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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Beeks,
Seeking your wisdom on the question of whether I should be concerned about queenlessness in the swarm I caught recently, and if so, what steps I should be taking.
I'll try to lay out all of the facts and my observations in detail in case they provide clues or context.
Quick background on my experience - I've had 3 colonies in the past 5 years. Each one of them went through the process of losing their queen, laying workers, and eventual disintegration. I apparently have a magic touch. I mention this because the experience predisposes me to look for and assume this condition.

Day 0 - A swarm moves into a 5 frame deep-and-a-half trap (one frame drawn comb, 2 frames empty w/ starter strips, two frames w/ just foundation) that I have placed in a hunting stand. I check the trap most days, so I know they've arrived very recently.

Day 4 - I close the trap and move it ~200 yards to the spot that I'd like to be their permanent location. I set the trap next to the 10 frame box that will be the permanent home. I leaned a pallet in front of the opening to hopefully reorient them. I opened the door on the trap.

Day 5 - Bees are leaving the trap and reorienting, everything looks good. I went back to the tree stand where the trap had been, and there is a cloud of confused bees. By the end of the day there is a football sized clump of bees hanging from the stand. The original trap, at its new location still appears active.

Day 6 - The clump remains on the hunting stand, and I decided to try to collect these bees. I grabbed another nuc box, put one frame of drawn comb and 4 foundation only frames in it, and placed it on the stand next to the clump. The bees in the clump/cloud seemed pretty polite, and none were aggressive when I was working around them.

Day 7 - Came at night, and all bees had moved into the newly placed nuc. I closed it up, brought it down, carried it the 200 yards and set it next to the original trap, and opened the nuc. now both boxes are behind pallets intended for reorientation.

Day 8 - Bees are swirling around pallets and appear to be reorienting. I visit the tree stand and the clump is reforming - oh well. This is the day that I decided to move the contents from the 2 traps to the 10 frame permanent home (all three are right next to each other).
I started w/ transferring frames from the original trap. These bees were bearding on the outside of the trap box before I started. Of the 5 frames, ~4.5 frames were drawn out with comb. They had not started building comb on the bottoms of the frames yet. I was watchful for the queen, but did not see her. There were a lot of bees in this box, many many more than the number that were forming that clump at the tree stand. I went into this expecting to find some cells with eggs. I did not see any - no eggs - and I looked hard for these. It appeared to me that every cell that was in there was full of nectar, none were capped. Thats 4.5 out of 5 frames full of uncapped nectar/honey. Here is the other important note - on the center frame - where I'd hoped to find eggs - I found 15-20 queen cells being built. These were distributed around the center of the frame area, and were not at the bottom of the frame as I've seen before for swarm cells. These queen cells appeared to be empty. I dont know if these are what you'd call 'emergency' queen cells, or what they might mean. These bees were nice throughout the entire process (I have experience with past queenless hives and those bees became MEAN, so thats why I mention the fact). I set the empty trap box on its side next to the new 10 frame box that now holds their 5 original frames. The inside of the trap box was completely coated with bees. I was expecting these bees to walk/climb/fly themselves into the new box. They didnt seem motivated to make the move, and about an hour later i turned the trap box upside down and knocked them out on the ground in front of the 10 frame and they eventually moved in.
Next I unpacked the nuc that had sat in the tree stand for 1.5 days. This nuc was largely empty of bees by this point. The drawn out frame had been packed with nectar, no sign of a queen or eggs or anything. They had started building comb on the empty frames - these were busy bees. There werent many bees in this box, and I suspect its because they'd all flown back to the tree stand to form up their clump.
I loaded everything in the 10 frame, added a second deep to it so they could hopefully have some room for more than just honey, and closed it up.
While I was still suited up I went back to the tree stand with a 5 gallon bucket. I climbed up, and brushed/scooped ~80% of the large (about the same football-size as before) clump of bees into the bucket. I brought it down, put a lid on that covered most of the top, and watched. The bees slowly filtered out one by one and returned to the clump on the stand. I've given up on trying to recover these bees. They are starting to build comb on the bottom steel bars of the stand now.

Day 9 - The 10 frame hive looks normal. I havent been back to the tree stand to see how the clump is doing.

My main questions - based on what I saw when unpacking the trap into the new hive (no eggs yet, practically 100% honey on any frame that was available, and 15-20 queen cells in the center), should I be concerned about a queen? or could this just be normal and I need to be patient? If my concern is warranted, should I go out and get a queen now before its too late? Or do I have some time to wait and see?
Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

679 Posts
I didn't read the whole post...

Last night when I was going through my hives I found one of the recent swarm catches dwindling fast. My assumption is that it was a secondary swarm with a virgin queen.

When she went out to mate she didn't come back.

I took that hive apart and shared the gathered pollen, nectar, and few bees with other new arrivals. No sense trying to save a queenless swarm this time of year.
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