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My Background: I am brand new to this as of this year. I have read about everything I can find from Michael Bush and just dove in.

My Bees: I have two hives: Strawberry and Peanut. Both are two 10 frame mediums. They are about 5 feet apart in a meadow like area near my home. I installed packages on April 26. Both hives seemed to be doing great until about the end of May. At that point, it seemed like Peanut was lagging behind Strawberry just a bit.

My Concern: Two weeks ago it became very apparent that Peanut was lagging. All frames in the bottom box were at least 75% filled with comb but there was nothing in the top box. By contrast, Strawberry had one full frame and two partials in the top box. I swapped an empty frame from the top for a full frame of brood from the bottom box (remember, just two boxes) to give them a start up top. Two weeks slipped by (hellacious work work) and I went to see them today.

Strawberry now had 9/10 frames in the top box full with one frame completely empty. Third box added to the top.

Peanut had partially filled one frame (in addition to the one I transplanted) in the top box and had filled the empty frame in the bottom box. That worried me. So I dug into the bottom box. Here's what I found over several frames. Sorry in advance for the barrage of pictures.

PICTURE 1
Photo Jun 28, 1 40 55 PM.jpg

PICTURE 2
Photo Jun 28, 1 41 13 PM.jpg

PICTURE 3
Photo Jun 28, 1 41 21 PM arrow.jpg

PICTURE 4
Photo Jun 28, 1 41 31 PM.jpg

PICTURE 5
Photo Jun 28, 1 41 35 PM arrow.jpg

PICTURE 6
Photo Jun 28, 1 45 03 PM.jpg

PICTURE 7
Photo Jun 28, 1 47 09 PM.jpg

Supersedure? Swarm? I can't imagine swarm as they have an almost entirely empty box on the hive. HELP???
 

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Those are swarm cells from where i stand. It looks as though your bees didn't get the memo that there was more space above them. Some hives are naturally "swarmy" in nature. It looks to me like if you would want to make a couple splits at this point on this hive and there is enough bees left or the other hive can stand to donate a few frames of brood/bees, you could end up with a couple extra hives.

However if you do nothing, chances are each new queen will swarm off with half the bees in the hive till there isn't anything left.
 

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Pics 3 and 5 are queen cups, not cells. Nothing to be alarmed about if they were there by themselves, but they're not.

The others are most likely swarm cells judging by the number of them, and they have already swarmed by the looks of picture number 7. The swarm was recent as the other cells have not hatched/been torn down.

Tough to say what to do at this point. You could have after swarms when the others hatch out. If I had caught this ahead of time, I would have taken the old queen and done a split to simulate a swarm, then culled all but two cells to prevent afterswarms. If I couldn't find her, I would assume she was gone and still cull all but two cells. Not sure I would cull cells now though.

The bees could tear down the cells if they have a queen
They could hatch and you could have afterswarms
They could hatch and the virgin queen could kill them

If it were me, I would put out a bait hive, keep a close eye on the bee yard and wait. New queen will be laying in 11-14 days. In the meantime, don't mess with them too much as the queen will be firming up and taking mating flights.
 

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Welcome to BeeSource! I looked at the Bush web site to learn what he might have written about medium brood box management. I use deeps so I don't know from personal experience that what I am going to say is true. I think you added your 2nd box to Peanut way before the bees were ready for it. I can't tell from your writing if you started the bees in two mediums or one and added a second at a later date.

Let's talk bee likes/dislikes for a moment. Bees like to have control over their hive (I'm considering the hive the wooden ware and the colony the bees that live in the hive) and have it appropriately sized for their population. Too much space and the bees can feel overwhelmed - too little and they are congested. The beekeeper aims for a balance. I am a bit conservative and don't add additional boxes until the bees have all of the frames drawn in their current boxes. Sometimes I will bait them into using additional boxes by moving comb from the edges of the brood chamber into the center of the new box - replacing the frames I moved and surrounding the "bait" with frames (with drawn comb when I have it, empty frames when I don't.) This does require regular inspections or monitoring of the bees progress. If you are going 2 to 3 weeks or more between inspections I would err on the side of giving them too much space, at the potential cost that the bees may not recognize that space as available to the colony and swarm. This is agriculture and there are no absolutes.

As for what you ought to do now it doesn't sound like Peanut has great population. So I would encourage eliminating all but 2 swarm cells and adding a frame of brood with adhering bees (but not the queen) from Strawberry. Bait Peanut's 2nd box with the added brood. And watch.... And learn...

The bait hives are an ok idea for catching swarms but are not guaranteed to work. The other posters have done a good job identifying queen cells and cups for you.

Good luck with your hives! Congrats for starting with two!
 

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Pix 7 is a foundationless frame drawn entirely in drone cell size --- no worker brood area
Other pix show areas (25-50%?) of drone cell sized comb (mostly unfilled) with an oval of even aged capped workers below it.

Medium frames have limited "square footage" and if large areas cannot be used to lay brood, the effective brood "horizon" in the nest is cramped. 9 frames in a medium with large areas unsuitable provides less square footage than a five-frame deep nuc drawn on the even sized cells induced by foundation.

I think the bees in this hive shifted from wax building to summer maintenance mode (and the comb building nearly ceased), but the hive was unable to find any open space with worker-sized cells available. That sets up a swarm panic. The even age of the extant brood (no concentric circles of decreasing age) indicates the queen got up to speed and entrirely ran out of laying room. The areas of worker brood bump into shot pattern drone brood. The queen ran out of places to lay on this margin. There are 7-8 day drone larvae uncapped, so the queen was live and present well after she ceased laying in the core worker brood area.

My bees stop pulling wax in May unless I really goose them. Your other hive managed to retain the wax pulling instinct, but not this one. Letting nucs built out on drawn comb (or the various foundations) will avoid this trap in the future.

Deep frames with foundation provide so much more laying room to build up the brood oval.

A recovery course might be to put out swarm traps --- and wine case boxes work beautifully. High chance you will hive one of the casts, that new colony you can build out on a deep with foundation, and compare the difference in management in the real world.


My other comment may not be entirely welcome -- avoid giving your colonies of working insects "pet names". Pet names induce sentimentality and anthropomorphism. These do not contribute to husbandry, as you will need to make the hard decisions to kill queens, shake out colonies, and cease resuscitation attempts on dinks. Treating the insects like you would a out-to-pasture horse or hip-displasia dog that you can limp along as part of the family, won't serve you well.
 

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I think your work schedule and lack of foundation did peanut in but look on the bright side, strawberry did fine on their own. So if peanut dies you have a good chance of growing more strawberries.
 

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Thank you for all the replies. Here's what I've taken from them and some responses generally.

First, both hives were started with two mediums. Being that I am not using deeps, it felt like I should give them more space than one medium. That meant two.

Second, swarm cells. Got it. So here is what I am hearing.

Set up a bait hive: I'll be putting out a single 10 frame medium hive about 10 feet from Peanut tonight.

Move a frame over from Strawberry: I have already moved one frame of brood over to Peanut from Strawberry but it was sans bees. I'll look at shifting some frames from the lower box to the upper one to help coax them into kicking back into comb drawing and to realize there is plenty of room.

Queen cells and cups: My novice inclination is to remove all of them but based on what was written above, I'll leave two cells and remove the cups. After that, I'll leave them alone for a while. Please let me know if I should do something else.

PS: As for naming the hives, Peanut and Strawberry seemed better than #1 and #2. The names refer to the hive itself (that particular stack of wood) and not to the queen or colony. No anthropomorphizing. Simply a way to keep them straight as I talk to my wife and post online. By the way, they weren't meant to be "pet" or cutesie names. They're both things that can give you hives. Get it?
 

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I'm a newbee, and you've got experts on this thread. I just wanted to say that I feel your anguish. I had a 4/10 package of Carnies swarm on me in early June. This hive had plenty of room and a ventilation spacer as well, so some hives are just "swarmy" as said above.
 

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That's pretty funny with the names. I name my hives as well. The cutouts at least. I name them after the road where I got them. Long Cane hive, etc.

For bait hives, you want to put them a little ways away (30 yards or so) from the hive if you can. Along a tree line is good and elevated they say is better. Best bait is old brood comb. You probably don't have any, so I'd use a few frames of foundation, which will give a little wax smell. Lemongrass oil absolutely works -

image.jpg

and it's good to have some on hand anyway for hiving swarms and packages and getting cutouts to stay put if you're ever so inclined to do them. Keep an eye on the bait hive. I found a swarm this year in a tree. What tipped me off was 10-15 bees checking out the bait hive. It was baited with old brood and LGO. I always leave a bait hive in yard as insurance.

The reason for not culling cells is that you may end up queenless. The rule of thumb is that the hive swarms when the queen cells are capped. I've found that it's around the time that they emerge, which they have in your case. Anyway, the one that emerged could have left with an afterswarm and you may be currently queenless. In that scenario, if you cull the cells, then the bees have to make a new emergency queen from a larva on the face of a frame. I tend to think they are smaller since there is less room. Another issue is that they have to start over. The queen cells you have look like they're about to hatch. It'll be 16 more days if they have to start over.

If you're queenless, and you scrape the cells, AND you don't have any larva or eggs in the hive (not likely, but definitely possible) then you're hosed. It'll progress to laying workers which takes a lot of work to fix.

Keep us posted!
 

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Bait hives work best at least 50-100 feet away from the mother. It is infrequent (but not impossible) that they will move to a hive 10 feet from the mother. Last year I watched a 6 foot move, but that involved a very, very brief bivouac on an oak (about 20 feet away), and a return.

Thanks for the explanation of your names, they are a clever pun.
 

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To keep track of queen lineage, I label my caught swarms based on either location (e.g. "Green Mountain" queen) or landowner name (e.g. "Johnson" queen). Purchased queens are labeled with the apiary's name (e.g. "Noble" queen). Known daughter queens are tracked similarily with an additional note on generation (e.g. "Green Mountain 1" queen). Not sure what I will do when and if I start pulling swarms from the same location.

BTW, the Noble queens are doing really well.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
A couple last questions.

I have a lot of swarm cells. I understand not culling all of them but would culling all but a couple reduce the number of after swarms?

I'm going to try to out the bait hive as far from My current hives as possible but there may be some limitations. Is it safe to use a couple drops of lemongrass oil or is that going to cause problems with attracting bees from the existing hives?
 

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>I have a lot of swarm cells. I understand not culling all of them but would culling all but a couple reduce the number of after swarms?

If you split ruthlessly enough there should be no afterswarms. The risk of culling queen cells is that they don't all emerge all the time, so they could end up queenless. The object is to get them to not afterswarm by making the splits roomy and small enough. I think making them not want to afterswarm is more effective than destroying queen cells to avoid afterswarms.

> I'm going to try to out the bait hive as far from My current hives as possible but there may be some limitations.

You do what you can. 440 yards is ideal.

>Is it safe to use a couple drops of lemongrass oil or is that going to cause problems with attracting bees from the existing hives?

Lemongrass oil does not incite bees to swarm. It incites homeless swarming bees to move in.
 

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Michael, thank you for the reply.

The problem hive already seems big enough (two mediums). The question is if it is small enough. Being that there is at least some comb in the upper box, I'm not inclined to try to reduce it to one box. I guess I have to trust that if that hive is right, the colony won't swarm.

440 yards can't happen but I put it as far away as possible given my space limitations.

Yes, the lemongrass oil was for the bait hive. I just wanted to make sure that the oil in the bait hive wouldn't cause problems with bees from my already occupied hives. Sounds like it shouldn't be a problem. Just a couple drops on the top of a frame or should I put it on some newspaper or something else I can end up removing?

Thanks again to everyone for all the help. It has been so greatly appreciated.
 

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You think you can confine a colony to just two mediums for the whole season? I suppose it's possible but not using non intervention beekeeping, You would have to be in that hive I would think ever week when you have a flow and I would also think you would have to be pulling brood. Not sure what you would do with it. If your plan is to limit your hives to two mediums you better plan on swarms.
 

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>The problem hive already seems big enough (two mediums).

Not sure I follow. Most of mine right now are six or seven mediums and I'll put more boxes on this weekend...

>The question is if it is small enough. Being that there is at least some comb in the upper box, I'm not inclined to try to reduce it to one box.

If your point is that they have space, that is the main point as far as swarming.

>I guess I have to trust that if that hive is right, the colony won't swarm.

If you just split them and they have as much empty space as occupied comb, they probably won't swarm. But as Winnie the Pooh says, "You never can tell with bees."
 
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