Each of my overwintered hives are my usual setup of 4 eight frame medium boxes, used as their permanent brood nest space. Above them I install a queen excluder, and above that the honey supers, as needed when nectar flow starts well. I have four 40 liter deep frame baited swarm traps set up at various distances (50 - 300 yards) from the hives, at spots I've caught swarms previously.
05/22/19 - My six hives were finally taken apart for springtime hive & frame inspection. At that time, two of my hives were booming and jam-packed with bees and estimated weight was about 120-130 lbs (the other 4 hives had their typical amount for this time of year, and looked very good, estimated weight about 80-90 lbs each). The two boomers had many frames of capped brood, some open brood and lots of nectar and a generous amount of capped honey. These two hives each had two sealed brood frames with several queen cups and 2 or 3 charged (but still open swarm cells) at the bottom of these frames.
I took each frame of sealed brood with open and charged swarm cells, plus one frame of about 50% empty drawn comb & 50% capped honey & pollen and put them into a two chamber queen castle I made from a 5 frame medium depth nuc box. I shook several frames of solid bees on sealed brood into each chamber, filling the open spaces to overflowing with bees. I placed this box on top of the hive farthest from the boomer hives.
05/25/19 - I moved all six hives 150 yards away to their new stand & location at sundown and left the queen castle on the stand at the old location. I installed robbing screens (each had a small 3/4" wide x 1/2" high entrance notch at the two top corners) over their fully open bottom entrance, to hopefully cause them to reorient to the new location. At sunup the next morning the expected confusion was seen from the bees trying to search for the new hive exits. The few bees I saw that found the entrance after about 10-15 minutes of searching just flew away with determination, with no reorienting.
05/27/19 - I arrived mid-morning to find the queen castle absolutely covered on all surfaces with bees, with several very large clusters next to it & below it, hanging from the stand and also on top of some large rocks beneath the stand. I immediately put two new hive setups on the old stand. Each side of the queen castle was moved into a new hive, ending up with each hive having two eight frame medium boxes with drawn comb. One chamber's swarm cell was now capped, the other was still open. I scooped and shook as many bees into the new hives as I could and put the top on. It took all day for the remaining bees to find their way into the hives, with about 2" of bearding still above the fully open entrance at 6 pm when I left. I never saw any fighting or robbing activity all day.
The larger of the two monster hives now has the least amount of traffic in & out. The others all have the same amount as before. All are using the robbing screen entrances as if they've been on there forever...no confusion.
I will put another box of foundation on these new hives at my next visit later this week because they are packed with bees. The nectar flow is ramping up strong now and they need more space.
My opinion is one or both of my monster hives swarmed and claimed the queen castle at their old location as their new home...4 frames of bees became 32 frames of bees in two days, with torrential downpours alternating with light rain the morning and afternoon of the day they woke up to their new location. They overlooked the swarm traps, and I have not seen any scouts this year at the traps yet. I think it was just a coincidence of timing...move the packed hives and they swarmed just after the move, even with having to squeeze through the robbing screen small entrances.
Another beekeeper helping me during all of this has the opinion they are all from fly back and these bees failed to reorient to their new location, and they are not from swarming.
I'm sure there was some unintended fly back from the moved hives, but seriously...that many?
Your opinions please?