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David ,I'm glad your doing a how to on this subject . I have been following it closely and wondered if you could include what to do when queen cells or supercedure cells are found and how they would affect the splits that your suggesting , thanks .
 

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Discussion Starter · #62 · (Edited)
It depends. If it is a honey production hive and they are trying to supercede you might let them if it is late enough in the nectar flow. If it is earlier and a brood break would be detrimental then you might want to move the cell to a mating nuc - or destroy it. If a strong honey hive starts building a lot of swarm cells it's going to be hard to head off unless you are really dedicated.

The main thing is to have some nucs going with backup queens as insurance. Then if that queen actually needed superceding and fails you can just give them one from a nuc. Or if one swarms and doesn't requeen.

If you split and one of the splits tries to swarm then it probably already had a cell started - or was just too strong. Usually though splitting puts them in expansion mode and they build up and draw comb instead of trying to swarm right away. If the split doesn't already contain swarm cells.

I'm repeating myself - I guess it should be clear that you don't want a queen right split to have swarm cells in it. You also don't want a queenless split to have too many cells or for the cells it has to be widely separated inside the hive. Either condition can result in multiple virgin swarms - but that is more likely to be a problem in bigger stronger hives than in a nuc.
 

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I've been reading and rereading and as a 2nd year beek the information is quite valuable.

By the end of last year, I identified the lack of drawn comb as my limiting factor (have 3 supers stored). We've got 10 multiple box hives, 6 nucs and 3 top bar hives, all looking healthy. My langs are mostly 8 frame mediums and we're moving towards all mediums. Our intention this year is to grow to 15-20 honey production hives and 10-20 nucs. I'd also like as much drawn comb as possible to better capture next years honey.

We have 3 or 4 small outyards available in addition to our own backyard. Forage is such here that I intend to limit outyards to 6 production hives. Equipment is not a limiting factor as I make what I need and have plenty of boxes and foundation. I am pretty good at finding queens having worked these hives and hives in several other yards.

I've ordered 10 queens for April 11 (earliest available date from the local breeder). I intend to pull the existing queens and 4 frames and requeen the biggest hives when the queens are available. In the meantime, as with last year, if I find queen cells, I pull the existing queen and some frames into a nuc.

One outyard is in the city (limited to 2 hives and a nuc). I intend to requeen and I'd like to use my limited amount of drawn comb there to maximize honey production this year.

Thoughts and input on a real life example are appreciated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #64 ·
It sounds to me like you are on your way. I can only make a couple of observations based on my own limited experience.

As long as I was aggressively growing my hive count it was hard to make a honey crop - growth absorbed all of the comb that my bees could create.

When I reduced my hive count lo and behold I had enough comb to work with and life became much easier as far as honey production and swarm management.

So, last year I took a dual approach:

1) I limited the number of hives that I (intensively) managed for honey to match the combined amt of comb I already had.
2) I split the rest aggressively to make increase, control swarming, and produce more comb.

This resulted in my best honey crop so far, far fewer swarms, and all the increase that I wanted to make. At the end of the honey season I moved around resources to equalize and get all hives where I wanted them to go into winter.

BTW, Swarming of the big strong honey hives was (predictably) a constant concern during the swarm season - 2 out of 3 of them ultimately did swarm before it was over. But none of the hives that I managed for increase (splitting, queen rearing, etc) even tried to swarm. Some were small and I combined them in September though - but that's part of the process.

This coming year I am going to try to make the same (or a little more :) ) honey from twice as many honey hives - in other words Instead of trying to make 8-10 supers of honey per monster hive I hope to make 4-5 supers per hive from about twice as many less formidable hives. And leave the stepladder in the garage.
 

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So, last year I took a dual approach:

1) I limited the number of hives that I (intensively) managed for honey to match the combined amt of comb I already had.
2) I split the rest aggressively to make increase, control swarming, and produce more comb.
same here david, and i was also pleased with the results. partially filled supers from the split hives were given to the nonswarming hives to finish. i was also able to catch several swarms which helped with the splits and queen rearing. i'll attempt the same this year, with hopes of ending up with surplus nucs for sale.
 

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This past year was my first year for SPM and what I did was In the first week of MAY I flipped my boxes{10DBL.deeps} If the bottom box had no brood and everything was in the top box and put 2 blank frames in the brood nest then the first week of JUNE I pulled all my queens and put them in a nuc {10} and added another deep. got a great honey crop and all hives re queened themselves and I did not have one swarm out of 10 DBL. deeps. the year before that out of 3 hives I ended up with 8 swarms so I was very happy with this past years SPM 100 % :D
For the beginner...what is SPM???

So you doubled your hives to 20...did you use the 2 frames you removed to make room for the blank frames to make up the nuc from the original hive? Did you crease the early larval cells in the hive you left Queenless at the time you destroyed Queen cells hanging at the bottom of frames or simply leave them to their own devices?

For hives that had brood in the bottom (were there any) did leave them alone to add brood in the upper brood deep and simply add on a third deep for honey harvesting?

Sorry for so many questions but I am one of those with tiny weak hives through to full hives coming into my second season. I want to avoid swarms, would be happy with a moderate increase in hive numbers and really want to strengthen honey production.
 

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I cant comment on the original topic of preventing swarms for beginners, we haven't been very successful at that. But, I can pass on our experiences as we went from raw beginners, to where we are at today. Hopefully somebody can learn a bit from our experience, and maybe prevent somebody from re-learning our lessons the hard way. Let me dig a few holes explaining our lessons to beginners. I offer no advice, just our experience, and, what i would do differently if starting over today, with the knowledge gained from our experience.

:digging:My take on adding boxes (undrawn frames) as a swarm prevention method.

In our first year, everybody told us, hives started from packages would not swarm, and if you want them to build comb, feed your bees. So, our packages started in single deeps, and when they were built out covering 7 frames, we added another box of frames. 3 hives, and not one of them looked at the second box. As the flow ramped up in June, they took all that feed, combined with the incoming nectar, filled the brood nest with nectar, and swarmed, and then afterswarms. Yay, we learned something. We caught some of the swarms, not all made it. After swarming, the hives did build out the second box, filled it with honey, all except one of the swarms which was small, and barely got one box half full. We helped them in the fall, by giving them built out frames from the swarms that didn't make it and feeding.

Year two, we put another box of frames on the single deep hive, we put it on early so they would get into it early. They started to draw some comb in there, and when the dandies got going, once again, backfilled brood nest and swarm, followed by numerous afterswarms. At one inspection, we were going to just dismantle this one, only a few hundred bees left, and we saw 4 open queen cells. But, as we started pulling out frames, my wife spotted another queen cell that was in the process of emerging. We buttoned it all back together and didn't go back for a month, it was at a friends place, a 20 minute drive. When we got back a month later, 4 frames mostly capped. By fall, they had built out the second box, and filled it up, didn't even need to feed them.

In our third year, we knew up front there would be little / no time to tend our bees. My wife had a new job to go to, so we were busy packing up a house and preparing for a move during the heart of swarm season, moving vans scheduled to show up on June 1. But we did do a little bit, and one of the things we did, was to put a brand new green drone frame into each hive, just beside the brood nest, at the beginning of what most around here would call swarm season. The original plan was to cull drone brood as a way of knocking down mites, but, we ended up just leaving them due to the short notice move. The strong hive, number 1 above, had that frame fully built, both sides, and laid full in a week. The rest of our hives, had one side drawn and laid full in a week. The lesson here, maybe there is something to this 'add a frame in the brood nest' concept to get them building comb. As the move approached, I didn't really have a lot of options for tending to bees, we would be 250km up the road, so we moved all of our bees into a single location, piled up all the supers, some drawn, some bare frames, and left them. I know of at least 5 swarms that came out of those hives just from the ones various folks saw, there were 5 hives in that location.

To date, heading now into our fourth year, the success percentage for adding a box of undrawn frames as an SPM (swarm prevention method) is running right about 0.0%. I have no interest in trying again to just add a box of new frames on top of a single deep hive, and hope they will build up and not swarm.

:digging:My take on cutting queen cells to prevent swarms.

We have never tried this, so no first hand experience. We had an acquaintance in the location before we moved, who was very dilligent in cutting queen cells when he saw them. Two years running, same story. Cut all queen cells during inspections. About a month later, looking to find a queen, because the hive was queenless. This year, he was over to help us with some of the heavy work prepping for the moving vans to arrive. Got a call, a swarm was coming out of one of the hives in the orchard. He immediately piped up, would love to have the swarm, because his hive was once again queenless, after cutting all the cells a few weeks earlier.

I dont have a lot of interest in trying to cut queen cells for swarm prevention. Starting to agree with what I read, once you see a capped cell, it's to late anyways, and by cutting them all out, you just leave the donor hive hopelessly queenless.

:digging:My take on expanding the brood nest as a swarm prevention method. Bit of a drawn out story, but, probably worth the detail for a beginner trying to understand some of this.

In our second year, we had two hives side by side, I'll label them 1 and 2. 1 was VERY strong, and doing well. 2 arrived into the spring with a drone laying queen :( After much reading here on beesource, we decided to try the 'add a frame of brood once a week' method of getting them queenright. On the first round of adding a frame of brood, I dispatched the queen that was still there laying drones, and scraped a bunch of the drone brood. Then we put a frame of open brood and eggs from hive 1, and took an empty undrawn frame from hive 2 to fill that hole in the first hive. A week later, still no cell, repeat the process. Third week, still no cell, repeat the process again. When we went back to check a week later, still no cell, and drone brood scattered all over. Conclusion at that point, probably a laying worker, and, it was getting pointless, the main flow was now only 2 weeks away. So, I took the hive to the far side of the field, and shook every bee off of every frame. By the time I got back to the hive stand, there was quite a cloud of bees hovering there. We decided to give it one more try, and opened hive 1 to find another frame of eggs/brood. The first frame we pulled, there she was, a nice fat big queen. My wife made an instant change in the plan, we put that frame with a queen into hive 2, and put another empty drawn frame into hive 1 to fill the hole.

In hindsight, looking at what we did, and it was totally by accident, was this. Thru the heart of swarm season, we kept opening the brood nest on hive 1 to take a frame with eggs, and putting in an empty drawn frame. The queen never ran out of space to lay because of it. On the 4th go around, we did the equivalent of a 'cut down split', by putting the queen into the weak / dwindling hive, and leaving our strong hive to raise the queen as the blackberry bloom approached. Hive 2 recovered fully, and went into the winter as a pretty decent strong colony. Hive 1 did not swarm, produced 3 mediums of honey, and arrived into the fall as a very strong hive headed for winter. Second year, learned a lot, and finally had some buckets of honey for the efforts.

By accidentally expanding the brood nest with drawn comb, we did get one very strong hive that did not throw a swarm that we know of. Success rate is 1 out of 1, not a statistically significant sample, but leaves me hopeful.

;)I am not an expert, and my thoughts will be considered 'bad' by many folks. So be it, I can only go by what I have learned in the school of knocks.

If I had to do it over again, from scratch, knowing what I know now, I'd completely ignore all the chatter about how bad old comb is, and I would buy a couple boxes of drawn comb in year one. My packages would have got one frame of drawn comb to give them a better start, queen has a place to lay right away. I would let them build out as per what folks say, and think about a second box of frames, when they have 7 covered. When I put the second box of frames on, it would contain mostly drawn frames. The bees will move up, and suddenly there is LOTS of space to store nectar, and for a queen to lay. That amount of drawn comb, will keep them busy right thru till swarm season is over, and they are headed into the mode of winter buildup. Now my wife is partial to not wanting old comb from someone else in the hives, so, to address her concern I'd go a couple steps farther. Once we are well past swarmy season, I'd lift all the old frames into a third box, placing a new box of new frames in between, and an excluder between 2 and 3. Let all the brood emerge from the old comb, then remove the box of old frames, and replace with a feeder if necessary. Done early enough will give plenty of time for the bees to build out what is now the second box, and we head into winter with no remnants of the old comb in the hives, and a built out double deep well stocked.

Would that plan work as I expect, dunno. What I do know, it'll certainly have a far better chance of working that what we did, because what we did just resulted in swarm after swarm, and the biggest lesson I've taken from that is, 'give them space' does NOT mean a box of fresh new frames, it means drawn comb. I am now firmly of the belief, for a newbie just starting out, a box of drawn comb is WAY more valuable than some pedigree queen. We are past that phase now, have plenty of drawn comb at the ready in boxes stacked in the garage. In hindisght, I sure wish I had two of those boxes during our first season with bees.
 

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For Grozzie....could give approximates dates for "early",dandelion flow, swarms saeson start and end and blackberry flow. I am vaguely in your region and some idea of dates would be helpful.
Last year was my first season..started late...packages early May, nucs early June. No drawn frames. I do not believe we had issues with swarms...at least I saw none and the bees are in my yard...perhaps because we stated so late. Bees all drew out a bottom deep, most but not all a second deep and we got some dadant honey supers to give the single deeps over winter and some for us. I expect this year will be our intro to swarms:) we still don't have extra drawn deep frames but do have some extracted dadant frames. Having some idea of what might happen and when would be helpful...rather than saying "we must be in the swarm season as there is a huge ball of bees up in the neighbours tree!"
 

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packages early May, nucs early June
Late start, probably why you didn't have issues, your hives never got strong enough to swarm before it was time to get into winter prep mode.

I dont have notes on start bloom dates from our first year, we got our packages on April 19. We had the first swarms come out 6 weeks later, near the end of June. It was a sunday morning, we had gone down to do an inspection. We saw the first swarm hanging in a tree when we walked into the orchard. While working to get that one into a box, we watched the other hive swarm. By the end of the day, we had hived both of them. Both hives threw afterswarms in the first week of July, one of which we got into a hive.

The next year, we saw dandelions blooming in the first week of april. March was to cold for the bees to fly, so, we didn't see much activity during that month. I hived a swarm on June 14, about 6 weeks after the weather turned nice.

This past year, I'm told things were very early. Our bees were working the maples hard in March. We saw the first dandelion blooming on March 24. We watched the first swarm depart during the third week of april, so roughly 3 weeks after the first dandelion, or about the same time we saw blooms on the apples. Our bees were in an orchard then, so they got to work hazelnuts for very early pollen, then maples, then apples, then holly (the orchard had 4 acres of apples, and 14 of holly). After the holly was done, blackberries started, and in that area, just about any untended land is overrun by the blackberries, which bloom from as early as late June, thru till early September. The blackberries we had beside the house before we moved, showed a first bloom in the third week of June every year, and, last flower wasn't until september, but the bulk of the bloom was done by the end of July.

My guess is, over in Vancouver, your high risk period for swarms begins roughly when the apples start to bloom, sometime in April, and continues till early July. After 3 years of doing it, we've seen them as early as third week of april, and as late as July 8. I'm going to be watching things carefully this year, starting with the first dandelions, and inspecting brood nests weekly after that looking for signs of swarm prep. I plan to pull queens out of the producing hives about a week before the blackberries, so roughly middle of June, and after that wont be watching for swarm stuff anymore.

This year I think it's going to be much easier for us. We went into the fall with 10 colonies, and I realized earlier this week, one of them didn't make it. I've seen activity at the entrance quite regularily on nice days, turns out, that was the other hives robbing it out. The dead hive was a small cluster, and they froze in the extended cold snap we had in December. They did great last winter, in a similar small cluster, but, it didn't get to -15C once last winter, never mind every night for 2 weeks like it did this year. So, now I have a couple boxes of drawn comb to work with, the tools I need for doing swarm prevention.
 

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Late start, probably why you didn't have issues, your hives never got strong enough to swarm before it was time to get into winter prep mode.

I dont have notes on start bloom dates from our first year, we got our packages on April 19. We had the first swarms come out 6 weeks later, near the end of June. It was a sunday morning, we had gone down to do an inspection. We saw the first swarm hanging in a tree when we walked into the orchard. While working to get that one into a box, we watched the other hive swarm. By the end of the day, we had hived both of them. Both hives threw afterswarms in the first week of July, one of which we got into a hive.

The next year, we saw dandelions blooming in the first week of april. March was to cold for the bees to fly, so, we didn't see much activity during that month. I hived a swarm on June 14, about 6 weeks after the weather turned nice.

This past year, I'm told things were very early. Our bees were working the maples hard in March. We saw the first dandelion blooming on March 24. We watched the first swarm depart during the third week of april, so roughly 3 weeks after the first dandelion, or about the same time we saw blooms on the apples. Our bees were in an orchard then, so they got to work hazelnuts for very early pollen, then maples, then apples, then holly (the orchard had 4 acres of apples, and 14 of holly). After the holly was done, blackberries started, and in that area, just about any untended land is overrun by the blackberries, which bloom from as early as late June, thru till early September. The blackberries we had beside the house before we moved, showed a first bloom in the third week of June every year, and, last flower wasn't until september, but the bulk of the bloom was done by the end of July.

My guess is, over in Vancouver, your high risk period for swarms begins roughly when the apples start to bloom, sometime in April, and continues till early July. After 3 years of doing it, we've seen them as early as third week of april, and as late as July 8. I'm going to be watching things carefully this year, starting with the first dandelions, and inspecting brood nests weekly after that looking for signs of swarm prep. I plan to pull queens out of the producing hives about a week before the blackberries, so roughly middle of June, and after that wont be watching for swarm stuff anymore.

This year I think it's going to be much easier for us. We went into the fall with 10 colonies, and I realized earlier this week, one of them didn't make it. I've seen activity at the entrance quite regularily on nice days, turns out, that was the other hives robbing it out. The dead hive was a small cluster, and they froze in the extended cold snap we had in December. They did great last winter, in a similar small cluster, but, it didn't get to -15C once last winter, never mind every night for 2 weeks like it did this year. So, now I have a couple boxes of drawn comb to work with, the tools I need for doing swarm prevention.
Thanks for the specific info.
What do you mean when you say you pull the queens out of the producing hives...what constitutes a producing hive? Do you make split with the pulled queen, do you kill her, do you put another queen in the hive you pulled her from or let it make another from open brood left in the hive?
 

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I am now firmly of the belief, for a newbie just starting out, a box of drawn comb is WAY more valuable than some pedigree queen.
That may be true for the first year. When you get to the point that all you have is drawn comb you will experience another problem. There is nothing for the wax maker to do. So your swarm problems are not over.
 

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When you get to the point that all you have is drawn comb you will experience another problem. There is nothing for the wax maker to do. So your swarm problems are not over.
Huh? That's the easy part. Slide in empty frames and let them go to town.
 

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Huh? That's the easy part. Slide in empty frames and let them go to town.
Everything is easy if you are aware. Now you have to melt down frames, clean them up and reinstall foundation or prepare them for foundationless. Some might even rewire the frames. Bees naturally draw comb. I didn't see not having drawn comb an issue for swarm prevention on my first hive. I did see an issue using the QE right off the bat.
 

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It really doesn't have to be that complicated.
Remove a couple frames that don't have brood, replace with either empty frames or frames with foundation. That's it. Save the removed drawn frames for a nuc, split, swarm, super, etc.

Didn't you split your overwintered hive in the Spring?
 

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Discussion Starter · #76 ·
Everything is easy if you are aware. Now you have to melt down frames, clean them up and reinstall foundation or prepare them for foundationless. Some might even rewire the frames. Bees naturally draw comb. I didn't see not having drawn comb an issue for swarm prevention on my first hive. I did see an issue using the QE right off the bat.
A new hive is usually in "expansion mode" and not inclined to swarm - comb or not. That is one reason that people have problem with splits (esp qr splits) from strong hives swarming. The split wasn't drastic enough to force them back to expansion mode. Or it already contained swarm cells. I think I already mentioned that.
 

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Didn't you split your overwintered hive in the Spring?
I split two of them but I didn't have any empty frames or foundation. One split I gave away and that made me really short on equipment. Then there was the lack of time. 20-20 hindsight, I should have borrowed the guys plastic hive and drawn out some comb for him but I didn't. Dumb mistake, I know.
 

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Has anyone every used a snelgrove board for swarm control. I recently read Swarming: Its control and prevention by L.E. Snelgrove. I know online its says his research was disproved in the 1950s by other research but his method is listed in Richard E. Bonney's book entitled "Hive Management" published in 1990. The method is alot more simple in Bonney's book compared to Snelgrove's. This board is also known as a double screen board. Thanks.
 

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:digging:My take on expanding the brood nest as a swarm prevention method. Bit of a drawn out story, but, probably worth the detail for a beginner trying to understand some of this.

In our second year, we had two hives side by side, I'll label them 1 and 2. 1 was VERY strong, and doing well. 2 arrived into the spring with a drone laying queen :( After much reading here on beesource, we decided to try the 'add a frame of brood once a week' method of getting them queenright. On the first round of adding a frame of brood, I dispatched the queen that was still there laying drones, and scraped a bunch of the drone brood. Then we put a frame of open brood and eggs from hive 1, and took an empty undrawn frame from hive 2 to fill that hole in the first hive. A week later, still no cell, repeat the process. Third week, still no cell, repeat the process again. When we went back to check a week later, still no cell, and drone brood scattered all over. Conclusion at that point, probably a laying worker, and, it was getting pointless, the main flow was now only 2 weeks away. So, I took the hive to the far side of the field, and shook every bee off of every frame. By the time I got back to the hive stand, there was quite a cloud of bees hovering there. We decided to give it one more try, and opened hive 1 to find another frame of eggs/brood. The first frame we pulled, there she was, a nice fat big queen. My wife made an instant change in the plan, we put that frame with a queen into hive 2, and put another empty drawn frame into hive 1 to fill the hole.

In hindsight, looking at what we did, and it was totally by accident, was this. Thru the heart of swarm season, we kept opening the brood nest on hive 1 to take a frame with eggs, and putting in an empty drawn frame. The queen never ran out of space to lay because of it. On the 4th go around, we did the equivalent of a 'cut down split', by putting the queen into the weak / dwindling hive, and leaving our strong hive to raise the queen as the blackberry bloom approached. Hive 2 recovered fully, and went into the winter as a pretty decent strong colony. Hive 1 did not swarm, produced 3 mediums of honey, and arrived into the fall as a very strong hive headed for winter. Second year, learned a lot, and finally had some buckets of honey for the efforts.

By accidentally expanding the brood nest with drawn comb, we did get one very strong hive that did not throw a swarm that we know of. Success rate is 1 out of 1, not a statistically significant sample, but leaves me hopeful.
Removing the queen from the hive just before swarm season reminds me of Mel Disselkoen's OTS methodology:

OTS
 

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Has anyone every used a snelgrove board for swarm control. Thanks.
I am thinking of making up a couple of the boards to try out the idea. It does seem to require some regular timing critical manipulation. Having to take the top brood box off to get at central honey supers might seem a bit of a pain but the top box should not be heavy. People seem more focused on making splits as a main form of swarm control but this might be a good way for someone who wants to maintain a small number of hives with limited space.
 
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