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Thread: After-swarms

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
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    Leon County, Florida, USA
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    Default After-swarms

    Can someone explain after-swarms to me? It seems to be basic bee knowledge (I knew this before I ever kept a bee) that the old queen leaves and the new queen destroys the other cells or fights any other emerging queen to the death! Sola Una Regina! So do we even know the mechanisms for after-swarms? Why didn't the queen/bees destroy the other cells? Why would a hive cast off another two or three swarms? What's going on in there?
    Kate - since 2013, 4 colonies, 3 8-frame Langs, 1 TBH, mostly TF, zone 8b

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    Default Re: After-swarms

    Queen is only the queen if the workers agree. Workers do not let queens destroy swarm queens or superceder queens.
    4 yrs, Peak 14, back to zip, T lite; godfather to brother's 3.

  3. #3
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    Apr 2014
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    Fort Gay, WV, USA
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    Default Re: After-swarms

    Secondary or After-Swarms are a part of beekeeping life due to one distinct reason. When the swarm queens emerge, sometimes the first one doesn't get to the others in the cells in time, and sometimes there are Two or Three that emerge almost at the same time. In those cases the Virgin Queens normally fight to the death and the strongest one wins the nest, however once in a while they fight and come to a stale mate due to the strength of each Virgin being the same. In that case, One of the Virgins leaves the nest with as many workers as can be gotten with her scent. Creating the After-Swarm. Sometimes this can happen many times in the same hive till it actually decimates the hive.
    Thomas Bartram - Since 2013, 43 - 8 F langs, 22 Italian & 21 Russian

  4. #4
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    Default Re: After-swarms

    Days. They are staggered for afterswarms.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/huber.htm#letter10

    "This laying commonly continues thirty days. The bees on the twentieth or twenty-first lay the foundation of several royal cells. Sometimes they build fifteen or twenty; we have even had twenty-seven. When the cells are three or four lines high, the queen lays those eggs from which her own species will come, but not the whole in one day. That the hive may throw several swarms, it is essential that the young females conducting them be not all produced at the same time. One may affirm, that the queen anticipates the fact, for she takes care to allow at least the interval of a day between every egg deposited in the cells. It is proved by the bees knowing to close the cells the moment the worms are ready to metamorphose to nymphs. How, as they close all the royal cells at different periods, it is evident the included worms are not all of an equal age."--François Huber, New Observations on the Natural History Of Bees Volume I

    There is much more detail in the book referenced above (and the first volume of the 1809 version is free on my website).

    But the short version is this. The old queen leaves with the primary swarm shortly after the first queen cell is capped (could be one day or more depending on the weather). About seven days later that first cell emerges. If they want to swarm again, they protect the other cells from that queen and confine those queens if they try to emerge, until she leaves and then they let out a another queen. This continues until they do not want to afterswarm anymore and they let that queen kill the rest.

    The sequence is different in an emergency or supersedure. The queens are all the same age and the bees do nothing to protect the cells from the first queen out, nor do they confine any queens, so sometimes two emerge at the same time...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
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    Leon County, Florida, USA
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    Default Re: After-swarms

    Thanks, Michael. So maybe it's a little like us—we have a strong hive and we find it full of swarm cells, we can place any frame with a swarm cell into a nuc with a few resources and hopefully get some nucs cooking and eventually more hives. I've heard people say they've split a hive five times in a season, why wouldn't the bees if they felt they had the resources?

    Thank you for deconstructing Huber. I'll try to read more of his observations.
    Kate - since 2013, 4 colonies, 3 8-frame Langs, 1 TBH, mostly TF, zone 8b

  6. #6
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    Mar 2014
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    Dartmouth, MA
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    Default Re: After-swarms

    [QUOTE=Michael Bush;1095158]Days. They are staggered for afterswarms.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/huber.htm#letter10

    "This laying commonly continues thirty days. The bees on the twentieth or twenty-first lay the foundation of several royal cells. Sometimes they build fifteen or twenty; we have even had twenty-seven. When the cells are three or four lines high, the queen lays those eggs from which her own species will come, but not the whole in one day. That the hive may throw several swarms, it is essential that the young females conducting them be not all produced at the same time. One may affirm, that the queen anticipates the fact, for she takes care to allow at least the interval of a day between every egg deposited in the cells. It is proved by the bees knowing to close the cells the moment the worms are ready to metamorphose to nymphs. How, as they close all the royal cells at different periods, it is evident the included worms are not all of an equal age."--François Huber, New Observations on the Natural History Of Bees Volume I

    There is much more detail in the book referenced above (and the first volume of the 1809 version is free on my website).

    But the short version is this. The old queen leaves with the primary swarm shortly after the first queen cell is capped (could be one day or more depending on the weather). About seven days later that first cell emerges. If they want to swarm again, they protect the other cells from that queen and confine those queens if they try to emerge, until she leaves and then they let out a another queen. This continues until they do not want to afterswarm anymore and they let that queen kill the rest."

    I recently took over the care of a hive which swarmed 16 days ago. A couple days post swarm I stole a frame of honey and a second frame with a queen cell as insurance for the swarm as I was unsure if we had captured the queen. I only saw 3-4 frames as it was not my hive.

    I am about to move the hive and was attempting to remove some honey frames to lighten the load, and discovered another capped queen cell and they had consumed a boatload of honey. They also had not built any comb on the two empty frames I used to replace the honey frames.
    Again I did not inspect the entire hive, as they had the most enormous orientation flight going on, or at least I thought.

    Did they consume the honey to make space for eggs? Why no new comb? The farm they live on was recently cut as the farmer relocated. We're they just hungry because their habitual forage is gone?

    Mostly are they going to swarm again and is there anything I can do. Would requeening change their minds?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Default Re: After-swarms

    >I recently took over the care of a hive which swarmed 16 days ago. A couple days post swarm I stole a frame of honey and a second frame with a queen cell as insurance for the swarm as I was unsure if we had captured the queen. I only saw 3-4 frames as it was not my hive.

    So you gave them a queen cell?

    >I am about to move the hive and was attempting to remove some honey frames to lighten the load, and discovered another capped queen cell and they had consumed a boatload of honey. They also had not built any comb on the two empty frames I used to replace the honey frames.

    They only build comb when they have nectar in their stomachs and no where to store it...

    >Again I did not inspect the entire hive, as they had the most enormous orientation flight going on, or at least I thought.
    >Did they consume the honey to make space for eggs?

    They often MOVE honey to make space for eggs. I don't think they "consume" it to make space for eggs. They consume it when there isn't enough coming in to meet their current needs.

    > Why no new comb?

    They build comb when they have nectar, heat and a need for storage space...

    >The farm they live on was recently cut as the farmer relocated. We're they just hungry because their habitual forage is gone?

    They quickly find new forage if its available.

    >Mostly are they going to swarm again and is there anything I can do.

    "Another capped queen cell" would NOT indicate they are swarming. It would indicate they are superseding.

    >Would requeening change their minds?

    They are in the process of requeening...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
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    Dartmouth, MA
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    Default Re: After-swarms

    Thanks, I feel better about them not drawing any comb.
    Yes I gave the initial swarm a queen cell. Was not sure we got the queen as they absconded the next day and we were able to recapture them by placing the honey frames in the hive with a queen cell on one. They had just flown ten feet away on the ground.

    We were unable to move the original hive (that the swarm came from) as they were bearding slightly. We will try again tonight, maybe late. Never thought I would be sorry for June's long days!
    Last edited by FollowtheHoney; 06-16-2014 at 01:04 PM. Reason: Clarity

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