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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
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    Pittsburgh, PA
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    Default Avoiding a swarm (or at least giving it my best shot).

    I’m a third year beekeeper. Last year I had a hive really get big on me and throw off two or three swarms. This year, I had one hive (different one) come out of winter pretty strong and again – build up and large quickly. Two weeks ago, I decided to do a “walk away” split – and on Saturday, I opened the hive up to do just that.

    I noticed that there were bees on the front of the hive – many, though not what I’d call swarm many. It wasn’t warm enough for ‘bearding’ and the only hive in the apiary that had this going on, so I figured they were prepping to swarm, and as I made my way through the hive (looking to make sure I was taking equal amounts of brood and resources for each hive), I cut out about 10 or 12 queen cells. I’m fairly certain I got all of them and that there were none that opened – all closed – but they looked “complete” and very close to hatching.

    Let’s assume for argument’s sake that I got there before the swarm (of this I’m confident – many bees were there, and last year’s swarms were all in my apiary and easy to find) and that I also cut out all the queen cells. I know that this is not enough to alter things if that impulse has genuinely started. But would the split?

    I did insert a few empty frames (foundation) – but I didn’t have drawn foundation from a prior year to give in order to open the brood nest. I did use a few undrawn new frames. In the end, I split the large into two hives- each with 3 medium boxes – each with plenty of stores of honey, pollen and bees.

    This was Saturday. The next day, Sunday, I went out and put a mated queen in each hive – knowing that one wouldn’t live but I had no time to find the queen or determine which hive had/hadn’t the queen – before I'm judged, quick explanation here: I have such little time that though this was an obvious waste of a good queen (to the hive that would kill her because the original queen was there) – it was the easiest way for me to make sure that the hive without the queen got one. On this note – I know that I could have put queen cell(s) in it and let them raise their own, I chose to get a mated queen.

    So today – Monday – I went out after work for the sole purpose of catching the swarm that may still happen. Here’s a link to the pic:

    <a href="http://s1302.photobucket.com/user/closetbeekeeper/media/swarmprep_zps3db52055.jpg.html" rel="nofollow" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1302.photobucket.com/albums/ag129/closetbeekeeper/swarmprep_zps3db52055.jpg" border="0" alt=" photo swarmprep_zps3db52055.jpg"/></a>

    or try this one:

    http://s1302.photobucket.com/user/cl...52055.jpg.html

    Again, many bees on the outside of the original hive. So my question is this (finally): that I know of, I’ve done a successful split of the hive. The original hive has original queen and no queen cells – plenty of brood and stores. ½ the bees. It’s smaller (had 6 boxes, now 3). If all of this is true, would the swarm impulse have been likely dampened with my actions – and if so, would the bees still take a few days for that impulse to dissipate? So ok – they’re still gathering on the outside of the hive and clustering a bit – but they’ll slowly retreat and not swarm? Or is it most likely that this horse has left the barn and these bees are still going to go? I’m interested in others’ experience in terms of avoiding swarms with splits even once a swarm has been likely and signs were in that direction. If my split was successful, would these signs of swarming go away immediately or would it take a few days for things to settle down and go back to normal (meaning not swarm). From what I can see – these puppies are about to jump.

    Any experiences appreciated. For the record, the other hive – created from the split – looked very good today. A lot of in/out activity – bringing in pollen – I’m hoping the mated queen will be accepted and it will do well.

    I guess I could also go through that hive with the bees on the outside – find the queen and pinch her – but I’ll tell you that it was no easy task working with that hive with the bees clustering on the front of it – smoke or no smoke – and I wouldn’t look forward to that inspection. I guess it’s understandable they’re a little twitchy if they’re in swarm mode – any experiences with working a hive about to swarm?

    Thank you – still learning!

    Jim

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
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    1,241

    Default Re: Avoiding a swarm (or at least giving it my best shot).

    Don't think you will get any assurance that niether half of your equal divide will not swarm. I think you successfully thwarted supersedure in process. Giving each a queen was a good move. If you don't get any more responses on this thread, be prepared to tell me how much capped honey you had at the top of the 6 medium stack. And whether or not all the queen cells were on or in the same box.

    Walt

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
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    Pittsburgh, PA
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    Default Re: Avoiding a swarm (or at least giving it my best shot).

    Walt: Thanks for the reply.

    On the queen cells - they were spread out over the boxes - the queen kind of chimney'd up as opposed to going wide in any box. So maybe there were 12-18 cells - all capped - on six or seven frames. Some with one - others with three or four. All at the bottom bar.

    In terms of capped honey - that I recall, most was uncapped - but there were stores. I remember capped honey more existing throughout - two or three frames in a box maybe on average. Not sure what that tells you.

    I figure - I go out after work each day this week and watch for a swarm; and I've got the equipment to hive it in case it happens.

    Thanks again -

    Jim

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Bertie County,NC
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    Default Re: Avoiding a swarm (or at least giving it my best shot).

    The following is my opinion of what you may have done...mind you this is just an opinion from one picture and a detailed description of the work you have done:

    1. When you found all of the capped queen cells, the queen and some of the bees were already gone (swarmed). from my experience they swarm the day they capped the first queen cell.
    2. When you took all of the queen cells, you now left them queenless, and it depends on how many days since the swarm, they would have been hopelessly queenless if you had not given them a new boss-lady.
    3. when you spilt them, you reduced the number of bees by about half, BUT you also reduced their space by about half because you took off about half the boxes....so they would be still crowded.
    4. I assume the picture of the box with all the bees out front is in the original location? If that is the case... one big reason for all the bees out front is that they now have half the space, and all the foragers have probably returned to the original location...so now they are super crowded.

    solution:

    let the new split keep growing...sounds like they are doing fine.
    Give the old location all of their boxes back and that will give them more space so they are not overcrowded....which I assume was you original goal right?

    Again....I could be way off, but that's how it all appears to me.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    3,593

    Default Re: Avoiding a swarm (or at least giving it my best shot).

    I'm not going to claim that this will keep a hive from swarming, but if you put a box of new plastic foundation on the bottom of the stack those bees will usually move inside. If there is a flow on they will draw some wax too. If you do it with wax foundation they are apt to just chew it up.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    Coatesville, Pa, USA
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    797

    Default Re: Avoiding a swarm (or at least giving it my best shot).

    If I read the original post accurately you couldn't find the original queen right? It may be that she was already slimming down for swarming or she could have gone already. I have one type of bee in my yards that I have a very difficult time finding the queens. They look almost exactly like the worker bees (and I don't mark them either) just longer. Other types that I have I can spot her right away. So assuming that she hasn't swarmed already you need to find her and move her. From what I've read that's the only way to "surpress" the urge to swarm. You in essence create a mok swarm in that you have taken the queen and some of the bees yourself from this hive. Apart from that (I know from experience) unless you take the original queen if the urge to swarm is there then they will!!! I lost my best hive due to a swarm and an unsuccessful attempt at requeening themselves. The queen either never got mated, or was injured or something and now that hive is no more.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Avoiding a swarm (or at least giving it my best shot).

    capped swarm cell and can't find the queen = swarmed already

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Avoiding a swarm (or at least giving it my best shot).

    If we could kill that crap about cell location being an indication of colony intent, we would all be better informed. Supersedure cells are normally on the bottom of frames in the overwintered colony when multiple boxes are used. Cells on the comb face, wherever, is normal for developing first-year colonies that only have one box of comb to work with.

    I would be surprised if the colony, as you found them, had any intent to swarm. Several things in your description point to supersedure:

    All Q cells capped. Supersedure cells are normally about the same age. Whereas, swarm cells have an age range from egg to capped. Once capped, we lose sight of relative age, but you did not report any in the larval stage.

    In your original post, the cell count was 10/12, revised upscale later. While 11 is higher than my rule of thumb 6, max for supersedure, it still too low for a swarm cell count of 20 or more for a strong colony. My rule of thumb 6 is PER LEVEL OR PER BOX. That's why we asked about boxes. On a similar situation to yours, we have seen about 20 cells (not counted) where the colony stove piped up through several shallow supers with a max of 6 cells per box. The cells were on the BOTTOM of frames at each level. Supersedure. Note also that those later larval cells, in the swarm prep scenerio are all on the same level and generally can be into the center of the broodnest.

    Joe is correct about the possibility of an overcrowded swarm. Those can and do happen after the reproductive swarm season is past.

    Walt

  9. #9
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    Feb 2011
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    Pittsburgh, PA
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    Default Re: Avoiding a swarm (or at least giving it my best shot).

    Everyone:

    To say I appreciate your thoughts is an understatement! Many thanks. I've been back out and added another box to the "original" hive - on the right - and I'll keep an eye on them, but this has been very helpful.

    Jim

  10. #10
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    Jul 2012
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    Bertie County,NC
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    Default Re: Avoiding a swarm (or at least giving it my best shot).

    wcubed

    I just had a swarm from a hive Monday. Checked the hive and had 6 queen cells total ( two boxes). All on the bottom of the frames.

    Jamesjr

    Sounds like you have everything under control now....the new queen should fix it...My only concern is you still went from 6 boxes down to 4...and most of your foragers returned to the original hive....I kinda think I would give them the fifth box back also...they will be building fast anyways.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Avoiding a swarm (or at least giving it my best shot).

    Joe,
    Unusual is not unusual. I speak in terms of norms. Genetic diversity is a norm. Some colonies stray way outside the norms. Never say never or always.
    Walt

  12. #12
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    Bertie County,NC
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    Default Re: Avoiding a swarm (or at least giving it my best shot).

    Quote Originally Posted by wcubed View Post
    Joe,
    Unusual is not unusual. I speak in terms of norms. Genetic diversity is a norm. Some colonies stray way outside the norms. Never say never or always.
    Walt
    EXACTLY!

    your previous post "If we could kill that crap about cell location being an indication of colony intent, we would all be better informed"

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