood? This does not sound like a poor or failing queen to me.

    Isn't a colony's usual method of dealing with aging, failing or poor laying queens supercedure rather than swarming?

    Larry Connor would argue that breeding a bee not to swarm is like breeding a dog not to bark and mucking around with this vital instinct could change the natural order of things for the bee. I agree. One may claim a line of bees they are keeping have the swarming "trait" reduced or eliminated but I would question how much of that result is merely better swarming prevention practices being employed by the beekeeper.

    From all I believe I understand of swarming, I would think that, unless the swarm was very small or very late in the season or in an AHB area, a swarm queen might make an excellent subject to try in a breeding program.

    Wayne

  13. #13
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    Feb 2010
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    East S.F. Bay, California, USA
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    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    Good discussion, but I have a different question:

    MastoDon, you got swarms in the middle of winter?

  14. #14
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    Sep 2010
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    Auburn, Washington, USA
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    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    The only statement I would like to question is that swarming queen is old. I do not think that you can predict queen's age by her swarming behavior. Swarming is caused by the nest overfilled with nectar, not by the age of the queen. If the colony is really successfull you will also get afterswarms with virgin queens. They definitely are not old.

    So even if the queen is old in the swarm, obviously she is healthy enough to breed a population that outfills its nest cavity with nectar. That implies good work ethic and volume of bees. Any hive will swarm when the honey reserves begin to interfere with queen's laying space. Punishing a gentle queen for successfully achieving that is a strategy worth reconsidering.

  15. #15
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    Bristol,MA,USA
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    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    Wayne. Something major is being left out of this discussion. The swarming tendency of the Old World Carniolans. Sue Coby's work revolutionized (IMHO) that particular strain of bee. Before her work, I had intentionally used (in the '70's) the Carniolans (Old World Carniolans?) that predate her work, to increase the number of my hives very rapidly to develop a small pollination business. It worked, better than I could have ever imagined. Carniolan hives had the reputation at that time, of swarming much more frequently than the other races and they really did! It was a tendency that was very difficult to control. She saw the need and the ultimate benefits in developing a terrific bee strain. Her New World Carniolans differ dramatically from what the Carniolans used to be - concerning their original swarming tendencies. Have no knowledge of the current "Old World Carniolan" that is presently being sold,.... OMTCW

  16. #16
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    Dec 2005
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    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    Quote Originally Posted by frazzledfozzle View Post
    I would say she has moved from being an over wintered queen to a swarm queen as soon as she swarms,
    .... swarm queens you are holding onto it could be that you are promoting a swarming tendancy in your bees.

    frazz

    frazz
    Okay, we are arguing past each other, so I'm going to concede the argument.
    Mark Berninghausen #youmatter

  17. #17
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    Dec 2005
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    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cedar Hill View Post
    Bees can inherit and even develop a "swarming tendency". The more the swarm queens are used the more this tendency seems to be inherited and increased.
    Have you ever really seen this? How does it expresas itself? Or the opposite? Aren't all colonies of bee apt to swarm, have the tendency?

    I understand, basically, the heritible trait idea, but have you seen it expressed?
    Mark Berninghausen #youmatter

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    haworth, oklahoma
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    86

    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    started beekeeping again last year. we have two hives that we are going to use for queenrearing. we obtained them from the wild. they had been at their respective locations for 7+ years. our thinking is that they survived this long w/ no meds, they must be doing something right.

  19. #19
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    Jul 2008
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    OKC, OK USA
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    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    First, swarming is the bee's act of procreation and I strongly doubt anyone can "breed" that out of them. Second, the presence of a queen in a swarm has little to do with her age, I have had month old hives swarm....old queen, I think not. I will hive a swarm and then evaluate them for a bit, if they fail to build up then i will combine or re-queen, if they look good, I let them do their thing!
    Mike Forbes
    Red Dirt Apiaries

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
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    Los Gatos, California
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    29

    Default Re: Always requeen a captured swarm?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pink Cow View Post
    Good discussion, but I have a different question:

    MastoDon, you got swarms in the middle of winter?
    Yes. Although there have been a few cold weeks here in the SF Bay Area, this "winter" has been one of our usual ho-hum affairs. At least one jealous beek from the eastern part of the country remarked that "there's no such thing as winter in California."
    Based upon picking up a swarm in late November and again in early February, I'd have to agree. We don't have weather here. We have climate.
    Learning to swim was pretty easy. The hard part was getting out of that burlap sack.

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