Queen cups and swarming
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  1. #1
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    Apr 2014
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    Default Queen cups and swarming

    My first hive made it through winter. My attention now turns to spring buildup and swarming. I tried to do my first thorough inspection yesterday but only made it through the top box. The top box was packed with bees. The entire box was full of capped or open honey, lots of pollen, and one full frame of capped brood. It looks like the queen must have moved back down to the bottom box, but I didn't get that far before getting stung. I did see several queen cups on the bottom of one frame near the center. They did not have eggs or larvae in them. Is this an indication of early swarming, or do the bees always have these cups around?

    I added a super to give them more room. Didn't really know what else to do considering my inspection was cut short.
    Last edited by Mbalboa; 04-19-2015 at 01:55 PM. Reason: Additional info

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  3. #2
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    Jun 2013
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    Dublin, Va. USA.
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    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    The queen Cups you saw with no larva will not cause any problems until you see white wax forming around the edges then look for eggs in them after that in about 12 days they will swarm. If the bottom Has a lot of brood I would split take 4 frames out of bottom 1 frame of unsealed brood and 2 frames of sealed brood with bees 1 frame honey an pollen or bee bread. shake plenty of bees in split. seal it up an move to different location. Put in hive body 4 frames of foundation. Check in 4 days to see if there are queen cells in split.

  4. #3

    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    To avoid splitting, adding another super to the broodnest is good. Taking out frames of brood and donating them and replacing with drawn comb if you have it, foundation if you don't is your other option. Also I would tip the boxes back on end and look at the bottom of them once a week. Don't let a sting cancel the hive inspection. It sounds like you have a healthy hive that need to be managed.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    Thank you both for your replies. Ordinarily I wouldn't let a sting bother me, but I was in a tee shirt and no gloves and no veil. Got cocky. After the first sting, they kept flying into my head so I took that as a warning and left. Rookie mistake. Will splitting hugely impact honey production?

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    No it will keep your workforce at home.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    Thank you guys very much

  8. #7

    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    I got honey last year when I split but my goal was to increase. If your goal is honey you should avoid splitting. Depends on what you want.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    I've got about all of the bees My backyard can handle, and I would like some honey. Aside from supering, what else can be done? Should I consider taking brood to boost other colonies?

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    Yes any thing that you can do to relieve the congestion, will help stop swarming

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    When I remove frames of brood, do I take the bees on that frame with it?

  12. #11
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    Lamar Co. Alabama, USA
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    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    Yes, just triple check to make sure the queen isn't on the frames you take. You can also put a board on the entrance of the receiving hive like a ramp, shake nurse bees off in front of the receiving hive and they will walk into the hive. Any foragers will fly back to their hive. Put the frame back in the original hive. I would move frame and bees, relieves congestion in the original hive and the receiving hive gets a double boost.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    Quote Originally Posted by Mbalboa View Post
    When I remove frames of brood, do I take the bees on that frame with it?
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Margot1d View Post
    I got honey last year when I split but my goal was to increase. If your goal is honey you should avoid splitting. Depends on what you want.
    If your goal is honey you should avoid swarming. A split hive is more likely to produce surplus honey than a swarmed hive in my experience.

    If this is your first year with overwintered bees splitting is the most promising path to any kind of success IMO.
    Since '09-75H-T-Z6b

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    Yes.
    If this is your first year with overwintered bees splitting is the most promising path to any kind of success IMO.
    David, can you expound on this a bit? I'm not sure what you mean. What do you define as success? For me, success is to keep this hive from swarming, take some honey, and get them prepared for another winter. Although I would like to proliferate the genetics of this hive, I don't necessarily want to increase the number of colonies that I have. On the other hand, my preference is splitting to swarming, so if that turns out to be what is necessary, then I will do that.

    A little more info: this colony was my first last year and they overwintered. They are Carniolan. I started two Italian packages this past weekend.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    > I did see several queen cups on the bottom of one frame near the center. They did not have eggs or larvae in them.

    This is an indication of absolutely nothing.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    If you don't have plenty of extracted honey comb to give to a strong overwintered hive it is very difficult to keep it from swarming. There are all kinds of tips to try - opening the brood nest, pulling the queen at a strategic time, not using an excluder, removing queen cells as they appear, etc - but a strong hive is still very likely to swarm if you do ALL of those things, if you can't give it comb. Even taking a frame or three of brood and bees out to give to another hive is just nibbling around the edges.

    When that strong hive swarms you lose most of the foragers, and the laying queen - and the remaining colony uses up the stored resources to keep going until it rebuilds the forager force, and makes a new queen (which has around a 20-30% chance of failure on average) usually by the time all that happens the main flow is over and the chance to make a honey crop is gone.

    When you split the hive you keep the workforce of foragers and can still make a honey crop in many cases - if you play your cards right both halves of the split might even make some harvestable honey - and if the new queen doesn't work out you still have the old one. Also the splits are much more likely to produce that comb you need.

    If you don't really want to increase your hive count then chose the best queens and combine down to your target number in the fall.

    So - by splitting successfully (you can muck up anything if you try hard enough) you make a honey crop, have more insurance against queen loss (which happens more in late spring/summer than just about any time) build your stock of comb, make increase if you want, or improve the health of your apiary by having the numerical option of culling under performing hives in the fall.

    But if you don't split and IF that big strong hive doesn't swarm (1 in 5 maybe - I'm being generous) you MIGHT make a larger honey crop. If it does swarm and then doesn't successfully requeen itself (1 in 4 chance of that) you are likely to make no harvestable honey and lose the hive.

    Which makes you much more likely to give up beekeeping in favor of RC planes or something.

    That is what I mean by any kind of success.

    And by the way - if you think about it long enough for the swarm prep train to leave the station (any day now in my area) they can swarm even after you split.
    Last edited by David LaFerney; 04-20-2015 at 12:06 PM.
    Since '09-75H-T-Z6b

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    I appreciate you taking the time to explain, David. It does seem like the general consensus is that queen cups mean nothing, though. So I guess the only real thing to do is continue to monitor them and split if necessary. It's probably too early to split now, since I haven't even seen drones in this hive yet. Do you agree?

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    I'm the wrong person to ask about that - our climates are too different. You should join a local beekeepers club if you haven't already - they can tell you about your local patterns.
    Since '09-75H-T-Z6b

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Queen cups and swarming

    Thank you David. I'm in a bee club, but we haven't had our first outdoor meeting yet and the mentor I've been working with has recently passed. So, I'm floundering a bit in my first spring. Thanks a ton for all of your help.

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