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I am in north central florida, near Gainesville.

This past Sunday (5/4), at about 1:00 in the afternoon I noticed that there were many bees flying around the hive, not going anywhere in particular, just circling around. I have seen this sort of behavior before (orientation flights) but not on this scale. I went outside and watched it but within 15 minutes or so most bees had returned to the hive but a beard developed hanging from the screened bottom board. Sunday was the first warm & sunny day we have had in a while (85F) Just to be sure, I walked around the area to look for swarms but found none. The beard persists and has been there every time I have checked the hive since then (early morning, afternoon, evening). Today I looked under the bottom board and what appears to be a small beard from the front actually extends quite a ways under the bottom board and constitutes quite a few bees. The clump of bees is barely moving just kind of hanging there.

What am I dealing with? Is this an abandoned attempt at swarming. I thought it might be a typical bearding even to keep the numbers down in the hive during warm weather but the bees in the beard do not seem to be returning to the hive, or harvesting.

Some background: This hive is just a bit over 1 year old. The first year I got a slow start as my queen didn't survive the transfer of the nuc (or got left behind). By the end of the season I harvested a medium super of honey. I added that super back and the hive spent the winter (what we have of one) with a deep and 2 mediums. This spring I had intended to make a split but the hive was suffering under varroa mites so I treated with powdered sugar but did not split. The treatment worked well and the hive was quickly back on its feet. Last week I checked the hive and there was some room in the supers but they were almost full so I added another medium super (so all told, the hive is a single deep and 3 medium supers).


Edited to add: the hive continues to behave normally other than this clump underenath it. The remaining bees are happily harvesting. I have not opened it up to look inside as I'm not sure what I would be looking for.

thanks in advance for any advice!


Michael
 

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My guess is it was a swarm. To find out for sure look inside the hive and check for swarm cells. If you find swarm cells then most likely the group of bees under your hive is a swarm. Open the hive up and take a look, let us know what you find.
 

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I have not opened it up to look inside as I'm not sure what I would be looking for.

thanks in advance for any advice!


Michael
You should be looking to see if they have any space left as a minimum. Swarm cells on the bottom of frames is another easy call. Any thing else you see, take a photo. Beesource is here to share.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Okay, I'll open it up as soon as I get a chance (probably not until tomorrow, to do it today it would be pretty late in the day, say 7pm). If I do find "hatched" swarm cells what would the next step be? I have a few empty nuc boxes but no frames (I can get some quickly though, Dadant is 5 minutes away). Can I "cut" the clump into a box and transfer to the nuc? The hive is currently on a pair of cinder blocks and the clump is in the empty space underneath between the two cinder blocks.
 

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I had a hive do this once except somehow the queen got under the bottom board. Not sure if she got lost from a mating flight, dropped out during an inspection or what. I finally stuck a mirror under there to see what was going on and they were drawing comb. By the time I had a chance to get to it they had drawn enough to fill 4-5 frames, brood and everything. Was quite a mess :)

~Matt
 

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I think there would be space inside if you have already had one swarm depart. Departure could be tomorrow if you wait. It may be be just breading. You could also offer a nuc to the bees under the hive. You do not need frames for that. If they go in get frames fast. You will be looking for capped or nearly capped cells. You will be needing to set up a second hive as an insurance hive to have another source of brood if you go queenless. Will you be adding supers? Sounds like a great time to start getting those drawn out.
How many bees do you want?
 

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You have your entrance opened fully I assume?

I had the same situation on a couple hives a week or so ago. I gave them more room, but it still took a few days for the bearding to decrease. It took a chilly rain to finally get them all back in.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I think there would be space inside if you have already had one swarm depart. Departure could be tomorrow if you wait. It may be be just breading. You could also offer a nuc to the bees under the hive. You do not need frames for that. If they go in get frames fast. You will be looking for capped or nearly capped cells. You will be needing to set up a second hive as an insurance hive to have another source of brood if you go queenless. Will you be adding supers? Sounds like a great time to start getting those drawn out.
How many bees do you want?
I would definitely like another hive (I currently only have the 1) and was planning on a split this spring so if it really is a swarm, and I can capture it then that would be the ideal result. The current hive has 2 "honey supers" on it, the second I added just last weekend. I will put a nuc next to the clump and see if I can get lucky.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
You have your entrance opened fully I assume?

I had the same situation on a couple hives a week or so ago. I gave them more room, but it still took a few days for the bearding to decrease. It took a chilly rain to finally get them all back in.
This definitely could be the case. I thought that maybe I had added the last super a little late. Interesting to know that there might be some lag there.

Beekeeping is a frustrating endeavor! So many questions with no definite answers :scratch:
 

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To combine MJuric's post and mine; If there is comb under then pick up a new bottom board and use existing bottom as a temporary top on the new hive. If not you will most likely have to knock them off and scoop some inside to get them started if it is a swarm.
Let us know what you find.
Inquiring minds want to know.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Too late in the day to open the hive (as far as google knows) but I did take a picture from the rear of the hive. I don't see any comb.

bees_under_hive_1.jpg

I'll open it tomorrow at lunch time and have a look.
 

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Swarms under screened bottoms are common. I just spotted this under a screened pallet this weekend.

 

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What you are describing is typical for an attempted swarm with a clipped queen, or a queen with frayed wings. The bees return to the hive, and the old girl (queen) knows she will have her *SS kick by the new one, so she hides out under the bottom board. We do not know what happens next, but assume that either the bees drift in and the old queen dies, or she takes her chances in the hive.Sometimes they stay and make comb, but die in winter.

Crazy Roland
 

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I decided to assume that I was working with a hive. So this afternoon I put a paper bag under the possible swarm and used a wide spatula to drop the mass of bees onto the paper. I transferred the collected bees to a currently empty 5 frame nuc I collected and trasferred a few clumps. I didn't see the queen (but then I have never seen my queen in dozens of hive inspections; I have queen identification issues) but the bees weren't leaving and bees were soon entering the nuc. 1/2 hour later the clump of the bees under the hive were completely gone and the clump was clustering together in the nuc. So far so good. Tomorrow I will swing by Dadant and pick up some frames.
 

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Glad to hear; now back to your first hive. You need to inspect or you may have it continue to swarm away. It may be a good time to fill another nuc and add empty frames to your first hive.
 

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Beekeeping is a frustrating endeavor! So many questions with no definite answers :scratch:
If the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over expecting different results", does that not make beekeeping a very sane activity?:lookout:
 

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Have you checked your original hive for a queen or eggs to make sure you didn't have a virgin queen return from her mating flight and miss the opening as Matt suggested? I had a superceded hive do this once. Big clump of bees below the SBB and no queen activity in the hive. Moved all the downstairs bees upstairs and all was well.

Wayne
 

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Glad to hear; now back to your first hive. You need to inspect or you may have it continue to swarm away. It may be a good time to fill another nuc and add empty frames to your first hive.
I will open the original hive today and see where I sit with it. Would this be a "walk away" sort of split? I.e. take a few frames of brood/eggs with the bees attending them, a few with pollen/honey and simply move them to a nuc?
 
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