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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I made a split a month ago from a strong hive. No queen cups or swarm cells at the time, nor the last time I checked (a couple of weeks back).

The population seems to be growing, and I added a super 5 days ago.

Yesterday, though: lots of bees were hanging out in the front of the bottom board (and underneath), with a swarm-like "ball" of bees flying over the yard in front of the hive [lots of loud buzzing, too].. I didn't see the characteristic "boiling" of bees coming out of the hive -- just standard traffic, with plenty of pollen coming in. After only 10 minutes or so, I looked back at the hive, and all was sweetness and light; nothing odd at all. The big gang of bees had dwindled to a hundred or so, doing their thing. I didn't find a swarm anywhere (or hear 1), and although I put a bait box out, there was no interest, or investigation, by scouts.

Looking in the hive later, everything looked OK in the super; lots of bees moving around in there (I didn't go into any of the 3 lower-down boxes).

Any ideas about this? Was it a swarm or not? A "prep" swarm? Coincidence of some sort? Were they playing a joke on me? I've seen lots of swarming in the last 5 years -- never anything exactly like this. :s

Thx a heap for any anecdotes, theories, suggestions, etc ....

Mitch
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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Mitch, are you familiar with thousands of bees doing an orentation flight? It looks like what you are describing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Mitch, are you familiar with thousands of bees doing an orentation flight? It looks like what you are describing.
Hi, JW -- orientation flights I'm familiar with (including the characteristic "figure 8" form), but this ball of bees was really large and over an area in front of the hive stand maybe .... 20'X20'? And they weren't doing the figure 8 -- it was mostly just a loose ball of bees flying helter-skelter. Does that mean anything? Maybe the figure 8 is optional with 'em?

With every swarm I've seen among my hives in the past 5 years, they've always stopped in a nearby oak, or "swarm tree" (1 of my fruit trees), or on a front-yard stump, or in a nearby ligustrum hedge first. None of that this time.

It just really seemed odd........
 

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Forget the honey supers, the brood nest is where the action is. When you look there you will probably find capped queen cells, or queen cells that have emerged within the last few days.
 

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Bees do test or trial swarms, so I've read, and I'm sure I had one a couple of years ago. I remember reading s thread about it here somewhere, but will never find it again.

I agree with AR, now that the bees have had a day or two to settle, get into the brood boxes and see what's going on. Just be careful in case there's a virgin in there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Well, it happened -- today the hive did a de facto swarm. I put a bait box into my front yard's swarm tree (the hives're in the back yard), but ... no takers as of nightfall. The swarm took place at 2 p.m. I don't see the bee clump anywhere now, either.

Opened the hive post-swarm. The top medium (on for a week) hadn't been touched at all, despite my feeding the hive. I got into the next lower 2 mediums, but didn't examine all frames; the girls were really and truly pissed, and I finally was too frazzled to go on.

A disappointment, but ... that's life the bee yard, huh?
 

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Can I have a little hot sauce to go with the egg on my face? :)
 

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cconnell; Regarding "trial swarms," it is my opinion there is no such thing. Honey bees know how to swarm, it is a natural instinct, they need no practice. There are aborted swarms, and this is what mlanden saw.

Over the years I have seen many aborted swarms. The swarm begins to depart and for some reason the queen, either a mature or a virgin, is unable to depart with the swarm. The swarm circles, realizes the queen is not with it, and returns to cluster on the hive from which it departed. I have seen the swarm cluster in a tree and remain for almost 30 minutes before returning to the hive.

If the aborted swarm is a prime swarm, and there are no emerged virgins in the hive, the original queen will usually remain in the hive and the swarm reenters the hive. If there are virgins emerged in the hive the queen will run to the shaded area of the hive and the cluster will form on her there. This is often under the hive if the stand arrangement allows space underneath. The swarm often remains under the hive long enough to begin to draw comb on the bottom of the hive.

If an aborted swarm is seen and the beekeeper wishes to save it, the only solution is to go into the hive and make a split, or splits. Don't wait, it is better to get the job done immediately.
 

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Regarding "trial swarms," it is my opinion there is no such thing. Honey bees know how to swarm, it is a natural instinct, they need no practice. There are aborted swarms, and this is what mlanden saw.

Over the years I have seen many aborted swarms. The swarm begins to depart and for some reason the queen, either a mature or a virgin, is unable to depart with the swarm. The swarm circles, realizes the queen is not with it, and returns to cluster on the hive from which it departed.
I think your right about the swarm aborting because of the queen not being able to fly because a few times I've managed to scoop the aborted swarm off the front of the hive and get the queen. It worked most of the times I tried it. Obviously she was outside but unable to leave. I had one a couple of weeks ago. By the time I got there there the swarm had aborted and there were three to four pounds of bees hanging off the front of the hive. I grabbed an empty box and bottom board with some comb and just started scooping bees off the front of the hive. I figured if I got the queen great, if not I'd give them some eggs in a few days. I had left the office and I didn't have time to get into the hive to hunt for the queen. As I dumped a handful of bees on top of the frames I saw a flash of bright green (she's marked) run down into the hive. I lifted that frame and there was the queen. She was still large so I'm almost positive she wasn't able to fly yet, hence the aborted swarm. I finished scooping bees in and moved it to a new location. I haven't been into the mother hive yet, but it should have a mated laying daughter queen by this weekend. The mother-queen has mean-ish girls, I had plans to replace her.

If you do ever try that and you don't see for sure that you got the queen then after you are done scooping up bees watch the hive for a bit, if you see a ball hanging off the front or underneath or on the ground, scoop that up too, that's where the queen will be.
 

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Well, it happened -- today the hive did a de facto swarm. I put a bait box into my front yard's swarm tree (the hives're in the back yard), but ... no takers as of nightfall. The swarm took place at 2 p.m. I don't see the bee clump anywhere now, either.

Opened the hive post-swarm. The top medium (on for a week) hadn't been touched at all, despite my feeding the hive. I got into the next lower 2 mediums, but didn't examine all frames; the girls were really and truly pissed, and I finally was too frazzled to go on.

A disappointment, but ... that's life the bee yard, huh?
Ugh...you did a split and they still swarmed?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Ugh...you did a split and they still swarmed?
Roger that; I thought I did everything by the book (w/in certain limitations) -- splitting, medium for space when needed (or even before the 70% of the top box's frames had been drawn). The Girls apparently were not .... impressed.
 

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Once they've made up their mind to swarm there isn't much you can do to stop them. Cutting out queen cells, the old fashioned method, can result in a queenless hive if the original queens heads out and there are no queen cells left.

Someday I will learn how to prevent swarming -- Snelgrove boards work, I've done that a couple times, checkerboarding full and empty drawn comb above the brood nest in very early spring works, but I never seem to be able to get it done for one reason or another (still working full time for starters), and so forth. A goal for retirement, prevent swarming in ALL my hives!

Note that a queen's mating flight in early spring from a supercedure can also look like an aborted swarm. Lots of bees follow her out, but she outflies them and disappears leaving a mob of bees circling about. The can sometimes cluster for a while too before heading back. Giveaway there is that there will be dead and dying drones in front of the hive when she returns.
 
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