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  1. #1
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    Nov 2009
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    Default Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    Odfrank has posted in the past about how he has seen bees guarding and fighting over nesting sites - sometimes weeks in advance of swarming. His posts are the only thing I've read that suggested that behavior.

    However, after having and watching my own swarm traps for several seasons, I have to lend my own observations to the discussion.

    I have seen bees cleaning and defending nest sites (in this case swarm traps) well in advance of swarming. Last year, I had a steady stream of bees completely clean out an old brood comb for more than two weeks. There was a flow on, and there was nothing in the old combs. No honey or pollen, yet a steady stream of bees (sometimes 15-20 or more bees in the box at a time) for weeks, and clear guarding behavior as bees land at the entrance.

    I had heard that scouts locate new nest sites after a swarm has issued, and sits in a cluster. But these observations suggest that bees investigate and even compete for suitable nesting sites well in advance of swarming.

    Have you noticed this at your swarm traps?

    Adam

  2. #2
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    Feb 2010
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    Park City Ky
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    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    Mr Collins, .. Six weeks ago I had 4 deep supers sitting on a pallet near the barn door. 2 boxes high, 2 boxes wide. I had placed them there waiting to put them out as swarm boxes. Each contained 2 old drawn brood combs and one frame foundation. I noticed lots of bees visiting the box on the top right. Over the next few days there were more bees, in fact so many that I thought a swarm had moved in and I opened the box only to find about 100 bees and considerable fighting taking place. I thought they may all be robbers and fighting over the old comb. But, they acted more like scouts than robbers. This behavior went on for about a week. I thought it odd that they would fight over the box on the top right, and completely ignore the other three boxes.

    Then, one morning I noticed a swarm had moved into the box on the top left. All the activity had been in the box on the top right, but the swarm moved into the top left. No more activity in the box on the top right. Hasn't been any since. I did not put the three boxes out. They are still sitting there.

    I left the swarm there for a couple of weeks, then moved them about 4 miles to a friends garden, and when the garden season is over, I will move to one of my yards.

    cchoganjr

  3. #3
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    May 2002
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    San Mateo, CA
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    4,881

    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    I have three bait hives hosts complaining to me that the bait boxes at their homes have been heavily scouted for the last few weeks but no swarms arrive. The last bait catch I know of was 5/21. So this scouting has gone on for a month since the last catch. But I have caught several swarms manually since 5/21, one this morning.

  4. #4
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    Nov 2009
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    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    I have two dead-outs and a swarm trap here in the yard.

    I got one swarm on May 31. Then nothing. Suddenly Tuesday morning, I saw a few bees around the trap. By noon there were tons of bees at the trap and the dead-outs, and I thought I'd see another swarm before the end of the day. For two days since, there's been steady robbing of the dead-outs and yet still steady activity in the swarm trap. We shall see.

    Do you guys get swarms if traps are in the sun? I'm wondering if some of mine get too hot.

    Adam

  5. #5
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    Oct 2011
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    Santa Monica, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    Odfrank has posted in the past about how he has seen bees guarding and fighting over nesting sites - sometimes weeks in advance of swarming. His posts are the only thing I've read that suggested that behavior....
    I did not have many chances, but, yes, I saw how bees visited "potential" home (nuc) for quite a while and than occupied it. The question was is it the same bees or not? In my case, I am quite sure that the bees were from the same hive, but I do not know if "first" visitors were the part of swarm preparation? At that time, I was thinking that it was robbing behavior. The swarm was so easy, they acted like they know what they are doing - they just fly from the hive to the new location 10 feet away (on my deck) and marched inside the box. Everything was over in 20 min. Similarly, another swarm (not mine) marched into retired old box used to keep extra frames. In both cases, it was an impression, that they did know where they are going.
    Серёжа, Sergey

  6. #6
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    Feb 2010
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    Park City Ky
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    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    Do you guys get swarms if traps are in the sun? I'm wondering if some of mine get too hot.
    Almost all of mine are in the direct sun.

    cchoganjr

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
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    Hudson, WI USA
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    2,197

    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    I have two swarm traps in my yard, and I haven't seen fighting. I have noticed in previous years that interest in these boxes occurs before a swarm issues, and so I think of them as swarm indicators. No bees have shown any interest this year.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Brookville, PA
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    200

    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    It would actually make sense that the bees start scouting BEFORE they swarm. The hive knows they are going to swarm at some point - queen cells have been made. It would make more sense that they scout ahead of time rather than swarm and then start looking.

    That might explain why sometimes swarms show up only to fly away a short time later. They had already prescouted beforehand, and once they swarmed and realized all was well and the queen was with them - they take off for their new home that was previously scouted out.

    Don't know what to say about the swarms that came out and then cluster for days on end and eventually start building comb right there. Is that a case of they looked and couldn't find anything, or they looked and checked out sites but couldn't make up their minds so just started building comb right where they cluster?

  9. #9
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    Nov 2011
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    Johnson City, TN
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    380

    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    I was watching this science show for kids the other night. Turned out to be very interesting, this guy was studying bee swarms. He wentn to a remote island that had no bees on it. He then set up two swarm traps. One had a small space like a nuc and a large entrance. The other had a space about the size of a ten frame and a small entrance. He had the swarm where he could observe them. One hive he marked with a blue tag, the other a yellow. He then stood at the blue hive and marked the bees blue as they entered. Did the same at the yellow. Back at the swarm there was a blue bee dancing and a yellow bee dancing. Each one was trying to convince the crowd to follow it. Soon the blue (large space small opening) began to outnumber. Then the blue bee would go over and headbut the other one as if to tell him to shut up he lost. After a few blows it gave up and they swarmed into the blue hive. Cool to watch, wish I could remember the show? Think the guys name was Thomas Seely?
    All beekeepers can agree on one thing, and that one thing is, that all beekeepers can't agree on one thing.

  10. #10
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    Nov 2009
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    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    Quote Originally Posted by beehonest View Post
    ...Think the guys name was Thomas Seely?

    Thomas D. Seeley. His latest book is called Honeybee Democracy and it's the gold standard on swarming.

    Here's a talk he gave at Cornell on his work:

    http://www.cornell.edu/video/tom-see...ybee-democracy

    Adam

  11. #11
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    Nov 2009
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    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    The one thing I wish Tom had done in his work was to make some boxes long horizontally and some narrow and vertical, to see if he could settle that arguement - which would the bees choose?

    Adam

  12. #12
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    Jul 2010
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    Callaway, Missouri, USA
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    49

    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    I wonder sometimes if scouts don't get left behind when a swarm moves while they are out and the left behind scouts just return to whatever place they hope the swarm went to. I also think swarms must pre-scout sometimes because I have seen swarms land close to traps that are no where near an established colony. Almost like they are thinking that trap is the one but not totally sure yet but want to be close anyway. A swarm I caught the other day was close to one of my traps but in a tree when I went to check it. I hived em up but it looks like about 100 bees are so have moved into the trap they were near now and I am betting they were returning scouts left behind after I stole their swarm. Perhaps the LGO gives them a sense of not being abandoned enough for them to stay until the end rather than returning to the original hive? This may also work if the scouts are hitting one of your traps but in the mean time someone comes along and takes the swarm, perhaps they move in to whatever trap had the most support not knowing what else to do.

  13. #13
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    Oct 2011
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    Santa Monica, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    The one thing I wish Tom had done in his work was to make some boxes long horizontally and some narrow and vertical, to see if he could settle that arguement - which would the bees choose?

    Adam
    Adam, why you do not want to try? It should be fun!
    Серёжа, Sergey

  14. #14
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    May 2012
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    Roanoke, VA
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    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    Seeley had a controlled environment on an island with no bees on it. I would love to see the swarm trap experiment being done with more reasonable size traps. He had a 10, 40 and 100 liter trap. So of course the godilocks trap seemed the most appropriate in size. I would like to see it with 20, 30 and 40 liter traps.

  15. #15
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    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    I've got bees fighting and wrestling all over the front of swarm traps this morning. Lots of frantic activity... We shall see...

    Yes, Seeley had access to the controlled environment that is so essential to good science. Believe me, I have a few ideas that I'd love to work out through proper testing, but doing so is a major undertaking. Plus there's the fact that I am not a scientist, or educated in entomology, which would likely make any results I came up with somewhat suspect...

    Adam

  16. #16
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    Sep 2012
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    Casey, Il, USA
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    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    Quote Originally Posted by Connor View Post
    I wonder sometimes if scouts don't get left behind when a swarm moves while they are out and the left behind scouts just return to whatever place they hope the swarm went to. I also think swarms must pre-scout sometimes because I have seen swarms land close to traps that are no where near an established colony. Almost like they are thinking that trap is the one but not totally sure yet but want to be close anyway. A swarm I caught the other day was close to one of my traps but in a tree when I went to check it. I hived em up but it looks like about 100 bees are so have moved into the trap they were near now and I am betting they were returning scouts left behind after I stole their swarm. Perhaps the LGO gives them a sense of not being abandoned enough for them to stay until the end rather than returning to the original hive? This may also work if the scouts are hitting one of your traps but in the mean time someone comes along and takes the swarm, perhaps they move in to whatever trap had the most support not knowing what else to do.


    I think scouts may sometimes get left behind, they may be forragers too, I went out on a swarm call and when I got there, there were only about 200 bees left, I set a trap close by anyways in case an after swarm came since they often land in the same spot, and I checked on it 2 weeks later and they there were only about 100 bees left clusted on the post. I had another that I caught the swarm on and had all bout about 5-6 bees in the box when I closed it up and took it home, the next day the landowner said there were a couple hundred bees still in the tree. So I don't know if these are scouts returning, or forragers, I would assume that forragers will get nectar and bring it back to the cluster to pass around if they are there for very long.

  17. #17
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    Jun 2013
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    Cache, Utah, USA
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    61

    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    Not that I have much experience but I too had activity at one of my traps this year and this discussion sure matches up with what I saw. I estimated 1-2 dozen bees actively going in and out of my trap for most part of a week. At times I would seed a lull in the activity but as soon as a bee would show up one would come out of the entrance and check it out. I left on vacation for 4 days expecting to see a full trap when I got back but have not seen a single bee since. I assumed they found a better price somewhere else. Now I'm thinking they had scouted the box and were defending it but for some reason their loan request was rejected. Perhaps the swarm when issued got picked up by someone else.

  18. #18
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    Jan 2011
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    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    I have twice pulled traps that had so much activity that I thought they were occupied (seems one per year fools me).
    Tom’s article was in the National Geo for kids (I was reading it at the middle school library prior to award ceremony to start).
    “Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up” Alfred Pennyworth Batman Begins (2005)

  19. #19
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    May 2013
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    Dawn, MO 64638
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    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    Quote Originally Posted by Cleo C. Hogan Jr View Post
    Almost all of mine are in the direct sun.

    cchoganjr
    I have had 4 in the past two weeks with 2 of them yesterday. Two were in Warre hives - one with one box and one with two boxes. The other two were caught in boxes with the Lagstrom deminsions. One box was in the full sun the other three were facing the south/southeast with timber on the west side of the boxes for shade.

  20. #20
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    May 2008
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    Default Re: Odfrank's Observations - Bees Inhabiting Potential Nesting Sites

    Neither was Randy Oliver.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    Plus there's the fact that I am not a scientist, or educated in entomology, which would likely make any results I came up with somewhat suspect...

    Adam
    Last edited by Barry; 07-05-2013 at 03:03 PM.
    Dan

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