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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm stumped by one of my nucs.

It's a 5 frame 3 deep colony that was a spring split that was very successful and is full of bees. I decided, given its strength, to overwinter it keep it as a colony rather than combine. 2 weeks ago the bottom deep had some frames with some open/hatched brood and the queen seemed to be slowing down. I put that box up top and gave them some 2:1. A week later I found capped queen cells along the bottom of a frame, and couldn't find the queen. I was surprised that they'd want to swarm given the dropping temps but figured it must have been the feed tricking them (only 1 gallon of 2:1..). I checked yesterday and the QC's are all broken down and I found a queen. Unfortunately I didn't mark this colony's queen.. so I don't know if this is my original Q or a virgin. She was a good size though and moving around pretty slowly, so I'm thinking she's the original. I don't see eggs/larvae, just capped brood. Loads of stores, and still lots of bees.

So, the hive doesn't look like a post swarm hive. Could this just be they replaced the queen? (ARe the QC's usually on the bottom like swarm cells in that case?). And, it this is indeed a new queen I'd imaging that in eastern PA now the chances of her mating are slim to none.

I figure I'll just let this ride and look for eggs next week.

If I don't see eggs/larvae should I just combine this with another nuc or just let it ride?
 

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If there were queen cells, there was a queen replacement. I have found that if the bees put up queen cells, then it is very difficult to change their mind. It could have been a swarm - if the queen swarmed and left like 3 frames of capped brood, then if you checked after they had emerged, you'd still see 6 frames covered with bees. Because 1 frame of brood becomes 2 frames covered with bees. So, I have a hard time judging by bee population as to whether she swarmed. I can tell when there is ongoing brood - there would be eggs, and capped brood, and no larvae. This time of year, hard to tell, the queen won't lay when there is an interruption in incoming nutrients...

If you see a queen now, she made it back. I still have drones kicking around, hopefully she found a good set of drones.

I would expect this queen to swarm again come May. My fall swarmers were keen to swarm come may, 2 yrs in a row.

But, sounds like there are still plenty of bees and there was capped brood - and lots of stores. So, as long as mites are effectively treated, then the hive should be good!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks- that's some really helpful info. Yeah I've found out the hard way that once they get in swarm mindset it's unlikely I can change their mind.. and then I might be out the capped queen cells too. So that's why I just left it alone to see how it played out.

If it was a supercedure wouldn't the QC's be higher up on the frame itself, like emergency cells? I just assumed 5 capped QC's lined up along the bottom meant one thing: swarm. And that's why I was so confused- the hive numbers just didn't look like a post swarm hive. But what you wrote is interesting-- and makes sense. And looking back at my notes I did have sheets of capped brood just prior to this, so I think I had a bunch of reserve bees buff the numbers after the likely swarm.

I didn't realize fall swarms are so common. Last year, my first season, I saw a swarm around this time. I blamed too aggressive syrup feeding. In response I've been super restrictive with my feed-- none until now and it was only 1 gallon at that.

Who knows. At the end of my 2nd season I think I'm starting to at least know more about what I don't know, which is an improvement.

Thanks for the input. I'm going to let them roll and hopefully get them through winter. I've been good about OAV so hopefully that stress will be minimized for them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
And, also, based on what you say about fall-> spring swarmers: perhaps I should pinch this queen in the spring and either let them raise a new one or introduce a new Q.
 

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I had a similar situation. The hive had swarmed and the new queen never came back from her mating flight. I added a frame of brood and they produced some more queen cells. A queen was produced and it took a long time for her to get mated and start laying. After she had been laying for a couple of weeks they created supercedure cells. I was worried they were going to replace her late in the season. I checked a week after the cells were capped and they were all broken down except one seemed to have emerged. I reasoned that the emergent one had killed the rest and had also replaced the other queen. However, there was no brood break and I identified the queen as the one that I thought they had replaced. I think they produced the supercedure cells because it took so long to get the brood flowing. Eventually they realized they had a good queen and broke down all of the supercedure cells.
 

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Did you split the broodnest when you moved the bottom box to the top?

Before switch


Honey​

Honey
Brood​

Brood
Pollen & open cells​

After switch
Brood
pollen & open cells​
Honey

Honey
Brood​

After switching boxes around if you had brood at the bottom of your hive and brood at the top of your hive separated by a whole box of honey plus the honey dome and the pollen storage then the nurse bees in the isolated nest may have decided there was something wrong with the queen who they hadn't seen for a couple of days and started making queen cells. With the slow down you might have to hunt for eggs. Brood is 5-1/2 days from hatch to cap and a new supersedure queen is not going to get mated (esp. in October) and be laying this soon, so if you still see uncapped brood this coming Saturday then you still have the original mated queen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I found the Q first, isolated her in a quiet box and then messed around with the box organization before replacing her. So, I don't think she was damaged but I suppose it's possible...

JConnolly: thanks for that diagram. No- the bottom box was basically drawn comb that was emptied out. That's why I figured I'd yank it and put up top and they could they fill w 2:1. Is this not a good idea? I remembered last year when I had a similar fall arrangement they didn't fill that bottom, instead just packing the top and leaving the bottom box pretty empty.
 

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I've had a similar issue this year in a 10 frame double deep. The bottom box is open cells and pollen. The top has honey and small brood nest. The queen is marked has been in there since late July. My last inspection a week ago, I found a single queen cell that was capped. On the same frame was the marked queen. I opened the capped queen cell and there was a queen that was still white but was fully developed. I have this a couple times in this hive which is why I went to check on them. I don't understand why they are doing this. The pattern is good, the mite count is low. Dunno.
 

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And, also, based on what you say about fall-> spring swarmers: perhaps I should pinch this queen in the spring and either let them raise a new one or introduce a new Q.
I can only tell you about my experience; in 2018, I had 8 queens, all sisters. All born in June or so. 6 of them swarmed (or tried to) in fall 2018. Come spring 2019, 1 of the fall swarmers was a drone layer, 2 swarmed ASAP, and I worked the other 2 really hard making brood but then 1 swarmed anyways. 4/5 swarmed despite space being provided or other massive manipulations.

I requeened with 2 of the queens who did not swarm, and 2 other queens from other beeks who did not swarm in spring either. Of their 25 daughters born between june-july this year, only 1 has swarmed.

I went from 4/5 swarming in fall to 1/25. That's pretty notable. But I did not allow swarmy mothers to provide the virgin queens for the majority of the hives, and I was pretty ruthless in cutting out their drone comb too.

So... I have found there are some bees you can't keep in the box, and their daughters are like that too. Now I only breed from queens who did not try to swarm in the swarm season, when given plenty of space. We will see what next year brings!
 
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