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  1. #41

    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    So do you sit around your hives waiting for them to swarm, garden hose in hand?
    I am on holidays these times and work in the garden. Garden hose ready.

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    I am sure that you are correct, but many newer beekeepers don't have much if any comb for supering.
    So you do some sort of "opening the sides of the broodnest". Some more details to make it work: 1) Start very early in the year, just a week after the cleansing flight on a sunny day. Bees flying and forage for pollen. 2) Remove all combs out of the brood boxes, except the ones that are populated by bees. 3) Leave all brood combs. Start at one wall, first insert a pollen comb. Next all the combs with brood. Next one frame with drone comb. (Or drone foundation.)

    The drone comb has to be spaced a little further. The drone comb is a queen magnet. So in Spring she is eager to lay eggs on the drone comb. On the other comb facing the drone comb, no pollen will be stored, instead the queen lays eggs. This way all the brood combs get filled up with brood completely. The drone comb prevents the broodnest from getting clogged with pollen. So close one side of the broodnest with a drone comb. Behind the drone comb you put in a division board/divider, best is an insulated one. Leave out one or two combs, so a gap. Leave two combs with food, scratch some of the cells. The honey will be taken out of that comb by the bees and transfered closer to the broodnest. This empties those combs and it creates a small "nectar flow" inside the hive.

    The broodnest is compact and pretty warm. Not too much pollen, so the queen can lay.

    wall
    pollen comb
    brood combs
    drone comb
    divider
    gap
    honey comb
    wall

    It is important to keep a slightly bigger spacing between drone comb and brood comb, because drone cells are longer thus reaching into the space between the combs. this can lead to pollen to be stored into the comb facing the drone comb.

    First supering you add a frame with foundation right between the outer pollen comb.

    wall
    pollen comb
    foundation
    brood combs

    Makes nicely drawn comb which gets brood immediately. So no clogging with nectar or pollen. Add more foundation right next to the pollen comb once the foundation is drawn, until the brood box is filled completely.

    All the combs collected can be given into the super. You can extract the combs to get out the winter fodder if needed. But this way you have empty combs where you need them.

    Because you compacted the broodnest, the bees readily go into the super. The broodnest is very warm when doing this. Not only because of the divider board, but because bees tend to wander around on all the combs in a hive in Spring. By taking the combs they sit closer together on the remaining combs and in early Spring this is beneficial.

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Y View Post
    Actually I found that just dropping on another super in every instance to be about the poorest results I get.
    So I assume you have deep boxes? Compacting the broodnest, opening the sides will help the bees keep warm and warmth is what they need in order to populate a honey super. Supering can easily chill the bees, this is what makes them halt.

    Supering without compacting can be done in time by looking for most brood combs being capped. One comb of brood makes three combs of bees, so if you time your supering with the brood cycle results are much better.

    If nothing helps compacting the broodnest helps in a too big a box.

    I shook down hives in Spring to weigh the bee mass, because I always wondered why the bigger hive sizes always seem to be so populated. It turned out, that smaller hives have the same amount of bees as the bigger hive sizes. Bees just wander around on all combs. Do if you open a bigger sized hive and you see all frames populated, it is more impressive, of course. But the same amount of bees can be found in a smaller hive. Just my observation.

    I reckon the compacted brood nest concentrates warmth and hygienic behaviour to a couple of combs instead of spreading the nursing and caring on all combs of a hive. Also it makes the most profit per box, than any other method.

    If you work with all shallows, mediums, or 8-frame hives, this compacting is unneccessary. The boxes are small enough to keep the bees close together.

  2. #42
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by BernhardHeuvel View Post
    If you work with all shallows, mediums, or 8-frame hives, this compacting is unneccessary. The boxes are small enough to keep the bees close together.
    That sounds to me if you use 8 frame mediums you don't have to do all the monkey work. I am all for that.

    I didn't seem to have a problem with swarms by simply pulling the bottom box out (overwintered in 4 boxes) and putting an empty box of drawn frames on top. Let that box fill up with honey and then throw on the pollen box. I suppose you could use a QE at the top of the third box if you wanted to but I didn't. The next box could be foundation which you can CB with honey frames below. Add boxes of foundation and CB with honey frames below until you reach your height restriction. Extract in the fall.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  3. #43
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    ... The mild spring weather season here is very short. One week we have snow flying, and three weeks later the colonies are swarming.
    Mike, I find it hard to understand how swarm preparation can start so soon after having snow. The only thing I can think of is massive amounts of nectar coming. But also, a large amount of brood must have been reared beforehand.

    We have a number of fine warm days and plenty of nectar around several weeks before swarm preparation starts. But we don't see any preps until a couple of weeks after the Spring Equinox (March 20 in the Northern hemisphere).

    What do you think is the cause of the start of swarm preparation in your area, and what sort of dates are you seeing that?

    Thinking about, what are the external (elemental) signs that would cause swarm preparation to likely start? Temperature, amount of daylight, etc.

  4. #44
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Bernard, the only deep boxes I have are on the bottom as the brood box. everything else is mediums. I agree they seem to me to take to mediums faster than they will a deep because I started out with all deeps so I have tried that also. I still do not see them take to the next box by simply placing an empty box on tip like I do if it is checkerboarded. It makes enough difference that i had bees drawing foundation pre swarm and pre flow last spring something even Walt says will not happen.

    I do think that drawing contributed to the failure of preventing swarms though. Just how and why I don't see other than it delays the storing of nectar. to many bees left setting in the hive holding onto nectar that has no place to go. To me it seems the bees start to compete with the queen for what space will be used for what. once they deny her space to lay. swarming prep takes a turn down the final stretch.

    As a side note that I just have to mention. yesterday I was given two hives. one is a deep with a medium on top 8 frame set up that is struggling with a tiny cluster of bees. The other was 10 frame and 5 boxes tall. I had to get it reduced in size to move it but found that there are bees in 3 of the 5 boxes and a full box of honey. the last box at the very bottom was completely empty but has drawn comb. They are basically rescues for someone that had to move to Oregon. Now I will have to get a few more 8 fame boxes. I done did it and made the combination of boxes own fully confusing. Deeps and mediums in both 10 and 8 frame now.

    The owner also has 100 lbs of honey inside the house that we cannot get access to. Very frustrating as I was going to sell that honey to keep my customers supplied and send him the money. It would come in handy to help him get up and running again at his new place.

    Anyway I am way OT but just excited about getting these two hives.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  5. #45
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by MattDavey View Post
    Mike, I find it hard to understand how swarm preparation can start so soon after having snow.
    Freak storms can occur after swarm season because of the jet stream. I have seen snow in June.

    I believe temperature is the key to everything. Vegetation responds to temperature. That is how we determine an early or late spring. We can also have an early or late fall. We refer to a late fall as an Indian summer. Some cosmic rays or the aligning of the moon and the stars may cause the variations in seasons but the response I feel that triggers swarm prep is temperature (warming of the earth surface at location).
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  6. #46
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Y View Post
    Anyway I am way OT but just excited about getting these two hives.
    Lucky you. Just plain down a couple of 2x12 in the shape of a frame and use them for blanks in the ten frame boxes. Use them on the bottom.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  7. #47
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Bernard, Thank you for that last post. I found a few nuggets i had not heard before. Most interesting is that chilling will halt advancement to empty space. Cold is always a concern here even in mid summer. our nights will get down to the 40's or 50's even in July and August. chilling is always a concern. I am now wondering if by moving up frames of honey I was also unknowingly adding some thermal mass to that area as well.

    I have not heard that a frame of brood equals three frames of bees either although have often thought about it. I have always just allowed for it to be one to one even though that did not sound likely to me. 3 to one is much higher than I would have dared guess.

    As for the compacting of the brood nest. i don't tend to do much with the brood nest during build up. My rule of thumb is to stay away from it other than when getting a 5 frame nuc to expand and fill there first ten frame box. This winter I have been seeing several bits of information that cause me to reconsider that though. I will have to think on your description for a while to make sure I see the whole picture.

    I do not tend to see the drone brood others mention but then i also use foundation a lot. I have only once seen my bees draw a frame with all large cells. Since then they will make a normal amount of drone comb and not enough to concern me. Drone brood is another thing I consider best left up to the bees. I do not think I have to manipulate everything they do to make another ounce of honey. If what I need is more honey I think it is best to let the bees be bees, produce what they will produce and just get another hive for anything more I need.

    I am still very interested in everything I can do to help my bees thrive. I realize many if not most find all these fine details boring or unnecessary. But I don't, I find it is in such details great advancements in husbandry can be found. they are what make the difference in a good beekeeper and a great beekeeper.

    Just from your post above. the addition of just one frame of brood increases the population of a hive by three frames of bees. That is not exactly a little difference. But you cannot think that you can make them fill every frame of a hive either. the issue is more like. how do you get a hive that already has a huge brood nest. to make one more or even two more frames of brood. if you can get two yo just got one more box of bees. It is very difficult to improve on good. But it can always be done.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  8. #48
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    I believe temperature is the key to everything. Vegetation responds to temperature.... the response I feel that triggers swarm prep is temperature (warming of the earth surface at location).
    good point ace. in the short time i've been journaling first blooms, and contrasting the early spring of 2012 and the late spring of 2013, it's pretty obvious that temperature strongly affects the timing of the blooms, which in turn affects the timing of swarm season.

    also, bernhard has observed egg laying rate is affected by temperature and has correlated this to swarming.

    it's probably easier for the beekeeper to pay attention to what is blooming than it is to look at temperature, especially since (as you point out) temperature can fluctuate quite of bit at that time of year, (thanks walt).

    this is going to be more obvious in those areas that experience a bimodal nectar flow, i.e. spring flow, summer dearth, fall flow such as in the southeast; and it may be less obvious in areas where the spring, summer, and fall flows overlap such as seen across the northern tier of states.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  9. #49
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    Lucky you. Just plain down a couple of 2x12 in the shape of a frame and use them for blanks in the ten frame boxes. Use them on the bottom.
    Nice trick Ace,

    I also tend to agree that temperature is a leading factor in swarming. Last year we only had two night that fell below freezing in the entire month of February. from early to mid February all of my bees where in build up. and they never stopped. I really wish i had had someone like Walt or someone more experienced with seeing swarm prep with me last year because although I was looking right at it I have the feeling there is much I did not see. I cannot clearly say yes they where beginning swarm prep on this date.

    I found swarm cells on April 14th. I cannot recall they day they actually swarmed but it was shortly after that. maybe others can back track the timing of events. Since i destroyed those queen cells I lost the ability to time when they emerged. A mistake I know I know. I paid dearly for it.

    Anyway if I give 5 days for the cells to emerge that means I found them around day 11. that means they where eggs on April 3rd. How all the rest of the process fits prior to that all i can say is it woudl have had to happen in 14 days to have been started at the equinox. And I was observing what I consider strong build up long before that. easily as much as two weeks prior to that I was already wondering how I could contain the growth long enough.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  10. #50
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by MattDavey View Post
    Mike, I find it hard to understand how swarm preparation can start so soon after having snow.
    Matt,

    Our main flow usually begins here around the first of May and with peaks and valleys will continue through June. Swarms begin to be cast in the first half of May, which coincides with the beginning of the spring flow. With overwintered colonies swarm preparation begins a few weeks earlier, which would be in mid-April.

    In April the weather turns fairly mild with daytime temps reaching into 50 deg F range and night temps in the 30's. But occasionally we will have a cold front come through and can have snowfall in April. In April we have Dandelion, Cherry trees, and other blooms available for the bees and it's during these few weeks in April that the colony explodes in population. It is also a time when we can have long periods of rain and with a very high number of idle bees congested in the boxes their attention turns to swarming. It's during this period when I will open the broodnest and add drawn supers. I've tried adding foundation and empty frames but have never been successful at getting the bees to draw new wax at this point. They always choose to contract the brood nest and backfill in preparation to swarm.

    March is the beginning of serious brood build up in the colonies. Maple, Willow, and other trees are blooming and fresh pollen is available for the bees when they have flying weather. The incoming pollen triggers brood expansion. During March the temps range from 40's in the day to 20's at night. Foraging days are erratic and during this period the bees will finish consuming their overwintered stores and will expand the brood nest into the empty cells. I've never had any luck getting the bees to draw new comb in March, I guess the temperatures are just too low for wax making.

    So that's my long winded overview. April is the key month here. A lot is changing and I have to be vigilant and stay on top of things or the bees are in the trees. I guess it's related to our local weather patterns and bloom cycles, but spring build up here is rapid and aggressive. It seems like overnight an average cluster turns into a boomer.
    To everything there is a season....

  11. #51
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Depending on the weather pattern in any particular year that could exactly describe what happens here in TN - far to the south. And it isn't too far off on average.

    We almost always have at least a few fair flying days every month though.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  12. #52
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Yes David our bees get to poop more freely during the winter. If I was a bee I would like that.

  13. #53
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    Depending on the weather pattern in any particular year
    That is an important point. Weather and the bees don't use the calendar. Last year we had a long winter and delayed spring blooms. The entire spring cycle was delayed about 3 weeks later than average. The year before, we had a mild winter and early spring, and the pattern was 3 weeks earlier then usual. Recovering from shoulder surgery it took me by surprise that spring, and almost all of my colonies went into swarm prep 3 weeks early. Lots of swarms and splits that spring.

    Ace is correct, the cycles revolve around temperature and bloom patterns.
    To everything there is a season....

  14. #54
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by MattDavey View Post
    What do you think is the cause of the start of swarm preparation in your area, and what sort of dates are you seeing that?

    Thinking about, what are the external (elemental) signs that would cause swarm preparation to likely start? Temperature, amount of daylight, etc.
    You asked Mike, but I'm going to give my 2 cents - unqualified as it may be. The days getting longer is surely a trigger to begin reproductive season. But I believe that what determines the rate and timing is foraging opportunity - Not blooms or temps alone.

    FE - Maple blooms here in February and produces plenty of nectar concurrent with plentiful pollen BUT there is usually a very limited opportunity for the bees to fly out to get it. It's too wet or cold most of the time. Lots of days it will be plenty warm, but it is rainy - or vice versa. When the conditions were unusually good to go out and take advantage of those early flows a couple of years ago (when my bees capped a good bit of maple honey) swarming commenced very early.

    Also even if there isn't a lot of foraging opportunity outside of the hives if it is consistently warm enough for the bees to forage inside of the hives instead of clustering tightly on brood - that will surely hasten swarming of well stocked hives as well.

    So either mild temps or dry weather could make swarming earlier - obviously mild + dry spring weather even more so.

    I bet if you used weather service data to count the number of daylight hours when the conditions are good for foraging and matched it to bloom dates - and factored in long cold spells that curtail brood-nest expansion you could predict when swarming is likely to commence.

    Or you could just evaluate population growth and nectar storage patterns - like we already try to do.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  15. #55
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    You asked Mike, but I'm going to give my 2 cents - unqualified as it may be. The days getting longer is surely a trigger to begin reproductive season. But I believe that what determines the rate and timing is foraging opportunity - Not blooms or temps alone.
    When I spoke of temperature I was thinking ground temperature not air temperature. When the ground gets warm enough seeds germinate and sap runs in trees. From there it is a count down to blooms. If you wait till blooms for managing swarms you are too late I think. Your better off timing your swarm management by some bulb plant that pops out of the ground. I am going to note when our garlic shoots out of the ground next spring to see if that would be a good date.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  16. #56
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    If you wait till blooms for managing swarms you are too late I think.
    It depends on which blooms you are looking for. For me, different blooms are great benchmarks that give me a good indication of what is happening in the hive and when I need to act.

    When the Willows bloom in mid to late March I know it's time to get ready because they are expanding rapidly. When Dandelion starts to bloom a few weeks later, typically in mid April, it's time to start frame manipulation and supering to suppress swarm preparation. Apple bloom peak is usually during the first week of May. If I have not been paying attention, they will be swarming soon. Later in May will be Locust and Blackberry bloom and it will be weekly management as the bees begin to shift from swarm mode to establishment mode.

    The blooms almost always indicate to me what activities are happening in the hive in general. If the blooms are early or later in the spring, the same colony mode is ongoing to match the bloom period. That's been my observation anyway.
    To everything there is a season....

  17. #57
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    very interesting mike. sounds like you are about one month or so later on the calendar than we are here.

    i visited massillon a few times in my childhood, we had some family there.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  18. #58
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Massillon is still a pretty nice place to settle down and raise a family. I grew up in Cleveland, so compared to that, I'm living in the "sticks".

    Sorry
    To everything there is a season....

  19. #59
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    very interesting mike. sounds like you are about one month or so later on the calendar than we are here.
    Do you see a similar consistent relationship between blooms and colony activities in your area?

    Walt probably has some keen insight on the ties between bloom periods, temperature, and it's effect on the colony.
    To everything there is a season....

  20. #60
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    Default Re: Signs of swarm preparation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    Do you see a similar consistent relationship between blooms and colony activities in your area?

    Walt probably has some keen insight on the ties between bloom periods, temperature, and it's effect on the colony.
    absolutely mike. the early build up here is on the maples and elms. the dogwoods and redbuds signal we're getting close, and swarm issue is linked to the locust and tulip poplar.

    as you observed there, we also saw several weeks difference in the timing of these blooms (and swarm issue) between 2012 and 2013.

    the timeline in walt's manuscript is virtually identical to what i observe. he's a little north of me, but i'm at a slightly higher elevation.

    i'm making it a point to keep more detailed notes regarding the blooms and colony operations.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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