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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I checked on my hive 9 days ago, then today. When I looked today, I found 5 different swarm cells, 4 of which were closed and 1 that had a fat larvae in it, so none have swarmed yet. I've only been beekeeping for 4 months. My bees are from a hive removal. I am trying to talk to a few of the bee people I know and decide if I confused them into swarming by where I was placing my new bars or if they would have anyway. A month or so ago I saw two queen cups, but they disappeared in a week.

When I looked at my hive last, there was nothing remotely like swarm cells in it. Now that almost all of them are closed, I am just waiting to see when they are going to swarm. Problem is, I only have one hive, and nothing more than a cardboard box to put extra bees in.

My main question is: is there any way I can keep the queenright queen in this hive? One of my bee friends said he would take her but I don't know if I get a queen who goes on a mating flight if she'll come back africanized or just not as calm as the bees I have now. Plus, I'm a bit attached. He said we can just do the opposite sort of split and move the swarm cells, but I heard they may swarm anyway if you try to just relocate the swarm cells. Is this true?

I've attached a few photos for funsies
Honeycomb Bee Beehive Honeybee Insect

Bee Insect Honeybee Honeycomb Membrane-winged insect

Honeycomb Bee Beehive Pattern Terrestrial animal
 

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you can do from nothing to capped cells in 5 days
check for a queen, the old queen often leaves the day the swarm cells are capped, you might not have swarm cells given the number, they could be superseding or replacing a lost queen.
If you find the queen put her in a nuc, let the hive raze a new one and see how she turns out
If you don't find a queen put a cell in a nuc, let them both raize new queens so you have a plan B
 

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Here is something I have done that seemed to work. The key is to work with the bee psychology and make them think they swarmed...

Ideally you can move the queen and all the open brood to a split, and leave the foragers and capped brood (and swarm cells). This is the ideal situation. Then you get close to duplicating the swarm results. And if you can use a feather or bee brush to get a lot of nurse bees off into the queen's split, that is good.

If you can't find the queen, then here is a trick: take each comb, look carefully for the queen, and then move it either to the split or the far end of the existing hive. Then when you get to the last 2 combs, move them as a unit to the split. You will need to check for eggs in the split in a week - the queen will take some time to get warmed up to lay again.

I have found adding new bars between existing bars to be the key to preventing swarming urge. Otherwise the bees decide where to start storing honey, and keep that "honey wall" in place. THis makes them think their hive is small. If you add 1 bar between existing combs near where the brood and honey boundary is, this makes them think they have more room. During warm weather, I add 3 bars (each between existing comb) at a time.

If you were not expanding this way, then this queen isn't to blame for the urge to swarm. If you were adding bars this way, and she still wanted to swarm, I would suggest requeening. How soon a hive decides to swarm is in part genetic.

btw the urge to swarm is a form of good news - strong/healthy hives want to swarm! Congrats! And good luck.

btw if you don't have another hive body, you can split by using a bee-tight (and almost air-tight) divider in the hive you have. I'm assuming you have entrances in both sides. You might have to get creative to make it bee tight - bubble wrap, duct tape on the follower to make it bigger, sticking ziplock bags into any cracks - the queen smell can lure too many bees to her side so that's why you need to take care with making things bee and almost air tight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Quite a few things have happened since my initial post.

The day after my post, a bee friend of mine let me borrow his top bar hive nuc. I put the frames with swarm cells in it.

Two days later, checked in on the nuc to see that two of the swarm cells had holes in the side, what I suspect were stabs from a hatched queen. The other two cells were open on the end, though I did not see the telltale flap hanging off of them to suggest hatching... (then again, if it hatched a day earlier, maybe the workers were already breaking down the cell?)

Today, a friend stopped by to take one of my frames with a swarm cell (this was still in my original hive-long story short, I was told by the nuc owner that I could cut the cell off of this frame and they wouldn't build another swarm cell in its place. Clearly, I should have followed my instinct and not believed that). So, when I was done checking on my original hive, found a little nurse bee on my jacket when I went back indoors. I took her out and set her next to the opening of the nuc. The guard bee immediately tackled her and then carried her off across my yard somewhere.

Does the above aggression indicate that my nuc now has a queen, since the bee (from, I'm assuming, my big hive) was sensed as an intruder? If my old queen had accidentally been moved to the nuc, this would not have happened because the nurse would have smelled the same, yes?

Neither me nor my friend could spot the queen in the nuc today. So, either mating flight and I missed seeing her yesterday, or what?


Of note, the bees in my big hive were more aggressive the previous two days when I was moving the swarm cells. Today, when I shook bees off of frames multiple times, they were less so than I would have expected. I didn't use my anise/water spray at all today, and both hives seemed to be back to a normal level of calm as they were before. The previous two days, they were constantly tagging me and I even got stung twice, which is more than my sting total so far as a beekeep, lol.

As long as I have one queen between these two, I'll be happy. If I end up with two hives, great! I just hope everything goes okay now that they seem to be done making queens. (seem to be.)

At this stage, when do you all think would be the best time to check in on my hives again to look for signs of queen/queenlessness?
 

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when it comes to swarm prevention, move the queen from the old hive to a nuc.
Your bees want to swarm, they have hit that point in there development were they need to scratch that biological itch, like stoping teens from acting on their itch, it will be hard to change their minds and they will keep build cells.

putting the old queen in a nuc with some frames and a few shakes of bees sumlates a swarm but leaves most of the hive resources intact ... the bees at the old hive just think they missed the party. thin the cells in the old hive down to 2 or 3 so the hive dosent send a swarm off with a virgin queen
 

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The way I was taught to do a split (swarm prevention) was to leave the queen cells in mother hive, move the capped brood and queen to a nuc or a deep with some honey frames. Pro beek from UIUC taught me this. Thanks again Karen!
Moving open all the open brood with the queen is not quite right. Ask yourself, "what is the queen going to do for + or - two weeks while she waits for open cells?". If you move capped brood with the queen it won't be long before she's got room to lay. Make sense?
Sorry but #3 and I disagree on how to do a split.

Another thing. When you're selecting capped brood frames pick around and make sure you find one with purple or black eyed pupae. (scratch caps off and look at pupae) Put that with the queen because they're about to pop. She'll be laying on that kind of frame in a day or two.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Here is a little update on my hive.

I think the original queen had, in fact, swarmed before all of the swarm cells were capped, because my hive was grumpier than usual in the few days before I did the split.

I found a new queen in the nuc. Here is a photo of her when I suspect she was still a virgin queen:
Honeycomb Bee Beehive Insect Honeybee


In the original hive, they had made another (small) swarm cell, or I missed it, who knows, and it was open. Didn't see a queen that day, though.

I checked back a few days later and the above queen in the nuc appeared mated:
Bee Honeycomb Beehive Honeybee Insect


And, in my big hive, found a little black/gold virgin queen:
Bee Beehive Insect Honeycomb Honeybee


Both hives are back to their congenial selves and I have ordered another top bar kit so I can move the nuc into it.

Even though I didn't get to keep my original queen, I am still happy with what transpired and both seem to be doing okay.


I have one problem/question though, about the placement of the brood nest.

My big hive's brood nest ended up near the back of the hive (I have an end entrance, so it was nearest the follower board). Now that it has all hatched out in the last few weeks of this, do you think she will start laying in the front of the hive and I can have a hive that is not so "reversed" as it used to be? Should I add an empty bar or two up front to encourage this? Most bars now are nectar and honey. This order doesn't bother me but it might be easier for me to understand, as a beginner, where things should go when I read about top bar beekeeping, since brood nest in the front is more common. Any thoughts?
 

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Hmm, two things to think about here.

1. I've had a backwards hive like that, I just went ahead and put all the brood comb by the entrance. The brood comb tends to be narrower, and tends to be used repeatedly, and I would not expect the queen to stray from that. I don't want the bees to make broodcomb into combs with honey either, because it is harder to crush, so I don't want it to become honeycomb if I can help it. Also for winter (not an issue if you're not in a winter zone!) it's important to have the brood near the entrance.

2. The bees will bring in tons of nectar during a gap in egg laying, if there is a nectar source or feeding. the queen WILL NOT be able to lay unless cells are empty. I make sure there are empty bars in the brood nest area so the bees can use the nectar to make new comb, hence opening up room for the queen to lay. If room to lay stays hard to find, and there are a lot of bees in the hive, then the bees could try to swarm pretty early, after a few comb are filled with capped brood.
 
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