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Discussion Starter #1
Hello,

I'm a newbee who started with a nuc in April of this year. I was under the impression that I would not have to worry about swarms during the bees first year, but I still kept a close eye on them, going into the hive every 7-10 days. I thought I was doing the right thing by adding boxes when about 6 of the 10 frames in the box were filled out, but just a few weeks ago, I noticed that a large number of bees were collecting on the entrance in the late afternoon. I wasn't too worried because I'm in the south, and it's been pretty hot, so I thought they were just cooling the hive off. Then at the very end of June, I inspected the hive and found no uncapped larvae, and couldn't see any eggs. I removed quite a few frames and didn't see the queen, but saw about 4 queen cells which were open at one end and had bees going in and out of them. I had just put on a new box, and so they had plenty of room. I was going out of town the next day for a week, so there wasn't anything else I could do at that point.

Well, yesterday I noticed a swarm about 40-50 feet high in a pine tree close to the original hive, so I'm sure they've swarmed. It seems to be a pretty big swarm to me - about a 16" cluster. They have been there for two days now. I don't think there's anyway I can get to them to get them down. I have set up a deep hive on an 8' ladder about 600 feet from the original hive, and I've scented it with lemongrass oil. It also has one frame that came from the original hive, but this frame just has a little bit of comb on the top bar, so I'm not sure how much of a draw it is. I didn't have a top or bottom board for it, so I just used a few pieced of plywood to cover it up. I also had a medium box, and I put this one on the stand about 3 feet from my original hive.

My questions are - is it possible that one of these boxes could lure them in? If so, how much of a possibility is it? Is there anything else I can do to make the bait hives more appealing? How long will the swarm cluster stay in the tree? I have been walking around all day today with my video recorder in hand, hoping that if nothing else, I'll be able to get a really cool video of them going. What time of day are the clusters most likely to leave? Most importantly, what should I be doing with my remaining hive in order to ensure their survival and to prevent a second swarm? I'm really at a loss as to what I did wrong. I started with one deep 10 frame box, then added one medium 10 frame box, and then added a 10 frame deep super, but was told that they probably would not be able to fill the deep box, so I switched it to a medium. The deep was only on for a five days before I switched it out and it was at this time that I noticed there were no uncapped larvae, so I'm guessing by that time, the damage was already done.

Sorry, this is so long, but I've been obsessing over this for the past week! Thanks for any insight you can give.
 

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You'll get some experienced beeks on this, and they can answer your questions better than me. I'm a newbee as well, and I also had a new package swarm. I installed my packages on 4/10, and one swarmed on 6/8. I followed all the usual guidance on feeding, added a second deep when 8 of 10 frames were drawn in my bottom box, and they had plenty of room in the second deep. After talking with folks in my bee club, I'm pretty sure I did nothing wrong. You probably did nothing wrong either. Bees swarm. It's how they reproduce their colonies.

I think the key regarding swarming is to "try" to head it off at the pass, by doing splits or other actions prior to a swarm. I'm attaching a pic of mine. They swarmed about 10 feet from two of my hives and 20 feet or so up, and I retrieved them and rehived them. So far, they've stayed. It really throws a monkey wrench into ones plans for sure. You'll soon find yourself wondering if the remaining bees were able to get a queen raised, mated, and back to the hive. Good luck to you. Swarm.jpg
 

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While I fumble with my keyboard, some REAL expert may respond.
If it's any consolation, we all do it wrong. By wrong I mean we do not know enough about bee natural instincts to do it right. We apply our druthers, instead. Will mention a few characteristics where our actions do not support our bees and sometimes our ultimate goals.

We add a growth box at the top.
Bee instincts are tailored in the establishment mode (1st year) to build comb downward to fill the void in the tree cavity. We make them do it up side down and we do it with segmented space for comb, unlike their continuous comb of the tree hollow. Note that the bees often treat the top of their developed comb as the top of their cavity and resist working above that level.

We feed the starter colony generously. ("Until they won't take it")
That action deprives the colony of "reading" the impending trail-off of field nectar and taking the appropriate action of reducing brood volume. Or, at least, not continueing to increase it. The instinct being ignored here is that of the colony always tries to keep the brood volume/population in proportion to stores/cavity size. To do otherwise would be suicidal. Further, we continue to adjust the cavity size by adding boxes.

Is it any wonder that we sometimes get the wrong answer? The bees do well to achieve establishment in the first year, but we sometimes help them too much.

Walt
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thank you, Walt and bbruff22 for your responses. Bbruff22 - how lucky to be able to get the swarm back! I wish mine had landed somewhere accessible. They are still there this morning, and it's killing me to just watch them. Does the fact that they are not making off for parts unknown mean that maybe they don't have a good place in mind yet, and maybe my little bait boxes have a chance? Walt - it seems like the more I read about bees, the more confusing it becomes! There are 10 different ways of doing any one thing, and they all seem to have good reasons behind them. I have also wondered about the wisdom of an all you can eat syrup buffet, especially during the nectar flow. But that's what traditional advice says, and who am I to argue when I know next to nothing about beekeeeping yet? It's good to know that I'm not the only one in this boat though. Hopefully, expert advice is forthcoming. I'm thinking maybe I should also post this in the general forum - maybe just the newbees are interested in the newbee topics? Thanks again!
 

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>I was under the impression that I would not have to worry about swarms during the bees first year

You were misinformed.

>...is it possible that one of these boxes could lure them in?

If you had some QMP the odds would be very good. Without QMP but with the old comb and lemongrass oil, the odds are not bad.

>If so, how much of a possibility is it?

50/50?


>Is there anything else I can do to make the bait hives more appealing?

See above.

>How long will the swarm cluster stay in the tree?

Most swarms happen about 10:00 am and leave by 2:00 pm but some get stuck a day or two and some never leave and build comb in the tree...

>Most importantly, what should I be doing with my remaining hive in order to ensure their survival and to prevent a second swarm?

You can check for queen cells and if there are multiples, you could do a split for a week or two and then, if you like, combine them back. This would likely avoid afterswarms. But since they are pretty small the likelyhood of afterswarms is probably low.

>I'm really at a loss as to what I did wrong.

If you fed constantly, then that was what you that caused the swarm when the brood nest got backfilled. If not, well, sometimes they swarm no matter what you do.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Hi Michael - Thank you for your concise and informative answer. I have also visited your page and enjoy the specific and practical information there. I am looking into getting a bottle of queen pheromone to increase my chances. Hopefully, my local supplier will have some in stock.

I've read about splitting a little - I'm just afraid I will screw it up and make this situation even worse. I have been told not to go into the hive for two weeks to allow the new queen time to settle in and start laying. But then I've read online and elsewhere to go in a week after the swarm to check the status of the hive. Which should I do?

Also, I think I noticed that there was honey in the brood sections of the frames - backfilling. I'm guessing this was caused by my over feeding syrup. When is the appropriate time to feed - if ever? Should I go ahead and remove the frames that have been backfilled? If so, do I replace them with empty foundation? What would I do with the old frame?

Also, since the population of the hive has now been halved, should I remove the 2nd medium that I put on right before the swarm?

Thank you again, for all your help!
 

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> I am looking into getting a bottle of queen pheromone to increase my chances. Hopefully, my local supplier will have some in stock.

What a local bee supply place might have in stock is psuedo-queen, which are small plastic tubes impregnated with QMP. 1/4 of one of these is adequate for swarm lure. Several of the suppliers stock them, I'm pretty sure the last ones I bought were from Mann Lake. In order to get a "bottle" of QMP, you need to open a "retirement home" for your old queens and drop them in a jar of alcohol whenever you need to dispose of one.

>I've read about splitting a little - I'm just afraid I will screw it up and make this situation even worse.

Make sure all splits have a queen cell and a proportional distribution of resources (open brood, capped brood, honey, pollen etc.)

>I have been told not to go into the hive for two weeks to allow the new queen time to settle in and start laying.

If they just swarmed, there is likely no new queen yet and there may be a lot of queen cells which may lead possible afterswarms...

> But then I've read online and elsewhere to go in a week after the swarm to check the status of the hive. Which should I do?

I'd check for queen cells now. If they are all torn down, then you have a virgin queen and you have no queen cells with which to split them and no risk of afterswarms.

>Also, I think I noticed that there was honey in the brood sections of the frames - backfilling. I'm guessing this was caused by my over feeding syrup.

Yes.

> When is the appropriate time to feed - if ever?

If you anticipate a shortage of stores for winter you should feed them up about a month before cold weather is likely to set in. If they are starving, you should reduce their entrance with screen wire (to prevent robbing while not diminishing ventilation) and feed them to keep them from starving. If the weather is too cold for them to take syrup (like not over 50 or 60 F during the day and down in the 40s or less at night) then I would give them dry sugar as they can't really take syrup.

>Should I go ahead and remove the frames that have been backfilled?

They need comb and come fall they will need stores. No I would not remove it.

>If so, do I replace them with empty foundation? What would I do with the old frame?

If you do need to move combs around it is always a juggling act. You have to put everything somewhere and all the boxes have to be full of frames. The hive is likely set back by the swarm and will open the brood nest up for the new queen to lay in.


Also, since the population of the hive has now been halved, should I remove the 2nd medium that I put on right before the swarm?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Hi Michael - thanks again for your response. If I create a split, I would be making a new hive correct? Would the bees have enough time to be prepared for winter? I'm in South Carolina, so our winters are typically mild, but I'm not sure how much of a honey flow we have between now and then.

Thank you so much for your help! I'm so glad that I found this site!
 

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> If I create a split, I would be making a new hive correct?

Yes.

> Would the bees have enough time to be prepared for winter?

I will do splits this weekend.

> I'm in South Carolina, so our winters are typically mild

I'm in Nebraska and no one ever said our winters were mild... or short.

> but I'm not sure how much of a honey flow we have between now and then.

That you will have to figure out. Sometimes you have to feed, but I would try to avoid it to avoid robbing, ants etc. but sometimes you have to.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Hello,

The swarm just left yesterday (7 days later) for parts unknown, so today I took down my bait boxes and opened my hive to see what has happened. Here's what I found:

top medium super - little/no activity since putting the frames on 2 1/2 weeks ago. Some medium frames that had capped honey on them from the box below had been opened up and depleted. No new foundation drawn.

Middle medium super - more pollen stored (bahia grass is seeding and I've seen the bees collecting from the grass), empty brood cells and some capped honey, but it looks like fewer open nectar cells. There was a frame with uncapped larva, and the larva were all grouped together, but only on one side of the frame. I did not see any eggs.

Bottom deep - There were lots of empty brood cells in this box, and some pollen and honey on frames at the ends, but not a lot of capped honey. This box had some queen cells which were open at the ends and on the upper half of the frames. Again, there was a frame with uncapped larva, but only on one side of the frame. I did not spot a queen or eggs here either.

Questions - The uncapped larva confuses me. The swarm was a week ago, so I'm thinking this is too early for a new queen to be laying. Also, remembering back to the last time I was in the hive (before the swarm), I did not see any uncapped larva. Could the queen have laid some more eggs just before she left? Or could this be a laying worker? I tried to see eggs, but couldn't see any - just larva. I've never seen eggs though, so it could just be that I'm not very good at it.

The queen cells in the top halves of the frames - are these supercedure cells? When I checked my boxes 2 1/2 weeks ago, there were swarm cells at the bottoms of the frames - and then my bees swarmed. These appear to be different cells altogether. Today's cells were all open and I tried to look in them to see an egg, but didn't see any. I didn't make any splits because I thought if they are making queen cells, maybe I need to wait until these are capped. But is it even possible to make queen cells at this point? My swarm happened on July 7th, so would it be too late for any queen cells to still be in the making? Or could these open queen cells be because the queens have already emerged?

I put the feeder back on because it looked to me like a lot of the honey stores had been depleted and no new foundation had been created.

Should I make a split with the open queen cell frames? Or do I need to wait and see if there's already a queen (maybe she's on a mating flight?) If I do make a split, I'm planning on putting the new hive a few feet from the old one. Are the bees likely to just return to the old hive and leave the frames in the new box?


Also, I saw a lot of the bees fanning at one point. Does this mean there is a queen present? Or is this just something they do to direct everyone home?

Thanks for your patience and help!

PS - reading up on all this stuff and found that what I most likely have are queen cups, not real queen cells. So what does that mean? Have they selected a larva to turn into a queen? Would that happen this late? I thought they already had queen cells formed and capped before they swarmed? I'm so confused!!
 

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Hi jquinn!
I went into the hive today, and I am happy to report that I found both capped worker brood and larva. There were only a few frames with brood, but the pattern was tight. I was also able to see an egg at the bottom of the cell! Talk about tiny! No wonder I never saw one before! They were none too pleased that I was inspecting, but I'm thrilled that things seem to be getting back to normal. The thing that concerns me right now is that the honey stores and pollen seem to be so depleted. Hopefully, with the feeder back on and new bees being born, the supplies will be restored soon. Thanks for everyone's help and interest.
 
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