Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?
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  1. #1
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    Default Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    All:

    I will apologize in advance if this question has been asked before- I couldn’t find anything in the archives quite like it, so here goes:

    Have you all observed any correlation between relative Spring swarm date and subsequent long-term overwintering success assuming one does not re-queen?

    In other words, I am wondering if the earliest swarms of the season could generally be expected to come from colonies that started brooding up early (maybe too early) and thus are genetically predisposed to build-up before local forage is suitable?

    As an example, the Kentucky State Beekeeper’s Association has published swarm date surveys the last two years, and in my county (McCracken) multiple swarms have been reported earlier than what might be considered the “normal” swarm season for our region:

    2017- March 5th – 11th
    http://www.ksbabeekeeping.org/survey...warms-of-2017/

    2018- April 8th – 14th
    http://www.ksbabeekeeping.org/result...n-2018-survey/

    By comparison, I caught two prime swarms the first week of May last year after setting my traps out in Mid-April.

    My reason for asking is to question- is there any harm to have one’s swarm traps out by the date of the first recorded swarms (in my case the First week of March) or is there some anecdotal evidence that swarms caught at a particular point within the local swarm season are generally better adapted to the local seasonal progression?

    From our forum, here are the general “first swarm” dates for Kentucky:
    https://www.beesource.com/forums/sho...1096-Kentucky/

    2007- End May
    2008- No entry
    2009- Mid May
    2010- Late April
    2011- Early April
    2012- Mid April
    2013- Mid May
    2014- Late April
    2015- Mid April
    2016- Mid April
    2017- Mid April
    2018- Late April

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    Excellent questions! I will preface this by saying I have no idea as i’m New at this. But, a few thoughts. First, IMO, an early season swarm would seem to be a very good sign of health and vitality. Those would be genetics i’d Love to test. I guess one because they obviously overwintered (very important where i live in the north) and 2nd because they were healthy enough to build up strong. I’d say you got a strong queen in that one. Me thinks i’d Be more worried about late swarms tbh. Especially those August September ones which may even be obsconds.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    Calendars are nice for the beekeepers but I haven't seen a bee consulting one. Personal opinion, I lean more toward phenology and Growing Degree Days (GDD). Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate, GDD is a calculation of accumulated heat which can help you to predict the blossoming of plants and trees.

    You might research the historic GDD for the dates you mentioned and see if there's a correlation or pick one date and see the differences over the years. Ohio State University has a phonology calendar but it's only applicable to Ohio, if you can find an Ohio location with your plant hardiness zone it can give you a rough idea on the historic variances. http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/gdd/

    The link below gives a quick explanation as it applies to beekeeping
    https://www.beekeeping.isgood.ca/hiv...-to-beekeeping

    is there any harm to have one’s swarm traps out by the date of the first recorded swarms (in my case the First week of March) or is there some anecdotal evidence that swarms caught at a particular point within the local swarm season are generally better adapted to the local seasonal progression?
    I've not noted any anecdotal or other evidence supporting better adaptation based on capture date but have found there are too many variables within a hive and from their external environment to say only the early/late colonies are the better choices. So put your traps out when the spirt moves you
    “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    Practically speaking I have no idea....it is a good question.
    According to Walt Wright, swarm preparations will start once the first pollen is started being brought in to the colony....they will not swarm without drones...so they will start by the production of drone brood. Once the drones start hatching, they will start the queen cell production and swarming will begin probably 8 days or so later....obviously weather, colony size and health has everything to do with everything else as they will abandon swarming early if the colony cannot afford to swarm....colony survival trumps propagation. So many variables to give any sort of exact science.
    Help is here to never misplace that hive tool again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTqB0zcmhmQ

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    Quote Originally Posted by brad5155 View Post
    Excellent questions! I will preface this by saying I have no idea as i’m New at this. But, a few thoughts. First, IMO, an early season swarm would seem to be a very good sign of health and vitality. Those would be genetics i’d Love to test. I guess one because they obviously overwintered (very important where i live in the north) and 2nd because they were healthy enough to build up strong.
    Brad5155:

    Thank you for your reply- I sincerely appreciate it! I like you have much to learn. Succinctly, I concur with your thoughts about overwintering success and strong build-up. I will attempt to further clarify my thoughts (muddled that they are) in my reply to KevinWI's post below.

    Thanks again for your input, and good luck in your swarm trapping this year!

    Russ

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eikel View Post
    Personal opinion, I lean more toward phenology and Growing Degree Days (GDD). Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate, GDD is a calculation of accumulated heat which can help you to predict the blossoming of plants and trees.
    Eikel:

    Thank you for your detailed and helpful reply. I appreciated the opportunity to review both of the hyperlinks you sent. I have utilized phenological cues in the past, but have never thought to correlate swarm issuance to these cues. I will further elaborate on my question in my response to KevinWI, but I am eager to find a base 50 growing degree day computation for Kentucky- so far no luck.

    Thanks again for the great input- I do appreciate it!

    Russ

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinWI View Post
    So many variables to give any sort of exact science.
    KevinWI:

    Thank you for your reply. I do appreciate it. Ironically, I am a self-styled Walt Wright disciple, and his thoughts are what prompted me to think about this idea more deeply.

    I was considering this topic from less of a scientific and more of a practical consideration tied to Walt's observation- namely:

    If there are colonies in my area which are issuing swarms a full month or more before (i.e. early March) than is typical (i.e. mid April), what if anything can be determined about the swarm itself?

    Some conjecture about very early swarms- based on Walt's colony priorities:

    1. They are the result of supplemental feeding and/or pollen sub which caused them to build-up and backfill the brood nest earlier than would have been possible based on prevailing forage.

    2. They are the result of an exceptionally well-provisioned colony which requires no early nectar gathering to re-supply their Honey Reserve.

    3. They are the result of a colony that occupies a particularly small volume which precludes brood nest expansion.

    4. They are the result of a colony that is genetically predisposed to be gamblers in colony build-up prior to prevailing forage availability.

    5. Others?

    I might be overthinking it- which is what lead me to ask whether others had observed early hived swarms being more risky in general in brooding up or there were any patterns relative to the type and constitution of colonies which are the result of much earlier swarms.

    As an aside, I recall Walt observing that all colonies in his yard exhibited similar build-up based on phenological cues within a few days of each other- was this as a result of similar genetics, similar management, our should we expect all colonies in ones area will behave similarly regarding prime swarm issuance if left to their own devices?

    Thanks again for your response. I do appreciate it.

    Russ

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    Russ,
    Try the links below. Most of the GDD data is geared toward agriculture crops and determining emergence, germination, the most effective time/temp/GDD for planting and applying herbicide's/pesticides/etc so you have to adjust for what the bees might be doing off of that. Correlating a GDD range when the first swarms might issue is still a work in progress but I'm guessing the 800 range but that's with minimal data input. It feels like trying to forecast the weather, the conditions exist for …..

    http://weather.uky.edu/dd.php

    http://www.greencastonline.com/growing-degree-days/home
    “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eikel View Post
    Correlating a GDD range when the first swarms might issue is still a work in progress but I'm guessing the 800 range but that's with minimal data input. It feels like trying to forecast the weather, the conditions exist for …..
    Eikel:

    Thank you very much for your helpful reply. I have now opened and worked with both calculators- these are good resources.

    For your 800 GDD benchmark, are you beginning the computation at January 1st or another starting date?

    Do you employ 50 degrees F as your base temperature?

    Using these factors with the two calculators I get a GDD for my locale (42027) of 34.5 (GreenCast) and 56 (UK). Comparing these results to the GDD phenological progress from The Ohio State University calculator seems to suggest that the GreenCast model is more in keeping with local observed conditions- i.e. the Red Maple are preparing to bloom here.

    Thanks again for your help. I really do appreciate it!

    Russ

  11. #10
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    Default

    Not to muddy the water too much, but I picked up a big swarm in August a few years ago. I put them in a deep, fed syrup, in 2 weeks they got another box. They filled that on a fall flow, overwintered with a big cluster and came out swinging in the spring as a very strong hive with the same queen AFAIK

    Our "prime" swarm season is done by July. Who knows why these ones swarmed. Absconded from beetles or mites? Their tree fell over? They don't read beekeeping books?

    A hived swarm, well provisioned and treated as you know best has as good a chance of surviving as any other in your care, no matter the calendar.
    Mistakes are the best taechers

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    I have to agree with beebeard on this. I caught one of my own swarms in either late Sept. or early Oct. and put them in a five frame nuc. This was a very small swarm about the size of a softball. I fed them heavily and the queen continued to lay until at least the end of Oct. As of last week it was still three good frames of bees and we only have about another three weeks of our "winter" left to go. Queen quality and weather probably play a pretty big role in overall survivability. All a beek needs to do is provide for them to the best of his or her ability.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beebeard View Post
    A hived swarm, well provisioned and treated as you know best has as good a chance of surviving as any other in your care, no matter the calendar.
    Quote Originally Posted by JWPalmer View Post
    I have to agree with beebeard on this.... All a beek needs to do is provide for them to the best of his or her ability.
    Beebeard and JW:

    Thank you both for your feedback, and I appreciate you keeping me focused. You are exactly right, that I would certainly not turn away a swarm simply because their arrival does not correspond with a typical Spring swarm profile.

    I suppose the question itself was sort of a thought experiment to understand what (if anything) can be ascertained about an exceptionally early swarm.

    As it stands, I plan on deploying all my swarm traps in early March, and I will plan on tracking if there are any caught this early- and if so, is there anything noteworthy about them?

    Thank you both again for your replies, and best of success to you, your families and your beekeeping efforts this year.

    Russ

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    Using these factors with the two calculators I get a GDD for my locale (42027) of 34.5 (GreenCast) and 56 (UK). Comparing these results to the GDD phenological progress from The Ohio State University calculator seems to suggest that the GreenCast model is more in keeping with local observed conditions- i.e. the Red Maple are preparing to bloom here.
    For possible future referral by Kentucky beekeeprs, I spoke with Dr. Stuart Foster with Kentucky Mesonet, and he suggested that I utilize the following link for GDD data for Kentucky:

    http://www.kymesonet.org/ag.html

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    Yes, I use 50F as the base temp and 1 Jan as a start date. Glad you found a good link.

    I use the GDD information only as an indicator when enough cumulative warming has occurred to support the spring cycle of blooms, i.e gives somewhat of a front end "how will this cool/warm spring " change when I should have the traps out and/or potentially see early swarms. The phenology gives a bit of confirmation GDD estimate. It only says "conditions exist that might support swarm activity," aka "looks like it could rain" and has no bearing on the quality or end of swarms - too many other variables.

    Here's link from OU for a list of GDD and bloom values, it's for Chesapeake Ohio, Hardiness zone 6b but I doubt a plant cares if it's in OH or KY, more of a just show me the warmth attitude.

    https://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/gdd...w.asp?fill=all
    “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eikel View Post
    I use the GDD information only as an indicator when enough cumulative warming has occurred to support the spring cycle of blooms, i.e gives somewhat of a front end "how will this cool/warm spring " change when I should have the traps out and/or potentially see early swarms. The phenology gives a bit of confirmation GDD estimate. It only says "conditions exist that might support swarm activity," aka "looks like it could rain" and has no bearing on the quality or end of swarms - too many other variables.
    Eikel:

    Thank you again for your help- I do sincerely appreciate you taking the time to outline your approach.

    Thanks again for the information and the advice- I am grateful.

    Russ

  17. #16

    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    For possible future referral by Kentucky beekeeprs, I spoke with Dr. Stuart Foster with Kentucky Mesonet, and he suggested that I utilize the following link for GDD data for Kentucky:

    http://www.kymesonet.org/ag.html
    I am also in McCracken County. Just starting out this year. I have also been looking at GDD and anticipating when the 1st swarms may appear. I plan on baiting at least 1 trap by the end of this month.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    I feel this idea of "early swarms is good" is overdue for some correction - mites.
    The mites have much better chance to build up in an early swarm and successfully kill it later in season (unless you treat, of course).
    With this in mind, mid-summer/late-summer swarm maybe a better value than was perceived 100 years ago.

    And of course, another bias towards early swarms was that they did not need feeding (a good deal in an era of expensive sugar).

    In all, setting up any late swarm for overwintering today is too cheap and too trivial to worry much about.
    A late swarm does not automatically means bad bees (for the US context especially due to migratory chaos and cross-county bee sales).
    Any swarm has potential value as for me (you don't really know what you got until send them through a fair trial).
    Last edited by GregV; 02-19-2019 at 08:46 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    Quote Originally Posted by robber View Post
    I am also in McCracken County. Just starting out this year.
    Robber:

    Glad to hear you are taking the plunge. If ever I can be of help to you, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Best of success to you this year.

    Russ

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    Any swarm has potential value as for me (you don't really know what you got until send them through a fair trial).
    GregV:

    Thanks for the feedback- the myriad dynamics associated with early versus late swarms is interesting to me, and I share your thoughts that it's worth giving a swarm a try no matter when hived to see what you might have.

    I do wonder if the exceptionally early swarms (at least as reported by the Kentucky Swarm Survey) might be the product of late winter supplemental feeding.

    That said, I intend to set-out about a dozen traps over the next two weeks, and monitor if there appears to be anything that can be ascertained from date hived versus colony characteristics...

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Swarm Date versus Overwintering Success?

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    GregV: ... a dozen traps over the next two weeks.....
    Lucky for you!
    We have 3 more months before swarm trapping here.
    Fun.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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