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I caught a swarm today on a branch above some of my hives. I know it didnt come from my hives because it was the size of a baseball, and I had just inspected those hives 2 days earlier.

It has a queen, but I don't know if she's mated. She seemed small, but maybe slimming before swarming.

Questions:

It seems almost too small to build up and survive. I did add some drawn comb that I have from a top bar deadout, but what chance do they realistically have being so few in number? I plan to move them to a buddies ranch away from the risk of robbing from my strong hives, and with lots of blooming trees and flowers. I dont have and cant really afford to feed them a bunch of syrup.

Can swarms contain virgin queens, and if so what scenario would produce one?

If she's mated, and half the hive left with her, how can a hive so small feel compelled to swarm?

Need some insight from more experienced beeks.

Thanks,

TxBeek
 

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After swarm probably. The old queen left with the large swarm and one of the virgin queens left with a few loyal followers.
That's my guess.
I did have a softball sized swarm build of quite nicely before winter hit. It ended up being my nuc hive that I used resources from.
Having a nuc or two that you can pull resources from is a great idea.
 

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It is almost certain to be an afterswarm. A prime swarm is populous. An afterswarm is a gamble on the part of the hive and has a low chance of survival if not supplemented by the beekeeper. She will be a virgin, as afterswarms contain virgins.

In a swarming situation the original queen leaves with half the workers, if the hive decides to gamble there can be several afterswarms - as a virgin queen emerges and then hardens she leaves with workers rather than killing her sisters.

If you supplement it with sealed brood and some bars of honey it may have a chance.
 
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