I have a couple of hives started from packages in April that are thriving. Each hive now has 4 bodies and are close to having the frames drawn out on the 4th one. Every night and most mornings the front of the hive are covered in bees, just hanging out. I have an empty hive body on top of the inner cover that I use when pail feeding. Each time I open the outer cover, the top of the inner cover, all four sides of the body, and the underside of the outer cover are covered with bees.
Since we are now entering a dearth, should I leave well enough alone?
Should I add a 5th hive body?
Or should I split them? I don't want to split them if doing so would make two weak hives, since we are also entering SHB and mite season. And would splitting them leave too little time for them to build up for winter?
I am in Northern Middle TN, about an hour North of Nashville, if location is a factor.
A lot of questions here. You mention having "4 bodies". Are these mediums or deeps? If you split, are you going to let them raise a queen, or are you going to purchase a mated queen? So let me take a shot. Splitting shouldn't set you back, but you may have to feed during a dearth. This time of year there should be enough drones flying if you decide to raise a queen. Raising a queen is what will set your hive back in the short term, but it'll also give you a break in the brood cycle if you're treating or performing other IPM techniques. You can certainly add another box and go into Winter with a really strong colony, but then you'll just be dealing with it in the Spring, a time of year you don't really want to set your hives back. I normally do my splits in June, once our nectar flow wanes.
Well I posted this today just before 7:00am. At 9:00 my wife called me and said "there is a cloud of bees in front of one of the hives." Then she said "I can hear them from here". Out house is about 200ft from the hives. I went home immediately, and by the time I got there, there was a large cluster about 50 to 60ft up a willow tree just above the hive.
I had an extra hive body and some swarm lure. I set up this new body with a new bottom board, and new frames of foundation about 50ft from the tree they are in. It is on top of an old truck, so it's about 6ft off the ground. Hopefully, the scout bees will find it and move in.
To answer you questions DeepCreek, all my bodies are medium 8 frame. I would let them raise a queen if I had done the split. I usually feed during July and August. We usually have some nectar flow in Sept.
I had planned to do split next spring. This was a new hive started from a package in April of this year. I had no idea they would swarm this year. Also, with it being July, I thought it was late enough in the year, they would not swarm. Oh well.....experience is a great teacher.
Sorry to hear they swarmed. They usually won't swarm until there's a capped queen cell, in most instances multiple cells. So working your hives regularly should have given an indication that they were in swarm mode. You didn't say how high the swarm was in the tree? Taking a frame with drawn foundation that has larvae & brood (from your original hive) and putting it in your swarm box will anchor the swarm if you catch it. A box with just undrawn foundation will do little to hold them. If you do manage to get them, make sure you keep some sugar syrup on them and try to get that foundation drawn out. I would look at every frame in the original box and see what you've got for swarm cells. If there's to many the hive could cast another swarm.
So….here’s the rest of the story. A local guy who has caught over 50 swarms in the past two years came to my house to have a look. He had a pole that would extend to 30ft with a bucket on the end, but that would not reach them. He said he had never left a swarm before, but after about an hour, neither of us had any good (safe) ideas, we gave up, and we both left.
About 6:00 last night I got back home and decided to try to shoot the limb (which was about 1” to 1 ½” around) out with a .22 rifle. Took me about 30 shots but I got it! When it fell, all the bees left it on the way down. Many were in the grass, and many were still flying, and some were still flying around up in the top of the tree where the limb had been.
The guy I mentioned above just happened to come back about 2 minutes after the limb fell. I had a new hive ready for them, and I started getting a few handfuls off the ground and putting into the hive. But, they would not stay. Most of the bees started going back to hive from which they had swarmed.
The guy had a queen catcher with him and after about 15 to 20 minutes, he saw the queen, and caught her. We put her in the hive (still in the catcher) and then put some handfuls of bees in the hive. They still would not stay. About 10 minutes later, we saw another queen on the front of the hive. We caught her too and put her in the hive. After putting a few handfuls of bees in the hive again, a lot started to stay around her. But most of the bees went back into the old hive.
1. Why would there be 2 queens in the swarm?
2. Why did the bees not like the first queen? Was she a virgin?
3. If the old queen (the one we caught and put in the new hive) was not in the old hive, what was drawing the bees back into their old hive?
4. What do I do now? Start a new hive with the old queen and all the bees who stayed with her (which I do not think was very many)?
5. What about the new queen (virgin) that they do not like, but was in the swarm with them? Start another new hive with her? Get a few frames of brood and honey from the old hive, put her and some of the bees in it and hope she mates and they like her?
Last edited by Fleetwood271; 07-07-2017 at 07:57 PM.
I would have simply shot a line over the limb. I have a line gun I bough from a Navy surplus sale years ago. But there are other ways to get a like over it. Placed a couple of boxes below the swarm on a sheet enough to catch the majority of the swarm. I would have a caged queen in my pocket. then I would all at once and as hard as I could pull the line and shake the branch to dislodge the bees. the majority would hit the sheet if I did not see sighs of the bees telling me the queen was in one of the boxes, I would place the caged queen in one. Part of the bees would stay with the new queen while the remainder would stick with the original queen. If she was in one of the boxes you would be in like Flynn. if not you got part of the swarm. The vast majority of the time the queen falls to the ground with the cluster.