Beesource Beekeeping Forums banner

1 - 11 of 11 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hey....long time lurker/learner. This may be my first post but, I really need some advice. I'm going to get right into the issue so this doesn't get too long. 16-18 swarms from 6 hives this spring. So far. That estimate may be low. We've caught 11, our neighbor down the street has come by and caught two....(we were out of equipment). He had one show up in his driveway when he was cleaning out his equipment that was more than likely a swarm from one of our hives. I've watched two fly away. I've seen at least 3 hanging out in the cherry trees and pine tree in the yard that were gone by the time I got home from work.

We use mainly mediums for all of our hives but also have a couple with traditional Langstroth deeps. We also had several swarms last year which caused us to go from 3 hives to 8 (two of these are on another piece of property and have probably swarmed also) in one spring. We use screed bottom boards which I closed up this spring after all the swarming last year. We feed sugar water with "hive alive" in the fall and early spring. No losses this or last winter but the constant swarming is getting to be an issue.

I've not been able (for various reasons) to inspect all the hives but, we've had bad luck in the past going into hives and destroying swarm cells only to end up with queenless hives...So, at this point I'm not sure what to do. Our last swarm last year was May 25.....existing hives stopped on May 4th and then a swarm "swarmed" on May 25th. We've had two today after a day of rain yesterday. At this point I'm looking at several hundred dollars in equipment to put these swarms into traditional hives. (they're in a combination of nucs, swarms traps, old equipment and whatever we can find at this point).

These are Italian honeybees. We live in Louisville, Kentucky. Wet "ish" spring but other than that not too unusual....maybe a little cooler than normal.

So, I'm thinking this may be bad 'swarmy' genetics or maybe the "hive alive" but, I'm not sure. Just looking for thoughts/advice.

Thanks,

Doug
 

·
Super Moderator
Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
Joined
·
5,808 Posts
Hi Doug. I do not subscribe to the swarmy genetics idea. Bees swarm when a healthy hive wants to reproduce. So it sounds like your bees are building rapidly and are healthy. Best way I know of the curb this instinct is to create artificial swarms by removing the queen and making a split with her. Problem is this exponentially increases your number of hives year over year. Another technique would be to pinch the queen after she has laid up several frames of brood. A waste in my opinion, but if you are at your hive limit, better to keep the bees and go for honey production. Nothing is guaranteed, one of my swarm prevention splits swarmed on me already. Oh well.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
149 Posts
Like you, swarming has been my main issue, though not to the same degree. The only common thread I see is that I also feed syrup, early spring and late fall. This could be a contributing factor, since anything that helps the bees will help them in their goal of reproducing, which is to say swarming.

I'm sure you've read the standard advice: don't keep feeding if they're backfilling brood frames with syrup, remove honey frames from the brood boxes and replace them with drawn comb, keep some empty drawn comb above and to the sides of the brood nest, use young queens, reverse the brood boxes in spring if the cluster is mostly in the top box, blah, blah, blah. Sometimes none of that works and you just have to split the colony or the bees will do it for you.

I'd be curious to know what percentage of colonies typically get split in commercial operations that are focused on honey production, and what percentage of those get recombined. It seems to me like if you're not losing bees to dead outs or swarms then you're doubling your colony count each year. (Sounds like Doug might quadruple!)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,228 Posts
I've not been able (for various reasons) to inspect all the hives

That's probably the root cause of the issues that you're seeing. You MUST inspect colonies early in the season (a minimum of 1 month prior to 1st expected swarm date - earlier is strongly recommended). If you can't inspect, at least provide more space, but not likely to yield great results. Evaluate populations and make adjustments based upon each colony's need. I suspect that these bees were running short of space towards the end of March. However, unlike JWPalmer, I definitely believe that some bees are just more likely to swarm than others. Filling a yard with swarms will likely produce more hives with a higher tendency to swarm in the future. I had 1 colony swarm this year out of 60 colonies. This swarmer was identified early, but somehow fell off my radar. Earlier in my beekeeping experiences, swarming was a much more prevalent issue. Issues can be a problem with genetics or the lack of skills reading the colony's intent. My management style has evolved to replace queens that have a high tendency to swarm. If you're chasing swarms all spring, then you're certainly not making honey - not an option for me.

Sell some nucs to get you back to a number that you can properly manage. Also, try brining in some new genetics.
 

·
Super Moderator
Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
Joined
·
5,808 Posts
Astro, given a few more years experience, I may come around to that belief. Right now, most of my hives are decendend from a single swarm I caught two years ago. Some are decended from an Hawaiian queen from my first hive. I belive introducing new genetics is important and just picked up some queen cells to raise a few queens from. Last year I did not have much of a swarming problem, this year about 1/3 swarmed. Caught 3 of the estimated 6. As you know, I feed heavily into the Spring and the colonies were booming by the end of March. Need to split out the overwintered queens earlier if I continue to do as I do.
How is the flow your way? I have had to put a second super on a bunch of hives already. Those would be the ones that did not swarm.:rolleyes:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,536 Posts
I would stop feeding in the spring - why are you doing that with established colonies? Winter feeding if they are in danger of starving. Spring feeding only with new colonies that need to draw comb. Fall feeding to boost winter weights. But NOT in spring, no point in prompting them to swarm. I have no idea what Hive Alive is, but I doubt it has any thing to do with swarming. If it is a feeding stimulant, that's not a good idea if you don't want to stimulate feeding.....

Also, as noted above: not inspecting and using anti-swarm tactics from the earliest time you can get in (mid-March in Louisville?) is another reason your hives are swarming. Too late for this season, but you can be much more proactive next year. See Walt Wright's writings in the Resources section; MattDavey's ideas about Opening the Sides of the Brood Nest, etc. Also it doesn't take much time to do tip-up swarm checks every five days. (No need to take time for full inspections - I don't). Then be ready to make splits using either conventional splitting techniques, or Snelgrove boards (I think Snelgrove boards are the easiest way, but other kinds of splits work, too.) I do all of the above and almost never have to split to forestall a swarm. Anti-swarm tactics do work.

Swarming may partly be genetic, but unless you are deliberately re-queening each of your hives post-split, your "pure Italian" genetics with their big build-ups, will now be diluted. But all bees will eventually swarm if left to their own devices, or prompted by unneeded feeding in the spring.

Also as soon as you have a single swarm, preventing additional ones from the same colony is not that hard.

All of the above just take a determination to manage your bees. It sounds as though you are doing well keeping them healthy, now focus on keeping them (in your boxes.)

Nancy
 

·
Registered
65 colonies +/- mostly Langstroth mediums, a few deeps for nuc production
Joined
·
439 Posts
I am with Astro and JW on managing the hives. You have to make time to inspect and be ahead of the bees.
I also agree with Astro that some bees are genetically more prone to swarming. The focus on "helping the bees" has an unintended consequence in that folks think swarming is a positive thing.
I have had 5 of 60 swarm this year because I got 3 days behind due to traveling for work. Playing catch up is a lot harder than keeping on top of things.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,048 Posts
Hi Doug. I do not subscribe to the swarmy genetics idea.
I would disagree.

Let us look at the actual bee origins again.
It is well known fact that AMMs/Carni bees are significantly more "swarmy" than Gray Mountain Caucasians.
To compare, however, the Yellow North Caucasians are significantly more "swarmy" than even AMM/Carnis.

So, the Yellow Caucasians and the Gray Caucasians are at the opposite ends of the "swarminess" range.
The Yellows set up to hundreds of QCs and more.
The Grays hate swarming so much so that it causes problems of other kind (harder to expand them).

Let us not forget - the US bee situation is a chaotic melting pot where most any bee origins are represented and most any bee traits are represented.
The "swarmy" genetics is very much a valid situation (bad or good - up to you).

If ever unsure, look at the sources - most all answers are there for you.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,050 Posts
One other thing that should be mentioned is the phrase, "Spring build-up", is a misnomer. It is actually build-up for Spring, as it starts way before Spring. Mine start building up in early Feb., sometimes late Jan. and if you feed them too early you get even more brood.
Early feeding is great for those wishing to increase honey and bee production and know how to manage the situation. We hear often of bees starving in the Spring so we tend to err on the side of caution by over feeding. The only way to know what your bees need is to look and know what you are seeing, which comes from observation.

If you subscribe to the QC crushing method I would recommend finding the Queen first, and using a nuc box as a quiet box to place the frame the Queen is on, into. This way you know you are not creating a hopelessly Queen-less colony by crushing all QCs. When using this method you can get through the process more efficiently by shaking the bees from the frames making it much easier to find all QCs. Don't forget to check the frame the Queen is on for QCs before replacing it in the hive. :eek:

Good luck

Alex
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,050 Posts
Dang, I started my post, then ate breakfast and came back to finish only to find everything I posted had been covered.

I guess my new word for the day is "redundant".

By the way, Nancy, thanks for the suggestion and writings on the Snelgrove boards. I made one for each of my hives. They are working well. Thanks, Alex
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,228 Posts
How is the flow your way? I have had to put a second super on a bunch of hives already.

It's been a wild and bumpy road this year. With the massive winds (and rain) during the first tulip poplar blooms, and the super high temps last week hasn't helped. Despite this, I'm going with "better than average". I've got some monsters this year. A lot of just good producers and a few dinks. My true measure of performance is that every super in my inventory is currently on a colony - not filled, just on a colony. I think this week will be our strongest flow of the season. I saw the privet blooming this morning on my way to work, which is a sign of the end, at least locally. Not much happens after privet. Keeping fingers crossed.
 
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
Top