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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is my second spring with my bees. I had 14 hives to make it through winter. I combined a few hives. I pinched a queen in one so that it could requeen itself. Long story short, as of a couple of weeks ago, I had 9 hives ready for the honey flow.

Then they got really swarmy. I was scared to do splits because I wanted to keep the numbers up for the flow. My solution was to cut queen cells. I started when they first started thinking about swarming (late March around here) and have been religious about it. It worked for a little while. I read in a few places that this method does not work...and now I know it doesn't work.

One of my hives swarmed twice. Then another one swarmed. Then today another one swarmed. The two hives that I checked on today were preparing to swarm.

So, that leaves me right at the beginning of a good GA nectar flow with bees that I can't keep in the hives. Frustration really isn't the word for it.

So, today I said to heck with it. I threw a super on the crowded hives and will not open a hive until next Saturday. I made this mess so now maybe the bees can fix it.

Next year I'll try something different. Is there anything that I can do now to salvage what's going on out there?
 

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Over all making a split is the best thing to do to maintain a non crowded hive. More honey will be made from the 2 hive from a split than just the original hive. Two queens laying make more bees that just the original queen.
 

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I'll be anxiously awaiting to read the replies on this thread. I run 2 deep brood boxes, I reversed them and that helped, or at least I think it did, then a few weeks ago I pulled 5 frames each, from the top box on my 2 strongest hives to make splits with. I pulled the frames that had queen cells. I thought that would surely keep them from swarming. I was wrong. I've lost the queens in my best 2 hives. I had planned to use one of those queens as a breeder queen, but she gone.

I don't know what works, but I do know what doesn't. I'm looking forward to swarm season being over.
 

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Attempting to cut all the cells doesn't stop the swarming impulse. Remember it's the old queen that leaves when lack of space reaches "critical mass". Cutting cells only increases your chances of a queenless hive. If you choose not to make increase with your glut of bees and brood you would be far better off attempting to control the swarming urge by giving them ample room above the brood nest.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks Jim. Next year I'll be making splits to control it. Unfortunately, I should have been doing it a month ago instead of trying to start now. Bees teach hard lessons.
 

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Another thread addressed this topic recently. Pull the queen and some capped brood from the parent hive and a couple shakes of bees from open brood. Then reduce the number of queen cells to a small number - around 2. The split with the parent queen will get lots of nurse bees when the capped brood emerges and open up lots of room for her to lay. By shaking from open brood you will get nurse bees that will not return to the parent hive. If you do not reduce the number of queen cells in the parent colony, they will likely swarm anyway. So remove all but around 2. Of course you can make additional splits if you want, but your desire was to keep the hive as strong as possible. It's also a good idea to keep a couple swarm traps up around each apiary location - if they do swarm, you may catch them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
It's also a good idea to keep a couple swarm traps up around each apiary location - if they do swarm, you may catch them.
This was another source of frustration for me. I have 4 traps around my apiary and 3 more within swarm distance of my hives. All baited with lemon grass oil. On 2 occasions when I had a swarm in a tree I saw scouts checking out one of the traps. Neither time did they choose to use it. I gotta figure out something better there too.
 

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Every one of my hives will swarm every spring....some multiple times....if I don't do anything to stop it. I believe that over crowding can trigger the impulse but having plenty of space won't stop it. The moment I see the first swarm cells, I know there isn't anything I can do that will interrupt the process. So....what I do is find the old queen...remove her, along with a frame of brood and a frame with honey and the bees covering those frames...a small split. Then I look for a cluster of swarm cells that appear to have been started at the same time and return them to the hive.....and then I cut all the remaining cells. The idea....and it works for me....is if the old queen is gone, the colony won't swarm. And, if I've chosen similar aged cells....there won't be a secondary queen. Otherwise....it has proven hopeless for me to stop them.
 

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This was another source of frustration for me. I have 4 traps around my apiary and 3 more within swarm distance of my hives. All baited with lemon grass oil. On 2 occasions when I had a swarm in a tree I saw scouts checking out one of the traps. Neither time did they choose to use it. I gotta figure out something better there too.
Are you sure you aren't me?
 

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This was another source of frustration for me. I have 4 traps around my apiary and 3 more within swarm distance of my hives. All baited with lemon grass oil. On 2 occasions when I had a swarm in a tree I saw scouts checking out one of the traps. Neither time did they choose to use it. I gotta figure out something better there too.
I have learned that traps need to be out well before the bees swarm, through observation after reading studies I believe scouts have already staked out their choice of a new home when the hive swarms and the time the cluster spends waiting is spent by the scouts visiting all the scouts' choices until a "decision" is made on the best choice. That is why placing hive boxes around a swarm that may be too high to reach hardly ever works. A year ago I would have thought this was crazy so I understand the readers of this post saying "that guy is nuts"
 

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Every one of my hives will swarm every spring....some multiple times....if I don't do anything to stop it. I believe that over crowding can trigger the impulse but having plenty of space won't stop it. The moment I see the first swarm cells, I know there isn't anything I can do that will interrupt the process. So....what I do is find the old queen...remove her, along with a frame of brood and a frame with honey and the bees covering those frames...a small split. Then I look for a cluster of swarm cells that appear to have been started at the same time and return them to the hive.....and then I cut all the remaining cells. The idea....and it works for me....is if the old queen is gone, the colony won't swarm. And, if I've chosen similar aged cells....there won't be a secondary queen. Otherwise....it has proven hopeless for me to stop them.
I generally agree. I didn't mean to suggest that more room is always an answer or that a lack of room is the sole trigger for swarming behavior. I have found, however, that pulling enough brood from a hive soon enough and keeping empty frames adjacent to the brood nest will usually keep them at home but trying to keep old queens in the hive isn't part of my management practice. The bottom line is you are fighting a natural reproductive urge and you should, instead, be using it to your advantage. Swim with the current not against it has always been my spring mentality.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Every one of my hives will swarm every spring....some multiple times....if I don't do anything to stop it. I believe that over crowding can trigger the impulse but having plenty of space won't stop it. The moment I see the first swarm cells, I know there isn't anything I can do that will interrupt the process. So....what I do is find the old queen...remove her, along with a frame of brood and a frame with honey and the bees covering those frames...a small split. Then I look for a cluster of swarm cells that appear to have been started at the same time and return them to the hive.....and then I cut all the remaining cells. The idea....and it works for me....is if the old queen is gone, the colony won't swarm. And, if I've chosen similar aged cells....there won't be a secondary queen. Otherwise....it has proven hopeless for me to stop them.
PAHunter mentioned a thread that talked about doing just that. This is absolutely what I will try next year.

Are you sure you aren't me?
It's tough being us, isn't it?

I have learned that traps need to be out well before the bees swarm, through observation after reading studies I believe scouts have already staked out their choice of a new home when the hive swarms and the time the cluster spends waiting is spent by the scouts visiting all the scouts' choices until a "decision" is made on the best choice.... A year ago I would have thought this was crazy so I understand the readers of this post saying "that guy is nuts"
That sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

As far as being crazy goes, I listened to a speaker at a bee convention once that said the very fact that we like to keep bees that sting and inflict pain puts us in the top 10% of crazy. So, being crazy must be a prerequisite to being a beekeeper.
 

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As someone else said, JStinson are you sure you are not me?! We are in identical shoes. I am second year also, had 14 come out of winter. Past couple weeks have been a disaster here also. Swarms in every bush and tree in the apiary. I think we both grew with bees faster than our knowledge of beekeeping. We will get there. I now have 18 colonies with the swarm added. Lost a lot of swarms also. But I am hopeful of a honey harvest and next year I will be watching more closely also. Good luck.
 

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Once the bees start swarm prep it is difficult to stop. Pulling the old queen and only leaving a couple cells works best. The cells need to be on the same frame so that the first one out can easily find and kill the other. If this doesn't happen they'll swarm anyway.
The best swarm prevention is to keep them from deciding to start.
When the dandilions bloom I keep a foundationless frame or two in the broodnest. How many depends on how strong the hive is. As their drawn and layed in I add more. I can pull some of the outer frames to make room but if I have to add another box so be it.
I prefer queens that are born in the fall and since their less than a year old this is usually all I have to do. No matter what she can never run out of room to lay.

Queens over a year old. I do the same but as soon as the blackberries bloom I pull the queen and three frames. Making sure the hive has the resources to build a new one.
Blackberry bloom is the earliest I can get a queen properly mated here. The flow is just getting started and swarm season don't really get underway for a couple weeks.
Beekeeping is very local so what works for me may need a little tweaking in other parts of the country.
I time everything on bloom dates, not on calendar dates. There can be a 30 day swing year to year.
 

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I thought it was only me, I fell a lot better now. I check my hives and watch them very closely,never see a swarm, cut swarm cells and have swarm boxes set and make splits. They have to be swarming in the wind, rain or at night..
 

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I am also a novice beekeeper but I'm getting a lot of experience this Spring for sure. I did a Cut down split with my strongest hive because I wanted to produce a lot of honey and get a new queen. I moved my queen to a new box with honey and stores and waited for the honey to flow in and it really has. Last year I got 4 kilos this year I'm in track to get 25 to 35 kilos!. However, I di not execute the cut down split correctly because I missed an extra 7 queen cells. I thought I only had two. The hive swarmed 2x's but I was able to catch the swarms and now they are drawing out comb and both queens are laying. The original strong hive did not have eggs and there wasn't sign of a queen so 27 days after I split the hive I newspaper united the old queen to the hive. After 3 days , I checked the hive and saw a queen that was being balled. I was a virgin I thinks. I was really sad cause I thought that was the original queen I started with. I caught the virgin and put her in another spilt and kept looking and found the original queen. I rearranged the frames and closed the hive. I'm not going to touch this hive for a week. If during the next inspection I see eggs then I have a success. If I see queen cells the process starts all over again.
 

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How about trying this method Michael Bush recommends? I cite one section. The link provides additional info:

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesswarmcontrol.htm

"Opening the broodnest

This, of course is what we want to do. What we need to do is interrupt the chain of events. The easiest way is to keep the brood nest open. If you keep the brood nest from backfilling and if you occupy all those unemployed nurse bees then you can change their mind. If you catch it before they start queen cells, you can put some empty frames in the brood nest. Yes, empty. No foundation. Nothing. Just an empty frame. Just one here and there with two frames of brood between. In other words, you can do something like: BBEBBEBBEB where B is brood comb and E is an empty frame. How many you insert depends on how strong the cluster is. They have to fill all those gaps with bees. The gaps fill with the unemployed nurse bees who begin festooning and building comb. The queen will find the new comb and about the time they get about ¼" deep, the queen will lay in them. You have now "opened up the brood nest". In one step you have occupied the bees that were preparing to swarm with wax production followed by nursing, you've expanded the brood nest, and you've given the queen a place to lay. If you don't have room to put the empty combs in, then add another brood box and move some brood combs up to that box to make the room to add some to the brood nest. In other words, then the top box would probably be something like EEEBBBEEEE and the bottom one BBEBBEBBEB. The other upside is I get good natural sized brood comb.

A hive that doesn't swarm will produce a LOT more honey than a hive that swarms."
 
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