Do virgin queens ever swarm?
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  1. #1
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    Default Do virgin queens ever swarm?

    Hi All

    Last year I had a large and a small swarm come off of a big hive.

    Was the small swarm a virgin queen? Do virgin queens swarm or only mated ones?

    Cathy

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  3. #2
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    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Do virgin queens ever swarm?

    >> Do virgin queens swarm or only mated ones?

    The "first" swarm from a colony is normally headed by the existing [mated] queen. IF there is any additional swarms from that colony, (afterswarms or secondary swarms), they are headed by virgin queens. Those afterswarms normally occur after the virgin queens emerge, but before they are mated. Once the afterswarm finds a new home, then the queen goes on her mating flight.
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Do virgin queens ever swarm?

    I second what Rader says. If there’s enough virgin Q’s in a hive, sometimes it’ll swarm itself to the point its crippled and never recover.
    Rod

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Do virgin queens ever swarm?

    >Last year I had a large and a small swarm come off of a big hive.

    Probably at least a week apart. The first is a laying queen, the second and subsequent swarms are virgin queens.

    >Was the small swarm a virgin queen? Do virgin queens swarm or only mated ones?

    Swarm cells are staggered over time so that the colony can, if it decides to, cast secondary swarms. Anything after the first swarm is lead by a virgin.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/huber.htm#o...dsprimaryswarm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Do virgin queens ever swarm?

    You can also find multiple virgins along with the laying queen in large swarms.
    "Of all God's creatures, only the honeybee improves its environment and preys on no other species."--Haydon Brown

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Do virgin queens ever swarm?

    I think the multiple queens are often because several queens are being confined by the bees but in the confusion of the swarm they all escape. The other reason is that sometimes more than one swarm merges. I think that's the case when you find a laying queen with some virgins because the laying queen usually leaves a week or more before any of the virgins in her hive emerge...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Do virgin queens ever swarm?

    If the emerging Queen doesn't kill all of the other cells does she swarm or wait for the others to emerge and then one of them swarm? I wonder how this plays out.

    Alex
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Do virgin queens ever swarm?

    http://www.bushfarms.com/huber.htm#letter9

    Here is the sequence of events. The laying queen isn't interested in cells. After she leaves with the first swarm, a week later or so the first virgin emerges and she is allowed out. The bees won't let her destroy the other cells and the other queens they confine as they try to emerge.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Do virgin queens ever swarm?

    Now I'm really confused. I thought after the original Queen (laying Queen) left, the first emerging Queen would kill the other Queens in their cells and if any were missed they would swarm as many times as there were new Queens.

    [I]> The bees won't let her destroy the other cells and the other queens they confine as they try to emerge. [/] What happens when they stop trying to confine them? Is this when subsequent swarms occur?

    I don't know if this a choice of the Queens or workers or who or what sets the sequence of events into motion or what causes it to be different from time to time.

    I had one colony that swarmed itself into oblivion a few years ago. I hived them into nucs and later killed all but one of those Queens after they laid up a few frames and combined the nucs into one colony. It was a big PIA.

    Thank you for your patience.

    Alex
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Do virgin queens ever swarm?

    Alex, I have had a virgin queen swarm, and then not make it back from her mating flight after they set up house in a swarm trap I had out. I have also had the second queen swarm after mating and laying up a few frames. That was a very small swarm that I nursed along until it is now a full five frames in the nuc box. Fortunantly the qc's that hive produced were sucessfull and one qc went into a queenless nuc that had gone LW. Hardest thing to keep in mind is that it is the workers that make the swarm decisions, not the queens. One of these days I may try making a swarm bandit to catch the swarms as they try to leave the hive. Maybe.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Do virgin queens ever swarm?

    In a supersedure the first queen out kills all the rest. With swarm cells the bees don't allow this until they are done swarming. Then they will let the most recent queen kill the rest. Read the link to Huber above for a detailed description. If you have an observation hive in your living room you can let them swarm and watch all of this happen.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Do virgin queens ever swarm?

    From my field observations (I do not have a home observation beehive) I understand that we should take climacteric factors into account. If climatic conditions become adverse to the exit of the primary swarm the mother queen may have to live for some time with the new queens that emerge. I have encountered this scenario a few times in my hives. Another aspect about the protection of the real cells by the bees, in order to allow the birth of several virgin queens, I believe only partially explains the phenomenon. I have seen countless queens being born with a few seconds of difference. In these cases the queens are born without needing the protection of their real cell. In other cases I have also observed swarming cells gnawed laterally, which leads me to assume that bees do not protect all real cells.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Do virgin queens ever swarm?

    Thank you all for your responses.

    I have observed all sorts of odd behavior during swarm season, inside and outside the hive. An unmarked Queen on top of the inner cover, a marked Queen on top of another, swarms returning to the hive, etc.

    I made some Snelgrove boards to use this Spring for swarm control. While trying to absorb all of that I have been trying to get a better understanding of the swarm behavior of swarms.

    Thanks again,
    Alex
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

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