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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Enumclaw, WA, USA
    Posts
    12

    Default I need help with these swarms!

    First off let me state that I live in Washington State, and the general rule around here is that the rain doesn't stop and summer doesn't begin until after July 4th. Yesterday, my hive, which is a first year package swarmed three times. I was able to catch one swarm, but I don't have any more equipment to catch more swarms with. I thought everything was going great with this hive until about two weeks ago when I noticed my queen being balled in the backyard in come clover. That prompted me to get in the hive and see what was going on and I found one supercedure cell, so I left it be and figured the girls will take care of business. This queen they balled had plenty of brood too so there must have been something they didn't like about her. Yesterday, this same hive swarmed three times, with more on the way I'm assuming. When I got into the hive to see what was going on, I found at least 10 swarm cells. I stopped counting after that . There was capped brood, but no eggs and I couldn't see a queen anywhere. Why would this hive continue to swarm, taking new queens with them, but not keep one for themselves. I suppose it's possible that she was in there and I just missed her. I've read on these forums that pulling out the queen cells doesn't help and they'll still swarm anyways. What am I supposed to do? Do I let this hive continue to swarm until I have no bees left? This happened to me last year as well with my first year of package bees. They never built up enough and survived, so I had to buy package bees again this year. I thought everything was good until yesterday. It's frustrating because I really want to keep bees (my grandfather did, and I've always had fond memories of it) but the way this has gone the past couple of years, my wife is starting to look at me funny with all the money I spend on this only to have this keep happening. Help me Jedi beekeepers, you're my only hope........

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    McDonough, NY United States
    Posts
    244

    Default Re: I need help with these swarms!

    What type of equipment are you using? 8 or 10 frame? Deep or medium brood boxes? Sounds like you haven't been giving them enough room to expand. How often do you check the hives through the spring and summer?

    If they are prone to swarming I would try to keep well ahead of them. Add a new box as soon as they have like 7 out of 10 frames drawn. If you're using drawn comb then once they get 6-7 out of 10 filled I would add a box.

    Aim for 2 Deep brood boxes and once they fill that keep stacking on supers. If you want to split, then I would be tempted to fill 3 deep brood boxes and have a very solid split from that.

    I assume you want to stick with 1 hive? Maybe you could find a local bee keeper that would pick up your swarms or take splits from you if you only want to keep 1.

    Sounds like you have some VERY active bees, and it may take some work to keep up with them.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Enumclaw, WA, USA
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: I need help with these swarms!

    They have two deeps with three supers on top of that. I put the supers on in anticipation of our blackberry flow starting out here. They haven't really started filling up the supers yet but part of that may be because they are plastic. I sprayed them with sugar syrup to entice them to start drawing comb on the plastic, but so far no luck. I use 10 frames per deep. What the heck do I do with all the swarm cells remaining? Cut them out after I see eggs from a queen? Or do I just let them swarm out until no one's left?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    McDonough, NY United States
    Posts
    244

    Default Re: I need help with these swarms!

    I would think that cutting out the swarm cells should at least slow them down.. Even if it only buys you a few days each time you do it, you will have more time to find a solution. But if they want to swarm, I think it is inevitable.

    If they don't like the plastic foundation then maybe try switching to another kind. If they don't see that as a viable place to expand, they may feel like they are trapped in 2 boxes without room for expansion. Did they fail to touch the supers in previous years as well? Is the plastic foundation wax coated or no?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Enumclaw, WA, USA
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: I need help with these swarms!

    They never made it far enough last year for me to worry about supers. Out of three supers I have on it right now, one is regular beeswax, the other two are plastic. They are at least hanging out in the super with beeswax, but not in the plastic supers. I can maybe try rubbing beeswax on the plastic ones and spray more syrup on them. I bought the plastic ones from a guy that was selling them for a buck each, so I don't know if they were coated or not. They smelled like beeswax anyway. One administrator on another forum page suggested leaving about three queen cells in the hive and then destroying the rest. Maybe I'll try that.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    McDonough, NY United States
    Posts
    244

    Default Re: I need help with these swarms!

    I am interested to hear the theory behind leaving 3 behind. It only takes one to swarm, so I would see it as an all-or-nothing sort of thing.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Enumclaw, WA, USA
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: I need help with these swarms!

    Maybe he said that because I haven't found an egg laying queen yet since the swarming started, hoping I don't increase my chances of being queenless. If a person was only interested in keeping one or two hives, and didn't feel like make a bunch of splits in the spring, is it an option to freeze one or two frames of brood per deep to keep swarming possibilites low? It sounds kinda counterproductive but it's just not an option for me to have a lot of hives due to my location.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Noxon, Mt.
    Posts
    41

    Default Re: I need help with these swarms!

    We live in Montana on the Idaho border. Not far from Mongo. Our two hives started swarming three days ago. We had an extra deep and captured one yesterday. Today there is another and we will have to capture in a nuc box until we can get to town for supplies. Ours too, had a super full of frames with foundation that they are not drawing. Lots of bloom in wildflowers and clover. The only difference is the heat of the lst three days.....summer has arrived.
    Any tips would be wonderful!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    McDonough, NY United States
    Posts
    244

    Default Re: I need help with these swarms!

    Maybe some more experienced people can comment here - but is there any chance your hive is swarming when the new Queen leaves on her mating flights? Then not returning because her whole colony is with her? Then at that point your hive would be queenless again, and create more queen cells. If possible, potentially a vicious cycle.

    I am reading about this as I type. And virgin queen swarms are definitely plausible, but usually associated with 'secondary swarms'.

    If you are queenless then it would make sense to let the cells go.


    It seems like you need to break the cycle somehow. I think at this point I would order a mated queen, pick only the best comb and rebuild your hive. Throw out all drone comb (I've heard lots of drone comb is associated with swarming - I've witnessed this in very old feral hives that have swarmed many many times over), and ditch all queen cells. Put all of your best comb, some brood, and all of your bees back in the hive with the mated queen.

    I'm really hoping someone with more experience can jump in with some more conclusive suggestions I'm getting stumped too at this point.

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