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So I've found swarm cells in three of my hives over the past couple of days. I use a deep and a medium box for brood. No queen excluder. They've all had plenty of space -

One was bursting with bees, tons of bees in the hole in the inner cover. However, in each box, there was approx 15-20% empty foundation that they hadn't drawn out yet. Split this hive, which is split number five off of the original.

Next hive had a super which they weren't really messing with. All of the cells were on one frame in the deep. I took that frame and loaded it into a laying worker hive that's on week two of the "frame a week for three weeks" solution. Next, I took two medium frames of brood and made a "brood ladder". One frame went in the super, and I added another super and put the next brood frame in it.

The third hive is busting with bees as well. I let them draw out a super of honey, then added a super, brought up 4 drawn frames from below, and checkerboarded in foundationless frames. In other words - HHHHHHHH to

EHEHEHEH
EHEHEHEH


I did this so they would be drawing out foundationless in between frames of drawn comb. They're doing a fine job, but again, they have a swarm cell. Flipped the inner cover to give them a top entrance.

So what am I doing wrong? I like making splits, but I've run out of equipment (goal this year was 7 hives total, I'm up to 12), and I'd like to get some honey. The last hive I mentioned is my big boomer, and I really don't want it to swarm. I don't do a lot of full inspections. I just keep an very close eye on the top box (check it at least twice a week) and add a super when it's 80% drawn.

What's my solution for the last hive I mentioned? Split? Thanks in advance......
 

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I hope you get some good advice j am in the same boat. I have had to split everything down to below production size this year. Qcells keep popping up. Pulled about 15 cells out of a deep with about 7 frames of bees and 4 frames of brood. Its nuts sorry Im no help.
 

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How many cells per hive? Three to five, I'd guess they want to supercede the queen, not swarm. 20, yeah, they want to make a new hive by themselves.

The key to this whole thing, I think, is that there needs to be empty comb in the brood nest for the queen to lay in. Foundationless frames won't help you ward of swarming as the queen can't lay in comb until it's drawn. Ditto for undrawn foundation, takes too long for the bees to make it deep enough for the queen to lay.

Take a look in the brood nest, which should by now be in your deep. Honey in the brood area? If so, they are going to swarm. Dense honey cap over the brood? Yup, time to go, eh?

In a pinch you can extract a comb or two of honey stores from the outside of the box and put it back in the brood nest, they aren't going to do without nectar in the spring flow and you may be able to keep them home. Better to have empty drawn comb on hand, of the proper size (which is one reason we use two deeps here, or a deep and two mediums for the brood nest).

I don't yet have that problem, but I'll have to do a proper inspection again soon -- my bees raised three frames of brood in six boxes this year, leaving there rest of the drawn comb empty, but in the last week have filled three supers full of honey and are still going full blast. I may need to swap from frames around soon to keep the brood nest open for a few more weeks when the flow slows down. At the rate they are packing the comb with honey they will have the whole hive filled next week!

Peter
 

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They don't see foundation as usable space, drawn comb works better. Sounds like supercedure maybe as well, how old are these queens, some seem pretty new maybe.
 

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Even if you do everything right, sometimes they swarm. Sometimes it's timing. Sooner might have had a different result...

Were there queen cells when you did that? If so, there is no stopping them at that point short of splitting...
 

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The queens are all new. One is a year old but still laying like a bandit. I think they're probably swarm cells as all the hives have lots of bees and the brood patterns on the current queens are perfect.

So it could be that the queen has no space to lay. All of the comb has either capped brood, eggs, honey, or pollen. Top of the frames in top brood boxes have a band of honey.

I thought I could avoid running out of space by running an unlimited broodnest. It's a little aggravating because they've got space, they just haven't/won't put wax on it. I'm really starting to think that maybe the best approach to adding boxes is to look at the bee population and not use the 80% drawn comb rule. Maybe that way they could have used some of the new space for brood and some for honey. They didn't draw out the remaining foundation anyway.

I don't have any drawn comb to add, so I guess it just is what it is.

I either split or removed frames containing queen cells from all but the last hive I referenced. Michael, you mention on your website that you take a frame containing queen cells and a frame of honey and place it in a nuc to raise a queen. I didn't have a chance to go through the whole colony as it was getting late, but assuming it's just the one cell, could I do the same and head off the swarm?
 

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If it is one cell it is not a swarm. I think you are reading it wrong. If it is a great brood pattern it is not a swarm. The queen shuts down for a swarm. The number of bees in a hive does not create a swarm they can swarm with just a few. Lack of space induces a swarm and there will be many cells. If the outside frames do not get drawn put them in the center. Seeing a bunch of bees on top does not mean there are a bunch of bees below. If you keep giving them foundation above they will never draw the foundation all the way out. You will end up with a tall narrow hive which could be a problem in the fall.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Taking Aces advice and moving partially drawn frames to the middle. Not sure why that didn't occur to me before.....

Rechecked the hive and it's only one cell. They've 3 started cups on the bottom of a frame that have eggs. I realize that all hives have cups.

I also noticed that there seems to be more capped drone brood in this hive than my others. Maybe 10%. Not much. There is also a ton of pollen in the brood nest. More so than normal.

Since it's just one cell I'm thinking I'll leave it alone. Are you guys thinking supercedure?
 

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With so few cells I would think Supercedure. They will start cups even have eggs or small larva in them then tear them down.

I add space when they are down to 20% empty space. There is also the question of whether the bees consider it space. I find my bees often do not like foundation certainly not plastic foundation and are reluctant to use it.

A deep and a medium is what my bees would start a season with. but by this time they may be 5 or 6 boxes tall and growing. Sounds to me like your bees need more room. I have a hive that started this season as a 5 frame nuc that is now 4 boxes tall and needs to be checked for a 5th. We took two boxes full of bees off to prevent it from swarming. those bees will now be used to make more queens for us.

I did not do this season short on equipment though. which is a big change from last year. We are still running out of equipment but accomplished a lot more this year than we where able to last year. We prevented nearly all swarming in our apiary. Huge difference over last year.
 

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The key to this whole thing, I think, is that there needs to be empty comb in the brood nest for the queen to lay in. Foundationless frames won't help you ward of swarming as the queen can't lay in comb until it's drawn. Ditto for undrawn foundation, takes too long for the bees to make it deep enough for the queen to lay.Peter
This is very important in controlling early season swarming. I agree that inserting empty "drawn" comb into the brood nest in the early weeks of swarm season is the key. Empty frames and foundation can be used a little later with good results. But if there are not enough bees at the right age for wax making early in the cycle, empty frames will be ignored. The timing has to be right.

I understand that there are always regional differences, but in my area new comb will not be drawn out with any vigor until we are well into the spring flow, near the end of early (reproductive) swarm season. Until then what works best to control swarming is inserting drawn comb into the brood nest to keep the queen busy laying eggs.
 

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Well if they can't draw comb how can they fill it with nectar? If they can't fill it with nectar they are not going to swarm.
Combs are empty in the spring around here. You give them combs filled with honey they will use the honey, go fetch the pollen, make more brood and it is game on. Pile on the supers if it is drawn comb or put one box of foundation on at a time till they fill to 80%. If you can't keep up split in half, deal the deck if you like (willy nilly Mark calls it) and it will buy you time.
 

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Well if they can't draw comb how can they fill it with nectar?
That was my point exactly. It will go somewhere else.


If they can't fill it with nectar they are not going to swarm.
Their only option if they are not building new comb is to backfill the broodnest as bees emerge. We all know what happens next.

Some beeks really don't want to split their colonies in the spring. The more colonies kept intact, the greater the honey yield.
 

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A number of years ago, when CCD was at it's initial "peak", I observed most of my hives swarming and prepping to swarm. Splits, cutting QC's, they didn't care - It was as if they sensed a vacuum in the natural world and were bent on filling the void. There was little else I could do, other than be ready to go after them. I was lucky enough to be home for the peak of that swarm season. What would you do? I just rolled with it. Became a swarm chaser.

I hived close to 2 dozen swarms from my own hives, often combining and re-combining. No telling how many swarms I missed - some days I'd have 3 in a row, in the same tree. I'd be retrieving one as another one came out. Beekeeping can be crazy fun sometimes.
 

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What will go somewhere else? You said there is no nectar coming in so they can't draw comb. Well they can't fill it either.
I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say. I'll try to elaborate a little.

Early in the swarm prep cycle there is nectar coming in, but there might not be enough young bees at the prime wax making stage yet. At this point they will not be building new comb for incoming nectar, but will be backfilling empty cells as bees emerge. Then comes swarm prep.

A couple weeks later when swarms are being cast those bees are now at their prime to build comb. A lot of them will leave with the swarms. The timing is perfect for the swarm to immediately be ready to build comb very quickly when they set up at their new home.

If you can keep the colony from swarming, those young wax makers will not have left with a swarm but will still be at the mother hive ready to build new comb. That is the ideal time to insert empty comb in the broodnest and in the honey supers. They will draw it out very quickly.

The timing is important for swarm control. Until those young wax makers are at their peak and ready to go, drawn comb is needed to keep the brood nest open and prevent backfilling.

I don't feed in early spring to stimulate brood rearing, so my colonies are following along with the natural local cycles in weather and blooms. I suppose if you were practicing stimulative feeding in early spring you might have bees ready to build comb a little earlier. I don't feed in the spring unless it's needed to sustain the colonies until nectar becomes available.
 

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...So what am I doing wrong? I like making splits, but I've run out of equipment (goal this year was 7 hives total, I'm up to 12), and I'd like to get some honey..
Unite any weak or medium swarms with the newspaper method. Place the preferred queen, if there is one, on top. Consolidate a day or two later and you'll have a boomer plus some spare equipment back? The only thing I can see that you are doing wrong is running out of equipment. I've united 3 & 4 swarms into a real boomer in your same situation. Be thankful - you've got a problem a lot of beekepers would love to have - too many bees/colonies. Start building supers...
 
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