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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is my first year with bees. I have two hives from package bees that I picked up on 5/22/10. One hive is very strong with a tremendous amount of bees while the other is not quite as active.

The strong hive has filled the brood chamber and second large 10 frame hive body completely. The second hive body is all honey. The bees started bearding on the outside of the hive so I added a honey super and a queen excluder. I also raised the inner cover for ventilation. The bees weren't bearding so much as first but then started in again. I've read up on this and thought well, the bees know best. It has been warm in Upstate NY although the last week hasn't been bad. The new honey super is not full but they're drawing out comb.

Today I was mowing the lawn and I clipped the side of a swarm on the ground. It was about 200 bees. The bearding on the outside of my hive was intense but they were 8 ft from this swarm on the ground. The queen was with the swarm on the ground. I got out the smoker, broke up the bearding bees on the outside of the hive, pulled apart the brood chamber and realized that queen cells were being built in between the first and second hive bodies. I probably split apart atleast a half dozen queen cells.

I put the whole mess back together and realized I didn't know enough to deal with this situation at the moment. The small swarm on the ground with the queen was broken up and the queen either flew off or went back to the hive.

About 2 hours later the bearding has commenced. Any advice is appreciated because I'm at a loss.

I'm thinking I should be ready to capture the swarm. If so, what equipment should I have?
 

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It'd been nice to have already captured the queen and her court that you found on the ground and put them into a nuc right away. (problem is you really dont know if that group of bees on the ground including a queen was your queen from the box that's got all the capped queen cells..likely was, but you really dont know)

I've heard of taking the queen out and setting her up in a different hive (along with a couple thousand of her closest friends)if you know they are preparing to swarm.
I intend on doing just that next time I have that problem come up. Problem tho is if a hive is that strong that its ready to swarm, its a real chore finding the old girl!

Or you could also simply split that hive right now. Take the box's apart and start 2 colonies out of the 1.
Just make sure you have good queen cells in both box's OR BETTER YET find the (original)queen and remove all frames with queen cells from her box and allow the other box to finish hatching a new queen, use mostly open frames in that second deep that each hive gets for the queens to lay eggs into.

If you simply take the two deeps apart and give them each their own bottom board and top cover, adding another deep to complete each split and dont find the queen, that half of the split (that has the original queen in it) may still swarm after the new queens are ready to emerge.

You should get a good deal of input on the different options or approaches to this issue... like skinning a cat, many different ways to approach it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Steve. I may have the opportunity to find the queen again if I get another swarm. I'm sure I didn't stop the problem but I may have delayed it. Right now I need to find some extra equipment so I can either split them or start a new hive.

Another issue that I have is that when I pulled the second deep off the brood chamber I split open a bunch of queen cells. The larvae were still living but the caps pulled off the tops. It's possible that when I set the second hive body back down I killed some more of the larvae. Will they re-cap the queen cells on their own?

As I think about it, the queen that I saw appeared small in size. A newly hatched queen will not leave the hive until a few days after she comes out will she?
 

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My experience is that they will as long as the larvae isnt damaged. I did a couple splits off a swarm hive earlier this year and one of the splits had all the swarm caps pulled off. After checking back on that box 3-4 wks later, there was in fact fresh eggs present. We were not sure that those queen cells were usable, apparently I was gentle enough and didnt damage those fragile queen cells (or at least one of them was good)

and your right the newly hatched queen will spend the first week or so in the hive before she starts taking mating flights, spend maybe a week doing that and then takes another week or so (give or take) until she starts laying eggs.
 

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Could write a book on this thread. Will try to be brief. Don't take this as scolding - everyone has to start somewhere.

You have not provided any evidence that the colony intends to swarm. We have been indoctrinated to think swarm anytime we see a queen cell. Actually, on a per hive basis, supersedure is more common.

The natural swarm that left the parent colony with the old Q automatically SS toward establishment in the new location, or sooner if the consensus is not pleased with her performance. Other 1st year starters, packages, nucs, splits, etc. will often invoke that insurance measure to be on the safe side of wintering potential. It's in their survival genes.

You report several items that point to SS: Low Q cell count; Continued growth at the top; Q cells at roughly the same stage of development; and a very small swarm outside the hive. A short blurb on each follows.

First, Q cell location as an indication of colony intent:
Your starter with 2 full deeps of comb has the luxury of starting Q cells on the bottom of frames where there is minimum impact on surrounding worker brood. I see SS every year on established colonies and they are almost always off the bottom bars of the next higher box. In contrast, the starter colony that elects to SS early in the process of establishment without full frames of drawn comb will, of necessity, be forced start SS cells on the face of the comb already drawn. We have been unsuccessful in turning around the misconception of SS on the face of the comb.

The 6 cells seen were developed or extended downward to the extent that they were attached to the next lower frames and were fractured when the boxes were separated. That implies that all the cells were of similar age. It's a unique feature of SS that when they commit to SS, they do it in a hurry. Swarm cells are started over a longer period to provide backups. Of course, we don't know what you didn't see by merely separating the deeps.
In SS, whether 2 or 10 cells, they are generally started within a weeks time.

We have never seen damaged Q cells repaired, and we have damaged quite a few in our time. There may be other circumstances that would explain the above posting.

I believe that those tiny swarms that mystify the experts are generated by the supersedure process. We have only seen them after our SS timing. Conjecture because we don't mark queens. Some colonies terminate the old Q early in the SS process and others let her lay until the replacement is mated and laying - and all variations in between those extremes. We suspect that the old Q becomes disinchanted with being relegated to an area outside the main broodnest and bails out with a few loyal supporters.
So much for guesswork.

And so much for your skull drill. If you are thinking, you will find some discrepancies in the above.

Sorry about the long post. Needed a diversion. Put down the other resident at 320 adams rd today. Will miss Dawg.
Walt
 

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Sorry about Dawg, Walt. I know I'd be out of sorts for a long time if I lost Robbie, the bee eating Golden Retriever. My inseparable helper.

The reason for my post is this thread brings up a point I've been meaning to post for awhile for the beginning folks. If you're in beekeeping you need to have at least a couple of fully outfitted nuc boxes on hand. You will have swarms, or you will find swarms, and SS bees and swarm cells, whatever! If you don't have equipment what do you do? BUILD some nuc boxes! Keep them filled with frames and whatever foundation you use. There are plans for REAL CHEAP nuc boxes on this site. GET BUSY! You can build a plywood nuc box for about 5-7 dollars; you can buy one from Dadant, Mann Lake, etc. with bottom and lid for <$25.00. You're going to need them; most of you northern guys lose bees every year to winter weather. You'll need splits and swarms to replace them. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Lesson learned. Sometimes it doesn't sink in until the panic ensues when something is wrong and you know you don't have the right equipment.

My wife and I are expecting our first child in Oct so I'm not going to be in the wood shop for awhile but I will be buying some extra equipment today.

Brad
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Walt,

I find myself going back and reading your analysis multiple times. I think it fits my situation perfectly.

Can you recommend a good book on swarming/supersedure/general life inside the hive?

Brad
 

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007:
As far as I know, I'm the only person who ever tried to figure out how the bees run their shop. It may not be 100% accurate because it's conclusions based on observation and reading comb content. Others with the same data might come to different conclusions.

Most of it can be found at this web site. Home page, click on Point of View. Published articles are archived in order. The 03 series treat internal operations of the established colony. Download it and you have the makings of a book for cost of printing paper. Note that an article on SS treats that subject as seen when checkerboarded.

I know of no book that treats the subject of first year colony internal operations. That is a separate mode of colony internal operations oriented to establishment. I may take a crack at writing about that subject.

Reviewing my prior post, I offered no opinion on your present situation. You should hope the colony had another Q cell tucked away in an undisturbed location. Otherwise, they may go queenless. Not a problem if there is still a laying Q, but if thay have already Terminated the old Q, they don't have young brood to start over on SS. If they don't have young brood, dividing or splitting will just give multiple QX groups.

Walt
 
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