What to do after a swarm?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
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    Paso Robles, California, USA (Zone 8b)
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    Default What to do after a swarm?

    I'll try to be brief - I am a total newbie and have a hive that was originally a swarm, captured by an instructor I took a beekeeping class with (unfortunately he is too far away to be a mentor). After having it only 5 weeks, it swarmed. The box was not 75% full so I hadn't put a second brood box on, but I think it swarmed because of the heat we're having (into the hundreds). I know I should have caught the queen cells but honestly, it had been just over two weeks since I did the last inspection (due to lacking time and the high heat, of course). Anyway, we caught the swarm right as it happened and plunked it into a box; they have stayed put so far, though they seem agitated and there has been a lot of activity outside the entrance. Yesterday I noticed bees leaving the swarm box and happily going into the original box, so I'm wondering if one or both is queenless. The original hive was healthy and doing well before this happened.

    What should one do in this situation? Recombine them? Does it sound like they're queenless, if the workers are able to go from one hive to the next without causing a scene?

    Sorry if this is an obvious question, I'm new and mentorless until I can find someone in my area.

    Thanks in advance for any advice.
    S

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
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    Default Re: What to do after a swarm?

    Susanna, there is a possibility based on the info provided that you failed to capture the swarm queen, or that she was killed in the process. If that is the case, the swarm bees may go back to the original hive. If you know the queen is in there, try turning the swam hive so that it faces the opposite direction. I have hived several of my own swarms in the same yard as they came from and not yet witnessed what you are describing, but I always put the swarm on a different stand.

    Time for an old time beek to jump in, right Vance?
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
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    Paso Robles, California, USA (Zone 8b)
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    Default Re: What to do after a swarm?

    Hm, ok, that's kinda what I suspected though we were very careful (checked the ground and the tree branch, etc.). I only have my one home bee yard but never thought about turning the box in a different direction. I will do an inspection this weekend and if there is a queen (fingers crossed), I'll definitely turn the box in the other direction. Thanks!

  5. #4
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    Apr 2017
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    Aylett, Virginia
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    Default Re: What to do after a swarm?

    If you need to wait till this weekend, and you do have a queen, evaluate the number of bees remaining in the swarm hive. If appears much weaker, swap the positions of the two hives and the foragers will almost all go into the swarm hive and boost its numbers. If no queen, give the swarm hive a frame of eggs or a frame that has one of the queen cells from your other hive, with the adhering nurse bees. Make sure you leave at least two queen cells in the original hive. ThIs will give you the best chances of success IMO. Good luck!
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
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    Paso Robles, California, USA (Zone 8b)
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    Default Re: What to do after a swarm?

    Brilliant, thank you! I work 10 hour days and have an hour commute each way so it's too late by the time I get home to crack the hives open. I'll definitely dive in this weekend and take your advice. Thanks again.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Rutland County, Vermont,USA
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    2,086

    Default Re: What to do after a swarm?

    It's not an obvious question susanna, and no obvious answers but I think JW has given you a good path forward. When did the hive swarm? The only thing I would add is if you do not find a queen in the original hive, you could have a virgin that has not completed mating flights. So you would want to inspect early morning (before 10) or early evening (after 6) when she is in the hive. Also, the biggest danger with a "late-ish" swarm are after swarms or cast swarms which severely diminish the population. Personally, I would tear down any cells I find and add a frame of eggs for good measure like JW suggested and not disturb the hive for 2 weeks (assuming you do not find a mated queen) J

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Location
    Paso Robles, California, USA (Zone 8b)
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    5

    Default Re: What to do after a swarm?

    Fivej, thank you for your reply. It's definitely been a learning experience, and this was the first time our hive has swarmed so I wasn't sure if what I was seeing was something that regularly happens or something that should cause alarm.

    To answer your question, it had been about two weeks since the hive swarmed. Per suggestions, we did an inspection on both hives this weekend, during the early evening, and I scoured the swarm box for any sign of a queen. Unfortunately, the hive was queenless - I've looked over the photos multiple times since the inspection as this is something I definitely did not want to screw up, and I feel quite confident that there was no queen. To make matters more tricky, it looked like our original box got the virgin, so there were no larvae to place in the swarm box. Luckily I did spot the queen and all the queen cells are empty, and upon very close inspection of the photos I took during inspection I *think* I saw a few eggs. Ultimately I decided to combine the two, as that seemed like my best bet in the moment. I'm hoping the fact that they were already going between the two boxes means that everyone still gets along, and I also hope that I really did see eggs. I plan to inspect again in two weeks and will remain hopeful until then.

    Thank you both again for your advice.

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