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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been feeling successful so far in that I haven’t seen much inclination of the bees to make swarm cells in my seven hives. However due to the particularities of this year’s weather patterns, it seems that every single one of my hives including the weak ones are full of capped brood and really shutting down on new brood production. Some are booming. All are bringing In nectar fast and furious.

I have seen some people say on this forum that large amounts of capped brood leads to swarming. Others say if you can defer the swarming impulse until well into the flow and give enough room, the bees wont swarm. Short of experimenting on my own I’m thoroughly confused by all of the conflicting perspectives.

I’m a little nervous to take a chance on leaving all that brood to them but I don’t want to increase my numbers of hives, and I’d prefer not to make splits unless necessary . Seems like Snelgrove board as a last resort. My main question: Is it possible to get through a season without having a swarm if the bees have gone to the stage that I’ve described above? Every five days I’ve been pulling up a couple of frames of capped and all honey stored in broodnest and giving space. It’s reasonable to assume that all my queens are at least two years old- increased swarm impulse.

I know I’m going to get a whole range of responses here. But mainly I’m curious to know if the colony, once it gets to a high proportion of capped brood, must necessarily swarm.
 

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Each frame of capped brood will become 3 or so frames of bees when they emerge. Thats when the push comes on. Imagine the job of trying to go thru such a hive and scrupulously remove every queen cell before they get capped. Miss one and they are gone. Eventually they may swarm regardless.

I have chosen to use the Snelgrove Board to deal with it but my weather and flows are very different from yours. My season is more like what Snelgrove had to deal with in England so it translates well for me. Dandelions are just nicely out here. I have some single deeps now getting quite full and have just supered them. The double deeps have been reversed and still lots of room in upper box; not supered yet. Snelgrove boards coming up soon!

The snelgrove divide could be recombined at the start of your dearth if you did not want more colonies.
 

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I’m thoroughly confused by all of the conflicting perspectives.

Not really conflicting, just a close call. Baseball analogy; the difference between a ball and a strike is often the ump's view. Here the bees are the ump.

It comes down too your actions and the bees call on your efforts. Keep adding space and you are likely good. Not sure 3 and 4 high is any less work than splitting and recombining or selling. How are you going to rotate out your 2 year queens without increase?

Hi Crofter, Your fast this AM.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I’m doing this reply on my phone since my computer is in the shop right now and I’m not so sure about format. Hope I’m responding to the right comment. I I’m planning to pull the queen later in the season at end of honey flow if not before. Then I’ll just let them make a new queen. Somebody made a good point though that it will be hard to find a queen with so many bees in the hive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Crofter, So you do the Snelgrove manipulation that is for preventing a swarm, where you pull all brood up above the board? Is that all capped and open, With the exception of one or two frames?And leave the queen below? I have to admit I am intimidated by the Snellgrove procedure. I had intended to try it out a couple of years ago and then ended up not. So I could use a little moral support.
 

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I know I’m going to get a whole range of responses here. But mainly I’m curious to know if the colony, once it gets to a high proportion of capped brood, must necessarily swarm.
most likely, yes. with proper swarm prevention you should be able to find frames of eggs and open brood as well.

in my experience i have found that the colony needs room to expand the broodnest downward once the proportion of capped brood gets high like that or it will proceed on to swarm preps.

i have found placing the queen into an empty deep below an excluder at the bottom of the stack to be effective in this regard.

some estimates put the number of bees on a typical deep langstroth frame at about 2000, while the number of cells on said frame is about 7000.

if true, that means that once emerged a frame of capped brood will supply two or more frames of bees to the colony.

will there be room in your hives for all those additional frames of bees karen?

if you happened to notice brood cells getting backfilled with nectar instead of getting polished up for new eggs chances are swarming is just around the corner.

perhaps you could offer up some of those frames of brood to a queen/nuc producer in your area and split the profits?

the problem with having success at swarm prevention is that strong colonies like yours will grow so tall you'll need a ladder to work them.
 

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Crofter, So you do the Snelgrove manipulation that is for preventing a swarm, where you pull all brood up above the board? Is that all capped and open, With the exception of one or two frames?And leave the queen below? I have to admit I am intimidated by the Snellgrove procedure. I had intended to try it out a couple of years ago and then ended up not. So I could use a little moral support.
Yes that is basically what you do. Move most of the open and capped brood into another box (or 2 depending on whether you start with one or two deep colony. Replace those combs in the bottom box with empty or undrawn frames either side of two or three original frames with some open brood to anchor the bees and a bit of space for the queen to lay. By the time it gets crowded again the flow will be over.

Place excluder over the bottom brood, then your supers, then the box or boxes of brood you pulled out. The nurse bees will in a few hours repopulate those frames and you can then place the Snelgrove board under them.

If you have managed to find the queen and place her in the bottom box during the sort, you can place the snelgrove board immediately. The way I do it I shake everything into or in front of the bottom box so the frames are rather empty of bees so I give them time to fill up with young bees again.

Any old foragers will leave the boxes above the division board and return to the bottom box so you keep your work force available for making honey.

It is a good way of getting more comb drawn. A bit of fine tuning can be done in regard to how many empty combs you provide. If you leave them too wealthy they will get back to thinking swarm again before the flow is over. I only had that happen once but caught them just starting cells.

I am not good at finding queens so I just shake ; if she is available my wife checks the frames for Q cells and sorts them for upper or lower boxes.

The rituals for entrance wickets opening and closing to divert workers down to the bottom box do not have to be as precise as Snelgroves instructions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks so much for the advice. Today probably would have been the best opportunity to do a Snelgrove so we’ll see if I’ve screwed up and missed the window. This hive is spilling over with bees and it’s got five supers on it that are all being worked and some honey filling up below the excluder. It’s so tall now that I can barely hoist the top super on as it’s getting heavy. Maybe what persuaded me not to try it is there’s still some space in the brood chamber, I did find a frame of eggs, no queen cells being developed, so swarming not imminent. I managed to give several more frames of foundation as well as foundationless. My new plan is to try giving some foundationless empty frames to see if I can do double duty with drone trapping. If they will build whole frames of drone, that would be convenient. They don’t need any more worker bees anyway. Any worker eggs laid now will be emerging after the flow.

So I guess I just chickened out from trying to Snelgrove. I’m going to see if it’s possible that I can keep them from swarming just by having given them more space. If not it’ll be a learning experience and if they swarm I’ll be very sad as this hive is quite productive. And I am going to keep your advice handy.
 

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That would be a rather formidable hive to tackle.

If you do find they have started swarm cells, google up some of Enjambres posts on doing the method 2 where you pull the queen and all the capped cells as well as the brood up to the box above the division board. This removes the urge to swarm from below because they usually need a queen to go and capped or nearly so cells to leave behind. The box above will have the foragers move back to their bottom entrance and leave the top box with everything to swarm BUT no flying bees. They tear down the cells and the queen goes back to laying. I would hedge my bets and do the tearing down myself but according to Enjambres and Snelgrove they will destroy them themselves.

Weird and wonderful creatures but a bit tricky to keep them working our designs.;)
 

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"I did find a frame of eggs, no queen cells being developed, so swarming not imminent."

I just lost a similar bet. She laid a couple of frames of eggs after I added space. I found no cells, got them to start 3 which they have now torn down.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Saltybee, Please say more. When you say you lost a similar Bet, does that mean they swarmed after all? I’m not clear because it sounds like you’re saying also that the bees tore down queen cells- So did they stay or go?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Crofter, I haven’t been successful this year finding the queen. Just once or twice so far. Usually I have no problem but she’s in all the hives been eluding me. So I would definitely have to do the shake through a queen excluder to be sure, or just simply shake the bees out of all frames moved up top. I found a really great step by step instructions on Betterbee for use of Snelgrove for both swarm interruption and preempting a swarm. The benefit of doing the swarm interruption once a charged queen cell is found is that you don’t have to find the queen. I certainly would prefer that but it seems just as likely that I’ll miss seeing a viable queen cell. Either way lots of work. I think I have to just demystify the Snelgrove approach. Aargh.
 

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Yes, you only have to shake the frames that will go above the excluder and only hard enough to jar the queen loose and most of the flying bees. It leaves the frames much easier to examine for queen cells. I usually spit before swarming preps are underway. I will have to have a look for that explanation on Betterbee. I started explaining the process to a new beekeeper recently and realized I was probably adding rather than removing confusion!
 

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Just to be safe on language. You do not know the age of a swarm cell so brush off those bees, no shake.
 

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I started explaining the process to a new beekeeper recently and realized I was probably adding rather than removing confusion!
That could have been me the first few times I read posts about Snelgrove boards.

Karen, one of my favorite aspects of the Snelgrove boards is that it affords an easy way to re-queen. If you want to raise a Queen in the top box make sure there are eggs and a couple of frames with plenty of honey and pollen. I saved the cut-plugs when I made the boards. I was going to use them to cover the holes in the boards, sort of a modified Cloak Board, of the colonies I wanted to make Queens in the top box, but I found this to be unnecessary.
After the new Queen from the top box returns from her mating flight and proves her ability to lay I will break down the stack and reverse the brood boxes placing the new Queen below the QE and reassemble the stack with the old Queen on top. This way you have a new Queen below with plenty of room to lay and the old Queen on top with whatever brood she has going. At this stage of the game there is usually plenty. By doing this you can now look for the old Queen, to either kill or split, at your leisure because everything below the Board can resume business as usual without being disturbed and agitated while you search for the Queen. She is much easier for me to find when the entire colony is flying about distracting me.
At this time I change the doors back to one door opening to the top box and resume the countdown from there.

It does seem like a lot of work in the beginning, but when compared to breaking down hives in the constant search for QCs, I'll take the Snelgrove Boards any time.

I must have read Snelgrove's description 20 times and was still confused until I built one and started using it. From that point it all started to make sense.

Good luck if you decide to try them in the future.

Alex
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Does any of you understand that the queen is somewhat delicate and if she’s shaken off the frame and maybe hits hard l it could damage her reproductive capacity? This one particular queen here is so incredibly productive. I hate to damage her by shaking frames. Curious about your thoughts. Anyone?
 

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The shake does not put momentum in the bees. More like pulling a tablecloth out from under dishes. Shake is about an inch down and up.

She would fall in a pile of bees, true.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Crofter and others who responded here, thanks so much for your helpful advice and encouragement. I had one really strong hive that I kind of messed up last time I inspected, by getting the queen above the queen excluder, so it was all a mix of brood and honey above. No cells, no signs of swarming. Strongly drawing out wax. Super vigorous queen. Probably an ideal would be to split this hive into two or three, or pull the queen out for a brief break. But I decided I would make them my guinea pig to practice doing the Snellgrove maneuver number II for preventive swarming. Honestly they really didn’t need to have that done. Because there were so many frames to deal with try to find the queen, I ended having to shake. it was somewhat laborious to shake the frames from three or four boxes down. I don’t like having to do that. The only saving grace is that now there’s such a good nectar flow that the other hives are not that interested in robbing. It would be disastrous any other time of year. I hope this hive is strong enough to withstand all of my disruptive intrusions. I’ll probably have a bigger colony that I need come the dearth. And I’ll definitely have to harvest soon to make room for the Linden nectar. With all the rain we’ve had this year I expect will get good white clover flow as well for quite a while. I already need a step ladder!
 

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The shake does not put momentum in the bees. More like pulling a tablecloth out from under dishes. Shake is about an inch down and up.

She would fall in a pile of bees, true.
Yes, you do not slam them off from waist height. You can rattle them off into a box with a few frames removed so there will be bees in the bottom. You only have to shake hard to get the non flying bees to let go, like when you are pulling honey frames.
 
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