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Thread: Swarm Troubles

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    Brainerd, MN
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    538

    Default Swarm Troubles

    So last year was my first year and I started out with two nucs. One I chopped and cropped into a TBH. The other I worked down into a Warre. The TBH swarmed this time last year. I suspect what happened was that our heavy June flow back filled their brood nest and caused them to swarm. My Warre chugged along and filled about 3 boxes. As far as I know it didn't swarm.

    Now this spring my TBH swarmed again in early spring despite me giving it plenty of empty bars. Bummer. I also started 4 additional hives. 2 Lang and 2 Warre all from nucs. One of the Lang nucs took off and has 2 deeps and 1 medium filled. The other has a deep filled and is working on a medium. It's lagging a little behind the other. One of my Warres got mauled by a bear, but seems to be coming through ok. The other swarmed...arg. I suspect the issue with that hive was my mistake. In early June I checked on them and they had completely filled a box. So I had two empty combs that I put in a supered box above and left an empty box below. Well they filled the supered box and didn't touch the nadired box. So I should have put a comb above and below. It's at an out apiary that I couldn't get to until the end of June. So they swarmed instead of move down.

    So I would like to break down each swarm to see what can be gotten out of each situation and maybe find something that I can do differently.

    First off lets start with the TBH. Maybe it's a design flaw and the thing will swarm each spring. This spring I added 4 empty bars between the brood nest and the end entrance. Thinking that they would expand the brood nest with those 4 bars. Then once the dandelions started really blooming I added a couple of empty bars into the brood nest. By the time I went back in to see if they needed more bars I found dozens of queen cups. So it was at that time that I split them. So I didn't lose any bees in this situation. My strategy for next year is to be more aggressive with the bees and adding empty bars. I plan on adding 6-8 empties at the front. Once I see that comb building is starting I will add more empties in the brood nest itself. Hopefully this will be enough to keep them from swarming.

    The other swarm is the swarm from my new Warre. Again this was at an out apiary. If I had checked in on them even just 3 times in June instead of two they probably would not have swarmed. If I originally had put an empty comb in the empty box above and below they would be in three boxes and working on the fourth. So my mistake...live and learn.

    What I don't understand is that today I found that one of my Langs swarmed. This was started from a nuc in very early May. They quickly filled out the first deep and then even quicker filled the second. I then put on a medium super. I am running foundationless (and 8 frame) so I put a medium seed comb in the medium. Most of the comb in this medium has been drawn out. I would say the box as a whole is about 1/2 filled with honey and about 2/3rds filled with comb. So they still had space to expand. Today I opened up the entire hive. I found that the top deep is mostly honey with two frames of capped brood, two of spotty drone/honey, and the rest honey. I also saw a ton of capped brood and no eggs in the bottom deep. There seemed to be less bees than there has been in the past and a fair number of drones. Then I saw queen cells...great. So at first I just thought that no matter what I will just always fail at preventing bees from swarming.

    But then I started to think about it. My TBH last year swarmed and I think it swarmed for the same reason. They simply did not have enough comb to place all of the nectar. We have a fairly intense flow in June. So they filled every inch of space they had available to them and took off as they had likely decided that their hive was setup nicely. Is there any merit to this? Is there any way of preventing this? Other than waiting until I have enough drawn comb sitting around? I could probably understand if somebody told me that the TBH swarms because that's what TBHs do, but my Lang swarmed while still having space to draw comb. So there must be a deeper reason for this. I know that some of the swarms are my mistakes, but just looking for maybe a little insight. If I can prevent something in the future I'd like to.
    Not Michael Bush. My name is Dan. Sorry for the confusion.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,539

    Default Re: Swarm Troubles

    It is very hard to manage a top bar hive to prevent swarming since you are limited to changing the horizontal arrangment of filled bars. You would need to add empty drawn comb into the brood nest to open it up, I suppose, and you cannot manage the vertical arrangement at all.

    You might need to split every spring, but I suspect there is a limit to that, too -- geometric increase in hive numbers will become unmangable soon!

    I think this is why Langstroth hives are so much the standard -- they are the easiest to manage, especially if you use a single size box.

    Peter

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Brainerd, MN
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    538

    Default Re: Swarm Troubles

    If you read my post I talk about TBHs, Langs, and Warres swarming. My biggest concern was why my Lang just swarmed, but ya I do get it when it comes to my TBH swarming. I have a 4ft, 3ft, and 2 ft nuc. I don't plan on building anymore TBH equipment and they are all currently full. If I split any of my TBHs any further I will have to get creative about getting them into a Lang or Warre.
    Not Michael Bush. My name is Dan. Sorry for the confusion.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
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    2,539

    Default Re: Swarm Troubles

    Are you in the middle of your main flow? If so, the lack of drawn comb above the brood nest might be your problem with the Lang. By the time you put a super on they were already low on space and had a nice full deep of honey, so off they went.

    No way to fix that this year, but I'd put another super on and hope for the best if you have not done so. Empty drawn comb is great stuff, the bees will stuff that full instead of swarming. Undrawn foundation means nothing to them, it's quite possible they would have swarmed no matter what unless you had drawn comb to give them.

    Peter

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Brainerd, MN
    Posts
    538

    Default Re: Swarm Troubles

    We are actually at the end of the main flow. As I said in the op, I suspect that the issue is available comb. It just stinks that my strong first year hives appear to swarm no matter what I do just because they couldn't make comb fast enough.

    Right now they have comb on 2/3 rds of the comb but not all are completely drawn. I am hesitant to put another super on as they just lost a lot of bees. I will probably just let them finish their medium. In Minnesota is one deep with honey plus two frames in the lower enough to winter? If it is I could even harvest this year.

    I suspect that you are right that they probably would have swarmed even if I gave them an empty super. They were binging in nectar faster than they were building comb. The result is a back filled brood nest and a swarm out the front door
    Not Michael Bush. My name is Dan. Sorry for the confusion.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    2,974

    Default Re: Swarm Troubles

    Gotta keep that brood nest open. It may be difficult at times, but can't let them cap 4-6 frames of honey in the brood box and get honey bound. Were you doing weekly inspections at all? I know it's hard because you want a medium super, but I added a 3rd deep to mine just so I could pull fully capped honey frames up and open up the brood nest. Honey out, foundation in, give them something to do and as soon as the frames were drawn, they were filled with eggs.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Sherburne, MN, USA
    Posts
    58

    Default Re: Swarm Troubles

    For Minnesota, it depends on what kind of bees you have. Italians consume more honey than the others, and I think Russians consume the least. I'm not completely sure, though. I don't think that one deep and two frames are enough. You need between 60-100 lbs for them to overwinter well. I would say you could extract some anyway, we'll still get another flow towards the fall.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Brainerd, MN
    Posts
    538

    Default Re: Swarm Troubles

    Well not full inspections. Mostly just the honey storage and some of the top brood chamber.

    Again I am using foundationless frames and have not wired my frames. I probably could extract a foundationless deep if it were connected properly to all four sides of the frame and had some age.

    I was planning on using all mediums but somebody gave me a ton of eight frame deeps. So the end product was some of each. So maybe the answer is some all deep and some all medium? Then again I wouldnt be able to transfer from one hive to the next. So for now I guess I will just have to keep moving.

    At this point most of my hives will be mutts, but would have started as carniolans. According to Michael bush's website an eight frame deep will weigh between 64-72 lbs. So if I leave these bees with two deeps and a medium they should be good to go or would that be a bit much?
    Not Michael Bush. My name is Dan. Sorry for the confusion.

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