Trying to avoid a swarm, is making a split the best choice?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
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    Plumas County, California, USA
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    237

    Default Trying to avoid a swarm, is making a split the best choice?

    Hi there. Sorry for what turned out to be a long post, and thanks for bearing with me. I'm just providing the context for my mystery.

    I've just started with bees this year, and I have two hives started from good quality nucs. They're about a month old. One hive seems to be moving forward as expected, filling frames and moving up into the next deep hive box. The other hive tends to leave me confused and worried, and though I've made a couple of mistakes they haven't been serious (luckily). Now, I want to do what's right.

    Problems began 11 days ago when I did my second inspection. In the problem hive I spotted several capped queen cells on the bottom of frames. There wasn't a lot of larvae in the brood area. I removed the capped cells (mistake 1). Two days later I added the second boxes and did a thorough search for the queen and found her. Crisis averted.

    I did an inspection 4 days ago. Lots of new larvae and eggs. I found a textbook example of a supersedure cell on the side of a frame, with a large larva inside. Noted it, closed up the hive, and looked into courses of action. There was comb on the bottom of a few frames with some drone cells, some larva, and some nectar/honey. I removed only the comb with nectar, left the larva and drone. I have felt like this is a weak colony in some way as they are not drawing comb readily in the bottom box, and maybe they were supseding their queen.

    Today I went back in with a plan to 1) find the queen and 2) remove the frame with the supersedure cell and put it into a nuc with a frame of honey and some empty foundation. But things didn't go as planned.

    I found the queen quickly (but then couldn't find her again). There was a good variety of larvae at all stages and I I identified eggs. They still have not started drawing comb in the top hive box, and are only very slowly filling out the remaining frames. I am feeding them. The supersedure cell was not visible--at least not where I remembered it. Maybe I was mistaken, and I did find a similar on one another frame. However, this one was not nearly as developed and was empty as far as I could tell. Can bees reverse their supersedure? I do not think the cell could have been capped and the new queen emerge already. (?)

    And on the bottom of the two frames, where the extra comb had been drawn, I found a couple of queen cups, a couple of open queen cells. and at least one capped queen cell. That seems very quick-- maybe I missed a queen cup or two four days ago.

    So now, what to do? My first idea is to put each frame with the assumed swarm cells in a nuc with a honey frame and let them develop; leave the old queen in the original hive. (or queen in nuc--don't know which is better.) I don't really want four colonies in my back yard, though.

    Or I can move honey frames and/or brood into the top box to draw the bees up. However, if there are already queen/swarm cells, is this too late?

    I can remove the queen cells (after checking again to make sure the queen is present) maybe with some combination of manipulating frames.

    There is one frame of honey that is really, really heavy. It came with the nuc, but has become much heavier in the last week or so. It was next to the brood area, as that was its original orientation. I moved it toward the outside and put a frame of comb that they have just begun to draw in its place. I thought perhaps the brood area was being limited by that honey frame. But maybe that heavy frame should go above?

    Or I can do nothing and let the bees do what they want. I don't really want to lose part of my hive. And why they would want to swarm when they still have so much space and can still draw comb (I know, swarming is what bees like to do and they've already tried)--and why do they still have so much space?

    Thanks for helping me end my confused state.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    Bergen County, NJ
    Posts
    904

    Default Re: Trying to avoid a swarm, is making a split the best choice?

    You have number of options. I always try to remember that bees are really good at hiding queen cells. Keeping that in mind, If it was upto me, I would

    1. Mark and move the laying queen into a small Nuc. Then,
    2. Thoroughly check the hive for all queen cells and only leave couple of good ones.
    3. Watch both Nuc and main hive closely
    4. Combine back if main hive fails to come up with a new laying queen

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Plumas County, California, USA
    Posts
    237

    Default Re: Trying to avoid a swarm, is making a split the best choice?

    Thanks! That sounds like a reasonable plan.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    7,861

    Default Re: Trying to avoid a swarm, is making a split the best choice?

    They swarm or start making QCs because the brood nest got overfilled with the extra continuous feeding. That was why you
    saw a heavier frame than before. On the flow you don't have to keep on feeding them. Feeding only in time of need like
    a new hive or going through the summer dearth and even before going into the winter. A restricted brood nest will make them think
    this hive is full and it is time to make a split. For the extra space, you have to give them the drawn frames otherwise they will not
    make more drawn frames. They rather stay with the broods below. Opening up the brood nest is one way. Another is to use
    checker boarding. For me I put the entire 10 drawn frames on top when the flow is on and stop feeding them syrup.
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
    Posts
    2,660

    Default Re: Trying to avoid a swarm, is making a split the best choice?

    Quote Originally Posted by cconnell View Post
    And on the bottom of the two frames, where the extra comb had been drawn, I found a couple of queen cups, a couple of open queen cells. and at least one capped queen cell.
    I am a rookie beekeeper, and this is JMHO, but once you find capped QC's, the best way to avoid swarming is to do some sort of split to fool the bees into thinking the hive has swarmed.

    Research: "Taranov Maneuver", "cut-down split", and "swarm split." There are other types of splits, as well, but these are a good start.
    Last edited by shinbone; 06-07-2017 at 08:35 AM.
    --shinbone
    (1975-1980, and now since 2011; maintain about 10 hives; Zone 5b; 15" rain; 5500')

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    7,861

    Default Re: Trying to avoid a swarm, is making a split the best choice?

    Condensed the bees down to 2 deep then give them a newly mated early Spring queen. Take out
    all the cap and uncap brood frames to other deserving hives. Leave the nectar/pollen frames in. Brushed off all the attaching bees back into
    the original hive. Then give them more drawn comb to replace the empty slots. Super up for honey harvest on the flow. What do you see in this situation.
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

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