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Here's the quick story:

Last week during a check, I noticed some queen cells. Four days later, there were bees clustered around the outside of the hive. They seemed agitated, so I figured they were thinking about swarming. The next morning I did a "dealing" split, then found out from the neighbor they had already swarmed the day before. (I think the cluster of bees was the aftermath of the swarm.)

I checked on them later in the day and they had nearly all drifted back to the original hive. So I put it all back together again. They seem to be doing well now and I will check on them in the next few days.

So...now what? Leave them alone? and keep an eye out for swarm cells?

As an aside, I have managed to keep all my bars tidy, with the exception of 3 (my "nuc"?) They're pretty well mashed together and it would be quite disruptive to pry them apart. Should I just leave them and let the bees do their thing? Is there a good time to pry them apart? We're in SoCal, a block away from a huge orange orchard.

Thanks from a newbie!
 

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The fact that your bees have swarmed this early in the season is a sure sign that your hive is, or at least was, very strong. You did not mention that you had destroyed the swarm cells that you had seen, so hopefully you did not. As long as those swarm cells did not get destroyed, your hive will soon have a new virgin queen, if it doesn't already. If it were me, I would simply let nature take it's course. The new virgin queen will mate and all will be well. I would wait at least 30 days from when you first noticed the swarm cells (35 would be better) before I inspected the hive again. (If the swarm cells were already capped when you noticed them, you won't have to wait quite so long) If you see eggs at that time, you'll be all set. If not, purchase an new queen and introduce her to the hive. Don't worry too much, I think your bees will be just fine either way. Besides, an interruption in the brood cycle is a good, natural way to manage varroa and the bees will almost all become foragers during this time which will help to rapidly build up the colony's stores, and probably give you a good honey crop this year. :)

Good luck to you!

Chris Harvey www.thewarrestore.com
 
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