I have heard and read every 7 to 10 days. If you have established colonies they really are inclined to swarm, and on the bee course I took at the U. of M. they recommended checking for swarm cells every 7 to 10 days in swarm season and reversing the two deep bodies that are used for brood.
As I understand it, this disrupts the bees ability to make a honey cap above the brood nest which seems to be a big factor in swarm preparations.
This year the weather is messed up. My 4 hives all overwintered well and were bursting with bees so I split the 3 busiest of them on April 23rd, adding caged queens. On May 3rd one of the parent colonies was producing swarm cells, and I split that hive again.
As I was looking through my hives frame by frame it lead me to a question related to yours. How do those with many hives check for swarm cells? Do they lift each deep and peer into queen cups on the bottom of the frames and see if there are larva in them? :scratch:
I can't believe they have the time to check each individual frame. In my Beesource readings I have seen people say that as a rule initial swarm preps by the bees involve rearing numerous queen larva, versus 5 or less if it is a supercedure. So as a 3rd year beek I am interested in learning if it really is as simple for the veterans to just do a cursory peek and, if there are a lot of cells being reared intervene then.
So in addition to Merlyn's question of How Often? I would also ask: How? Thanks, Adrian.
If you see "cups" no big deal. If you pull a frame and the cells are elongated then they'll have larva in them. Takes 5 seconds to check a hive. If they're swarming during your major flow, you have to decide whether to split them or let them swarm. I usually let them swarm; our first swarm hive during this year's citrus flow still made 3 supers of honey. We set out swarm traps at each yard and hope the swarms will use them, but it's not like you're losing a whole hive when they take off. If you have lots of hives you're not going to find and stop all the swarms; not enough time in the day!
Our main flow starts around April 24th...so my referenced dates are centered around that big flow. Our main swarm period is about 2 weeks before April 24th (roughly). We also sometimes have a small period that they swarm around May 15th.
Now, starting backwards. In mid to late February (around Maple bloom) when I get a warm day I go into my established hives, quickly check for eggs, then I insert 3 empty frames in the brood nest. No foundation. I place them in the third positions from the end and in the middle. I don't feed a hive unless they are light or near starving during March.
Late march I throw two drawn supers on. sometimes the strong hives will get the queen laying up in the 1st super. thats ok with me as they almost always backfill by june. At this point I only add supers as needed. Drawn comb goes on all at once. foundation goes on one at a time and then moved down after drawing starts. I generally move supers down 2-3 times between late April and late May. No smoke.
What I am getting at is I don't check for swarm cells. I used to do that...slows down progress of hive. I did an experiment of checking every 10 days on several hives and then leaving several alone and using method above (got that from mbush site) and noticed the hives that were checked for swarms had half the amount of honey. Sometimes the primary swarms can make honey the first year if you have enough drawn comb stored up.
I do have some swarms that occur. roughly 4-5 out of 30 hives for the past two years. But I believe I still harvest far more honey not checking swarm cells and losing a small honey foraging population to a few swarms (which I generally can catch) then trying to check 30 hives every week. I also keep my sanity and get really nice queen cells for splits and re queening efforts.
Thanks for posting about not looking for queen cells. I've only got 12 hives and multiple nucs as of now but I'm starting to hit the wall in time consumption. I've got to keep finding an faster way to do it if I want to keep growing. I finally started keeping records 4 weeks ago and it's already freed up a substantal amount of time. I STRONGLY recommend keeping records to anyone with over 5 hives if they want to save time.
I have been making sure to have fresh queens (mostly grafted Fall with 3 Spring ones too) in every hive but I keep checking for Swarm cells by cracking the 2 deeps and looking in between. I'm going to stop doing that. I've already got 5 swarm traps in my own apiary to try to catch any of my own swarms as well as making sure to give the bee's plenty of space with drawn supers as they contunue to grow.
I strongly recommend keeping records if you have one hive and plan at all to have more. Don't you want to know what and when something happened?
Or else you are left guessing. You may also want to keep a bloom record. This will help you to be able to prepare weeks before hand.
This thread just bugs the heck out of me. Checking for swarm cells is lost motion. When you find them, the colony has committed to swarm and it's difficult to change their collective mindset. You are limited in effective alternatives to busting up the colony into fragments (swarm control) or conceding defeat in swarm prevention and letting them swarm. Note that if you let them swarm, you can still get a super or two of surplus in most areas. The surplus is the safety margin between capability and colony food requirements for wintering.
My friend, Micheal B, recommends splitting (busting into pieces) for swarm control. He also recommends brood nest disturbance, in the form of opening the brood nest, for swarm prevention. Any broodnest disturbance slows colony growth - stops might be more accurate. The colony must recover from the disruption. When you recognize that there is a point on the seasonal schedule whan the colony abandons swarm ambition in favor of existing colony survival, it's obvious any slow-down helps in swarm prevention. It may be less obvious that any slow-down in brood production yeilds less bees for the production (main flow) period. More bees make more honey. Should have mentioned that when you see swarm cells, the colony has already reduced brood volume significantly by backfilling.
The most severe brood nest disturbance is an approach recommended by Demarree, Where the queen is isolated from the brood and forced to start over building a brood nest. A reliable swarm prevention scheme. But why bother - they are not going to make much more honey than if you let them swarm.
A reliable swarm prevention approach is archived in POV, this site. That system not only stops swarming, but also increases brood voume, population, and honey production. I'm mystified why it has been ignored so long.
Walt, I have read your POV and would like to try it. However, from what I have read I would need drawn comb for checkerboarding my supers and I don't have any. Additionally, if I understand your post, the losses from the disturbance overall of checking swarm cells may outweigh the loss from a swarm. This I can understand, yet it is not all about production to me at this stage, I don't want to be reseeding feral bees into the neighborhood because of the potential disturbance to my neighbors.
I really enjoyed the long debate you had over the winter with MP, I am not against checkerboarding or other non-conventional methods. My first hive was a TBH started from a package, fed only a quart of syrup, which built up swarmed after 2 months, survived the winter, and still provided me with a surplus in the spring.
There is no doubt in my mind that my confidence is raised as a relative novice by coming to the beesource site daily and learning from fellow beekeepers who have the generosity to share their wisdom and experience. That said my goal is to completely understand one method before I try another as this will make my comparisons of various methods more valid.
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