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One of my top bar hives swarmed today on Oct. 1. There are no drones so the new swarm queen will not be able to mate. What is the best technique to combine this hive with one of my other top bar hives. This hive is the strongest by far of my three top bar hives.

When I opened the hive, I found an opened swarm cell. That means for a while, both the new virgin queen and the old queen (which was newly raised from eggs this spring) were in the hive at the same time. The number of bees in the swarm was very small compared to springtime swarms. Do they ever leave with the new virgin queen or should I assume it definitely was the old queen that left with them?

I was able to catch the swarm and put it into a new Lang this morning. I just checked and they had left. I cannot find where they had landed.

Thanks. Jim
 

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are your 3 topbar hives close to each other in your yard? Did the swarmed hive actually leave behind workers and brood, or did everyone leave? (full hive absconds are much more likely this time of year) If there is minimal population left, you can just move the bars over to the other hive with a sheet of newspaper vertical in the hive with some slits. I use masking tape to hold the edges flush with the hive walls. Remove the old hive to your garage so any foragers are forced to find another hive to enter.
 

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are your 3 topbar hives close to each other in your yard? Did the swarmed hive actually leave behind workers and brood, or did everyone leave? (full hive absconds are much more likely this time of year) If there is minimal population left, you can just move the bars over to the other hive with a sheet of newspaper vertical in the hive with some slits. I use masking tape to hold the edges flush with the hive walls. Remove the old hive to your garage so any foragers are forced to find another hive to enter.
The hives are about 10 feet apart. The hive that swarmed is still full of bees and much larvae and capped brood. The population in the hive looks as strong as in spring which is really unusual. My other two hive have a normal population for this time of year. The swarm was relatively small. Is there much chance the old queen is still in the hive and the swarm went with the new virgin queen? I guess I can check for eggs in several days to find if the old one is still in there.
 

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Since they are so close together, a combine will be relatively easy. I'd suggest waiting unit the third week in Oct to determine if you still need to do the combine. I guess it is possible that a mated queen is still in there. Was the old queen marked, making her easier to spot? You might also inquire with the local bee clubs in case anyone is doing their own combine of two weak hives, and has a queen up for grabs.
 

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There is no chance that the virgin queen left instead of the queen mother. Only the old queen gets kicked out. A hive should go to half-full if they did actually swarm. Hmm...Something isn't adding up here....If you saw a swarm leave your hive, but it was small, here is a weird possibility: sometimes swarms try to usurp an existing queen. Then they sometimes change their mind. I have seen that with my own eyes. Maybe something like that happened? Or... maybe the old queen was kicked out and a small entourage went with her. You don't want that queen if so; she was failing.

If you found a swarm, and found an opened cell in the strongest hive.. that does not mean the two are connected. Must prove it with another piece of evidence.

I can say that for a hive to make it through winter, it needs a laying queen, and at least 3 (ideally more) bars of capped brood that emerge between now and frost. If your hive has capped brood, then that is taken care of.

I would check for an existing queen with 2 methods: 1) by looking for eggs/young larvae, in the densest band of bees and where there is the least shiny nectar; and 2) by looking for pollen coming into the hive at least at 1 in 10 foragers bringing pollen. With chilly dewey mornings, pollen isn't coming into my hives until 12 and stops at 3 or so. If you still have a queen, you definitely don't want to do anything to that hive!!!

If there truly isn't a queen, consider taking the weakest queenright top bar and bringing it to your strong top bar... or dump the queenright Lang swarm into the top bar. The queen takes 5-7 days to start laying usually. Actually scratch that idea - if you caught a small swarm, it is possible that it may contain a virgin queen. The queen mother leaves with the primary swarm (half the pop), and in a big hive the first virgin will leave with half the remaining population. You don't want to pop a virgin queen in there if you can find a mated one.
 

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... was able to catch the swarm and put it into a new Lang this morning. I just checked and they had left. I cannot find where they had landed.
Since the small swarm is no where to be found, I'd like to suggest that it might be possible that they returned to the original hive. Only one queen cell does not indicate a "swarm cell". More likely that is a supercedure cell if there is only one.
 
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