New hive with swarm cells
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  1. #1
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    Default New hive with swarm cells

    I picked up a 5 frame nuc about a mont ago (6/8) and installed them into my first top bar hive. This past Saturday, when I went through the hive, I was unable to find the queen. I could very well have missed her, but more alarming was that I also saw 3 or 4 swarm cells and possibly 1 supersedure cell. Iím not completely sure on that last one, it could have just been normal (but lumpy) comb, but Iím certain there were swarm cells.

    Just to give some info on how the hive is doingÖ When I installed the 5 frames, I added one empty bar in front, and put the follower board right around the middle, so they have plenty of room. Theyíve started to draw new comb on that first bar and the bar after the 5 nuc bars. I feel like they might be going a little slow, but I'm inexperiences, so maybe it's about right. I havenít seen eggs, but being so new to this, that does not mean they arenít there. I don't know that I always remember everything I'm supposed to be looking for. I did see larvae on Saturday, so I think that means she was there and laying within the last week or so.

    So, my thought was to go back in this week and confirm or deny if the queen is gone. If I do find her, what would you recommend I do? Should I do anything about the swarm cells? On the other hand, if I donít find her, should I just allow a new queen to hatch and see what happens? Or would it be better to try to find a new mated queen?

    Thanks!

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    There have been a lot of nucs swarming after a month or so this year. Chances are good that if the swarm cells are capped, your hive has already swarmed. Older larvae and capped brood but no eggs sounds right for this event. Your location is not listed and the best advice will be predicated on where you are, but in most cases you can just let the cells emerge, which will probably happen in a few days, and let nature take it's course. You should be seeing eggs and brood by the end of the month. If not, get a mated queen and install her.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    Oops, I'm in central Texas, near Austin. I added location to my profile.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    Cool. There are several Beesource regulars that live close to you. Maybe one will chime in. I am also thinking now that a purchased queen may be a better alternative to keep AHB genetics out of your hive.

    Also, welcome to Beesource!
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    doh, double post

  7. #6
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    Donk, did you actually pick up a topbar nuc or was it a Lang nuc that you modified for your topbar hive? I'd be more inclined to think something happened to the queen during the process than that they are swarming.

    And I like to put my empty bars in the brood nest to get them drawn out. That way they hop right on them and they are nice and straight.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    And are you feeding them syrup?

  9. #8
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    Hi Ruth. This was a top bar nuc. Though the bars weren't an exact fit and I had to do a very minimal amount of trimming.

    Both bars that they are currently working on are turning out straight. One is at the end of the hive, between the brood nest and the end wall. The other is at the open end. Probably would be a good idea to move that one inward. It also feels like they aren't building very fast, but maybe I'm just being impatient. Or I guess if the hive swarmed, half of the workforce would have left.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    Quote Originally Posted by ruthiesbees View Post
    And are you feeding them syrup?
    I did feed them for the first 2 weeks, but have not refilled since then. Should I resume feeding?

  11. #10
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    Quote Originally Posted by ruthiesbees View Post
    Donk, did you actually pick up a topbar nuc or was it a Lang nuc that you modified for your topbar hive? I'd be more inclined to think something happened to the queen during the process than that they are swarming.

    And I like to put my empty bars in the brood nest to get them drawn out. That way they hop right on them and they are nice and straight.
    Regarding the queen. I did not see her this past Saturday (6/30), but she was there the week before (6/23).

    That brings up another topic. I've been pulling and inspecting bars once a week. Trying to understand them and learn all I can. Am I bothering them too much?

  12. #11
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    If you are only at 6-7 drawn bars, I'd continue to feed. you need to get the comb drawn out at least 20 bars for winter so 10 of them can be filled with stores.

    How good are you at spotting eggs? Is there open larvae or only capped at this point? Did they backfill the brood nest with nectar/syrup? It just seems like an odd time of year for them to have a natural swarming urge. I'd say it has to be something else, like emergency queen replacement. In a topbar hive, especially with comb that doesn't reach the floor, when the queen goes missing, they tend to make the queen cells on the edges (like in the Miller method). The books will tell you that those one the edge of the comb are swarm cells, but not necessarily for a topbar hive.

    Here is my post from a few months back on how I make queen cells by pulling the queen. It has accompanying photos to show what it can look like. https://www.beesource.com/forums/sho...-a-topbar-hive

  13. #12
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    Quote Originally Posted by donk View Post
    Regarding the queen. I did not see her this past Saturday (6/30), but she was there the week before (6/23).

    That brings up another topic. I've been pulling and inspecting bars once a week. Trying to understand them and learn all I can. Am I bothering them too much?
    For your first hive, once a week is not too often. That is how we learn. Once the hive grows larger and you are more comfortable with what you know and see, you will inspect less frequently after spring swarm season.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    Quote Originally Posted by ruthiesbees View Post
    If you are only at 6-7 drawn bars, I'd continue to feed. you need to get the comb drawn out at least 20 bars for winter so 10 of them can be filled with stores.

    How good are you at spotting eggs? Is there open larvae or only capped at this point? Did they backfill the brood nest with nectar/syrup? It just seems like an odd time of year for them to have a natural swarming urge. I'd say it has to be something else, like emergency queen replacement. In a topbar hive, especially with comb that doesn't reach the floor, when the queen goes missing, they tend to make the queen cells on the edges (like in the Miller method). The books will tell you that those one the edge of the comb are swarm cells, but not necessarily for a topbar hive.

    Here is my post from a few months back on how I make queen cells by pulling the queen. It has accompanying photos to show what it can look like. https://www.beesource.com/forums/sho...-a-topbar-hive
    Not too good at spotting eggs. In fact, I can't say I've seen any yet. I've looked, especially last weekend when I noticed the queen cells and didn't see my queen. It was very windy here on Saturday, and partly cloudy, so probably not prime egg spotting conditions. I did see larvae in open cells, but it did seem like there were quite a few cells that they had filled with nectar. Honestly, after I found the queen cells, I got a little flustered and looked at each bar several times. So I don't remember exactly where I saw the nectar filled cells.

    Being that I'm so new to bees, I really hadn't even researched much of this yet. I knew enough to recognize a queen cell, but that's about it. I didn't think I'd have to worry about swarming or losing a queen or whatever is going on. BTW, the pics in your thread look exactly like what I have, just fewer in my hive.

    I read a bunch over the weekend and had kind of settled on the same conclusion that you did. Seems like an odd time to swarm, so I thought that queen loss was the likely culprit. I'm planning to open the hive up on Wednesday and have another look for the queen, and see what's going on with those cells. If you have any recommendations for specific things to look for, I'd love to hear it. I'll go ahead and refill my feeder and put that back in too. Just to confirm, I would want to use a 1:1 ration syrup, correct?

  15. #14
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    Quick update and new question... Not on the original issue as I haven't looked in the hive yet. Planning on doing that tomorrow morning. I went to watch the entrance for awhile and noticed the bees are bearding. It's late afternoon and very hot today. From what I've read, this doesn't seem like swarming behavior.

    Anyway, I have 2 of my 3 entrances blocked b/c I was worried about robbing from a feral colony that lives somewhere nearby. I also have a screened bottom but the beekeeper who sold me the nuc recommending leaving it closed. Said it was easier for the bees to control the temps that way. Is that the general consensus? Should I open more of the entrance holes?

    IMG_1983.jpg

  16. #15
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    That's not a "beard". More like a teenager sprouting a couple of whiskers.

    When the entire face of the hive is covered in bees, then you have a bee beard to be concerned about. No, don't open the extra entrances. There would not be enough bees to defend the large round holes. I still have a reducer on one of mine even though they are 14 bars of comb strong, there was still some robbing going on.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    1:1 is the correct ratio for this time of year for most beekeepers. You can feed 2:1 also, benefit being that it does not tend to spoil as quickly in the heat. As for the screened bottom and reduced entrances, lot of opinions out there and most are contradictory. I use a reduced entrance at 4" but run wide open screened bottom boards for most of the year. It has been high 90's with a heat index of over 100 for the past several days. Plenty of bees hanging out and fanning but no bearding yet. Try it different ways and see what works best for you. There is no general consensus.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    Sounds good. I'll leave just the one entrance open (or should I even reduce it further?) and experiment with opening the bottom. I'm going in tomorrow morning to inspect and add syrup. I'll report back what I find. Thank you both so much for helping me out.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells

    Looked in the hive this morning and I'm sure I'm queenless now. I attached some pics with a few notes. Unfortunately my photography skills leave much to be desired. I completely missed on capturing the queen cells, but I noted where they were. I also didn't take any pics of the new combs being drawn. There are 2 being worked on, both being smaller than my hand. Didn't notice anything interesting going on there.

    Anyway, here's how it went... I did not see any eggs, and only noticed a handful of larvae. Most are either being capped or getting close to being capped. So, unless I missed something, I guess the last eggs were probably laid about 8 days ago. There are still 3 swarm/queen cells on the bottom of bar 3. They were sealed when I was in there last weekend and are still sealed, so I think that means they should be emerging in the next 3-4 days, right? Does this timeline seem correct? Does it indicate anything, like whether or not the queen swarmed, or maybe she was killed? I did see her the previous Saturday when I inspected (6/23). That would be 11 days ago. I really don't think this happened, but I guess there's a chance that she could have been accidentally squished during that inspection, but I don't think that's possible, since I still see some larvae.

    Bar 1:
    bar 1-1.jpg
    bar 1-2.jpg

    Bar 2:
    bar 2-1.jpg
    bar 2-2.jpg


    More pics to follow...
    Attached Images Attached Images

  20. #19
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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells


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    Default Re: New hive with swarm cells


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