Do swarrms sometimes change their mind
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  1. #1
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    May 2012
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    Question Do swarrms sometimes change their mind

    I visited one of my out-yards the other day and found that one of my hives was swarming. As I got out of my truck, I heard that loud buzzing that accompanies bees when swarming. As I walked around and listened for where the swarm might be located, I found them up in the air about 50'. They were clustering on a branch, which was out of my reach.

    I also noticed that there were large numbers of bees flying around a swarm trap I had set up. I totally expected to see the bees come down off the tree and go into my swarm trap. I have witnessed this before, and so I grabbed my camera, so I could get a video of the spectacle that I believed I would soon witness.

    Instead, what I saw was the bees going back into the hive they had left. When all the excitement was over and things looked to have settled down, I went into the hive and found it seriously overcrowded. I checked for swarm cells and found one. I also looked for the queen and didn't find her. I'm not suggesting she wasn't actually in there, I'm just saying that I didn't find her.

    My question is, do swarms sometimes change their mind, and go back to their hive after clustering on a branch? The branch they clustered on was bare after it appeared they went back into their hive.

    Thanks in advance for the helpful comments.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Do swarrms sometimes change their mind

    Could be that queen cell you saw was unoccupied, the virgin having emerged and flown. And what you saw may have been that same virgin leaving on a mating flight and returning.

    Was there and open brood? Eggs and larvae?
    Mark Berninghausen

  4. #3

    Default Re: Do swarrms sometimes change their mind

    Maybe they swarmed out but the queen didn't. I know this sounds silly but is very possible. The bees get all excited about a swarm and bail out. But then realize they have no queen and head back to what they know. I hope you made a split to try and prevent swarming because it seems inevitable at this point.
    After 20 months I'm over a 20 hives and growing. See my videos! http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8fVrmUsyYlRuASdX6UQk1g

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Do swarrms sometimes change their mind

    sqkcrk,

    I believe there was open brood. I didn't see any eggs. There were so many bees in that hive, the bees were on top of each other.

    The queen cell got opened slightly when I pulled it out, and there was indeed a white larvae in that cell. I closed up the small tear on the queen cell. There were bees all over the queen cell.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Do swarrms sometimes change their mind

    Tom Brueggen,

    I did make a split.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Do swarrms sometimes change their mind

    What kind of split? Where did the queen go? Where are the queen cells?

    Keep an eye on the split that has the queen, it is possible that they feel like they swarmed and you will be ok, but it is also possible they will still swarm.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Do swarrms sometimes change their mind

    Quote Originally Posted by FlowerPlanter View Post
    What kind of split? Where did the queen go? Where are the queen cells?
    Good questions. I'm going to go back out there and have another look inside that hive. I did several hive inspections yesterday. I just checked my notes and, unless I just wrote it down wrong, my notes said that I did NOT find any queen cells in that hive, nor did I find the queen.

    Now, it's not real surprising that I didn't find the queen. I haven't always been real successful at that. But, based on what some of you have said, I need to go have another look in that hive.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Do swarrms sometimes change their mind

    What Tom said.

    What you saw is totally typical when the old queen cannot fly. Takes the swarm maybe an hour before they realise she is not with them & then they return to the original hive.

    During the swarming attempt the old queen is chased very aggressively to get her to launch into the air and if she cannot she is sometimes killed. If she is not killed, she will be killed over the next few days during further attempts at swarming. The hive will then swarm properly once queen cells hatch & they can take a virgin with them.

    In your situation, best plan would be to make several splits with a queen cell or two each, whether or not you can find the old queen. That's if you catch the hive before it has swarmed proper. Pretty certain there will be queen cells in there if you look hard enough.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Do swarrms sometimes change their mind

    >it's not real surprising that I didn't find the queen. I haven't always been real successful at that.
    me too, most of the time I look for a sign of a queen, unless I need her to do a cut down split.

    >But, based on what some of you have said, I need to go have another look in that hive.
    You should wait a week and then see what’s going on. look for open brood, eggs and open or capped queen cells. that will you overall picture of where the queen is, and which hive need to be check to verify they were successful at making a queen.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Do swarrms sometimes change their mind

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    In your situation, best plan would be to make several splits with a queen cell or two each, whether or not you can find the old queen. That's if you catch the hive before it has swarmed proper. Pretty certain there will be queen cells in there if you look hard enough.
    When I do these splits, what else should I include in each split - a couple frames of brood and some honey? How many frames should make up my splits?

    Thanks

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Do swarrms sometimes change their mind

    All that is a judgement call it depends what you have in the hive & how many splits you actually want.

    But one thing you DO have to bear in mind is that if you put the splits in the same apiary as the parent hive, many of the bees will drift back to the parent hive. So put more bees than you need in the splits, and absolute bare minimum in the parent hive. Otherwise lots of bees can return, crowd out the parent hive, and it still swarms anyway. Also, make the entrances for the splits very small. It is mainly young bees that have not flown yet that will stay in the splits and they are not old enough for guard duty to prevent robbing. After one week they will be older, doing guard duty, and you can make the entrances bigger if need be.

    When positioning the queen cells in the splits, consider the bee population will drop due to drifting, so put the queen cell where the bees will still keep it warm even if there are a lot less bees. So for example if the queen cell is on the bottom of the comb, the bees will abandon it if the population drops so cut it off with a very sharp knife or box cutter or similar, and press it onto a comb where brood is (not onto capped brood it will drop off), in a place where the bees will cluster even if there are not too many left.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Do swarrms sometimes change their mind

    I had a very small swarm leave the hive, fly into a nearby tree and cluster. By the time I got my ladder situated under the cluster, they flew up into the air and went back into the hive. Saw the queen enter with the group. It wasn't crowded and there were no queen cells. That was late last summer and she is still there.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Do swarrms sometimes change their mind

    Oldtimer,

    Thanks for the great information. Weather permitting, I'll get back out there tomorrow and do as you have advised.

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