The Unstoppable Swarm
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  1. #1
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    Default The Unstoppable Swarm

    Second year hive, came through winter fine in 2 mediums. I added a drawn medium and checkerboarded the top box in late february. I have added over the past month 3 additional mediums of drawn comb and under-supered with a drawn deep. 2 weeks ago I find queen cups being built. I put the queen into the bottom deep, which was still mostly empty, and put on a queen excluder. I tore down the cups (no eggs) at this time. 5 days later, the queen is happily laying in the deep, but the queen cups above the excluder are back WITH EGGS. All other eggs in the hive above the excluder have hatched, no new eggs anywhere else. I tear down the cups again. 3 days later I go in for a frame of brood to graft from. Queen is still laying happily in the deep. Still no eggs in the hive above the excluder, except once again I find rebuilt cups, with eggs and one with larva/jelly. Tore them down again. Today: same thing, queen below excluder, no eggs above, but lots of queen cups with eggs above excluder. Ive given them all the space in the world at all the right times, and they still want to swarm.
    Mistakes are the best taechers

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: The Unstoppable Swarm

    You've done everything right, but I bet you have a second queen in the hive - and she's above the excluder. It must happen from time to time. But it's very odd that you are not seeing other open brood if there is a second queen.

    Of course, even weirder is the idea that the bees are moving eggs to the cups above the QEx, or perhaps that you have a really determined LW. Is it always just one well-placed egg, rather than the typical chaotic LW pattern?

    I think I'd be busting that hive down, a lot, to settle their hash for the season. At one deep and six mediums, it's too big for me!

    One more reason to wish bees just spent the winter reading the darn bee books, and didn't get creative about "the rules!"

    It would be interesting to take a frame with a queen cell from above the QEx and stash it in a nuc and see what gets raised in it.

    Good luck!

    Nancy

  4. #3
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    Default Re: The Unstoppable Swarm

    Something else that's odd, there are no queen cups or swarm cells being drawn in the deep where the queen is laying.
    To everything there is a season....

  5. #4
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    Default

    Hi Nancy, yep, it's been 1 perfectly placed egg every time. No eggs anywhere else. Ibe really checked, expecting a rogue queen. Nothing. I just can't figure it.
    I usually don't have hives this big, but it was my best one and I really, really don't want to lose this queen to a swarm. Although, if they are this bent on it, maybe I should have picked another one to graft. They are great in all other respects. Didn't even need a mite treatment last year, wash confirmed.
    This is the last effort to stop them, at this point I might just pull her out into a nuc.
    Mistakes are the best taechers

  6. #5
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    Default

    @Mike, correct, no swarm cells in the deep with the queen. She's a laying machine, I'm either going to have to hang some frames of brood above the excluder to give her room soon, or just pull her out into a nuc.
    Mistakes are the best taechers

  7. #6
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    Rutland County, Vermont,USA
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    Default Re: The Unstoppable Swarm

    Have you thoroughly inspected your queen excluder? and do you have a smallish queen? J

  8. #7
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    Default

    I’ll give it a good look over, but it’s fairly new. The queen is big, she’s one of my grafts from last year and I don’t keep little ones. The cups keep showing up a box away from the excluder ie: deep, QE, medium, medium with swarm cells, rest of the mediums.
    Mistakes are the best taechers

  9. #8
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    Mar 2018
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    Stevens Point, WI
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    Default Re: The Unstoppable Swarm

    I haven't read the entire thread so pardon if it's been said.

    Take the box above the excluder and create a new colony with it...you'll know pretty quick what you got or don't got.

    You can also set up a box of frames on a new bottom board, put a QE down, add another empty box on top and then shake all the frames above your QE into the top box...if there is a queen, she'll get trapped on the excluder.
    Help is here to never misplace that hive tool again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvwlSiOzgOU

  10. #9
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    Default Re: The Unstoppable Swarm

    This seems really weird but I have a question. If you like the queen so much and you are grafting anyway, why not just split the queen off as soon as you have a replacement made? Then they won't swarm and you preserve the queen you like.

    I'm just asking because there maybe something I'm not understanding and I'm always trying to learn more.
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  11. #10

    Default Re: The Unstoppable Swarm

    Quote Originally Posted by Beebeard View Post
    Still no eggs in the hive above the excluder, except once again I find rebuilt cups, with eggs and one with larva/jelly. Tore them down again. Today: same thing, queen below excluder, no eggs above, but lots of queen cups with eggs above excluder.
    How certain are you that there are eggs/larvae in queen cells above the excluder? No other brood up there?
    Might you be mistaken?
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  12. #11
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    Default

    To the question of splitting the hive or moving the queen out, we are coming into the flow now and I want to make best use of a booming hive to get a big honey crop. A split or a swarm is going to knock that harvest back too much. By grafting (and I have 10 grafts from her in a cell builder hive now) I can propagate this line and use my other resource hives for increase. I tried all the tricks to keep them out of swarm mode this spring, but here I am scratching my head.
    The second time the cells were rebuilt, I had anotherexperienced keeper with me and there is no doubt there were eggs in the cups, over a week after putting on the excluder. They have to be moving them up.
    Yesterday there were only 2 such cups. Each time there have been fewer, so maybe this last effort will get it done. I'm tired of going thru all the frames, that's what QE are supposed to eliminate.
    If I find them back tomorrow, she is coming out. Just her, I'll leave the hive to it's devices and get a monster honey crop. I've done that before (pulling the queen just ahead of the flow) and it works good for honey production.

    Thanks for the suggestions folks, this has been a weird one. I'll keep updating it.
    Mistakes are the best taechers

  13. #12
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    Default Re: The Unstoppable Swarm

    I have one hive that my goal is the same, I've only ever made more bees and never tried for honey production. I came across this the other day and I was a little surprised:

    "The theory that reduced brood rearing or a queenless condition during a flow lasting 5 weeks will permit the colonies to produce a larger crop, because it takes 5 weeks to develop field bees after the eggs are laid, is not supported by actual returns. The superior working morale of normal colonies enables them to store more honey. Queenless colonies or those in which brood rearing is curtailed show a sharp drop in daily honey gains; also, the resulting decline in their populations may further reduce production from later flows or prevent the colonies overwintering properly."

    https://beesource.com/resources/usda...-bee-colonies/

    I was going to split it this weekend but I think I'm going to use the double screen method instead.
    Last edited by thehackleguy; 04-23-2019 at 02:13 PM.
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  14. #13
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    Default Re: The Unstoppable Swarm

    Quote Originally Posted by thehackleguy View Post
    "The theory that reduced brood rearing or a queenless condition during a flow lasting 5 weeks will permit the colonies to produce a larger crop, because it takes 5 weeks to develop field bees after the eggs are laid, is not supported by actual returns. "

    https://beesource.com/resources/usda...-bee-colonies/
    I don't take a firm stance either way on this, but I don't think the seasonal big picture is taken into consideration with this statement. I'm sure it's accurate that a queen right colony will produce much more honey during the flow. But looking further into the season, past the flow, the amount of honey that a colony bursting with bees will consume during a dearth could end up being greater than the loss of production after pulling the queen out at the beginning of the flow. As the field force dwindles at the end of the flow there will be less bees consuming stores in the hive when nectar is not available in the field. If heavy supplemental feeding is planned on during the dearth after supers are removed it makes sense, but if supers are left on until Fall then I wonder.
    To everything there is a season....

  15. #14
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    I wonder too, it seems that there are experts on both sides. Now mind you I haven't been doing this a long but I've always heard that a queenless. During flow could had quite a bit of extra honey and then I read that article when I thought it was peculiar. It seems like to me that would be a definitive study in the same apiary with queenless hives and queen right hives and see what the averages are
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  16. #15
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    Default Re: The Unstoppable Swarm

    Lots of regional variables to consider. Most important, how long is the flow.
    To everything there is a season....

  17. #16
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    There is a big difference between a hive that is queenless but raising a new one and one that is hopelessly queenless. 4 years ago I pulled a queen from a booming hive as soon as i saw viable swarm cells. They went on a honey bender and gave me a huge crop, but got meaner than a stepped on snake. I also screwed up one hive bad by pulling the queen and accidentally destroying their ony queen cells a few days later. A similar sized hive gave me a lot less honey, and a lot of trouble once I figured out what I did wrong. That was earlier in my beekeeping endeavours and I've learned a lot more since then.
    I like a hive big on the flow and small in the dearth, so pulling a queen makes just that. If I don't pull the queen and they stay big, I can split off excess for other uses.

    Honestly I don't have one goal that all my hives have to adhere to. Depending on many factors, I've got hives I use for honey, ones for breeding, ones for resources, and since I do a lot of cutouts, ones that are in all stages of recovery and evaluation from that. I'm getting better at sorting out which hives are best for which purpose, but still have a ways to go. I figure that's the finer art of beekeeping that only comes with experience.
    Mistakes are the best taechers

  18. #17
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    Default Re: The Unstoppable Swarm

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    Lots of regional variables to consider. Most important, how long is the flow.
    While I understand this, if the research was done in the same apiary then the results should be valid no matter where the apiary is located. For instance, if it was found that queenless hives (raising their own queen cells, not talking about hopelessly queenless here) is shown on average to amass more honey than queenright hives or vice versa, that would be useful information.
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  19. #18
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    Default Re: The Unstoppable Swarm

    Quote Originally Posted by thehackleguy View Post
    While I understand this, if the research was done in the same apiary then the results should be valid no matter where the apiary is located.
    I guess I lean toward believing that the data is only valid for the specific area where the research was performed.

    In some of the New England states their flows start later in the spring, but they might not ever really enter a draught period. Nectar continues to trickle in all summer and fall after the main flow has subsided.

    But in other states in the south or southwest their main flow might only last a few weeks, and then they might enter an extended draught period.
    To everything there is a season....

  20. #19
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    Default Re: The Unstoppable Swarm

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    I guess I lean toward believing that the data is only valid for the specific area where the research was performed.

    In some of the New England states their flows start later in the spring, but they might not ever really enter a draught period. Nectar continues to trickle in all summer and fall after the main flow has subsided.

    But in other states in the south or southwest their main flow might only last a few weeks, and then they might enter an extended draught period.
    The total amount of nectar flow should have no bearing on the results and the information should be able to be extrapolated to any location. Of course, the study design would have to be controlled, the right number of hives to get proper data, they would have to be randomized, and outlier hives would be excluded from the results. One could probably get good information with 10 hives in each group but the more hives per group the stronger the data set would be.
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  21. #20
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    Default Re: The Unstoppable Swarm

    The only way to know if the eggs are from a Queen or Laying worker is to allow the Queen cells to be finished.

    I have seen a Laying Worker hive make Queen cells with unfertilised eggs. But the capping of the cell is the same as any other Drone, smooth and domed. You just end up with a massive Drone.

    The cells are far enough away from the Broodnest to be considered a Supercedure response.

    Also, something that is not often mentioned is that Bees eat eggs. They can control the size of the Broodnest by doing this. They likely also eat the eggs of Laying workers, when the eggs are not in the Broodnest.

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