Main hive going for its third after swarm - many queens?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
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    Sebastopol, CA
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    Default Main hive going for its third after swarm - many queens?

    Hello all, I'm new here to the forum.

    I am a beekeeper in my 3rd year, using Langstroth.

    As of one month ago, my main hive (2 deep boxes with a new medium on top) was queenright, there were eggs and workers were bringing in LOTS of pollen and nectar.

    3 weeks ago, they started preparing to swarm (bearding all over the hive, then returning inside). I heard lots of piping and tooting inside the hive for several days. 2 weeks ago they swarmed for the first time, and I caught them. This new hive is active but i have yet to do a hive check, so don't know if it's queenright.

    Since then there was an afterswarm that flew away when I wasn't home, and then a third one today that I caught -- there was a queen and I put her in the box, while 1/4 of the swarm was still on a branch. Workers from this new swarm were nasonov fanning, but eventually the rest of the swarm in the tree flew away instead of joining the rest in the box, so i'm very unsure if the queen i caught is still in this newest box.

    For over a week there has also been a large swarm sized group under the main hive, in between the hive stand and the table (in an inaccessible position). During this third swarm, from today, they emptied out from under the hive...but by the afternoon there was another (or the same?) group under the hive. Lots of drone action around this group too.

    I also saw a queen by herself hanging out on the outside of the hive, and with the under-hive group, two days ago.

    Lots of puzzling pieces, I know. I'm hoping for any insight or experience with a seemingly robust hive that keeps swarming like it just won't quit, with potentially multiple queen hatchings.

    Thanks!

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Main hive going for its third after swarm - many queens?

    You may want to go to your profile and add your location. That way, when you ask questions you are likely to get location appropriate answers.
    Booming hives in the spring will often emit multiple swarms. For a beekeeper who wants to produce any honey it is a destructive process as the remaining colony will probably not produce any surplus and may not produce enough to get themselves through the winter.
    Swarm management is not an especially complex topic but certainly more than I would try to cover in a message board post. Most bee clubs have speakers this time of year doing talks on swarm management. I am doing one tomorrow night. You may want to check with any local bee groups and see what they offer.
    It’s a bit late for you this year….but you’ll appreciate it next.
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Lamar Co. Alabama, USA
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    Default Re: Main hive going for its third after swarm - many queens?

    Welcome to Bee Source.

    If I know a hive swarmed, I try to check it for queen cells as soon as I can and either use some of the cells to make splits or cull them down to three cells. Usually with only three cells there won't be after swarms.

    A lot of times after swarms will have multiple virgin queens in them or the swarm will split with one or more virgin queens in each part of the swarm. I've caught swarms that had at least three virgins in them. I put a queen excluder under the hive I put the swarm in for 3-5 days, or until they are drawing comb. By then the swarm will usually stay. I remove the excluder so the virgin can take her mating flights.

    There may have been one or more virgin queens in the cluster under the hive. I've had luck putting a nucleus hive close to a cluster under a hive, with drawn comb in it, getting the cluster to go into it. A frame with young brood on it might work faster but if the cluster didn't go into the box, the brood would chill fairly quickly. I don't know if leaving nurse bees on the brood would keep the swarm from going into the nuc hive or not.
    "Sometimes the best action, with bees, is no action at all."

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
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    Sebastopol, CA
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    Default Re: Main hive going for its third after swarm - many queens?

    Hi beemandan, thank you for your reply. I edited my profile to show that I am in Northern California, Sonoma County. Swarm management is my learning curve this year...always a steep curve when it comes to bees!

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
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    Sebastopol, CA
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    Default Re: Main hive going for its third after swarm - many queens?

    Quote Originally Posted by GaryG74 View Post
    Welcome to Bee Source.

    If I know a hive swarmed, I try to check it for queen cells as soon as I can and either use some of the cells to make splits or cull them down to three cells. Usually with only three cells there won't be after swarms.

    A lot of times after swarms will have multiple virgin queens in them or the swarm will split with one or more virgin queens in each part of the swarm. I've caught swarms that had at least three virgins in them. I put a queen excluder under the hive I put the swarm in for 3-5 days, or until they are drawing comb. By then the swarm will usually stay. I remove the excluder so the virgin can take her mating flights.

    There may have been one or more virgin queens in the cluster under the hive. I've had luck putting a nucleus hive close to a cluster under a hive, with drawn comb in it, getting the cluster to go into it. A frame with young brood on it might work faster but if the cluster didn't go into the box, the brood would chill fairly quickly. I don't know if leaving nurse bees on the brood would keep the swarm from going into the nuc hive or not.
    Hi Gary, this was really helpful, thank you. The swarm under the hive has finally dispersed, but that nuc trick is a really good idea, I will keep it in mind if it happens again. I do think both the 3rd swarm and the swarm under the hive had multiple queens. My parent hive started piping and tooting again a couple days ago. I think the original queen was in the first swarm and now the parent hive is requeening now that the competition has left. I did a hive check today, they are going strong, two full supers full of bees and capped honey.

    As the swarm under the hive dispersed, there was a smaller group still hanging about, of primarily drones...I'd say 4--5 dozen. The parent hive has been drone central, activity wise. I'd appreciate any insight into that as well.

    Thanks!

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Rutland County, Vermont,USA
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    Default Re: Main hive going for its third after swarm - many queens?

    Welcome to the forum. You sure have had your share of swarming issues. It probably will not come as a shock that an abundance of drones is an indication of swarm preparation. J

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
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    Sebastopol, CA
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    Default Re: Main hive going for its third after swarm - many queens?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fivej View Post
    Welcome to the forum. You sure have had your share of swarming issues. It probably will not come as a shock that an abundance of drones is an indication of swarm preparation. J
    it's been a crash course in swarming, for sure! that makes sense about the drones.

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