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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

my bees have been making swarm cells, my mentor initially squished them and we tried to give them more space. They have been busy making more, and today there were a couple capped. I found the queen today, so she hasn't left yet, there are still some eggs, but I feel she is slowing down. I am pretty confidant they are going to swarm pretty soon. The problem is that the hive is not terribly strong, and my mentor was hesitant to split because of this.

My question is: what are your thoughts on splitting the hive in an attempt to prevent the swarm, and then to recombine the hive after a little while. Seems to me like a better option than loosing half my bees to a swarm.

This is my first year keeping my own bees (I learned by keeping bees for 2 years on the farm where I apprenticed), I just have one hive and no extra drawn comb, so giving them space has been tricky. I might try to find plastic drawn comb just to give them space, although I don't like using plastic.

any thoughts or advice would be welcome, thanks!
 

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Welcome to Bee Source, verbin!

I remember being a first time, first year beekeeper back then.
Trouble with the hives and just overwhelmed on what to do next without
a mentor or bee apprentice experiences before. We're supposed to have 2
hives in order to help themselves in case of trouble like this. Having just
one hive will limit your options. I think in this case you have a failed queen.
It could be old age or some form of a disability, usually on the legs. So the bees
are trying to supersede her. If this is indeed a terribly weak hive then when they
swarmed there will be less bees to follow. But if this hive is a fairly strong hive then
you can make a small split to retained the old queen while the new queen is taking her mating
flights. Holding the old queen is just temporarily until a new laying queen is produce.
Eventually though the old queen will disappear later on. You will never find out where she
went. My suggestion now is to make a small split and allow them to make a new queen.
Let's say you have a fairly strong 10 deep hive. You can split the hive in half by placing
a division board right in the middle. One side is the old queen and the other side is the
cells. Make sure to face the hive entrance on opposite end of the hive.
In order for these 2 hives to grow you must give them more frames to expand otherwise they
will try to swarm again because of overcrowding.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the reply!

She's a new queen this year, I suppose that she could be compromised, but am fairly certain that I am seeing swarm cells and not supersedure cells, they are all along the bottom edges of the frames.

The hive is one 10 frame deep box, one medium box which is mostly brood, and one medium box of honey and comb that they are working on drawing out. Just to clarify, are you suggesting putting a dividing board within the deep box, or between boxes (to split the hive vertically).
 

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Either way, you will have more queens later on. And the old
queen will disappear unless you put her by herself. I have separated the
hive in half vertically stacking the division board on top of each other right in
the middle of the hive. Simply, you are making a 2 queen set up because you
don't want the hive to swarm. You have to even out the broods so that they are
not overcrowding. Between the top of the medium brood box and the bottom of the honey box you want to
put a queen excluder there. The virgin will go over the old queen's side to try to kill her too.
The advantage of this set up is that in case the virgin is a MIA on her mating flights, you can
unite the hive again by removing the division boards. By then the flow should be over. And if
the virgin did made it and laying you can split this hive into 2 separate one by itself. Having 2
hives will save you lots of headaches later on say you need the resource to make a new split nuc.
 

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The only way to make a weak hive make swarm cells is to feed it incessantly. If you are feeding, I would stop. Stop destroying queen cells as well. You will only end up queenless. Generally I would say a weak hive with swarm cells is an oxymoron. Weak hives don't make swarm cells. Weak hives make supersedure cells...
 

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The purpose is to have a mated queen on one side of the hive while on the
other side is a developing cell and eventually another mated queen if it works out.
Because the bees like the vertical hive set up like their normal hive in a tree, I like to
mimic their natural condition as much as possible. So instead of using the QE to divide
the hive horizontally, I use the QE to prevent the virgin from going to the other queen right
side. Without the QE the virgin will wander to the queen right side to kill that queen.
The divider boards are there to separate the hive into a vertical set up while even out the
broods and bees between the 2 sides.
Imagine a hive separated by the divider boards right in the middle with one side that house
the cells/virgin and the other with the queen right side. Split the hive in half with the divider
boards in between. See how easy this set up is?

MB is right. A small hive will not make a swarm cell. A weak hive will always make the
supersedure cells with the right age larvae even though some of these larvae are at the
bottom of the frame that is easier for the bees to draw out these cells. I have many such
frames to show you. But they are all supersedure cells not the swarm cells. In order to have
the swarm cells they have to be strong say 65,000 bees casting a 3 lbs. swarm on a flow.
 

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So based on Michael's comment why not leave the hive alone and let it replace the queen. I have a similar situation and that is what I am doing.
The only way to make a weak hive make swarm cells is to feed it incessantly. If you are feeding, I would stop. Stop destroying queen cells as well. You will only end up queenless. Generally I would say a weak hive with swarm cells is an oxymoron. Weak hives don't make swarm cells. Weak hives make supersedure cells...
 
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