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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been studying Walt Wright's writings but I remain unclear how to know when my local Reproductive Swarm Cut-Off is reached. (I understand that over-crowding swarms are different and that risk remains year-round.)

I have just three hives, all from swarms cut-out last year and overwintered.

I am in northern NY (north of Albany Z5, barely edging out of Z4). So far this year many of the early blooming plants were delayed about three weeks, but mid- and late-spring plants are right on schedule:

Apple blossom ended last week.

Common lilacs are past peak, though still colored.

White oaks are larger than "cat's-ear" stage, but still not expanded.

Dandelions have been blooming for about three weeks.

Black locust (I think that's our big "flow" spring/early summer producer here) is about 2.5-3 weeks from blossom, closer if it stays warm.

Basswood is a month away.

I am only in the tail end of my first year so have very little surplus drawn comb, and most of that is what the bees have rejected from the salvaged cut-out comb, so I couldn't do a formal comb checkerboarding to manage swarms. Instead I have manged to try to stay ahead of the crowding contributing-factor to Reproductive Swarm initiation by fairly aggressively opening the sides of the brood nest with empty frames with a starter strip. The bees have obliged by drawing out and filling these frames pretty promptly and it seems to keep them happy and busy. I started opening the brood nest sides as soon as the weather settled enough (about a month ago), going in about every 8 - 12 days. So most hives have had at least three rounds, and so far no signs of swarm preps beyond a couple of dry queen cups. They are hauling in both nectar and pollen by the ton and laying up a storm. Some of the hives have grown nicely: three deeps; three deeps and two mediums; one deep and three mediums. I let them have brood where ever they like as I am not interested in honey production. When a brood area expands to 5+ filled frames, I add a box and move a pair of capped brood frames to the new box up.

My immediate goals are:

1) Prevent swarming;

2) Draw new comb for use this year and for overwintering stores (and to retire some of the skankiest recycled comb from the cut out);

3) Increase the populations enough to be able to (reluctantly because I don't really want more hives) split out a nuc from each hive in mid-June (or earlier if I have to in order to manage swarming) or (preferably) around the Solstice.

But brood nest opening is a fairly intrusive procedure, requiring manipulations in most boxes - not to mention once you have stacks 5 and 6 boxes high, it is very heavy work. So I would like to know how to judge when the reproduction swarm cut-out point comes and I can begin to leave the bees' inner sanctums unmolested and just concentrate on adding nectar and pollen storage capacity.

I realize that Walt's Repro Swarm Cut-Off theory is tied to his checkerboarding of drawn comb procedures, not to the opening the brood nest management practices. But being a new beekeeper, I had almost no empty drawn comb to use in checkerboarding, so had to make do with the other technique. But Walt's insight about the Repro Swarm Cut-Off point is still useful to me in managing my three colonies.

My plan for the main flow is to remove (where possible) drawn and capped honey frames and store them over the summer - freezing for a weeks, first - in order to have them for over-wintering. While my bees gobbled up Lauri's Sugar bricks I would like to depend less on them and more on natural honey supplies. And next year I'll hopefully be in a better position to try the other part of Walt's swarm avoidance method: checkerboarding with drawn comb.

How do you know when your Repro Swarm Cut-Off point occurs? Is it based on plant-development stages (i.e. phenology); nectar and pollen source availability; day/night temperatures; day-length; or something I should watch for in the bees' behavior and actvities (i.e brood patterns, comb-drawing activity, lack of production of even dry queen cups)?

Thanks for your reponses!


5,183 Posts
It seems that when comb building stops or slows way down the likelihood of subsequent swarming seems to go down too. In my area that is now - our peek flow - tulip poplar - is over, and soon it is likely that nectar storage will slow to a trickle or even stop - depending on rain. But even if we continue to get good rain the strong spring flows are over here. Swarms could still happen, but they become less likely every day. Ed Holcomb says you can stop worrying about swarming about May 20. Looks like he hit it right on the head this year.

Time to worry about robbing now.

151 Posts
White wax is the cutoff.

sounds like you are a week and a half ahead of mid Michigan.

I got my first swarm, a week ago today.

The start of main flow and and white wax are the same thing.

Are main flow starts about June 15 but this is a off year.

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