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June Nuc Swarmed

1847 Views 8 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  NY_BLUES
First time bee keepers, with our first hive installed literally 3 saturdays ago. The first nuc we purchased was from a local in our bee association, and this is his first year making up nucs for sale with new queens. We got a really loaded 5 frame nuc with lots of brood and bees, it was pretty exciting. We picked it up 3 saturdays ago, and installed it in a Langstroth 10 frame deep the same day. I was taking pictures of everything, and you can see the frames here (photos 12-23).

We got our second nuc a week later, 4 frame nuc with new queen. This nuc weigh a lot less, have less bees, and we thought they were low on feed, looks there's a lot of capped brood. Pictures here (photos 35-45).

I'm not sure that there's a normal for nucs, but they are quite different, and we had no idea what to expect. When we installed nuc 2, we took a peek at nuc 1, and saw that they were drawing comb on all 10 frames. We may have panicked briefly and put on a medium super with a queen excluder just in case.

So last thursday morning, we noticed a lot of activity in front of the first hive (photo 47). The bees were easily circling 15 to 20 feet in the air. We googled and figured that because it was just after 2 days of rainstorms, maybe it was a backlog of orientation flights. We noticed the activity around 9:15 in the morning, and it was all quiet about an hour later. On friday afternoon around 3pm, my sister in law was watching her kids in our pool, and noticed a lot of bees above the hives again. The activity last about 20 minutes or so. On saturday, we were eating breakfast at 10am, and saw a lot of bees flying a lot higher this time, around a pine tree ~10 ft away from the hives. This time they are hovering about 25-30ft high, and we saw a cluster of bees (presumably a swarm). A guy from the bee association came out to take a look, but when he returned 4 hours later with a couple of swarm traps the bees had already left.

We then opened to inspect the first hive, exactly 14 days after we got the nuc. I wasn't able to take as many photos because of the glare from the sun, but it looks like they've filled a frame or more full of honey, and we found 4 queen cells, 2 of them opened (photos 60-64 of a couple of them). And a queen (photo 65). Can anybody tell if she's a mated queen or not? We are assuming that the old queen flew off with the swarm, but since this is a first year queen, I don't know if there may be different rules. I wasn't able to find a lot of information about new nucs swarming, and my understanding was that first year nucs with new queens don't usually swarm. We are leaning towards that because the nuc was so packed (I believe it was made up 2-3 days before we got it), they start prep for swarming just before we picked it up. Other thoughts that were suggested: what we are seeing could be queen cups not yet capped (we did not think to look inside the cell) and the possibility that it is not our swarm that we saw. It was also suggested that because of the remaining open cell, the hive could swarm again. We think, but we are not sure, that there are a lot less bees and a lot less activity in the hive. Is there a minimum number of bees needed to swarm?

The guy that came with the swarm traps took one of the frames with a capped queen cell to see if he can start a nuc with it.

Right now, we are planning to leave things alone until the upcoming saturday, which would be end of week 3. No idea what we'll find then.

We appreciate any experiences, thoughts, and advice you share with us!
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I'm no expert, but with a brand new queen filling the bottom box, I think it might have been better to place a second deep on them instead of the medium with a queen excluder. Queen excluders have a place, but a box of foundation above a queen excluder is not really more space as far as the bees are concerned. They are sometimes reluctant to draw comb if they have to pass through the excluder to do so. As far north as you are, I would assume that a typical winter configuration would be a two deep brood nest and then supers above that. That is definitely a queen you have on one of those pictures, but it's hard to say if she's a new virgin queen or the old one unless your old queen was marked. If you do another inspection in a couple of and find eggs, you'll know she's bred.
Thanks for your reply, and I'm sorry I wasn't clear. The 5 frame nuc was installed into a 10 frame deep, and the bees have been drawing comb on the empty frames (and maybe even filled one with honey). The medium deep was put on a week after we installed the nuc, but turns out to be unecessary as it was mostly untouched a week later. The bottom box is no where near full. One thing I did wonder though was whether the queen had ran out of room to lay eggs, because the nuc was pretty packed and the new frames didn't have comb drawn on them when we installed.

The old queen was not marked, so yeah, hard for us to tell.

There are a number of beekeepers in the area who winter over with one deep, and we are inclined to go that route.
in Ontario plan on 2 deeps for a brood nest. I am north of you near Kingston ont. 2 deeps plus a super is about right for winter with a strong hive where I am. your bees felt crowded so the swarm committee took charge, once they decide to swarm there is not much chance of changing their minds. it is not that unusual for a nuc or package to swarm a lot sooner than you might think. until the queen is settled and laying well the bees may not be satisfied and they may then deciede time for a new queen. once they decide well that is the plan.
Your hive became honey bound. As a result the queen had no space to lay eggs and the hive swarmed.

Honey bound refers to all edges of the brood nest having honey surrounding it. The queen will not go past the honey to lay eggs. Did you see the band of honey on top of the brood nest? When the bees started to fill in the frames surrounding the brood nest with honey, the laying area for the queen was defined. It doesn't matter if there's empty frames next to the brood nest.

You can help the hive get around this by using a frame of foundation (or foundationless) inserted into the brood chamber. The bees will draw comb out and the queen can then travel past the honey. You would need to put another box above the first box so she can move up. Oh yes, if you move a brood frame into the top box with an empty frame below it the queen and the bees will start on the second box.

Controlling the size of the brood nest is your goal and job. Otherwise you get swarming.

It's easy to tell you this but harder to practice it. Maybe next year I'll accomplish it also and be more successful!
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Honey bound makes a lot of sense. Looking back at the frames, it does seem like the first and last frame of the nuc is full of honey, and we just put them in order in the middle. We weren't going to look at them again till saturday, but now I'm wondering if we should go in there sooner and move the honey filled frames to the end of the box. Live and learn, and hopefully we'll remember it for the next time.
in Ontario plan on 2 deeps for a brood nest.
I'd like to try 1 hive with 1 deep and 1 medium, as in better safe than sorry, but partner is convinced of the 1 deep thing. We took a course at U of Guelph, and they winter with 1 deep there, and the breeder for the second nuc we got also winter with just 1 deep. I'm guessing we may go back and forth till fall!
Honey bound refers to all edges of the brood nest having honey surrounding it. The queen will not go past the honey to lay eggs. Did you see the band of honey on top of the brood nest? When the bees started to fill in the frames surrounding the brood nest with honey, the laying area for the queen was defined. It doesn't matter if there's empty frames next to the brood nest
This is not my understanding of the term "Honey Bound." I understand it to not refer to the edges of the brood nest (where honey is generally stored) but to the filling of the space in the brood nest with honey leaving no/few empty cells for the queen to lay in.

My queens regularly go past the "Honey Barrier" as the band of honey on the top of brood frames is sometimes called. That is why I end up with brood in my honey supers; I dug a bunch of queen excluders out of storage yesterday and I may start using them, though I like the concept of an unlimited brood nest.

There may be some regional issues at play here - I regret not knowing enough about beekeeping in other areas to be more definite.

In any event I agree that the hive most likely became honey bound, though the decision to swarm and the creation of a queen cell would have happened soon after a 5 frame nuc was installed in a 10 frame box. There has been a marvelous flow going on here and the bees are bringing in nectar like crazy. To get honey bound would require an active energized field force which is not the case with most nucs. But, I have known of nucs to swarm the same day they were installed in full size equipment. The scenario there was a nuc that was too strong for their available space. Perhaps that same situation is in play here.
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One deep? I think if thats your plan, then you had better get used to swarming issues. I normally run 2 deeps for brood and many times it is 3 deeps for brood. Even a deep and a medium probably isnt going to be enough room.
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