Russian bees and swarm control timing
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  1. #1
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    May 2014
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    Default Russian bees and swarm control timing

    So as an experiment last years, I tried out Russian bees for the first time. I got three nuc's going into the winter. It was a love hate relationship all summer and fall as I could never see much brood. I read on it and turns out they maintain very little brood during the off season. I didn't believe it could be sooo little.

    Anyhow fast forward to today. 65 degrees out and bees are extremely active and bringing in pollen by the loads. I decided to see if the hype was worth it and see if they were building up. Cracked the top, first frame out was loaded with capped brood. First brood I had seen since last May. Looked at them all, same situation.

    I think I love my Russian bee's

    Now to the question. When do beek's in the pee dee region of SC start swarm control measures? I plan on transferring these 3 nuc's to 10 frame deeps, pulling 3 frames to start new nuc's and putting a second story with drawn comb on the deep. Basically expanding the nuc to a production type hive. I know I need to wait till we have drones flying for the split out, but could I / should I transfer them to the deeps now and expand the colony?

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  3. #2
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    Feb 2001
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    Enfield,Ct.
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    Default Re: Russian bees and swarm control timing

    Not in SC but have had Rus in CT for a few years.If you have brood on more than 50% of the frames move them up asap.They will fill a nuc in a blink!
    Give them plenty of room to expand and try to stay ahead of them with supers.
    Also be carefull with Q excluders.I don't put them on until after swarm season if at all and then only to let any brood in honey supers hatch out.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Russian bees and swarm control timing

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Grimshaw View Post
    Not in SC but have had Rus in CT for a few years.If you have brood on more than 50% of the frames move them up asap.They will fill a nuc in a blink!
    Give them plenty of room to expand and try to stay ahead of them with supers.
    Also be carefull with Q excluders.I don't put them on until after swarm season if at all and then only to let any brood in honey supers hatch out.
    Thanks for the advice. I was having a love hate relationship with them, but now I want more. I am considering converting my Italians to Russians, but I understand it is difficult to convert breeds. I am definitely going to expand my russians.

    I generally don't use QE's so I'm good there. Would you recommend putting the 10 frames from the double nuc to a deep now, and put a second box on top when as you described they have 50% brood? I don't have much empty comb and I don't use foundation, so empty frames in between frames of comb

  5. #4
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    Feb 2001
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    Enfield,Ct.
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    622

    Default Re: Russian bees and swarm control timing

    Difficult to judge your conditions over the net.You may have pollen coming in but bees won't draw comb unless there's a good flow or lacking that,feeding and warm temps.You have to judge for yourself if the double nucs are crowded and if the Q has enough room to continue laying at her current rate.
    I prefer to transfer double nucs to 2 boxes in cooler weather to maintain cluster shape if they are running out of room and use dummy boards on the sides to gradually allow them to move sideways.
    You can always add 3rd nuc box on top also.
    I don't worry too much about swarming until I start to see drone brood.

  6. #5
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    Jul 2016
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    Dayton, TN
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    180

    Default Re: Russian bees and swarm control timing

    I have had Russians from the start, 4th (or 5th?) year now. I love my Russians. They have been the hardiest and most pest resistant bees in my yard and I've had a lot of different genetics (mutts from cut-outs, swarm traps and freebies, to buying queens from all over the U.S.). Russians have been my favorite. So much so I got 2 more queens from a Russian Honeybee Breeders Association (RHBA) member this past year.

    My experience, they go through winter in very small numbers with no brood and build up early, really early, earlier than you think. Did I say early?

    Two years ago we had this similar type winter and I cracked open a single deep 10f Russian about the first week of March... about 15 capped queen cells! I was not prepared for that. I called into work and spent that afternoon building nuc boxes for splits. I was just in time, because as I was splitting that hive I had 2 virgins emerge in my hands and was able to get QC's in about 10 other nuc boxes. The math says they started their swarm prep 16 days prior, some time in February!!!

    I am expecting a similar situation with my Russians this year.

    I imagine your climate is close to mine, probably warmer, so if it were me and I wanted to mitigate the swarming, I would just add another nuc box. If you don't have more nuc boxes you can move them to a 10f I would do as Jack said and put a filler board on the side until they needed the room. But my personal preference if I was planning splitting this hive for increases would be to just keep a very watchful eye on them and allow their natural swarming instincts to make me some swarm cells that I would use for splits. I have had some of my best queens from swarm cells. I believe the bees will pick the best larvae in the hive to make queens from and when they do you can use those to make splits. They will most likely draw out multiple QC's on a frame but you said you don't use foundation so they would be easy to cut out and put in splits. You just have to be on top of things and as Jack stated, they won't start swarm prep until drones are present so keep an eye on that as an indicator and remember that they "usually" won't swarm until the first QC is capped so when you see them starting to make swarm cells, pull that queen and make a split then or you risk them swarming. There are multiple ways to split to stop the swarm tendency but my preferred is Lauri Miller's Fly-Back method. There's an entire post on it in here some where. It's a good read even if you don't do it.

    Good luck with your endeavor and keep let us know how it goes.
    Andy

  7. #6
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    May 2014
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    Darlington, SC
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    Default Re: Russian bees and swarm control timing

    Quote Originally Posted by BroncoVol74 View Post
    I have had Russians from the start, 4th (or 5th?) year now. I love my Russians. They have been the hardiest and most pest resistant bees in my yard and I've had a lot of different genetics (mutts from cut-outs, swarm traps and freebies, to buying queens from all over the U.S.). Russians have been my favorite. So much so I got 2 more queens from a Russian Honeybee Breeders Association (RHBA) member this past year.

    My experience, they go through winter in very small numbers with no brood and build up early, really early, earlier than you think. Did I say early?

    Two years ago we had this similar type winter and I cracked open a single deep 10f Russian about the first week of March... about 15 capped queen cells! I was not prepared for that. I called into work and spent that afternoon building nuc boxes for splits. I was just in time, because as I was splitting that hive I had 2 virgins emerge in my hands and was able to get QC's in about 10 other nuc boxes. The math says they started their swarm prep 16 days prior, some time in February!!!

    I am expecting a similar situation with my Russians this year.

    I imagine your climate is close to mine, probably warmer, so if it were me and I wanted to mitigate the swarming, I would just add another nuc box. If you don't have more nuc boxes you can move them to a 10f I would do as Jack said and put a filler board on the side until they needed the room. But my personal preference if I was planning splitting this hive for increases would be to just keep a very watchful eye on them and allow their natural swarming instincts to make me some swarm cells that I would use for splits. I have had some of my best queens from swarm cells. I believe the bees will pick the best larvae in the hive to make queens from and when they do you can use those to make splits. They will most likely draw out multiple QC's on a frame but you said you don't use foundation so they would be easy to cut out and put in splits. You just have to be on top of things and as Jack stated, they won't start swarm prep until drones are present so keep an eye on that as an indicator and remember that they "usually" won't swarm until the first QC is capped so when you see them starting to make swarm cells, pull that queen and make a split then or you risk them swarming. There are multiple ways to split to stop the swarm tendency but my preferred is Lauri Miller's Fly-Back method. There's an entire post on it in here some where. It's a good read even if you don't do it.

    Good luck with your endeavor and keep let us know how it goes.
    Thanks, Great read.

    So my current configuration is 2 Double nuc's and 1 Three story nuc. My split plan is to split off entirely the third nuc box of the three story nuc and if I have swarm cells, add a swarm cell. Then with the remaining doubles, now 3 of them to remove three frames from each and start a split. Again if I have swarm cell, add them. That leaves me 3 double nuc's (The original Nuc's) with three empty frames within, and 4 new splits with 3 frames each and cells. I have enough empty comb that I could add frames to the splits so they would have 5 frames of comb, BUt will leave the original nuc's with empty frames.

    Why are you pulling the queen? Is she pinched leaving the hive to make their own new queen?

    I am hoping to make the original 3 Nuc's into production hives this season!!!!

  8. #7
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    Jul 2016
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    Default Re: Russian bees and swarm control timing

    Quote Originally Posted by WRLCPA View Post
    Why are you pulling the queen? Is she pinched leaving the hive to make their own new queen?
    Pulling the queen is only necessary if the hive has already gone into swarm mode because "usually" even if you take bees and all the QC's you haven't stopped their desire to swarm. By pulling the Q and frame of bees, leaving a QC in the original location it makes the hive believe it has swarmed.
    If you plan on doing the splits before they go into swarm prep you don't need to pull the queen. If you want to put the original hives into production for honey this year you will need to time this right and I would not want them to go into swarm mode.
    Read Lauri's post about the fly-back. That is my favorite method for increases and it fakes the bees into thinking they have swarmed. If done correctly they can also draw out comb in a double deep 10f in about a week and half. It is also a good brood break which helps greatly with mite control.

    https://www.beesource.com/forums/sho...87#post1597987
    Post #188
    Andy

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Russian bees and swarm control timing

    Quote Originally Posted by BroncoVol74 View Post
    Pulling the queen is only necessary if the hive has already gone into swarm mode because "usually" even if you take bees and all the QC's you haven't stopped their desire to swarm. By pulling the Q and frame of bees, leaving a QC in the original location it makes the hive believe it has swarmed.
    If you plan on doing the splits before they go into swarm prep you don't need to pull the queen. If you want to put the original hives into production for honey this year you will need to time this right and I would not want them to go into swarm mode.
    Read Lauri's post about the fly-back. That is my favorite method for increases and it fakes the bees into thinking they have swarmed. If done correctly they can also draw out comb in a double deep 10f in about a week and half. It is also a good brood break which helps greatly with mite control.

    https://www.beesource.com/forums/sho...87#post1597987
    Post #188
    I am doing the splits as swarm control, so I intend on doing this before they start swarm cells. I will re-queen with purchased queens

    Reading on fly back method now, However, it seems this method is used exclusively for large full blown hives. I can't find any reference to splitting Nuc's. Also, because I don't use foundation, I would need to wait till the flow is beginning or they wouldn't draw comb and that is about the time swarming begins around here. Thoughts on adaptation?

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Russian bees and swarm control timing

    Quote Originally Posted by WRLCPA View Post
    Thanks, Great read.
    Andy:

    I agree- great post. I appreciate you taking the time to outline your approach.

    Russ
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  11. #10
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    Default

    Reading on fly back method now, However, it seems this method is used exclusively for large full blown hives. I can't find any reference to splitting Nuc's. Also, because I don't use foundation, I would need to wait till the flow is beginning or they wouldn't draw comb and that is about the time swarming begins around here. Thoughts on adaptation?
    You are correct in your reading. So if I wanted to split for increases AND have the parent hive in production I would do my level best to build the parent hive up to a full double deep or better, before I split it. Don’t worry. It’s completely doable as long as you don’t let them go into swarm prep.

    You have 2 goals: Make increases and get some honey.
    So my plan would be something like this (and I am assuming that the nuc has begun it’s build up for spring):
    A) Pour the food to the hive. Pollen sub (dry outside the hive and patties inside) and syrup. During warm weather make sure they have all the syrup and pollen they want.
    DO NOT LET THEM RUN OUT OF EITHER. It could cause them to shut down.

    B) Don’t let them run out of space. Stay ahead of them. And I would add an empty frame in the middle of the brood rather than just adding an empty box on top. I would add the new box under the brood box also, not on top. Bees naturally want to build out a hive from top to bottom and this will give them the sense that there is plenty of room for expansion. You can move an outer frame of the hive down to the middle of the added box and this will give you space to put an empty frame in the middle of the brood.

    C) Plan your split date. You should be able to guess pretty close to when your flow will start and I would split about two weeks before that. This will give your virgin queens the best chance to get mated and the split the best chance to get built up for the winter.

    This is not the Flyback. This is just simple walk away splits. The flyback method depletes the hive of foragers. It can be used but I wouldn’t expect much honey unless you do it after the flow.

    Remember, you don’t have drawn comb so once your bees get into the comb drawing gear you don’t want them to stop.
    Andy

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Russian bees and swarm control timing

    Quote Originally Posted by BroncoVol74 View Post
    You are correct in your reading. So if I wanted to split for increases AND have the parent hive in production I would do my level best to build the parent hive up to a full double deep or better, before I split it. Donít worry. Itís completely doable as long as you donít let them go into swarm prep.

    You have 2 goals: Make increases and get some honey.
    So my plan would be something like this (and I am assuming that the nuc has begun itís build up for spring):
    A) Pour the food to the hive. Pollen sub (dry outside the hive and patties inside) and syrup. During warm weather make sure they have all the syrup and pollen they want.
    DO NOT LET THEM RUN OUT OF EITHER. It could cause them to shut down.

    B) Donít let them run out of space. Stay ahead of them. And I would add an empty frame in the middle of the brood rather than just adding an empty box on top. I would add the new box under the brood box also, not on top. Bees naturally want to build out a hive from top to bottom and this will give them the sense that there is plenty of room for expansion. You can move an outer frame of the hive down to the middle of the added box and this will give you space to put an empty frame in the middle of the brood.

    C) Plan your split date. You should be able to guess pretty close to when your flow will start and I would split about two weeks before that. This will give your virgin queens the best chance to get mated and the split the best chance to get built up for the winter.

    This is not the Flyback. This is just simple walk away splits. The flyback method depletes the hive of foragers. It can be used but I wouldnít expect much honey unless you do it after the flow.

    Remember, you donít have drawn comb so once your bees get into the comb drawing gear you donít want them to stop.
    Thanks again. You have confirmed almost everything I am planning. Today I am going to the yard and putting Patties in them, refilling syrup and doing a general inspection. I previously did Oxolic treatment last month, so they should be good. Might hit them again next weekend.

    My Split plan as I said before is to remove 3 frames and add 2 frames of drawn comb in a 2 box configuration. This will open up the parent Nuc which I will reconfigure to a deep. I have enough drawn comb to accommodate up to 10 splits. I have enough total frames (3 Russian Nucs, 3 Italian Nuc's in separate location, and 2 double deep Italian production hives) for 11 splits, so this plan works!

    Anyhow alot of numbers, but basically, I am creating 5 frame splits in double nuc's using 3 frames of brood and honey and adding 2 empty combs to the new split. This also opens up the Parent hives, reconfigure to deeps, which I will add a second box underneath according to your instructions

    The flow generally starts around mid March here, So I will be looking for Drones around the end of February and that will be the trigger. I am not going to wait for swarm cells, I will just do walk away splits.

    Last year, I did something pretty cool and it worked so I might do it again. I slid two nuc's together, put excluders on each side and placed a honey super on top. Had to modify it slightly because it isn't quit as wide as two nuc's, But I got a full box of honey out of 2 brand new packages. If I do this, I would probably make the nuc's three stories first, and definately do splits through the flow to alleviate congestion as the colony grows

  13. #12
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    St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
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    Default Re: Russian bees and swarm control timing

    Interesting discussion here, especially the part about Russians starting up very early in the spring. Everything else adds up --- virtually no brood in the winter, etc --- but where I live, on the island of Newfoundland, the Russians seem to build up late compared to Italians. They hold off until June and then explode to swarming capacity in about 10 days. That could be climate-related. Our springs are not very springy in Newfoundland. Natural nectar and pollen often doesn't come in until April at the earliest, but May or even June isn't unheard of.

    The only other thing I can add to this discussion is about requeen Italian colonies with Russian queens. Russian queens can smell so vastly different from Italian queens that it takes a longer time for the bees to accept the Russian queens --- and the queens might need to be caged with the new colony for about a week before they're accepted (if they're accepted). I know several beekeepers who've had issues with acceptance. The normal procedure of putting the queen in a cage with a candy plug doesn't work because it releases the queen too soon (if the colony is non-Russian stock). I wrote about it in more detail here if you're interested:

    https://mudsongs.org/a-stubby-ragged-queen/
    - Phillip
    @ Mud Songs

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2001
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    Enfield,Ct.
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    622

    Default Re: Russian bees and swarm control timing

    I always put tape over the candy plug when introducing a Rus Q,even into my Rus mutt hives
    After 4-5 days I will check by brushing the bees on the screen with finger to see how well they are holding on.

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