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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I started beekeeping last April with four small cell NUCs in 8-frame hives and they all made it through this winter. In February and March, I openned the hives looking for queen cells and two weeks ago I started seeing some. Then came the decision whether or not to split the hives as I have four more NUCs on order which should be ready for pickup in another couple of weeks. My goal is to have around 10-12 hives total, but I was in no rush to get there.

Then, three days ago, one of my hives swarmed to a peach tree and I was able to capture the 3 lb group, moved them about a mile away into another yard I have, quarenteened them for 24 hours and am feeding them 1:1 sugar water as they pull out their "new foundation" frames. The next day, a smaller 2 lb swarm from the same hive landed on the same peach tree and I did the same as I did with the first one. Then yesterday, a third 3 lb swarm from my other hive in that yard landed on a different peach tree, of which I then captured and moved to the other yard using the same process. Now I have 2 smaller but healthy hives in one yard and 5 hives in another yard and 4 still on order, bringing my potential total to 11 as of right now.

My question is this. It seems more natural to catch them as a swarm than to manually split a hive, give them a queen cell and see if they make it. I understand why you do splits, and I'm all for it, and I'm definitely not trying to start an argument about their pros and cons. But, since I'm in no hurry to increase my hive count anymore, it just seems letting my hives swarm (and subsequently capturing it) would be the better of the two options for the bees. Is that a valid assumption or is there some other reason performing splits is a much better approach for the bees?
 

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Very new to this too, but I think you're very fortunate to be able to capture your own (hive) swarms. If the bees decided to go elsewhere, it would be much harder to get them back. So I vote on the side of splits. Then again, my goal is honey production, which keeps me from really doing either right now. Will probably split near end of main flow to make a couple of nucs.
 

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The problem with letting them swarm is being there to catch the swarm and having them cluster where you can reach them. I love the energy a swarm possesses, but I'm not willing to risk losing them. The odds of me being there to catch them and the odds of them clustering where I can reach them are both low. I love trees so I wouldn't do it, but Isaac Hopkins recommended cutting down all the tall trees around the apiary so the swarms would be in reach... they often are not...
 

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also, there is the chance they will end up in a cavity in yours or your neighbors home. then you will need to cut them out
 

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The problem with letting them swarm is being there to catch the swarm and having them cluster where you can reach them. I love the energy a swarm possesses, but I'm not willing to risk losing them. The odds of me being there to catch them and the odds of them clustering where I can reach them are both low. I love trees so I wouldn't do it, but Isaac Hopkins recommended cutting down all the tall trees around the apiary so the swarms would be in reach... they often are not...
It's because you haven't cut all the trees down Michael:D More natural, perhaps, but as pointed out you have to be there to catch them, and they are the only ones who knows where they will land. This also means anticipating when they are going to swarm, and if the hives are in a residential area, I would DEFINITELY advise you make the splits or add boxes. The last thing you need is a swarm on their property or in the neighborhood (freaking everyone out), or a swarm from your hive that you missed and it decided to take up residence in a crevice of their house or yours:eek:
 

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Bees aren't people. They don't care either way, so do what's best for your situation (which includes neighbor issues, etc).
 

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>also, there is the chance they will end up in a cavity in yours or your neighbors home. then you will need to cut them out

True... there is that as well...
I don't want my hives to swarm, but if one does, will having a few baited swarm traps not pretty much ensure that they will pick one of those?
 

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I split my hive last year to prevent swarming and they still swarmed...like yours 3 times. The split has always been rather weak but made it through the winter. The original swarm I was able to catch and gave away and that hive has done great (something about that swarm mode I imagine) for the recipient. The other to small swarms I caught but they kept leaving. I guess my point is even if you split they may still swarm. Lucky you to be able to catch them!
 

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I have heard of some people letting them swarm to populate the surrounding area with their bees.
 

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>will having a few baited swarm traps not pretty much ensure that they will pick one of those?

No. It will not ensure anything. They typically move somewhere a quarter mile away... but they MIGHT pick one of those...
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks everyone for your thoughts! Luckily for me I'm usually home every day working on the farm which is in a rural area with peach trees growing all around my hives which seem to work great for a temporary stopover when a swarm first makes its move from the hive. What I did hear from all your comments was that swarms on average make better colonies than splits, but splits are definitely the better way to go if you want to minimize swarm activity.
 

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if a bait hive is setup to trap a swarm, how long can it be left out in the open without risk of getting wax moths or other undesirable into the swarm trap? Does it have to be checked daily?
 

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What I did hear from all your comments was that swarms on average make better colonies than splits, .
I may be wrong, but I don't believe this to be true. a split will be as strong or as weak as you make it. you decide how much resources a split receives. so I don't see any advantage in a swarm over a split.
unless maybe its a swarm seams to want to draw comb out more than a split. but if there is a flow on a split will get busy and draw it out just fine.
just my 2 cents
 

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I spent too much money building the company (hive) to let them take half my employees and start their OWN company!!!!

:D
 

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Maybe you are still new so have not see the benefit of making an early split yet.
Other than having early queens there is also the chance to increase your hive number. If you
put an ads to sell them then you can reduce the number of hives you can keep. Not every swarm
will land on your peach tree though. You can make a split as strong or as week as you like it to be.
I made 2 splits recently with one a stronger hive while the other one a weaker hive. On the weaker
hive I added another frame from the stronger mother hive to make it stronger. On a split you can
control many factors whereas on a swarm you cannot control them. On a swarm how many after swarms
will depend on how many queens still left inside the hive. On a split I can control the number of queens I
want there. After they swarm your original hive will need more time to make up the number of bees. If on
a honey flow and they swarmed then you will not make as much honey this season. That is if honey is your goal.
If there is a mean hive that swarmed then they will be releasing the mean genetic into the environment. That is no
good I think.
 

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In my experience the varroa infestation is higher in swarms than in splits. I don't know why that is, but I reckon the varroa does notice the swarm preparations and do prepare themselves for the broodless period by massive reproduction, which leads to high mite infestation in both the primary swarm and the hive that is left behind.

This is a split. Red is oxalic acid, dribbled and green is ApiLifeVar (thymol).


The splits throwed 994 mites after the treatments in total.

This is a swarm:


I counted 2,350 mites after the treatments in total. In the split.

So the swarm has had much more mites than the split, by the factor ~2.4. I found this to be true in the subsequent years when I counted mites all year long in a number of hives, some I did let swarm others I splitted. Splits have less mites than swarms. For me that was a saddening find, since I do believe strongly in the power of nature. But that's reality.
 

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Very interesting data. Why is a swam has more mites than the split? I thought the number
of mites on the bees stay the same through out the hive no matter if they had swarmed or stay inside
the hive. You mean these mites actually know that they are going on a trip so attached themselves on
the bees before they swarm?
 

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I do not know it for sure, of course, but I guess it. Varroa is adapted to swarming, because the original host swarms several times a year (I hear). Swarm preparations begin one month before the swarming. During this time the hive nest must change it's smell because of all the pheromones and hormones and brood scents during that time. Also drone and queen rearing. I reckon the mites smell all this and that triggers the mites to invade the cells more than they do normally. They reproduce in higher numbers than normally. The mites that hatch before the swarm takes off, ride away with the swarm. The mites that hatch after the primary swarm left, do stay with the original hive, but in higher numbers.

I think this adaption is vital for the mites when bees swarm, because otherwise the broodless period would reduce the mite population drastically. It doesn't with swarms. So there must be some sort of mechanism, that enables the mites to survive swarming.

With splits it is a totally different thing. Mites are taken by surprise, because they cannot know when the split comes. It happens all too suddenly.

Don't know. My observation is, that swarms do have significantly more mites than splits. The rest is guessing.
 

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Good guess! It makes much more sense to me now. I wonder why in the late winter there are so
many mites on my dwindling hives. Right now I don't see many of them. So wonder if the sudden splits followed
by a break in brood cycle had caught them in surprise or the bee's hygenic beehavior has anything to do with the low mite population now.
 
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