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  1. #1
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    Default Factors contributing to Swarms and Swarm Prevention

    I've been thinking over the last few days that in order to compare the various swarm prevention methods, especially Checkerboarding and Opening the Brood Nest, I think it's worth making a list of the general stages (not considering the age of the hive) and factors in spring buildup that contribute to Reproduction Swarms.

    This is what I believe happens as concisely as possible. If I have things out of place or just plain wrong let me know.

    • A couple of inches of capped honey around the outside of the brood nest is seen as the boundary of the colony.
    • Space is created in the brood nest by consumption of honey during winter, aiding in heating, and then during spring build up, generally moving upwards.
    • Due to lower temperatures, clustering continues, especially at night and so nectar is preferred to be stored in the brood nest.
    • Large amounts of pollen are available in early spring and this is stored in the brood nest to raise increasing amounts of brood. This is determined by cluster size.
    • Brood are often raised in batches during spring buildup due to limited space. Brood population can almost double with each batch. As the brood nest expands, gradually all stages of brood are present.
    • Wax making capabilities are very limited in late winter and early spring due to temperatures being too low and limited incoming nectar. So extension of comb is limited.
    • Expanding areas of brood, and storage of nectar and pollen in the brood nest by foragers puts pressure on the available space in the brood nest.
    • During a spring flow, empty cells are quickly filled by the foragers with nectar, before the Queen finds them.
    • Empty cells become less and less very quickly as they are filled with nectar. Quickly reducing the amount of open brood.
    • The Queen starts loosing weight due to laying less and less eggs.
    • With a large amount of young Nurse Bees, any very young brood start getting a lot of attention and large amounts of Royal Jelly is available to get deposited into these cells, making ideal conditions for Queen Cell building.
    • Once the brood nest is backfilled with nectar, and there is a large number of unemployed Nurse Bees, then queen cells are built.
    • Due to little space to store nectar, Nurse Bees are also full of nectar. This aids in preparing for wax production. (It is held on to as long as possible, in preparation for a swarm.)
    • The Nurse Bees are now ready to swarm as soon as weather permits.
    • Scouts start searching for a new hive location.
    • When ready to leave, a signal is sounded and bees (especially Nurse Bees) start flowing out of the hive, chasing the Queen out as they go to get her to leave with them.



    Contributing factors to Swarming
    So when looking at the stages in spring buildup it seems that the main issues in causing swarm conditions are backfilling of the brood nest with nectar, which then causes there to be large numbers of unoccupied Nurse Bees. Once there is a large number of unoccupied Nurse Bees, opening the brood nest may not be enough to prevent a swarm.

    Checkerboarding attempts to get the foragers to store nectar above the brood nest rather than in it, by providing empty comb above the brood nest. Ideally this is done before nectar sources becomes plentiful. It becomes clear that this leaves the brood nest free from congestion and allows for maximum population. All stages of brood continue throughout the spring buildup. Ensuring there is enough open brood to keep large numbers of Nurse Bees occupied. The issue with Checkerboarding for those new to beekeeping is lack of drawn comb.

    Opening the Brood Nest does not stop backfilling of the brood nest with nectar. Rather it tries to maintain enough space in the brood nest to allow for backfilling, while maintaining enough space for the queen to lay and to ensure that there is always open brood to keep Nurse Bees occupied. Placing empty frames or foundation in the brood nest encourages wax builders earlier in the season, but wax making uses extra nectar and likely requires higher temperatures in wax making areas, again using more nectar.

    Conclusion
    So based on that, it seems that deterring foragers from storing nectar in the brood nest in the first place looks like the best way to prevent swarms, produce a higher population and to yield a larger honey crop.


    Thanks to Walt Wright and Michael Bush and to everyone else who contributed to the Checkerboarding verses Opening the Broodnest thread with helped in developing this. I certainly learnt much from it.

    Hope people find this useful.
    Matthew Davey
    Last edited by MattDavey; 04-04-2012 at 08:41 AM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Factors contributing to Swarms and Swarm Prevention

    Good job. There is one fine point that I wish to discuss:

    Opening the Brood Nest does not stop backfilling of the brood nest with nectar. Rather it tries to maintain enough space in the brood nest to allow for backfilling, while maintaining enough space for the queen to lay and to ensure that there is always open brood to keep Nurse Bees occupied.

    I can agree with the first half, that it can not stop backfilling, but there may be an effect that you have not considered. When the capped frame of brood is removed from the brood chamber, and placed above the excluder; and a drawn empty frame replaces it, the effects of the bees hatching in an area NOT the brood chamber has not been examined in your analysis. Could you rethink your scenario with half of the new bees hatching above the excluder, and using their own entrance?

    Crazy Roland

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Factors contributing to Swarms and Swarm Prevention

    Just signing in to keep up.
    Walt

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Factors contributing to Swarms and Swarm Prevention

    Great post.

    Matt great I deat to have a summary post about a topic. Sounds like a great idea for the forum.
    Rmns 1:16/Prv.3:5,6/ Beegan BK May 09/ Zone 5b
    I have NOT failed. I have only found many many ways that do not work!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Factors contributing to Swarms and Swarm Prevention

    Roland, there are two separate things to consider in your question. 1. Moving capped brood out of the brood nest and 2. An entrance above the excluder.

    1. I believe you have had experience with this, I haven't. So i'm speculating. IF the emerging Nurse Bees just stayed above the excluder, then you don't want to move too much of the capped brood away from the open brood and from where the queen is laying, as the emerging Nurse Bees are needed to tend to open brood. I don't know how long recently emerged Nurse Bees are likely to stay on the frame they emerge from.

    So Nurse Bees are likely to stay until most brood have emerged. But I suspect they will be attracted down below the excluder to any open brood as well (maybe by the smell of royal jelly). Once all brood in the frame have emerged and there is a cold night I suspect they will be drawn down below the excluder to cluster around the open brood to keep warm with the rest of the colony. The point is, as long as there is reasonable areas of open brood, there will be Nurse Bees there, and they will be occupied. The extra room in the brood nest allows for more eggs to be laid by the queen, so more population. But if the main entrance is below the nest, backfilling will continue.

    2. Placing the MAIN entrance directly above the excluder changes things, but it's got nothing to do with the Nurse Bees. (This is based on what I have read by Jerry Hayes in Point of View and several posts by Joseph Clemens and a few others using this method.) The excluder is an obstacle to foragers. So foragers wanting to get in and out as quickly as possible store nectar in the super above the excluder rather than going through the excluder. The open brood below the excluder is not neglected, but a point to note is that the brood nest is NOT backfilled with nectar. Only enough nectar is stored in the brood nest to raise brood and to feed the colony when clustering. This is something I will be experimenting with next season (as it's Autum/Fall here.)

    Matthew Davey

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Factors contributing to Swarms and Swarm Prevention

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    I think the queen looses weight because the tenders stop feeding her.
    Acebird, considering at this stage of the season there is probably more nectar and pollen coming in than nearly any other time of the year. Why would the tenders stop feeding the queen?

    I think it's more likely that the fact that she is laying less and less eggs is the reason that she losses weight. Her ovaries start to shrink as less eggs are needed to be ripened in the ovaries. The good old saying "Use it or loose it" applies.

    To approach it from the other angle. A newly mated queen is quite slim and it is only once she starts laying eggs that her abdomen increases in size. The more she lays, the more the ovaries enlarge due to the increasing number of eggs needed to be ripened in her ovaries.

    Those who would be able to confirm whether or not this is the case would be Queen Breeders who cage mated queens in a queen bank.

    Matthew Davey

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Factors contributing to Swarms and Swarm Prevention

    Matt, I have a years experience with Roland's method. When you raise the brood above the excluder it is tended by nurse bees, there is no real distance for those bees to travel - the raised frame(s) are directly above the excluder and the manipulation is done when weather and bee populations are favorable. It is not a one shot deal, every 12-14 days the frame(s) are exchanged with frames below the excluder thus providing the queen a place to lay without having to resort to a double deep just for brood. Workers pass freely through the excluder and the population above the excluder grows and works in the supers.
    With this method there are fewer frames to inspect for queen cells, just tip the bottom box. The majority of the honey you want to harvest is in the supers and not in the brood nest. Try it with a couple of hives for a season.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Factors contributing to Swarms and Swarm Prevention

    Quote Originally Posted by MattDavey View Post
    Why would the tenders stop feeding the queen?

    ... The good old saying "Use it or loose it" applies.
    The tenders stop feeding the queen to slim her down for flight so they can swarm.

    If the queen looses it, how does she start up again? The swarm would be doomed.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Factors contributing to Swarms and Swarm Prevention

    Quote Originally Posted by wcubed View Post
    Just signing in to keep up.
    Me, too.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Factors contributing to Swarms and Swarm Prevention

    Note that in the case of preventing swarming (a sort of cut-down split), the original hive will produce more honey.

    You can also remove the queen, an few frames of capped brood, and two frames of stores to a nuc with a frame of foundation. Leave the old hive in place. The foragers will stuff it full of nectar since there will soon be a shoratge of brood to feed (a month with no new brood while they raise a new queen). Should get you a larger honey crop if you do this on a good flow, a brood break to reduce mite loading, and a second hive that will build up fast since you have a laying queen in it. Move the new hive to a standard box when there is brood in the new foundation and a second round in the frames that were capped brood initially (a few weeks?). Might even work in a full sized hive if you add extra bees.

    Done early on the spring flow you should have two full sized hives by summer's end, plus a nice honey crop and reduced swarming.

    Peter

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Factors contributing to Swarms and Swarm Prevention

    Quote Originally Posted by Roland View Post
    ... When the capped frame of brood is removed from the brood chamber, and placed above the excluder; and a drawn empty frame replaces it, the effects of the bees hatching in an area NOT the brood chamber has not been examined in your analysis. Could you rethink your scenario with half of the new bees hatching above the excluder, and using their own entrance?

    Crazy Roland

    Roland/Adrian, when a frame of mainly capped brood is placed above the excluder and has some eggs or young larvae on it, do the bees start making queen cells? Can you say how often this happens? Have you deliberately done this to see if queen cells are built?

    Thanks
    Matthew Davey

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Factors contributing to Swarms and Swarm Prevention

    do the bees start making queen cells?

    Rarely, but it does happen.

    Have you deliberately done this to see if queen cells are built?

    Please restate this question. It does not make sense. We move brood up to give the queen room. Over 90 percent of the hives have this done. I am confused. Are you asking about the effects of putting the young brood in the second or third super?

    Crazy Roland

    P.S. I do not frequent this forum, I am here because this thread was moved here(I believe). If I do not respond, PM me.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Factors contributing to Swarms and Swarm Prevention

    Thanks Roland, the question is around placing eggs or young larve above the queen excluder.

    Questions are:

    1. Considering the hive is used to having a queen excluder on it, if there are eggs or young larvae on frames placed above the queen excluder, how likely are the bees to build queen cells? (As this would indicate not enough queen pheromone is getting to those nurse bees.) In another thread Micahel Palmer indicated about 20% of the time (but I'm not sure if the bees were used to going through a queen excluder.) Would you agree?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    ... I have made thousands of splits using the excluder and placing brood over it for one night. Also have a re-queening method that employs same method. I just don't see queen cells the next day, and queen acceptance is always exceptional.

    Now if you leave the brood up there long enough...I use this method...Brother Adam method...to set up cell builders. 10 days before grafting, a box of brood is placed above an excluder above a strong colony. 9 days later..the day before the graft.. I check the entire colony for rogue queen cells. In 20% or so of cases, there will be emergency cells above the excluder.

    2. Do you deliberately place frames of eggs or young larvae above a queen excluder for the purpose of raising new queens?


    3. Why do you move the frames of brood so often? Is it because there could be queen cells, or is it more about the brood cycle?


    4. If you used two deeps below the excluder would you have to move the brood frames up so often?


    Thanks
    Matthew Davey

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Factors contributing to Swarms and Swarm Prevention

    Here is Roland's response: (Thanks Roland, hope you don't mind me posting it.)


    Quote Originally Posted by Roland

    1. How likely are the bees to build queen cells?

    In the first deep over one deep brood, very seldom(1 percent?).


    2. Do you deliberately place frames of eggs or young larvae above a queen excluder for the purpose of raising new queens?

    No


    3. Why do you move the frames of brood so often? Is it because there could be queen cells, or is it more about the brood cycle?

    None of the above. To make sure the queen does not have to wander about looking for an open cell, therefore she can lay more.


    4. If you used two deeps below the excluder would you have to move the brood frames up so often?

    Don't know, don't care to find out. More room for feed to hide, twice the frame to inspect.


    Crazy Roland

    Matthew Davey

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