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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I started this season with around 10 hives, they first swarm I saw was on march 11th. Since then I have had at least 11 swarms that I have seen, with most being either too high or leaving before I could catch them. Also during most of this time I have had between 1-3 bait hives out that have not caught one swarm. Early in the year the bees built up quicker than we thought and I am sure that was part of the swarming. Lately we have been checking them every 2 weeks or so and they are not crowded and have plenty of room to grow.

I am in SE Georgia and we have boxed packages in July with them making it through the winter so that is no problem. My question is this; should I go ahead and split the strongest looking hives now to prevent them from continuing to swarm? Or should I just hope that the swarm season is over and plan on splitting them next March? I know that by splitting, a lot of time you cut back on honey production, but right now I am most interested with increasing my number of hives. Sorry forgot to put that I run Medium 8 frames.

Thanks for your time and help!
 

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Hey Boss,
I'm not an expert, so let's wait for some beekeepers with more experience. Here are my thoughts just off the bat. I think the bees are crowded in their hives. If you could give them more room, take out the excluders and sort of checkerboard some empty frames in the brood chamber, it may help. Plus, check them every Saturday. If you see a queen cell, move it to a nuc and start another colony.
You may have a moneymaker! LOL.
 

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Here's my experience... Once they start casting swarms, there's not a lot you can do to stop it. Checkerboarding, splitting, and opening the brood nest are all good practices. Start doing those things one month to six weeks before your first swarm, if you get my drift.

Now I'd say your in damage control mode, watch your hives make sure they have queens, and don't let a robbing frenzy start because one hive swarmed itself to death.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Here's my experience... Once they start casting swarms, there's not a lot you can do to stop it. Checkerboarding, splitting, and opening the brood nest are all good practices. Start doing those things one month to six weeks before your first swarm, if you get my drift.

Now I'd say your in damage control mode, watch your hives make sure they have queens, and don't let a robbing frenzy start because one hive swarmed itself to death.
I agree about damage control, I talked with some local beeks and they have had a similar experience this season. I just was wondering if its too late to start splitting the healthy hives. I have had guys tell me when they are packageing bees to sale, that they shake bees every 3 to 4 weeks.
 

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You can split the strong hives all the way to last of August. I checker boarded several of my strong hives on February 10 and most still swarmed around third week of March, I should have checker boarded them earlier. The problem with where you and I are this year is the red maple and Ty Ty started early and produced a lot of pollen and nectar, keep in mind that we will have a dearth for July and August, you will have to feed any splits you make for those two months or they will starve.
 

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Same problem here in Atlanta: despite my checkerboarding and giving them 5 supers on top of 2 10-frame deeps in March-April, my two strongest hives swarmed multiple times and now have no sign of capped brood. My guess is that they have virgin queens. Three other hives with only 3 supers and 1 deep did not swarm though. So, some do and some don't. My mistake was to give them ample space and not look for queen cells until it was too late. Live and learn. On the positive sign, even the hives that swarmed still have good population and they are brining in nectar big time. I will check them again and if I do not see brood in 1-2 weeks, I will add a queen.
 

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have you ever treid reversing your brood chamber? taking the top brood chamber and putting it on the bottom. some times just giving them foundation or even partially drawn comb above them they may not see it as expansion space so maybe put supers or brood chambers in the middle between the brood nest (granted you have atleast two brood chambers) because one of the big reasons to swarm is not enough ample laying space so give the queen more cells to lay eggs. massive colonies lead to massive results but they must have enough room and bees can be kinda funny as they more and more nectar the queen runs out of laying space and it becomes a problem in the hive but the nectar always wins. so sometimes just reversing will keep a colony from swarming off. but as stated there are many methods to keep swarming from occurring and the best way is prob to catch is long before it starts showing the signs that its gunna swarm.
 

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Preventing swarms is one topic, but you are past that for the moment. Dealing with them is another. At this point I would split everything and add space to make them think they have swarmed enough. Then after things settle down, you can decide if you want to combine them back or let them go as separate colonies.

Give each split a frame with at least one queen cell.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesswarmcontrol.htm
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Same problem here in Atlanta: despite my checkerboarding and giving them 5 supers on top of 2 10-frame deeps in March-April, my two strongest hives swarmed multiple times and now have no sign of capped brood. My guess is that they have virgin queens. Three other hives with only 3 supers and 1 deep did not swarm though. So, some do and some don't. My mistake was to give them ample space and not look for queen cells until it was too late. Live and learn. On the positive sign, even the hives that swarmed still have good population and they are brining in nectar big time. I will check them again and if I do not see brood in 1-2 weeks, I will add a queen.
Had the same thing happen two weeks ago. When we checked we had 3 or 4 hives with no eggs or larvae. Checked them again 7 days later and they were loaded.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Preventing swarms is one topic, but you are past that for the moment. Dealing with them is another. At this point I would split everything and add space to make them think they have swarmed enough. Then after things settle down, you can decide if you want to combine them back or let them go as separate colonies.

Give each split a frame with at least one queen cell.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesswarmcontrol.htm
Thanks Michael, I really enjoy reading your posts and your website. I have normally kept the swarms down but this year has been crazy. I think I will take your advice and split all the strong hives next week. Should I put a queen cell or just add a queen 2-3 days later?
 

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One of my hives swarmed today. I open the hive up and it is full of caped queen cells. This hive was started from a package I got the last weekend in March. It is a single deep brood box and I had added a queen excluder and a medium deep honey box. They never even started drawing the medium out. I can't figure them out. Should I split the hive again?
 

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One of my hives swarmed today. I open the hive up and it is full of caped queen cells. This hive was started from a package I got the last weekend in March. It is a single deep brood box and I had added a queen excluder and a medium deep honey box. They never even started drawing the medium out. I can't figure them out. Should I split the hive again?
I would remove the excluder. Pull two deep frames up into the medium with a medium frame between them. You will get some extra comb on the bottoms but they should start using the medium frames. Pull plenty of frames from the medium and lower the deep carefully. When they do you can cut off the bottom comb and fix things.

Alternately you and make the split and drop the mediums into the deep to get them started drawing medium comb.
 

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That sounds like a good idea. I will try that but what do I do about all the queen cells? I think the hive will swarm again if I don't do something.
 

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That sounds like a good idea. I will try that but what do I do about all the queen cells? I think the hive will swarm again if I don't do something.
Swarming itself was pretty well covered in the earlier posts. Michael's link in # 8 has more. Do you have the bees left after a single deep swarmed to make splits? Have you checked your other hives? Same flow for them too.

You gave them space but they did not view it as their space. Getting them to see that space as available was my point.
 

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To try and catch any swarms in the immediate future (until you do the other things mentioned) try putting a cotton ball with lemon grass oil on a tree limb with a twist tie. It might get them low enough to capture. I put one up last week and three swarms have clustered on the same location; about five feet off the ground. Put two deeps sideways on a drop cloth under the swarms, put a hive on top of them, bent the limb down enough to go inside the hive and shook the limb. All three now are new additions to the apiary. My hives have been swarming like crazy too.
 

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Thanks. I see what you are saying now. I have been reading so much I was doubting what I had already decided to do. Thanks again.
 

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I tried pulling 2 frames up in the medium and that is working. That really helped thanks.
I have another question. I caught another swarm. This time I added a screen to the entrance to prevent the queen from leaving. How long should I leave it on?
 

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Your swarm may have a virgin, she needs to go out. Brood will hold them better anyway.
 
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