Bearding - Swarm Prevention
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
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    Columbia, MO
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    Default Bearding - Swarm Prevention

    My primary hive was bearding yesterday. My hives have a screened bottom board and I have one super on top. It had rained shortly before I went to my hives and the temperature was around 75-78 degrees with a slight breeze. At this time of day the hives are sitting in the shade. It was around 5pm in the afternoon. During my observation of the hive I saw bees bringing some pollen into the hive and bees flying in and out of the hive. I feel as if they are just being bees. They had been cooped up in the hive during the rain and wanted to get out and air out. I plan to inspect the hive this afternoon. My question is.. .what should I be looking for as I inspect this hive? What might I bring with me to the hives to manage against swarming? And, what other general advice do you have?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Cordova, TN, USA
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    Default Re: Bearding - Swarm Prevention

    When bees start the process of build-up to swarm, they backfill brood comb with nectar. If you find this, watch for queen cells. Started but empty queen cells are ok, but any queen cells with larva in them is an issue. Many more people here know what to do and how to time it better than I do.

  4. #3
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    Mar 2015
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    Columbia, MO
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    Default Re: Bearding - Swarm Prevention

    I have been watching for these very things. Verifies that I am doing at least a few things right. What I am not sure on ... is what to do once they begin backfilling. I would like to be prepared this afternoon to put into action a management plan. If anyone has advice ... please feel free to give your two-cents worth.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Campbell River, BC, CA
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    Default Re: Bearding - Swarm Prevention

    I cant say what will work for you, but, I can tell you about what we have tried, and how it's worked. The back story, all of this is fresh in my mind this morning, I've just finished going over notes from 5 years of tracking things, trying to see what trends we have in various colonies to choose where my next round of grafts come from.

    We have what amounts to 2 different lines of colonies from when we started, and up to now, increase has come about by either carving out nucs with cells, doing cut-down splits, or catching swarms from our own hives. I've traced a dozen of them back to the first two from which they all originated.

    The colonies in the first line have always been a bit swarmy compared to the second. Cells have always showed up 2 to 3 weeks earlier, and no matter what we have done, they seem to swarm on us. Cut down splits (take the queen and some brood) slowed it, but they still sent out swarms after raising queens themselves. The signs are always the same, open it up and there will be nectar stored into cells as brood emerges, and I'll find cups with larvae and a large pool of jelly, or in some cases, cells just capped. We have been unsuccessful in totally preventing swarms from this group of colonies.

    The second line, which descended the same route, splits from the original, have completely different tendancies. In years when we didn't have resources in the form of drawn comb, I know they swarmed, we caught the swarms, and in two cases, we saw it depart. But in years when we were actively trying to prevent swarms and had more resources, we were successful. A cut down split taking queen and 3 brood frames worked. The strategy I've tried the last two years worked even better, we have been placing an empty drawn comb into the center of the brood nest once a week thru the swarm season. Queen lays it up, and then goes to work laying up the spots where brood has been emerging. Once a week with a fresh comb seems to be enough to stay ahead of the queen, and they do not start backfilling to any great extent, but population continues to grow. Once they reach 14 frames in use for the nest, no more comb is required, queen can just keep up. The key I've found is to force the issue a bit, remove a frame from the edge, push the rest over, and insert the new frame in the center of the nest.

    I went thru most of the colonies doing cells checks yesterday. The parent of line 1, had cups with larvae already last week, 10 frames of brood in a double deep with 2 drawn supers above. We bought 2 weeks leeway by taking the queen with 2 frames of brood at that time. One of the descendants in line 1, had cups with larvae yesterday. I have a set of cells cooking that will be ready to go in right after the weekend. This colony will lose it's queen on monday, all cells scraped, and then I'll give them one of my ripe cells from another line which we brought in this spring. The others that dont have cells yet, will also lose queens on monday, and I'll put ripe cells in those too. The plan is to eliminate this line because they are to swarmy.

    The colonies from line 2, look totally different. The amount of brood varies from 10 to 14 frames of brood. All of them have 2 or 3 supers on now, and all are storing nectar in the super above the excluder. No cells, and no signs of backfill yet in any of them. They have started drawing comb in the supers, so instead of an empty drawn frame, this go around they get a fresh new frame into the brood nest, I want them to draw more brood frames out. I will take a couple brood frames from each to make up mating nucs early next week. With all of the colonies in this line, a simple strategy has worked very well last year, and appears to be working well again this year, altho we are just getting into the heart of the swarm season now. Keep enough empty comb in the brood nest that the queen never runs out of room to lay eggs, and they just continue building up the population, and store nectar in supers above the excluder as long as we keep some empty comb above them. I want more colonies like this, so will graft a bar of cells from the best of them as soon as the current cells come out of the builder.

    As an interesting side note, we did try introduce a new line a couple years back by requeening a couple colonies with queens we bought from a local breeder. That was unsuccessful because neither of those colonies survived the winter. BUT, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, we had boxes of drawn comb to work with the next spring, and that's how we figured out, adding drawn comb to the nest works quite well with one of our lines.

    I dont know what will work with your bees to head off the impulse to swarm. Some of it depends on what resources you have to work with, and some will depend on the tendancies of your bees. For us, it's been 5 years of trial and guess, till we finally came up with a solution that works for half the colonies. The other half of our solution, eliminate those with the swarmy tendancies by replacing them with genetics not so inclined to swarm.

    But, I can also say this. Without years of detailed notes, I would never have figured this all out, and never would have connected the dots well enough to be working on a strategy today that has specific goals, and reasonable expectations of reaching those goals.
    Last edited by grozzie2; 05-08-2015 at 11:37 AM. Reason: typo

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Bearding - Swarm Prevention

    when i found a colony into full blown swarm preps this season, (there were actually 10+ queen cells started), i was able to find the old queen and split her along with a few frames of bees, brood, and stores and created an 'artificial swarm'. i destroyed all but a couple of the queen cells.

    the split is taking off nicely and already drawing a super of comb.

    the parent hive ended up issuing a swarm which got away, and until today had a least 4 virgins piping in the hive. i am only hearing one virgin today, and there have been no more swarms from it.

    in hindsight, i think i should have gone back into the parent hive a week after making the artificial swarm and destroyed any additional queen cells that were made after the split. luckily it looks like the colony won't end up swarming itself silly and despite the split and the one swarm it's still semi-strong and making honey.

    if you are looking to increase your hive count anyway, this would be a good time to split the queen out, make a nuc and let the strong parent hive make a new queen.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  7. #6
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    Jul 2010
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    Default Re: Bearding - Swarm Prevention

    grozzie, just read your last after posting mine. sounds like you are making progress there, congrats on turning your observations into successes.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
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    Columbia, MO
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    Default Re: Bearding - Swarm Prevention

    THis is my second year. I am journaling. I am taking notes, reading as much as I can, and trying to develop my own management "process." It is nice to read that others are scribes as well. I want to make sure I understand one of the items that was posted because there seems to be a belief that you cannot "split" without a introducing a queen. From what I have read I think I can. I just need nurse bees, queen cells, two to four frames of brood, and a new hive to start them in.... right? Or wrong?

  9. #8
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    Jun 2011
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    Default Re: Bearding - Swarm Prevention

    Quote Originally Posted by Rcrane1965 View Post
    I want to make sure I understand one of the items that was posted because there seems to be a belief that you cannot "split" without a introducing a queen.
    I have split numerous different ways over time.

    a) Take the queen, with 3 frames of brood, leave the mother colony to raise a new queen.
    b) Take 2 frames of brood, a frame of stores, set them in a box, let them raise a new queen themselves.
    c) Take a double deep colony, put the top deep on a fresh bottom board on a new stand, put a lid on both halves. One of the raises a new queen.
    d) Take a frame with swarm cells, couple more frames, put in a box, replace with fresh new frames.

    Every method has worked, but not every attempt worked out.

    The only time I've ever introduced a queen, was hiving a new package, or, once we bought special queens, removed the ones in the colony, and introduced the new caged queen to let them eat the candy and let her out of the cage. I've never split with a queen.

    I will be doing a half dozen new starts on Tuesday, all of the the same way. 2 frames of capped brood with a frame of stores, and I'll be adding a ripe queen cell. Yet another different way to take splits from a colony, when we steal the capped brood required. I've already stolen stores frames last week, and have them tucked away.

    I've never tried doing a split by introducing a mated queen. Now that I will soon have a surplus of queens, I may try that route too.

  10. #9
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    Mar 2015
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    Columbia, MO
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    Default Re: Bearding - Swarm Prevention

    What if ... I just want to interrupt the chain of bee events and keep the brood nest open? I was thinking about trying to occupy all those unemployed nurse bees. I thought that if I did not have any queen cells with jelly or larvae that I might simply place some empty frames in the brood nest. Yep, empty. No foundation, nothing, nada, zip. Just an empty frame. I had a picture of two brood frames and one empty. Then two more brood frames and another empty. And so on, and so forth... Maybe, just maybe then they would try to fill those gaps with new comb....The queen will find the new comb and the queen will begin laying eggs in them. If I did this ... I don't know what I am going to do with the brood I pull out... I do have another hive sitting and ready to go... but I really didn't want to split this hive this year... Any ideas... Am I thinking straight or I am I going to do more harm than good? Dang the old man was right... this ain't gonna be as easy as tending cows.

  11. #10
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    Mar 2015
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    Columbia, MO
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    Default Re: Bearding - Swarm Prevention

    And thank you Grozzie... you have been very helpful in assisting me to wrap my brain around the beginning of a new season.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Coeburn, VA, USA
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    6

    Default Re: Bearding - Swarm Prevention

    "The strategy I've tried the last two years worked even better, we have been placing an empty drawn comb into the center of the brood nest once a week thru the swarm season. Queen lays it up, and then goes to work laying up the spots where brood has been emerging. Once a week with a fresh comb seems to be enough to stay ahead of the queen, and they do not start backfilling to any great extent, but population continues to grow."

    This is what I do. I have several friends with hives throwing swarms the past 2 weeks, but mine are not interested at this point. Population is booming and so is the nectar. I use the brood I remove to strengthen splits.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    May 2014
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    Bozeman Montana
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    Default Re: Bearding - Swarm Prevention

    S
    Quote Originally Posted by tcrg3 View Post
    "The strategy I've tried the last two years worked even better, we have been placing an empty drawn comb into the center of the brood nest once a week thru the swarm season. Queen lays it up, and then goes to work laying up the spots where brood has been emerging. Once a week with a fresh comb seems to be enough to stay ahead of the queen, and they do not start backfilling to any great extent, but population continues to grow."

    This is what I do. I have several friends with hives throwing swarms the past 2 weeks, but mine are not interested at this point. Population is booming and so is the nectar. I use the brood I remove to strengthen splits.
    So I have a dumb question, what do you do with the frame/frames you pull to replace with the emptys? Iam assuming these frames if in the brood nest are in some stage of brood so in a thriving hive with two deeps or three mediums or what have you, you pull the frames to open space where do those brood frames go? I have been confused about this for a bit and still haven't got it straight! Thanks

  14. #13
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Bearding - Swarm Prevention

    I found my swarmy bees a few weeks ago with about 15 capped cells. I pulled the queen with 3 frames, and 3 splits with 3 frames as well. I left the parent hive with about 7 frames of bees, all the splits had a frame with cells on it. Can you guess which hive didn't requeen successfully out of all the splits...... I don't see bearding as an issue, other than ventilation is lacking or they can't properly move air through the hive. In fact, I think the only reason I checked the swarmy bees was because activity kind of tapered off, kind of the opposite of what you would expect for swarm prep. They were all busy feeding them cells I guess.

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
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    Columbia, MO
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    Default Re: Bearding - Swarm Prevention

    After several observations and an inspection I don't think they will swarm; however, I did need to put another super on top. Looks like the honey run is on. And thank you to everyone that chimed in.

  16. #15
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    Oct 2009
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    Nassau,NY,USA
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    Default Re: Bearding - Swarm Prevention

    Enjoyed this thread, I too have now seen these signs of backfill and queen cells. I found what I think was the old queen walking around the top of the hive bars inside the inside cover. I took her and placed her in an old nuc box with two frames of brood in larva and capped stage and one full frame of honey. Found 4 queen cells primed and with larva.

    My hope is to check to find her laying in the nuc box and a new queen in the old hive.

  17. #16
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    Campbell River, BC, CA
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    Default Re: Bearding - Swarm Prevention

    Quote Originally Posted by Pinchecharlie View Post
    S
    So I have a dumb question, what do you do with the frame/frames you pull to replace with the emptys? Iam assuming these frames if in the brood nest are in some stage of brood
    No, I dont remove brood. I remove edge frames that dont have brood, then move the frames over to create a gap in the center. The empty drawn frame goes there, between two frames that already have brood. Early on, edge frames tend to come up with little / no stores on them, and some can be used for the new frame in the center. As time goes on, I end up lifting out fully loaded stores frames with honey and pollen from the edge, and these I set aside to use as stores frames for nucs when I start them. On the last go around, I switched it up some, for a number of reasons. The bees have 14 frames in use for brood right now in the bigger colonies, 10 to 12 in the smaller ones. They are building comb, and we are making up mating nucs, so this time around we pulled brood frames out of the nest to use in the nucs, along with the stores frames from a couple weeks ago. I replaced it by putting a brand new frame in the gap, expectation is they will draw it out and lay it up with brood.

    The concept is fairly simple, and seems to be working for us. Make sure there is always empty drawn brood comb in the nest area, so the queen always has room to lay eggs. At the same time, always keep empty drawn comb in the supers above, so the bees aren't so quick to start backfilling. What we have seen here early in the season, if the nest spans 4 frames, then there will be frames of stores beside those 4. The queen wont move over and lay in a 5th frame until the bees have used up those stores, and polished the cells. I force the issue, but putting an empty drawn brood frame between two frames of brood, and move the stores over. Early in the season, it takes a few days before they start using it. As weather warms up, and populations get larger, I've seen that frame laid full of eggs as soon as 3 days after we put it in.

    I know this method goes against the grain of what many folks here will say, but, it seems to be working for us. This is the time of year when I go to a bee club meeting, everybody is talking about hives that swarmed. So far, none of our colonies have swarmed, and only one has shown signs of swarm prep. I've got some hives in a raspberry farm, they show no sign of swarm prep. 14 frames of brood, and 3 supers on with the raspberries just starting to bloom. I expect they will fill 2 of those supers during the bloom, and as soon as we start seeing nectar in the third, they will get a 4th. I do want more frames built in the supers, so, the first one went on with 8 drawn and 2 new frames. The ones after that, 7 drawn and 3 new. When we saw them pulling new comb on the new frames in the first super, that was our clue to stop rotating frames in the brood nest, and start putting in new frames to be drawn.

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