Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?
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  1. #1
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    Default Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    Question for the experienced beekeepers here. Is it feasible, or at least realistic to expect to prevent swarming without performing a spring split?

    This year in my apiary, swarming was a major issue. I noticed that even hives that I took multiple frames of brood, STILL swarmed.

    To my dismay, I even found that colonies that had swarmed in June, decided to swarm AGAIN in mid August.

    My area didn't get much of a summer dearth this year, due to favorable weather.

    The whole experience made me seriously doubt the feasibility of attempting to control swarming without performing a significant spring split. Seemed to me like regardless of how many frames of brood I stole, the colony would just gather strength again and the first decision they'd make is SWARM. Not "store food for winter".

    Do you think my challenges with swarming were related to the fact that I started with strong nucs (not just nucs, these were very strong nucs), rather than over wintered colonies?

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    SWARMING
    ITS CONTROL AND PREVENTION by L. E. Snelgrove. You can download a free PDF.

    It was confusing to me at first, but after physically employing them it all made sense.

    Sorry, no link.

    Alex
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

  4. #3
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    Default

    If your bees are that swarmy you may have bad genetics.

  5. #4

    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    One of the simplest approaches is to pinch the old queen early in spring. Either let them make a replacement or give them a newly mated queen. Then, do the rest of the usual things. Make sure that they have room. A colony with a new queen is MUCH less likely to swarm. It isnít 100% but it works much of the time, in my experience.
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    Quote Originally Posted by amk View Post
    If your bees are that swarmy you may have bad genetics.
    I agree. Change where you get your queens from. A good breeder of queens will use lack of swarming as a criteria for choosing the queen mothers used for raising queens. Bees caught as swarms are more swarmy. Bees caught as swarms year after year are even more swarmy. Also, different breeds of bees are more swarmy than others, although maybe not as much now as used to be from the breeders of different lines of bees choose queen mothers that don't have a history of swarming in their background. Overly swarmy bees are slowly being bred out by at least some breeders.
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  7. #6
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    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    Quote Originally Posted by username00101 View Post
    The whole experience made me seriously doubt the feasibility of attempting to control swarming without performing a significant spring split.
    Really no need to do a "significant" spring split. When the hives are built up and you sense that they could soon be initiating swarm preparations just remove the queen with a few frames and some bees - small split. It will keep the main hive busy for a while raising a new queen and could get you past the prime reproductive swarm period.

    If for some reason the new queen doesn't take, you still have the old queen in reserve you could combine back with the original colony. If the new queen is laying and all looks well, but you don't really want the extra split, when you are past the swarm period you can pinch the old queen and do a newpaper combine which should line up with your main nectar flow.
    To everything there is a season....

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    Quote Originally Posted by username00101 View Post
    The whole experience made me seriously doubt the feasibility of attempting to control swarming without performing a significant spring split.

    i'm sure it seems like that at this point in your experience.

    it gets easier when you get beyond the first year and as you start acquiring a surplus of drawn comb.

    do a search for walt wright's 'checkerboarding' and/or matt davey's 'opening up the sides'.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    Quote Originally Posted by AHudd View Post
    SWARMING
    ITS CONTROL AND PREVENTION by L. E. Snelgrove. You can download a free PDF.

    It was confusing to me at first, but after physically employing them it all made sense.

    Sorry, no link.

    Alex

    The Snelgrove double screen division board certainly has worked well for me in regards to swarming and handily takes care of queen rearing. I put them on about the time drones are flying. Not much swarming before then. Snelgroves timing to put them on in England is just about bang on for me too in N. Ontario.

    I could not quickly come up with the Pdf. of his booklet but it is available.
    Frank

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    Sometimes I'll find a super strong hive building queen cells, I do not want to make a split, use a snellboard, or take bees, but I know that even if I kill the queen cells and re arrange the hive, that hive is going to build new ones and swarm anyway.

    A quick and nasty method that works in these cases, is find the queen and pinch her, plus kill all but 2 of the queen cells.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  11. #10

    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    A quick and nasty method that works in these cases, is find the queen and pinch her, plus kill all but 2 of the queen cells.
    This too!
    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 Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    Quote Originally Posted by username00101 View Post
    Is it feasible, or at least realistic to expect to prevent swarming without performing a spring split?

    This year in my apiary, swarming was a major issue. I noticed that even hives that I took multiple frames of brood, STILL swarmed.

    To my dismay, I even found that colonies that had swarmed in June, decided to swarm AGAIN in mid August
    Sometimes, with productive queens, just one split once a year isnít enough especially with multiple or extended flows.
    Productive queens are often mistaken for a swarmy queen. If a queen lays 2000 eggs a day for 2 months.....

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    Quote Originally Posted by crofter View Post
    The Snelgrove double screen division board certainly has worked well for me in regards to swarming and handily takes care of queen rearing. I put them on about the time drones are flying. Not much swarming before then. Snelgroves timing to put them on in England is just about bang on for me too in N. Ontario.

    I could not quickly come up with the Pdf. of his booklet but it is available.
    When I downloaded the PDF, I changed the name of the shortcut on my desktop, and for some reason I lost the direct link. That was the first time that has happened. I must have done something wrong. Oh, well.

    I also think timing is the key.

    My bees start their Spring build-up in mid February and depending on whether or not a late frost kills the Redbud blooms dictates when to do what.

    Alex
    Last edited by AHudd; 09-29-2019 at 03:19 PM.
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

  14. #13

    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    Simply because a bee colony swarms doesnít imply that it has Ďbad genesí. Swarming isnít driven by crowding. Crowding contributes but isnít the driver alone. I have any number of hives swarm even with empty comb. Swarming is a reproductive event. Every successful species has reproduction high on its list of genetic traits. Bees included.
    There are times when I open a hive in spring and find a number of capped swarm cells, a number of open swarm cells with a larva floating in a sea of royal jelly and a number of newly made swarm cells with an egg in each. These hives were heading for multiple swarms. After three swarms the colony is unlikely to recover. This sort of excessive swarming surely qualifies as the product of Ďbad genesí.
    In my experience the single most important thing a beekeeper can do is make sure that the colony is headed by a young queen. The younger, the better. At that point, make sure that the hive doesnít get overcrowded and the likelihood of it issuing a swarm is low.
    Just my opinion based on my experience.
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    i've no experience with a snelgrove board but i can certainly see the merits in using one for swarm prevention, especially if making new queens and/or increase hive count is part of the plan.

    if my few remaining colonies make it through the winter i'll be looking to make as much increase from them as i can so swarm prevention won't be an issue.

    i may very well give the snelgrove boards a try.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    What if you just kept a queen excluder over the entrance?
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  17. #16
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    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    they put the queen on a diet before they swarm (so she can fly) and she can get through an excluder

    is this the pdf folks referred too?
    http://www.eastdevonbk.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Snelgrove-April-28th.pdf

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    Quote Originally Posted by ifixoldhouses View Post
    What if you just kept a queen excluder over the entrance?
    The Drones won't be ale to come and go, but I have heard people say they do that.

    Alex
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    Quote Originally Posted by drobbins View Post
    they put the queen on a diet before they swarm (so she can fly) and she can get through an excluder

    is this the pdf folks referred too?
    http://www.eastdevonbk.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Snelgrove-April-28th.pdf
    I was referring to the original, but the one at your link looks easier to follow.

    Alex
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    Quote Originally Posted by drobbins View Post
    they put the queen on a diet before they swarm (so she can fly) and she can get through an excluder

    is this the pdf folks referred too?
    http://www.eastdevonbk.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Snelgrove-April-28th.pdf
    It is not Snelgroves original words but it covers the basics. Snelgrove goes into a bit more detail on why it works but his language is a bit stilted and unusual by todays standards of English in N. America.

    As AHudd mentions it is a lot simpler once you have gone through the procedure a time or two. Bees act on instinct and you can trick them into self sorting their age groups so that neither top or bottom box condition makes them feel like the time is right to swarm. By the time they reorganize, the prime swarm time has usually passed. Only once I had to repeat but that was my error in placing the division board too early in the spring buildup.
    Frank

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Is it feasible to control swarming without performing a spring split?

    All of my bees originally arrived here as swarms, so I know they "know how" to swarm. But most years they don't bother - they just put me to a fair amount of work keeping a close eye on them.

    Snelgrove boards don't prevent swarming, nor do they "control" it. They simply give you a very handy way to make a swarm-stopping split - even at the very last minute when other types of splits will have a low rate of success.

    What does seem to work well to deter colonies from getting "swarm-y" is a combination of Walt Wright's and MattDavey's techniques. And actually in the case of Walt Wrights technique, swarm-deterence is kind of an off-label use of his method which was originally devised for nectar management. In my northern NY area, I find it also works well as a first-up manipulation and kind of sets the stage for seguing into MattDavey's "Opening the Sides of the Brood Nest" for the last 2/3 of the pre-swarm season.

    I usually do at least 2 rounds of WW's box rotations, sometimes three. because my basic brood nest is three 10-frame deeps

    I do both those two things, but I also think successful swarm-management requires devotion to frequent checks to make sure you're not missing a clue that your plans are not working. When I hear complaints about excess swarming, I usually ask how frequently the hives have been checked. I check my hives every 5 or 6 days from the end of April until mid-June. Of course I don't pull frames this often, I just tip up every brood box and look under it. That will tell me whether we're still on my plan or whether I need to slap a SB on them to interrupt their plan. There is no substitute for very close monitoring.

    I only rarely want to make a new colony, since I don't want to expand my hive count.

    I have read the "keep a very young queen" recommendation many times. I never deliberately requeen, and so my marked queens vary in age in the spring from less than a year (superseded the previous year) to three years old (likely to be superseded that summer.) I don't see much, if any, correlation with the age of the queen when using my fairly assertive swarm-management efforts. I don't see much swarming, period.

    Over the winter, spend some time studying Walt's writing (there's a lot of it here on BS) and reading up on MattDavey's ideas. If you try them, I think you will have better luck. But don't just hope for the best: tip up those boxes frequently and keep SBs on hand to fix thing that get out of hand.

    Nancy

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