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So 80% of my first year hives swarmed. Epic fail. Had some questions. First, I did want to point out some silver linings (maybe I'm just trying to make myself feel better) -

- all happened after the honey flow. No loss of production, and I do have the goal of increasing my hive numbers
- less (currently) bees in the hive to consume stores
- swarms are set to draw comb like bandits. My swarms drew a box full of comb in two weeks tops. I split another one of my hives at the beginning of April, and it took until the end of May for them to fill out the box I gave them.
- no wax to replace in the parent hive as with a split
- less "delay to lay". I know the books say that swarms occur when the queen cells are capped. I haven't found this to be the case. My hives swarmed either right before or right after the queens hatched. I know because they hatched when I was doing inspections, then I had swarms for several days afterwards. In this scenario, the new queen is up and laying in 11-14 days. Add 16 days to that for a split.
- caught a virgin queen and successfully introduced her to a queenless hive that I was about to write off. She's now laying.

Obviously, the HUGE caveat to the comments above is that you actually catch the swarm. I caught all of mine.

So I've read up repeatedly on swarm prevention. I think I've got the early spring stuff down - hive will likely be honeybound and you need to either give foundationless or empty drawn comb.

During the season, what SPECIFIC indicator do you look for, when do you take action, and what do you do?

Here's what I do -
High population = more honey
Hive check -> High population = yes! I'm happy
Hive check -> High population = yes! I'm happy
Hive check -> High population = yes! I'm happy
Hive check -> swarm cells -> crap!!!!!
Find old queen (if I can) -> simulate swarm with three frames each of brood, pollen, and honey.

I'm catching them after it's too late and need to do better. I've heard a lot about no room to lay and providing empty drawn comb, which I am short on. In that scenario though, you're not going to throw out three frames of brood, pollen, or whatever. What do you do with what you take out? Make a split? If so, aren't you artificially swarming your hive anyway? And maybe that brood is about to hatch out and you'll be fine.

Help. Thanks.
 

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What breed of bees are you running?

You can always re-combine swarms to mediocre hives (if any) or combine the swarms themselves. I've had years where one colony was made up of several swarms (because I was short of equipment). Rough on the queens, but it wasn't my idea to swarm :) .
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Italians. One of the swarms ended up being queenless. They were high in a tree and I kept shaking them and breaking off branches trying to catch them. Would have been a great bee vac capture, which I have, but no 110 out in the field. They reformed the next day on a lower beach and I caught them. I'd like to combine, but now they're laying workers.

What do you do for swarm prevention?
 

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(Texas) Buckfast bees, and spring "walk away" splits over a double screen, then either re-combine (newspaper), or set off new. I had one swarm take over a dead out last spring, but it's been years since I've actually seen or caught a swarm (not that I didn't miss any).

I run all mediums (3 winter), pull one full medium brood w/ eggs, leave queen below in 2 mediums, add new empty (preferably drawn, foundation if not) medium on top, then double screen (cell door, or "cloake board" option), then single brood/eggs medium above (4 high, in all). Wait for mated laying queen and proceed as needed (re-combine or set off).

Re-combine if upper queen fails to mate; re-queen lower if needed, or set off, when new queen begins laying.

The easiest way I can... Around here, May can be risky but peak swarm is Mother's day - ish :) , so tax day is swarm prevention day :D.
 

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Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
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If you want to do "nectar management" February is probably a good time to start. If you want to keep the brood nest open, you are probably two weeks to a month earlier than here, and here I would be doing that about mid May most years. This year was more like the end of May...

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

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So 80% of my first year hives swarmed.

- all happened after the honey flow.

All after the honey flow? Are you sure about that? What were the dates of the swarms? Its been my experience that "after the flow swarms" are not nearly as common as the classic reproductive swarms earlier in the season, or even congestion swarms near the end of the flow. True "after the flow" swarms are really not common at all. The good news is that post flow swarm are far more preventable. Most times these are congestion swarms, which are easily managed by giving ample room. Did you pull the honey and get the remaining boxes over crowded and then noticed swarming? There's something about your management techniques that led to this - most likely congestion and perhaps compounded by poor ventilation. Oh, and once swarm cells are present, pulling the old queen with some brood is not likely to prevent the swarm. Its been my experience that once they have reached that point you're going to need stronger measures.
 
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