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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Fayetteville, NC
    Posts
    12

    Default What caused the swarm?

    I am new to beekeeping, having installed two new hives in April 2014. One of the hives was doing great and the other so so. I live in NC and on recent hot days many of the bees would hang out on the front of the hive...I mean a lot of them. this was after I added a super 3 1/2 weeks ago. I noticed about a week ago that they had just about filled up that super. Anyway, late last week I noticed that they were no longer hanging out on the front of the hive and it appeared to be less active. Went into the hive this past Sunday and noticed that clearly many of the bees were gone. Could it have been from overcrowding? Should I have added another super sooner? I noticed only one queen cell, but don't they normally make more queen cells when raising a new queen? There was plenty of capped brood so I am hoping a new queen will be raised and the numbers will grow. Thanks for any insight!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
    Posts
    2,960

    Default Re: What caused the swarm?

    Swarming is a colony's way of reproducing. One queen cell is all it takes - sometimes the bees play it very safe by making multiple swarm cells. The most I've seen is 13 - but 1 is enough!

    There are few absolutes in beekeeping - I occasionally hear that first year colonies don't swarm. I think it would be safer to say first year colonies are less likely to swarm but as you found out the hard way they do on occasion.

    If you noticed a week ago that they just just about filled their super and didn't add another one that probably didn't help matters - but the bees had already started the queen making process in order to swarm before that inspection. The queen cell you saw was your warning. Sometimes the bees hide them so even if you are looking for queen cells it can be easy to miss some.

    There are various methods of swarm control which work to various degrees depending on your resources and your efforts. There is no beating looking in the hive to see what conditions are. Are there cells available for the queen to lay in? That is the first question of swarm control!
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Strafford County, NH
    Posts
    787

    Default Re: What caused the swarm?

    Having just had a swarm yesterday, I've been reading up on them (thank you Michael Bush) and 2 things stuck out to me: keep plenty of honey supers on once flow hits so they don't start to get crowded (they can sneak up on you quickly). And don't let the brood box get filled with honey so that the queen has no room to lay. I believe that my biggest mistake - I could tell that brood box was heavy a month ago, but I tried rearranging the order of the supers to give the queen more room to go upwards and lay. Really what I should have done was looked through the brood box and pulled out any mostly honey frames to give her more room in there. I believe brood box space has a lot to do with it. If the queen is crowded, they're all crowded...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Belews Creek, NC, USA
    Posts
    336

    Default Re: What caused the swarm?

    Newbee is probably correct. Our flow has just ended. We had quite a flow this year...short but heavy as our primary nectar sources bloomed at the same time. All my hives have been backfilling this spring. One swarmed due to lack of laying room. I removed the queen from my most productive hive just so they wouldn't swarm. One thing you may have already learned is that it always is a good idea to have frames of empty comb available to start a new brood box, or make a split or to switch out with honey-ladened brood comb. But the real key to beekeeping is to know what's going on inside your hives.

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