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Any useful rule of thumb for judging whether a swarm has a mated or virgin queen based on the swarm's size?
I recovered what I guess is a smallish swarm, about the size of a football, I'm completely guessing here, but I'd say less than three pounds based on packages I've bought. Does this seems a little on the small side to have a mated queen?
Four days after hiving it, I'm still surprised at how many bees are orienting. I'd have figured that would have been done in the first day or so, as all of the bees were old enough to fly with the swarm, obviously. One reason I'm wondering virgin, is the number of bees fanning during these orientation "frenzies". This is my first swarm, so it's all new. All my hives have oriented, of course, but even new packages haven't set up so many fanners. I was wondering if they were trying to help a virgin on a mating flight find her way back.
I did see one bee with pollen come back last evening, but no others, so I'm not convinced they're preparing for brood to feed, it could have drifted from another hive.
I'm trying to wait to inspect, especially if the consensus is virgin so as not to upset the apple cart.
This swarm was not from one of my hives. It came from a nearby town, are Italians, was hived into ten frame equipment and is being fed 1:1.
 

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It sounds like your swarm, "might" be an after-swarm. After-swarms are typically smaller than the prime swarm, and usually contain a virgin queen. In after-swarms, sometimes the virgin takes a mating flight, while they're swarming, sometimes afterwards, and sometimes both.

Whether or not they're collecting pollen, has very little to do with the status of their brood nest. Foragers just forage, they collect nectar and pollen when they're available, nothing more.
 

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We collected four swarms this year. None particularly big. Slightly smaller than a soccer ball or smaller. All roughly the same size. One was queenless or became queenless very early. They were building queen cells with the brood anchor two days after install. Two more were presumably from the same source beehive. The first looked so small when I got it home I did not put brood in. They had comb and eggs in less than 48 hours. Assuming she was already mated. The second from the same fence post was only two days later. I put some brood with them. They had built comb and had a laying queen in less than 48 hours as well. The last swarm was building comb in less than 48 hours, but were not hauling pollen and had no eggs. On the fifth day they started hauling pollen, checked the next day and they had eggs. Assumption is that she was a virgin.
That swarm had rather intense orientation with tons of bees out flying and even clustered in a circle on front of the nuc. That happened for about 3-4 days in the mid-afternoon then a day or so later they were hauling pollen. My thought is that it was the queen coming back from mating flights. Hope she found lots of feral drones to mate with... we had good weather.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
JW, that last is what I observed. Lots of orientation, like the first day after hiving a package, lasted the first 3-4 days, but with much more fanning. I didn't see that behavior yesterday, even though the weather was noticeably sunnier. Patience is the hardest part of this. I have a young queen in a nuc a few weeks ago that is just coming into her own that I had planned as a summer increase/overwinter hive, and could combine her with the swarm if needed. I'm guessing the swarm was from a backyard hive, not feral, they are by far the lightest colored bees in the yard. Trying to give a potential virgin enough time to settle in. Thanks.
 

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I caught a after swarm last night only two frames of bees. being this late I will add eggs and larva from another hive to give em a boost I am assuming virgin queen. also a little assurance in case she don't make it back. my other 20 hives are strong with plenty of drones so she should be well mated .
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Day !2. First peek inside. Just a quickie. No sign of brood, didn't look for queen. Six frames drawn and almost all of it is filled/backfilled. Beautiful white wax. I'm trying to be patient with virgin/mating/laying, will give it another week or so (an emergency queen took 20 days last month). I am concerned there is no open comb. It's being filled with syrup and nectar as fast as they draw it, or so it appears.
 
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