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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
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    Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia
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    Default Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    I'm sorry if I sound dumb by asking this, but has my hive just swarmed? If so is it normal for it to have happened during a nectar flow (9th day of summer today, the past week has been perfect. A little warm and quite dry, a bit overcast today).

    My wife had just finished telling her mother that she hadn't noticed any difference in the number of bees sicnce we'd had them (only about 3 months now), we looked outside and they were everywhere! Within 5 minutes however 95% of them had landed and you can see quite a few had gathered at the entrance.

    Should I be concerned, I checked a few weeks back and no sign of queen cells, added 2 supers & queen excluder to the brood box and they have been bringing nectar in, I am hopeful the middle super might be close to full this weekend. Have I done something wrong, is this normal behaviour, should I be doing more now (checking brood box thoroghly to make sure no swarm cells, I've been told I shouldn't have to worry about this now given there were none on last inspection 3 weeks ago and that a nectar flow had started).

    This is a little puzzling!

    DermottIMG_1370.JPGIMG_1369.JPGSwar

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
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    Crystal Water, Queensland, Australia
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    888

    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    "Within 5 minutes however 95% of them had landed" - did they only land at the entrance?
    The pics did not come through.
    It is swarming season. I personally would not add two supers at the same time. If they swarmed you will notice that a lot of honey and bees have gone - generally about 1/2 the population goes.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia
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    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    Sorry bout the pics, they are Jpegs maybe not compatable with your PC? They all seemed to cover the front of the hive including the entrance, some on the ground in front of the hive as well, guess ill find out tomorrow how many are there, hopefully most of them!

    Can I ask why you wouldn't add 2 supers? On a previous thread I was told it was a good idea to put 2 supers on to assist with air flow, helping the honey ripen quicker. I'm new at it, and happy to have your opinion on what's best, it's all a learning experience to me. Do you have any theories on why they would swarm given what I've said in the intro?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    San Francisco, CA
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    2,288

    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    Just throwing supers on top will not prevent swarming. You must keep the brood nest open.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesswarmcontrol.htm
    President, San Francisco Beekeepers Association
    www.habitatforhoneybees.org

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
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    Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia
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    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    So have i been misinformed about leaving the brood box alone once a nectar flow has started? I don't mind being told if I've done something wrong or neglected to do something, what does everyone do once a nectar flow starts, how often do you check your brood box?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
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    Crystal Water, Queensland, Australia
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    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    When I put a supper on I generally take a few frames of brood and move them above the queen excluder ( which I use) Make sure the queen is left behind ( below the excluder) .
    This has two positives: the bees are very willing to move up as they are attending to the brood and it will create space in the brood box. I'm not aware of any negatives.
    I wish I knew why bees swarm!
    Lack of space is one but some are difficult to stop whatever you do.
    About putting on two boxes at the ame time. If the hive is not extremly strong you may find that wax moth is not kept out ( and in our case SHB - I don't think you have them at this stage)
    Most of my hives are only a brood super and a honey super. In my climate I don't need to keep big stores as there is something to eat for the bees most of the time. And I find it easier to manage - getting older!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    4,040

    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    i'm a novice too, but i think swarming occurs mostly during strong nectar flows in the spring. as you are approaching your summer solstice there, it's probably prime time for swarms. three weeks is more than enough time for the bees to create a new queen. the excluder may have contributed to the brood chamber getting 'crowded'. your inspection will tell the story. if they all returned, maybe it was just an attempted swarm. do you have more equipment that you could split the colony into?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    3,587

    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    I don't know if your hive has swarmed or not. But new bee keepers often think that their hive is swarming when it is actually having an orientation flight - Lots of new bees coming out to fly around and get their bearings before going to work out in the world. Orientations can happen any (or every) day during the season - usually in the afternoon during good weather. If you watch closely you will see that orienting bees fly around the hive in ever widening circles before flying off - and all the excitement will be over in 15 minutes or so. It can put a lot of bees in the air.

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    good point david. dermottj, is it possible that your queen ended up above the excluder?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Jacksonville, Florida
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    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    You can open up the brood nest and look for queen cells. If you find several queen cells it will help you determine if the hive swarmed or maybe getting ready to swarm. I have added two supers of drawn comb many times and have not had any problems. But, if you are just adding supers of foundation it could cause some problems. A lot of times with foundation they will only draw out the middle part of the frames and move straight up. With foundation just add one box at a time.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    I like to do hive inspections every two weeks. The first thing I look for is swarm cells. They can be easy to miss so go slow and look at the bottoms of each frame. You can also tip the box forward and look under if you're in a hurry. I use just a light portion of smoke to clear the bees away. They like to crowd around queen cells and that's why I have missed some in the past. I then check the brood nest to make sure there is plenty of laying room for the queen. The link I posted earlier gives a good pattern of how the brood nest should be. It should be said that you can't stop swarming completely but this helps a great deal.
    President, San Francisco Beekeepers Association
    www.habitatforhoneybees.org

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia
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    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    Thanks for the last few posts, appreciate the advice given to date! I'm going to check today and will report back with my findings! If they havent swarmed, am I wise to move a couple of frames of brood above the excluder?

    I'm certain the queen isn't above the excluder at this stage,

    Thanks

  13. #13
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    May 2011
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    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    I don't use an excluder but you could. Anything to keep the brood nest open like Mr. Bush explaines as follows:

    In other words, you can do something like: BBEBBEBBEB where B is brood comb and E is an empty frame. How many you insert depends on how strong the cluster is. They have to fill all those gaps with bees. The gaps fill with the unemployed nurse bees who begin festooning and building comb. The queen will find the new comb and about the time they get about " deep, the queen will lay in them. You have now "opened up the brood nest". In one step you have occupied the bees that were preparing to swarm with wax production followed by nursing, you've expanded the brood nest, and you've given the queen a place to lay. If you don't have room to put the empty combs in, then add another brood box and move some brood combs up to that box to make the room to add some to the brood nest. In other words, then the top box would probably be something like EEEBBBEEEE and the bottom one BBEBBEBBEB.
    President, San Francisco Beekeepers Association
    www.habitatforhoneybees.org

  14. #14
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    Crystal Water, Queensland, Australia
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    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    "In other words, you can do something like: BBEBBEBBEB where B is brood comb and E " - and if they are so strong as to filling all the frames you give them, you may like to do a split!

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    Quote Originally Posted by max2 View Post
    "In other words, you can do something like: BBEBBEBBEB where B is brood comb and E " - and if they are so strong as to filling all the frames you give them, you may like to do a split!
    Exactly, and here's the best way IMO to do splits!

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beessplits.htm
    President, San Francisco Beekeepers Association
    www.habitatforhoneybees.org

  16. #16
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    Dec 2009
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    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    Dermottj - living further south then me is in the position that the hives are building up in summer when queens are available. My problem - in the subtropics - is that my hives often build up in winter and I can't get queens. My main swarming risk is in August and September, winter and early spring.

  17. #17
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    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    If you move open brood above an excluder or capped honey they usually start queen cells on it - try it, and check back in about 5 days.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    "If you move open brood above an excluder or capped honey they usually start queen cells on it - try it, and check back in about 5 days. "
    True, I have seen this. Obviously the queen can't acess it. I wonder what would happen if you moved them into the brood? Nothing?

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    You mean moved the queen cells back into the brood area? Probably your queen would be superceded. Same thing that would happen if you let it emerge above capped honey. There's a chance of course that the laying queen (or other bees) would kill the cell, but I wouldn't bet on it.

  20. #20
    dr.buzz Guest

    Default Re: Has my hive just swarmed or what?

    I wonder why nobody has mentioned checkerboarding above the brood nest? I know there are several ways of doing things, but Walt Wright's methods seem the best in many regards, depending on many factors, like your management style.
    Instead of the idea that crowding causes swarming, he says that it's the swarm prep itself that causes overcrowding. When they are prepping to swarm, they backfill with nectar, the broodnest becomes honeybound, the queen drastically slows (or stops) laying brood many weeks before the flow, etc...

    According to Mr. Wright, queen excluders prevent queens from expanding the broodnest, and besides, opening up the broodnest requires you to open everything up every week and to start doing that early enough to nip swarm prep in the bud, you risk a cold snap chilling brood, plus you are being very disruptive when you need to be leaving them alone. Plus the math seems to show that all of that needless labor and disruption to the brood boxes (of replacing frames of brood with empties) doesn't really slow them down enough to prevent swarms....

    I thought Mr. Wright was more popular and would have many folks suggesting his methods here, is this not the case for some reason?
    Last edited by dr.buzz; 12-09-2011 at 07:21 PM.

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