I over-wintered a hive that had maybe a hundred bees in it. I would normally have combined them with another hive but there were so few I thought I'd give the young queen a chance. Two weeks ago I noticed a good number of foraging bees and simply dropped a deep with drawn comb onto the honey super they were living in. This weekend I was installing a few packages when I noticed a cloud of bees. I thought that I had some how botched one of the installations. To my surprise it was my over-wintered hive swarming.
After capturing the swarm I went back to the baby hive and found no less than six empty swarm cells, four fully developed swarm cells and at least that number of immature swarm cells. I didn't see a new queen but I'm pretty search-challenged with immature queens so I wasn't surprised.
Question 1: Why so many swarm cells at such different ages?
Question 2: Should I let them duke it out and hope that the winner gets inseminated? (As opposed to what I don't know.)
Question 3: If there's a new fertile queen, will she kill all of the unborn rivals?
Here's my take on what happened. The bees built swarm cells because they were very overcrowded. In hindsight, you had a very productive queen and should have added the other deep super long ago. (from your description, who would have thought that) It's common for there to be swarm queen cells of different ages. When the first queen cells are capped, the old queen flies off with the prime swarm. Sometimes, especially when the hive is really crowded, there are after swarms with queens that have emerged. Instead of the first emerged queen killing the immature queens in the other cells, the bees decided that they could support several swarms, kept the first queen from attacking the queen cells and swarmed again. What you caught was an after swarm with a virgin queen. You could go into the swarm you got and search for the virgin queen. The prime swarm with the old queen left a couple of weeks ago. You didn't see a new queen because there was not one. They are awaiting another queen to emerge to become THEIR new queen in which case they will let her kill what's left of the queen cells. They may throw other after swarms before that and probably have thrown more than one already. If you want more hives, you could make mating nucs and cut out some of the queen cells or take a frame with a cell or two to the mating nucs. (You know the genetics are great and if I lived near you, I'd buy one or two from you) Leave at least one and preferably 2 cells for the original hive. If you want the original hive to remain strong by not throwing many more afterwarms, you could destroy all but 2 or 3 remaining cells and hope they don't throw more afterwarms.
That's very interesting. I'm really pissed at myself for not marking the queen in that hive but I thought "These ladies have no chance to make it through the Winter". I had two other hives that went into Winter stronger and didn't make it. BO-ING! Just goes to show: Don't give up on the runts.
I'll do as you suggested and leave two of the most developed, capped queen cells for the hive to replenish itself. I checked the swarm hive again this evening and am just stunned at how many bees it contains; easily more than the three pound packages I just installed. They must have been packed in their original home like sardines.
I'm going to give them this week to acclimate and then next weekend will transfer them to a regular screened bottom board hive.
>Question 1: Why so many swarm cells at such different ages?
That's how you can tell they are swarm cells. They are different ages. That is so they can swarm, and afterswarm and afterswarm until they are done. Supersedure cells and emergency cells are all the same age. Swarm cells are not.
> Question 2: Should I let them duke it out and hope that the winner gets inseminated? (As opposed to what I don't know.)
If they have swarm cells I would try to have the population and density of bees such that I don't think they will afterswarm. That may involve splitting them.
>Question 3: If there's a new fertile queen, will she kill all of the unborn rivals?
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