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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I think I caught my bees at a trial swarm. There was no indication a half hour earlier.

I found bees covering the hive, draped off the entrance, a large pile on the ground and underneath. They were clearly heading back into the hive.

I scanned all trees in the immediate area and didn't see any swarms. I'm guessing it's a trial swarm because there were so many on the ground and under the hive--perhaps the queen didn't leave with them, or the queen didn't go far. But I also just did a full and thorough inspection 6 days ago and added a super of drawn comb to give them room.

Here's a couple of videos.

In the first you can see they're moving back in. This is about half or less of the bees that were outside when I first saw them. In the second there's only a relatively small cluster. I gave them a couple of ramps to aid in the walking.

Questions:
1) Is it reasonable this would be a trial swarm?
2) I think I had better get in there and check for a) the queen, b) queen cells, c) make split. Should I do that later today or wait a day to allow them to re-settle?

Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I thought I should update my weird and slightly panicked post above. In some ways, I'm puzzled even more by bee behavior. I'm always learning something new.

So, the thousands of bees on the ground and bottom of hive marched themselves back into the hive. There were some clumps hanging off the hive, but they suddenly retreated as well. I suspected the queen may have been among them.

Today, I did a very careful and slow inspection, wanting to find the queen and make an appropriate split. After several slow passes through both boxes of the hive I had no success in finding her. She either did swarm, or she got separated from the bees meant to swarm with her (hence the lost bees hanging out at the hive), or she's really slim, or just hiding well.

The hive, though. was packed with bees, the entire 20 frames, completely covered.

Here's something interesting I don't understand: I found 8 swarm cells on the bottom of two frames. They've been busy since my last look six days ago. But the bees were tearing all but one or two of them down, feasting on the royal jelly and larva. O alsp found two intact supercedure cells (one sealed one still open) remained. Why would this be? Why tear down any of the cells if the queen is gone? Why leave some intact?

The other thing of note is many eggs. There was no break in laying, or only for a day.

Anyway, I made a nuc split using three frames of brood, eggs, and larva and replaced two of those frames with frames of partial foundation and added a frame of drawn but empty comb. Both colonies have adequate resources to make queens if needed.

I'll recheck them quickly in another 5-7 days to see if one has eggs and the queen, or if they are queenless.

I don't really have question except for the tearing down of the queen cells. It's more about the surprises and learning opportunities. Any comments welcome. I'm fascinated by this situation, just hope I can gather the right lessons from it.
 

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I would consider all of those cells swarm cells. Are you sure they were not ripped by frame manipulations? Were the ones being “torn down” capped? Any chance your queen wings were clipped? Two lessons I would learn would be, a lot can happen in six days:D, & they were most likely already in “swarm mode” when you added the super. Perhaps next time pull frames out of the broods nest?
 

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+1 on the cells maybe being torn when frames removed. We often tear queen cells when they are hanging from bottom of frames, often attached to the frames below. We’re now more diligent about lifting frames straight up (without sliding them sideways) during swarm season but some swarm cells still end up damaged.
 

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Today, I did a very careful and slow inspection, wanting to find the queen and make an appropriate split. After several slow passes through both boxes of the hive I had no success in finding her. She either did swarm, or she got separated from the bees meant to swarm with her (hence the lost bees hanging out at the hive), or she's really slim, or just hiding well.
Or they swarmed a few days ago, you didn't realize it. What you saw was the welcoming committee outside when the new queen came home from a mating flight. She'll be much smaller than a fully developed laying queen, hard to spot in a populated hive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the replies. I was thinking the cells in the supersedure cell position may also have been swarm cells. Why would they have both at the same time, unless something was just really messed up. I'm still undecided about the swarm cells on the bottom of the frames. I didn;t reomce the frame but tipped the oc up to check beneath. The cells could have been broken open of course, if they were attached to the frame below. I thought this, too, but what struck me all the bees already on the queen cells as soon as I tipped the box. That's what made me think they were tearing them down. I notice drone comb on the topcof the bottom frames, but I suppes the swarm cells could have been joined to that.

Grozzie2: I think the timing was off for it to be a "welcoming committee." The hive was full of eggs, the the bee behavior was swarm like.

Anyway, swarming and related behavior still seem to be the most difficult thing for me to get under my belt.
 
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