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First year beekeeper here. Two weeks ago my two hives swarmed. In short, I was not able to catch either swarm. It looked like one swarm came back to the hive though since the hive was covered in bees and I could not locate that swarm where they were first settling. That same hive swarmed a week later and I was able to catch that and put it in a new box with two frames from the original hive. That second swarm was one week ago.

I figured it was my original queen that had swarmed with them, so today I went in to mark her and decided to clip her wing in hopes of reducing future swarm risk. (I learned this on YouTube from the University of Guelph page.) I know that won't prevent it, but I've heard it can buy you time. I didn't think to wait to see if she was laying, nor did I see any evidence of laying after one week.

Later in the day, I found that marked queen in the middle of my yard in the grass. She had left the hive and was unable to fly. Now I'm worried that instead of clipping the wing of the original queen, I clipped the wing of a virgin queen of an afterswarm who had not finished mating. She is a good sized girl, but not as big as the original queen. Bigger than a new virgin queen though.

Worried that I might leave that hive queenless, I decided to add another frame from one of the hives that still had a capped swarm cell on it. My hope is that they will raise up that queen.

I have the clipped queen in a cage with some nurse bees, wondering if she is viable. I'm considering putting her in a nuc box with a frame of bees to see if she will start laying in a couple of weeks. Does anyone have any other ideas? I'm kind of feeling like an idiot right now.
 

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It looked like one swarm came back to the hive though since the hive was covered in bees and I could not locate that swarm where they were first settling. That same hive swarmed a week later and I was able to catch that and put it in a new box with two frames from the original hive. That second swarm was one week ago.
What almost certainly happened here was the hive swarmed, but the old queen was not able to fly. So after hanging in a tree or wherever they were for a short time, the bees realised they were queenless and returned to their hive. The queen would have been jostled and harrassed by the bees in an attempt to make her fly and she would have eventually been killed. The hive was able to swarm again days later when the queen cells hatched, and at least one swarm left with a new virgin. This scenario happens reasonably often.

I figured it was my original queen that had swarmed with them, so today I went in to mark her and decided to clip her wing in hopes of reducing future swarm risk. (I learned this on YouTube from the University of Guelph page.) I know that won't prevent it, but I've heard it can buy you time. I didn't think to wait to see if she was laying, nor did I see any evidence of laying after one week.

Later in the day, I found that marked queen in the middle of my yard in the grass. She had left the hive and was unable to fly. Now I'm worried that instead of clipping the wing of the original queen, I clipped the wing of a virgin queen of an afterswarm who had not finished mating. She is a good sized girl, but not as big as the original queen. Bigger than a new virgin queen though.
Yes, as you suspect, the queen you marked and clipped was the virgin. After you clipped her she attempted to take a mating flight, and since she is now unable to fly, you found her on the ground.

I have the clipped queen in a cage with some nurse bees, wondering if she is viable. I'm considering putting her in a nuc box with a frame of bees to see if she will start laying in a couple of weeks. Does anyone have any other ideas?
Virgin queens usually take several mating flights. It is just possible that your queen is mated and has stored semen, but needed to mate more to get the full quantity. If this is the case she will be able to lay fertile eggs, but may turn drone layer earlier than she could have if fully mated. It is also possible she did not get to mate at all. The only way to find out, other than a dissection, is do what you suggested and put her in a small colony and see what happens. You will need to keep her in with a queen excluder because she may well attempt to make more mating flights, which of course will not work out for her. She will eventually begin laying eggs, and you can then determine if she is producing normal workers, or drones.

Worried that I might leave that hive queenless, I decided to add another frame from one of the hives that still had a capped swarm cell on it. My hope is that they will raise up that queen.
Good move.

Just be aware though, often when queen cells hatch the emerging queen flips the lid of the cell open, then the lid flips back and is sometimes re sealed, and it looks like a normal queen cell but is in fact empty. Based on the time frame you mention, this may be what has happened in your case. To check, if you have a frame with eggs anywhere, add that to the hive. If a virgin did hatch from the queen cell the bees will not build queen cells from the eggs you gave them. But if no virgin hatched they will build queen cells.

I'm kind of feeling like an idiot right now.
Please don't.

What you have done shows a lot of thought, and trying to do the right thing. Just, being part way on the learning curve you still did not have all the needed information (which can take years to aquire), you acted only on what you knew at the time, and it was a mistake, but did seem to be correct, based on what you knew.

In my view you have put in a lot of thought and effort, and have the makings of a top grade beekeeper. We all destroy the odd beehive while on the learning curve, the trick being to learn from it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you so much for your response, Oldtimer. This beekeeping has some serious highs and lows. I kick myself every time I accidentally kill a bee during an inspection. I think another thing I still have to learn is the bees are pretty resilient and can overcome many of our shortfalls. The good news is that I have learned many lessons in my first year so far, so I know what not to repeat.

Well, I hope there is a queen in that cell. There was another frame that had four capped cells, but I was hesitant to use that one because it is in the biggest hive and I did not want to leave that one potentially queenless. Fingers crossed.

At the end of the day, if this queen can't lay and that hive from the swarm is queenless, I'll try to combine them back into one of the other hives using the newspaper method.
 

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Please keep updated so we can see how this turned out. :)
 

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Update:

Sometimes the bees just make the decisions for you and everything works out. The problem resolved itself yesterday. My other hive swarmed again (afterswarm), which I was able to catch in another box. Since I had likely ruined the queen from the previous swarm, I decided it would be best to just unite the two swarms into one hive, with the queen from the recent swarm.

I used the newspaper method and reversed the entrances on the boxes. This morning, I found bits of newspaper on the bottom landing board along with about 10 dead bees, so I think the merge has happened. I had hoped they would have had more time to adjust, but that's just how it worked out. I used two sheets, but it rained overnight so I think the newspaper soaked in and they chewed through it more quickly. It's still raining so there is not much activity. Hopefully the new queen will go and destroy that queen cell I put in the day before.

The next few days call for sun, so if I see orienting flights tomorrow, then I'll know the merge was a success. I'm really hoping they all stick around and decide to be friends. I'm feeling a bit of angst that they might all just bail.

If all goes well, I'll then give them about three weeks before I go in again to make sure this new queen (mostly likely a virgin) has had time to mate and start laying.

What a crazy adventure this has been so far, and I'm barely two months in!
 

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About wing clipping. Paul Kelly at UoG has a lot of resources. If they accidentally clip a virgin they can super easily correct the problem. For the small beekeeper I suggest you do a split instead. You had the queen in hand. When you've got the queen then temporarily cage her and set her someplace safe. Remove the honey supers if any. Move the entire mother hive brood chambers two to three meters away. Place a new hive or nuc box at the original location, give it a frame of of mixed honey/pollen, and a frame or two of brood and nurse bees that has no queen cells from the original hive. If there were no supers, give it another frame of honey. Then fill it with foundation. Release the queen and reinstall the honey supers. Foragers will return to this hive to give this hive a strong population. Replace frames and then button up the mother hive in its new location and stay out until 30 days from when you estimate the swarm cells were started (consult a queen rearing calendar if necessary). There are other ways to make an artificial swarm, but I recommended this one for newbees because it is the one least likely to shake, bump, or tear open a swarm cell.
 

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Doug - please update your profile and let us know where you're at. Helps other beekeepers to know your location when answering questions. Good luck and you handled yourself pretty well.
 

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In case you need to merge two colonies again...

I tried the newspaper combining method once before, but it gave wax moth larvae a place to hide and build up and was a mess to get out. For my next merge, I took some mesh I had that I used for a lid to a jar for a mite shaker and cut a few holes in it and stuffed them with big marshmallows. This allowed air flow, no place for moths to lay or hide, and a slightly more controled timeline since i didn't have to worry about the newspaper tearing or disolving too soon. It worked really well!
 
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