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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, I went out this afternoon, after placing ripe cells into the many mating nucs, I've set up for mating queens. One was a two 5-frame deep nuc, with a frame feeder in the top super. The entrance is on one end between the two supers, where the upper super is slipped back from the bottom super. On one side of the upper super, immediately adjacent to the entrance, was a cluster of bees, covering an area about 5" wide x 9" high. I watched as a few swarm bees would go over and approach the guards, attacking them over and over again. They would rush the guards, then retreat, rush the guards, then retreat, over and over again. A pile of the losers is accumulating immediately below the entrance.

This means that I must always be on the lookout for wild queens having taken over my colonies. Especially any colonies that were recently between queens.
 

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I am curious. Did you kill the swarm trying to take the nuc, let them battle it out, or move the swarm into a different box?
 

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Yes. What kind of bees were the usurpers and what was the outcome?
 

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What if you put a queen excluder on all of your nucs or in between queen hive?
Will that prevent the wild queens from entering. What if you make your nuc hive so
strong that they will prevent the swarm bees from entering? A weak nuc will sure to
lose.
 

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Why does this happen and what would happen if it was just a box with comb instead of a colony? Are these warring bees looking to concur the colony for more slaves.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Late last night I checked on them. They were still clustered on the side of the nuc. I haven't gone out to check on them, yet.

Usurpation swarms usually aren't big enough to be viable as a stand-alone swarm. Last summer, just before I was leaving to go into town, I spotted one on a two story colony, I poked through it until I spotted their queen, then I put her in a cage and took er with me. In just a few minutes, after their queen was no longer with them, they departed - probably to return to their origin colony.

Sometimes I thwart them, as in the story about last summer. I'm sure that sometimes they take over, before I even see them coming. I have shade cloth erected, like a fence around my apiaries - last summer I watched as several of these usurpation swarms (usually no more than a softball size cluster of bees with a queen), in their take-over attempts, clustered on the outside of the shade cloth, immediately adjacent to the entrances of colonies on the opposite side of the shade cloth. When this happened during my presence, I'd go out, remove their queens, and they'd promptly leave, once they no longer had a queen.

I do use excluders on the nucs that contain my mother queens. I can't use them on most of my nucs, since I'm using them to mate my cultivated queens. I've never seen them bother with any of the stronger colonies. Just the smaller and weaker nucs, especially nucs that are not yet queenright, or who only have young virgins.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Why does this happen and what would happen if it was just a box with comb instead of a colony? Are these warring bees looking to concur the colony for more slaves.
I believe it is just another annoying trait that AHB can exhibit. There really aren't enough bees in one of these swarms to be viable on their own - though there is an outside chance that they might make it, on empty comb - though I wouldn't expect them to try. I'm sure they're expecting to actually take over colonies that already have resources and a population of nurse/house bees that they can adopt, stockholm syndrome style as their sisters.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
One thing I find good about them, which is why I'm planning to let this one do its thing, and take over. They really get busy, once they've taken over, they clean up, and build-up very rapidly. If there are any frames that, as yet, have no combs, they often build in that empty space, very quickly, but often very poorly, comb that can twist and turn in every different direction. So, if I want them to accomplish what they're best at - building up a colony. I need to make sure that all the frames have good, straight, combs in them, and there are no empty spaces in their new quarters.

After they have built up the nuc, and filled all of it's combs with honey, pollen, and brood. It's then time to break them up, after killing their queen. Then give no receiving colony any more than one of the frames of brood. Usually, the bees that are reared by these colonies, can exhibit many undesirable traits, but if they're the minority, it usually isn't too bad. They are very industrious, usually more so than other colonies, and make good assets to colonies that have some in their populations.

They are difficult to requeen. But, when dividing them to divvy out their resources, if you kill their queen, shake the bees from the combs and leave their old nuc box there, but empty and without a cover, before giving the combs to weaker colonies, the brood usually doesn't cause much of a problem for stronger hives and nucs that receive it. The now orphan bees, will soon take up residence in nearby queenright colonies that accept them. This is a good use for them, because it is almost impossible to requeen them, they will usually not accept any non-AHB queen, even a virgin from a queen cell. The only way I've reliably requeened them is to remove their queen and all field bees, and introduce the EHB queen via wire cage over emerging brood and the nurse/house bees that remain.

I know the Tucson Bee Lab, has this problem on their To-Do list, but I'm not sure when they'll be working on it, or if they'll find a solution.
 

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Having some but very little experience with AHB, it is very encouraging to read what you wrote about your handling and use of them. Have had only two usurpations in over 50 years of beekeeping, found the process intriguing and the results up north here were quite good, no AHB, just really beautiful golden Italians at the time (in the early 70's). Experienced the AHB out on the cranberry bogs with out of state pollinators bringing in some, years ago. For once, I'm glad my beekeeping is confined to MA. OMTCW
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I had heard that usurpation was something that occurred among most strains of honey bee, but that it was extremely rare, except in the scutellata subspecies, where it is much more common. I had never actually had experience with it, until one day, almost a decade ago, when I was standing in my apiary and watched it happen, myself.

Earlier, when I had first begun growing nucs and raising queens; one October, I had less than ten nucs going, and they were all headed by Cordovan Italian queens that I had raised, then after leaving them alone for a few weeks, I was inspecting them and discovered that every single queen, was now a very dark color, and none were marked, though all had been marked and Cordovan a few weeks earlier. I assumed they had been usurped, though, this time, I didn't witness any, in process. Oddly enough, none of these affected nucs survived the winter to show their stuff the next season.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Okay, I did my usual rounds, checking for eggs/brood in colonies with virgins. If I find brood, I search them out and mark them.

Well, I discovered the possible origins of the usurpation swarm. They were likely from a nuc that was a recently acquired split from another beekeepers bees (he has had some trouble keeping AHB out of his hives - which I soon plan to help him with). I had not yet replaced their original queen, but I have marked her. To verify this hypothesis all I will need to do is search out their queen and see if she is the marked queen I remember from the now empty nuc.

I would have preferred that this swarm had originated elsewhere, so I would then have an additional colony. But, at least they didn't go elsewhere and be lost to me entirely. They did an auto-combine, combining themselves with a weaker queenless nuc - how nice for them, and annoying for me.
 
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