Two swarm clusters, what would you have done?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    San Leandro CA
    Posts
    11

    Default Two swarm clusters, what would you have done?

    Last weekend one of my colonies swarmed (March 3rd! This colony was a swarm that moved into a bait hive I set out last year in early March, early swarmers I guess?). They divided into two clusters, a small one in my avocado tree and the larger group in the neighbors lemon tree. I was able to capture them all in two separate boxes. My guess was that the small one was queenless, so I opened the mother hive, pulled a frame with swarm cells and gave it to the small swarm. I also made another mating nuc with another frame with a nice capped swarm cell. I gave both mating nucs honey and pollen, and for the nuc that was not a swarm gave then a few shaken frames of nurse bees.

    Of note, right after I got the lid on it started drizzling. The box with the big swarm was on top of a ladder at the fence between my yard and my neighbor's yard, about 8 yards from the mother colony. My neighbor and I were both working outside all afternoon, and neither if us saw a big cloud of bees take off from the box. My hope is that the original queen and bees returned to the mother hive because the weather was cold and damp. I checked the colony the next day to see if I could find her but was not successful. Her name is "Little Black Queen" and she's hard to find even when the colony isn't in full swing. There were still at least two capped swarm cells in the mother colony at that time. We added some foundationless frames into the two deeps and closed it up.

    I also checked the nuc box with the smaller swarm but she wasn't in there either. The next day I could hear tooting and quacking, so perhaps the small swarm actually did have a queen after all?

    My plan is to inspect the mother colony in another couple of days when it stops raining. If there is young larvae I'll know the original queen is still in there.

    My questions are:

    Have any of you experienced a swarm RETURNING to the hive it came from instead of taking off? I have spoken with a friend who has seen it happen but I'm wondering how common that is.

    Have any of you experienced TWO swarms coming out at the same time? (Some members of my club suggested one was a primary and the other a secondary) I wouldn't have thought they would leave together like that.

    If you can see a major flaw in how I handled it, I would appreciate feedback from the more experienced of what you might have done differently.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Colorado Springs, CO United States
    Posts
    1,349

    Default Re: Two swarm clusters, what would you have done?

    Yes, a swarm can take off, & come back to the box, but it will be leaving again (think test flight). Although you or your neighbor did not see them leave your box, the capped Q cells in your hive is a good indication that they did;( I have seen swarms that split into two separate balls, typically an indication that the first daughter hatched & instead of killing other cells or her mother, they leave at the same time with their court & seperate into two swarms. Or, their mother left previously & the cells begin to hatch at the same time & instead of killing each other they leave at the same time. Either way you haven't lost her (yet?) if you captured both swarms. What I would have done differently is not added more q cells to the smaller one, but brood & bees instead. I also would have add more boxes to the mother hive
    Please excuse me, I am now free to go manage & treat ;)
    my ladies the best way I know how.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    San Leandro CA
    Posts
    11

    Default Re: Two swarm clusters, what would you have done?

    Quote Originally Posted by fieldsofnaturalhoney View Post
    Yes, a swarm can take off, & come back to the box, but it will be leaving again (think test flight). Although you or your neighbor did not see them leave your box, the capped Q cells in your hive is a good indication that they did;( I have seen swarms that split into two separate balls, typically an indication that the first daughter hatched & instead of killing other cells or her mother, they leave at the same time with their court & seperate into two swarms. Or, their mother left previously & the cells begin to hatch at the same time & instead of killing each other they leave at the same time. Either way you haven't lost her (yet?) if you captured both swarms. What I would have done differently is not added more q cells to the smaller one, but brood & bees instead. I also would have add more boxes to the mother hive
    Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it! I did add a super, plus some foundationless frames to the mother hive. 63 and sunny here in the East Bay CA tomorrow. I can't wait to check and see what's going on in there!!

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