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  1. #21

    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    When bees prepare to swarm they tend to avoid the combs. You than see the bees on the walls and in a deep floor clustering below the bottom of the frames. (Or in a fixed comb hive below the combs.) In observation hives you find many bees with their bellies turned to the window. See picture below. As said, they seem to avoid the combs.

    If there are drones crowding on that bottom cluster the swarm is most likely to take of the same day.

    Bellies turned to the window:


    They stop any comb building. While in Spring and later in a flow they build new combs, they immediately stop to draw more combs a week or so before swarming.

    A partially drawn comb (fixed comb hive, observation hive) that has been abandoned. A week before there were no bees on the window and a cluster around that comb.


    With a deep floor you see something like this, a cluster below the combs:



    That is "play cup", they are just playing. No real swarming attitudes.You see this by the rims of the cell/cup: the cup has a thick rim/seam.


    Once the cell's rim/seam is thinned out, they are starting swarm preparations. You easily can differentiate between the thick and thin seams of the cell. If it is thinned, they start swarm preps.


    Of course a capped queen cells tells you are too late. ink:


    Before swarming, the bees are really really busy. Just before swarming, they stop foraging and do seem much less busy. Workers hanging around the front entrance. Combs start to shine/sparkle, because nectar is put over all over the comb, including pollen stores. If the pollen in the combs sparkles, they started swarm preparations.

    Also the bees respond different on knocking the hive's wall. Knock-knock and a long muttering answer means swarm preparations. A short hiss says, they are alright. I read this in the book of Eddie Woods. See: http://beedata.com/data2/listen/listenbees.htm And I found it to be true. You don't need a gadget for this. Just your knuckles.

    You find scout bees hovering around houses, sheds and buildings - those are scout bees. Once 50 or more scouts hover around and walk into a swarm trap, the swarm most likely moves in within a day. So scout bees also indicate a swarm.

    Just some of the observations I made.

    Bernhard

  2. #22
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    I know in my hive they may have placed the nectar above the nest. but they did not put it at the tip of the hive. they worked there way up.

    Since last year i have seen some things that make me wonder if i should not have kept more empty space just above the brood nest though. as the bees worked there way up they built a longer and longer band of solid honey or nectar between the main nest and where they where storing nectar. Keep in mind the brood nest stretched up through this space as well.

    With all the discussion about side expansion this past year. I have been playing over in my mind some ideas that are a variation of both checkerboard and continued side expansion of the brood nest. Mainly my thinking centers around more attention being given to keepign empty space near the brood nest where ever it is. I imagine it might keep the bees aware that more building is still necessary. Just one more detail that may help keep the bees in the fill it up mode rather than the pack it up mode.

    At one time I read a comment that directly claimed that one of the unique qualities of the Langstroth hives. is that for unknown reasons it will cause bees to work upward. In fact they tend to move upward rather than down when given the choice. I have seen this myself. Interesting little tid bit if nothing else.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  3. #23
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    I have to learn the sound of a hive ready to swarm. that not only woudl be handy. but it would look cool as all get out as well.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  4. #24
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    great observations here, many thanks to all for contributing.

    i have also noticed that a decrease in foraging and bees bearding at the entrance when other hives are not showing these signs may be indicators. the other thing is seeing what looks like a very large orientation flight and then the bees return to the hive, this is likely a 'practice' swarm indicating the possibility that the bees are ready to take off. i would expect however that signs inside the hive such as backfilling and queen cells would already be visible by this point.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  5. #25
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Berhard, with all the signs of swarm prep that you have observed is there any chance of deterring the bees from swarming at this point? These signs appear to me to be too late for swarm prevention.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  6. #26

    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    I know only of one way to stop swarming and that is to remove the old queen. As a last resort.

    Play cups do not count. I ignore them. If you break their play cups they start building more. First time they draw on the queen cells, I tear them down. Second time: tear down again. Third time they build swarm cells, I remove the old queen with three combs of brood and stores. Breaking all queen cells 7 days later except one. That's it. Such colonies are marked and not get used for further breeding. It is easy to select for less-swarming bees. But you do not have to disturb much of the swarm preparations in order to find out, which hive swarms easy and which hive does play but doesn't swarm. With less swarmy bees one or two times breaking cells is enough for them to stop swarming. It is all about good breeding.

    A less-swarmy queen is a queen, that continues to lay eggs despite swarm preparations. Such queens are the best.

    I have two bee colonies within my house (in the attic) which I do super as normal but don't do any swarm preventions. So those hives swarm and when they do, I know it is swarm time and I have to look closer to the other hives. I call'em "swarm barometer".

    So I catch two swarms minimum each year. Best way I know of is to use a garden hose and water. So it is good to have the hives near the house. During that time of year I usually work in the yard or garden. Once the swarm is up in the air I sprinkle the swarm with cold water from the garden hose. This makes the swarm sit down immediately. I pick up the queen, cage her and hang the swarm into a tree. House them in the evening. Never had a swarm absconding the new home this way.

  7. #27
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    You know what would be really helpful - A timeline of indicators and possible preventative actions - starting way before swarm season like:

    *First pollen and nectar becomes available - Checkerboard
    *Dandelion Bloom - Install first honey supers
    *Appearance of white wax in hives - ?
    *Drone brood - ?
    *Sudden appearance of much capped brood -
    *Sudden population expansion and congestion -
    *Signs of backfilling in broodnest - Split, open broodnest, etc...
    *Queen cells - Remove queen and cut down all but one cell, split hive, run in circles, scream and shout, etc...
    *Large numbers of bees issuing from hive - Throw a goodbye kiss, go get your swarm collection kit.

    Just examples not actual advised courses of action.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  8. #28
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    i just wanted to say thanks to you david for starting these threads and renewing the discussion regarding swarm prevention.

    i think most of us are looking to show some bounty for the effort, and after seeing how much more honey a non-swarmed colony can make compared to a swarmed colony, this topic hits home for the majority here.

    it's difficult to delineate a one size fits all method mostly because of the extreme variations in climate, differences in equipment choices, ect.

    walt's recommendations are great for those running single deeps and smaller supers. for those with two or more deeps i think roland's method of moving capped brood above an excluder is time tested and reliable. for those running all mediums i would look at mike bush's recommendations on opening the broodnest.

    and then when all else fails and the astute beekeeper finds that despite all preventative measures the colony is about the swarm, being prepared with empty equipment to make splits should be part of the plan.

    for me it's not the end of the world if a few swarms get away. my hope is that they will boost the feral population around me and ultimately provide survivor drones for queen mating.

    i am really looking forward to seeing how things go this spring for the many contributors that have joined this conversation. what i like most about beesource is being able to glean these tidbits of useful information that i can apply to my endeavors.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  9. #29

    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    ...
    Too much fiddling. The basic approach is supering early enough, keep ahead with supering and let all else roll by itself. Check for cells in time (when drones appear), don't split when you find the first queen cell. To early. Just break the cell one time, another time (checking 7 days later) and make a split with the old queen when they continue to draw queen cells the third time.

    The less you do, the better. Good and timed supering is the best swarm prevention, the rest is genetics/breeding.

  10. #30
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    I am sure that you are correct, but many newer beekeepers don't have much if any comb for supering. Also, it seems that our genetics may be more swarm prone than yours - an awful lot of the breeding effort has gone into mite tolerance for quite a while.

    Nonetheless - I have a hive in mind that was reasonably gentle, didn't swarm last year - despite being very large and strong - made a very good honey crop, and remained robust. If it makes it to spring I plan to rear queens from it.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  11. #31
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    Dec 2011
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    Victoria, Australia
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Drones are not an indication for Swarm preparation as we have Drones at least 2 months before Swarm season here.

    I believe the bees that are just hanging around, not appearing to be doing anything that Bernhard is talking about are Wax Makers in preparation. They have filled up on Nectar and it takes a few days for wax production to start. They are storing it up to build comb for the new site.

    That's why Opening the Sides of the Broodnest is useful as a swarm prevention and not just for those who want to increase the amount of drawn comb. As it keeps them making wax, they can't store it up to swarm.

    It is all about triggering wax production and then maintaining wax production into the main flow.


    Steps:

    1. Several weeks before swarm season, move each outside frame up into a new box and checkerboard them with new frames, directly above the Broodnest.

    2. Insert a new frame on each outside edge of the Broodnest. (So that a Brood frame is only on one side of the new frame.)


    3. Check them in 2-3 weeks and repeat if comb in the frames has been mostly drawn.

    The new frames have only a strip of foundation as a guide. I would have no more than half a sheet of foundation on a new frame. There must be a HOLE close to the broodnest to trigger wax making before swarm season. Bees will often build only drone comb before swarm season if the frame is completely foundationless. But with a 1 inch foundation strip the frames typically ends up being about 2/3 worker to 1/3 drone comb.

    It doesn't require much time to do and there is not need to go searching for queen cells or other indicators in the Broodnest. You just need to ensure that wax making is happening on those two new frames, on each outside edge of the Broodnest.


    It can be done with hives that have wintered as 1 Deep, 2 Deeps, 1 Deep and 1 Medium, All mediums, or Nucs.

    Give it a go.

    More Information:
    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...-the-Broodnest

    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...warm-managment

    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...-for-Beginners

    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...ent-confusion/

  12. #32
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by BernhardHeuvel View Post
    Best way I know of is to use a garden hose and water.
    This if very interesting. It sounds like you are using water as a net. So do you sit around your hives waiting for them to swarm, garden hose in hand?
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  13. #33
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Y View Post
    With all the discussion about side expansion this past year. I have been playing over in my mind some ideas that are a variation of both checkerboard and continued side expansion of the brood nest. Mainly my thinking centers around more attention being given to keeping empty space near the brood nest where ever it is.
    That is exactly what I have settled on, and it works great for me. I use all mediums, and try to keep the bulk of the brood in the bottom three boxes. As the brood nest begins to contract on the sides and expand upward into the supers, I start frame manipulation similar to what Michael Bush describes in great detail. (Opening the broodnest)

    As the side frames begin to fill with honey in the bottom three boxes, I will start to remove them and they are placed in one of the supers above, checkerboarded with empty drawn comb. Empty drawn frames are then inserted into the broodnest, pushing the brood frames outward toward the sides of the box. Only one frame or two at a time per box, depending on the population. This keeps the brood nest a little wider in the lower boxes but gives the queen somewhere to continue to lay eggs. The checkerboarded frames in the supers keep overhead lanes of empty comb open.

    It's a bit of work to keep up with it, but is well worth the effort. Later in the spring, after the main swarm season, empty undrawn frames can be inserted in the brood nest and new comb drawn. If they happen to draw a lot of drone cells, no big deal. They make good super frames.
    Last edited by Mike Gillmore; 01-17-2014 at 06:56 PM.
    To everything there is a season....

  14. #34
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by MattDavey View Post
    Drones are not an indication for Swarm preparation as we have Drones at least 2 months before Swarm season here.
    Another good example of "one size fits all" not working in every area. Climate variations have a tremendous impact on bee behavior. This is one example. Two months before swarm preparation in my region the bees are still in worker brood build up. They have not even started to think about drones yet.

    Every method needs to match your local conditions. It's trial and error. Matt's method might not work for me here, and what I do successfully may fail in his area.
    To everything there is a season....

  15. #35
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    [QUOTE=MattDavey;1046163] There must be a HOLE close to the broodnest to trigger wax making before swarm season.

    Matt: Not sure I understand what you mean by a "hole."
    Lawrence Heafner
    15 hives; 15 years; TF for 10; Zone 7B

  16. #36
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    ... As the side frames begin to fill with honey in the bottom three boxes, I will start to remove them and they are placed in one of the supers above, checkerboarded with empty drawn comb. Empty drawn frames are then inserted into the broodnest, pushing the brood frames outward toward the sides of the box. Only one frame or two at a time per box, depending on the population. This keeps the brood nest a little wider in the lower boxes but gives the queen somewhere to continue to lay eggs. The checkerboarded frames in the supers keep overhead lanes of empty comb open. ...
    This is essentially what I am doing with Opening the Sides, just putting new frames (with only a strip of foundation) beside the Broodnest, instead of inserting empty drawn comb in the Broodnest. So beekeepers without spare drawn comb can do this.

    I would rather not insert frames into the Broodnest because it forces the bees to have to heat a larger area. If cold weather sets in, it can cause chilled brood and increase Chalkbrood. Putting new frames on the edge of the Broodnest works just as well.

    Our Spring is long and drawn out and can swing between hot and cold quite regularly, maximums between 10C - 30C (50F - 86F).

    Also, when you start seeing Drones, it is a good indicator of when you can start Opening the Sides.

  17. #37
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by MattDavey View Post
    just putting new frames (with only a strip of foundation) beside the Broodnest, instead of inserting empty drawn comb in the Broodnest. So beekeepers without spare drawn comb can do this.
    This is what I struggled with before I had enough drawn comb available. I don't know exactly why the empty frames were not touched in early spring, but I have tried inserting empty frames into or on the sides of the brood nest as you describe and they were completely ignored until after swarm prep. I think it is probably due to our abbreviated spring season. We seem to go from winter straight into summer. The mild spring weather season here is very short. One week we have snow flying, and three weeks later the colonies are swarming.
    To everything there is a season....

  18. #38
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Actually I found that just dropping on another super in every instance to be about the poorest results I get. I find it results in a tremendous lag in the development of the build up. at times bringing it to a complete halt. Not exactly the effect I am looking to have. I am adding space for them to work. both actions are required. that I add and they work. just adding supers does not achieve those objectives.

    Quote Originally Posted by BernhardHeuvel View Post
    Too much fiddling. The basic approach is supering early enough, keep ahead with supering and let all else roll by itself. Check for cells in time (when drones appear), don't split when you find the first queen cell. To early. Just break the cell one time, another time (checking 7 days later) and make a split with the old queen when they continue to draw queen cells the third time.

    The less you do, the better. Good and timed supering is the best swarm prevention, the rest is genetics/breeding.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  19. #39
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by heaflaw View Post
    Matt: Not sure I understand what you mean by a "hole."
    The bees can't stand having a space larger than about 1 inch close to the Broodnest, inside the stores "layer". So they will do all they can to fill that space. It means the Broodnest is not complete and they want it complete before they can even think about swarming.

    A frame with a sheet of foundation in not a large enough space to trigger wax making. So that is why I use a strip. If you go completely foundationless the new comb will mostly be drone comb, but the strip of foundation starts them making worker comb, which then tends to transition to drone comb towards the bottom.

  20. #40
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    I have tried inserting empty frames into or on the sides of the brood nest as you describe and they were completely ignored until after swarm prep. I think it is probably due to our abbreviated spring season. We seem to go from winter straight into summer. The mild spring weather season here is very short. One week we have snow flying, and three weeks later the colonies are swarming.
    If they even ignored empty frames inside the Broodnest then maybe they were already doing swarm preparation. That's why I suggest starting several weeks before swarm season. As we know it's hard to deter them once they start. Although I haven't tried adding a frame of open brood yet...

    Maybe you could do it as soon as the snow melts?

    Sorry David, we have digressed a bit.

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