View Full Version : I just don't get it!!!!!

May 16th 2010, 07:58 AM
I have been seeing post after post where experienced beekeepers, are apparently thrilled to see half a trillion swarm cells in thier colonies. Swarming unless your going for increase--and thats exactly the worse way to do it, nothing productive can occur from a swarming colony. I was coached that if you ALLOW your colony to swarm--this YOU HAVE FAILED TO DO YOUR BEEKEEPING DUTIES> you have failed to do something that really quite elementery . Not enough space to store and cure nectar, not enough space to raise brood, not enough space for the population to cluster comfortably inside the colony, not enough ventilation. While these are not the ONLY causes for swarming, if corrected in a timely manner, swarming will be mostly be mitigated. If your colony sawrms you will experience atleast 50% loss of population, at a time when the workforce is needed most. if you lose the swarm, and thats atleast a 50% probability, then you don't even get the second colony you wanted. If there is the multitude of afterswarms, you will continue to see the parent colony to experience a 30% - 50% loss of adult poputalion with EACH sucessive swarm. Someone need to explain to me HOW swarming is a good thing, and why swarm control is not the rule of the beekeeper, assuming that you actually want a little bit of honey at the end of the year--if your raising bees for the pleasure of seeing them work naturally, that you also have to accept what will certianly happen if allowed to happen with out control measures and feeding. Ultimately the parent colony will not be able to survive with out help. This is a matter of math not magic--21 days for ANY adult bees to make the scene after the queen starts laying eggs, atleast 14 days between when old queens stops laying eggs and new queen starts egg laying 35 days before the FIRST bee emerges, mean while the adult populatiuon will be dying off. Help me out how is all these complications worth allowing the colony to swarm. :confused:

May 16th 2010, 08:27 AM
Although I agree with some of the things you are saying, I don't think as strongly as you seem to about it. Swarming is their only natural way of reproducing colonies. I compare it to young adults having sex. It is something you want to put off as much as possible, but ultimately, if they are healthy, it will happen. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year, but it will happen. The best we can hope for is prevent it at times, adjust for it at others.

May 16th 2010, 10:42 AM
I had one colony swarm because I had hurt my back and could not work them. By the time I was back on my feet the mode of swarming had already been put into motion (yes I could have split them but was still not able to). I was just lucky enough to to catch them. I do agree that the bees need to be manipulated to keep from swarming either by opening up the brood nest or splitting. If there never was a lost swarm there would not be feral colonies in the wild, which I think are some of the better genetics around.

I love to catch swarms, ranks up there in the top ten anyway. So I can not complain if others let there hives naturaly split and leave town.


May 16th 2010, 11:10 AM
I agree with Iddee,I like finding swarm cells if i want to increase the number of hives, i don't like finding them when i want honey production. I have learned to work with what i think the bees have on their mind,and i might be right 30% of the time. I have found hives with 15 to 20 swarm cells,took the queen and put her in a nuc, made four more nucs and left the remainder of bees in the mother hive with two queen cells only to have the mother hive swarm anyway? but i ended up with five nucs full of bees with queens that otherwise would have flown off into the sunset.So let's see,i can sell a nuc for $90.00 X 4= $360.00 i wouldn't sell the one with the old queen unless someone wanted her. In my area i sell honey at $4.00 a pound so that hive would have to make 90 pounds of excess honey to make $360.00. I do all the things you mentioned to prevent swarming every year, but if the girls have made up their mind to leave, they will. That's part of the fun of beekeeping, who's going to win you or the bees? Jack

May 16th 2010, 04:16 PM
It makes a grown person cry when you see a huge ball of bees too high up in a tree - like I have right now - and not one but two of them. We have had RAIN here the last 2 days pretty steady and the sun popped out just for a bit and I had 2 hives to swarm. Both have went too high for me to catch - I have a box out trying to lure them - but I don't know much about that - any advise here?

Last year I split a hive and it swarmed anyway - twice. I can't figure them out, but I just hope that I can catch the next swarm.

I sometimes think Mother Nature is just going to have it her way or else?

May 16th 2010, 05:50 PM
who are these madmen beekeepers Barry 42001? and, and let me at em'.

yea Arkie the best laid plans of mankind you know???

first off for the new bee keepers a queen cell is different from a queen cup. almost all healthy bees packed in what ever sized box you house them in will make queen cups during the swarm season... it means little besides the bees are doing well. queen cells can be drawn for either swarm or superscedure reasons. so for the new bee keeper the first thing you need to ask yourself is... does the queen cells mean this hive is preparing to swarm or is the hive supersceding a failing queen?

as far as I can tell planning in front of the curve by the beekeeper is essential and holds some reward no matter what the bee keeper's purpose. there are numerous strategies for limiting swarming where that is the problem. if you think you can have hives of bees and totally eliminate swarming then I suspect you are doomed to fail. Or the only way I can see that someone could totally eliminate swarming is to keep their bees perpetually sick and starved.

likely the cheapest easiest remedy for most new bee keepers would be swarm traps and lures like you might pick up from any bee supply house.

my two cents...

May 16th 2010, 07:01 PM
I put two swarm traps (deep hive bodies with old black comb and a few drops of lemongrass oil) out last Tuesday and checked them this mourning, swarms have moved into both of them :thumbsup: . So i put two more out today,one in a walnut tree and one in the catalpa tree (about ten feet up) between the house and workshop.Before i got the ladder down i had scout bees looking them over :thumbsup:.One swarm was probably from one of my hives the other had to be from a feral hive, but we never know for sure :confused: . Jack

May 16th 2010, 08:06 PM
Way to go Jack!!

Hard to beat when they come looking for you.


May 16th 2010, 08:21 PM
"failed to do your beekeeping duties"...what a comment! Old time advice, old time comments, and mostly old time crap!

When I started, it was YOUR fault if YOUR bees swarmed. The standard advice was to cut all the queen cell out. Which is about as bad as advice comes. Of course propolis was bad, and NOT putting chemical strips in your hives was called insane. But now some actually understand the role of propolis, understand the damage of strips in hives, and some understand that it is NOT a beekeepers FAULT that bees swarm.

Swarming may be lowered by timely box swapping, expanding the brood chamber, etc. But CLEAR studies have shown that swarming is also highly based on nectar flow. When nature dictates that abundant resources are available, and nectar flow is heavy, then bees will NATURALLY propogate their species, as dictated by nature and millions of years of programming. And to think we as beekeepers can alter or actually stop it, is a bit much. Who hasn't had a new package swarm after drawing out less than a full box of frames? I know I have.

The days of blaming some new beekeeper because they stood up in a bee club and relayed a story of what happened the weekend before, by some panel of old farts that cling to old time saying and urban legend type advice, is for me a day worth getting rid of.

I think going from blaming a beekeeper as if it was solely his fault that bees swarm, to an approach of thinking positively and making lemonade with the lemons that bees give you, is a better approach. No beekeeper should be made to feel he failed in beekeeping because their bees swarmed.

May 16th 2010, 09:24 PM
We all have what we were trained to do, I indeed waqs taught by old styled beekeeper, just because was old fashioned advise doesn't make it bad advice. At no pointg and time did I ever suggest to cut out the queen cells, if infact you have existing active cells, the descion to swarm is already done they will swarm. Apparently you failed to read the rest of what was written, and won't repeat it. Not everything old isbad and not hardly everything new is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I infact was instructed on how to supress the swarming impulse before the impulse happens. Totally understand that on occasion, you will generate a swarm, but again the impulse can be largely suppressed with timely manipulations. I suffer from the inane concept, that knowledge is power, and settling for less them you can achieve is for the weak willed, or lazy. I do work the bees for a goal, I also enjoy seeing them working for the goal I set. I am largely sucessful in my endeavors with bees. I truely enjoy te beauty of nature and observing the bees working as naturally as possible within the confines og the envirfoment I set for them. Any commercial beekeeper, I absolutely got it that you can no more afford to pay the attention needed to do what I do you have too many hives for it to be practical and economically feasible. But is totally insane to pronounce it as unavoidable and inevitable that you will have to watch your bees swarm themself to a weakened state for the sake of being able to say it's unavoidable--when largely it is, if you work on it. What bothers me the most is, you know it. I will never blame the novice beekeeper for a swarm, not when he NEVER was shown how to change things, but being informed that he can do nothing to avoid swarms is the height of ignorance, and things being as they are do we really need under-educated beekeepers.

May 16th 2010, 09:35 PM
Bjorn, your knowledge is great, but your mode of presentation sucks. There are much better ways it can be presented.

Apples, "hobbyist", can not be compared to oranges "commercial". There's just no way.
As said above, preventive measures can and should, be taken. Only the individual beek knows just how much time and knowledge he has to do it. I'm sure all beekeepers, "not bee havers", do what they can to prevent swarms. Some have more time to devote to it than others. None will be 100% successful.

May 17th 2010, 05:14 AM
Let me be more clear.....

My opening statement, and the focus on "swarming being the beekeepers fault", is directed at the "coaches" that Barry has referenced. I too, have had the same "coaches" that stood in meetings and suggested that it was my fault, or another beekeepers fault, due to the mere fact that a hive swarmed. My comments are directed at "coaches" of bad advice, and not directed at Barry or anyone in particular.

I am not suggesting that Barry made a comment that was full of crap, but it from an opinion from a position that has been passed along over time. The reference to "cutting out cells" was just pointing out that over the years, much bad advice was passed along. (Cutting out queen cells still leaves the old queen and they WILL still swarm, leaving the new beekeeper with a queenless hive and eventually a laying worker colony. I have seen that many times)

As too iddee's comments, I am at a loss and have no clue what you are talking about. I never mentioned hobbyists compared to commercial, or apples to oranges. And I did not suggest that swarming preventive measures should not be taken. I said that NO beekeeper should be made to feel inadequate by some comment that has been said many times over by some beekeepers that it is an individual's fault if their bees swarm. No wonder you thought my comments, as you stated..."sucked". You need to know what I am saying prior to making that statement.

And yes Barry, to answer your question, we need under-educated beekeepers. We need all we can get. We all started out somewhere. Not all of us are on the same page or on the same level of "education", as you call it. . And I'm really not sure who would set that bar of standard of education that you may feel satisfied with? You perhaps? Of course if we are, as has been done by many "coaches" over the years, pointing fingers and suggesting that it is a beekeeper's fault that bees swarm, or think because another beekeeper has a different "value" system of what can be called "education, then perhaps we all need to back up a step, and evaluate what exactly may be included with that labeling of who is, and who is not....educated.

May 17th 2010, 06:19 AM
This will probably raise a few hackles, but what the heck.

My colonies have swarmed numerous times. As a beekeeper, I am "small potatoes" and if I get enough honey for myself and for Christmas presents, I'm happy. I figure a swarm helps increase the population of a species that everyone says is dwindling. It's natural. And besides, it's really cool to watch.

I try to make sure they have enough storage space in the hive so that they don't swarm due to overcrowding. Sometimes I get busy with other things, and off they go. Sometimes they just go anyway. If they land in a reasonable spot, I will hive them or give them to another beekeeper. If they are too high, they go free.

I don't consider myself "uneducated." I just have a different approach. I feel my role is to provide the bees with a safe and healthy living environment, but not to control their lives (as much as that is possible in a kept hive.)

May 17th 2010, 06:27 AM
for myself I neither care to be judged nor care to judge others. it is really much more fun just to deal with stinging social insects than most people (present company excluded for certain).

I would say that I think there is something to Bjorn thinking... even if his rhetorical style could use a bit of polishing. secondly (and also in defense of Bjorn... certainly I have gone insane this morning) folks should limit what they read into the messengers message. the casual mention of 'queen cells' doesn't mean the author of the line is pointing blame at anyone in particular (unless they reference a prior line in the thread of course and then point their skinny little finger in that direction).

The first thing I notice in a lot of hobby and part time beekeeper is the stating of cause where it does not belong. you hear this repeated again and again like.... the wax moth killed my hive or the small hive beetle killed my hive. neither has ever happened as far as I can tell. the phrases get repeated enough and everyone shake their head in agreement... so it must be true... right?

in second place come the urban legends/wives tales like 'cutting cells to prevent swarming' that are simply folks failure to understand the biology that underpins everything in keeping bees.

both of the above are good evidence of the failure of folks to recognize cause from casual relationship. the casual relationship is much easier to see and if repeated often enough some folks will think it to be true.

I think education and experience are really the two key points to consider here. Certainly if you have never experience swarming before or have no knowledge of swarming then you can hardly be faulted when it does occur. On the other hand if you know hives swarm in your area at a particular time of year and that preparation for swarming most times begins as much as 30 days prior to the issuing of the swarm and you do nothing and then the hive swarm... it is still not your fault. this latter example does suggest you did not act on proper information... but that was your choice.

ps... swarming ain't all bad. the year of my largest percentage expansion was based on driving a small number of hives with feed to the point of swarming and then splitting. this period of time may represent the most profitable sugar I have ever fed.

May 17th 2010, 09:10 AM
I would like to point out that there is no swarm so high they can not be gotten some how.

Last year I got a call about one I could not reach with my 25 ft. extention ladder and a 14 ft. pruneing saw. Out came the 12ga. with Number 8 shot :shock: , An old bee keeper told me of that trick. The branch was blown off just behind the swarm and it nearly fell into the hive body below. :lol: :lol: :lol: The girls quickly decided that the hive body was the best excape from being shot at.

:mrgreen: Al

May 17th 2010, 09:49 AM
Are you serious Al about the shotgun? My luck the swarm would fall right on top of me!!

Jack - How far away did you put your hive bodies, and did you just fix them on a limb?? I put a nuc box out on a high ladder underneath a tree limb - but I am not for sure about the distance. I did sprinkle lemongrass oil on the entrance and on the top of it - hoping that would entice a scout bee.

May 17th 2010, 08:39 PM
arkiebee, My swarm traps are about 300 yds. from the bee yard. I nailed 2x4's to the tree limbs to make a platform to set them on and about 8 to 10 ft, high, the two that caught swarms, one is in a hackberry tree the other in a cedar( kind of tree don't matter) and i make the platform where the hive is facing East or South. I put three or four drops of lemongrass oil on the two frames in the middle of the hive (old comb) and thee or four drops on the landing board. I done the samething last year and caught five swarms :thumbsup: . I found these trees where i can drive my pickup truck up under them and i can stand on the toolbox in the bed and put the hives up or take them down with ease. Good luck. Jack

P.S. I know a beekeeper that nails skids in trees to set his swarm traps on.

May 17th 2010, 09:37 PM
Thanks Jack - I am writing this down! And I am going to have little hives all over the trees around here next spring!

I checked my little nuc box when I got home today but no luck -

When I got home from school today another of my hives swarmed and of course went too high in an oak tree. I found that all of these swarms come out of the hive and go to the trees behind the beeyard! and I have these smaller trees/ and bushes in the front of them?

Anyway here is one for you guys: So about 4:30 - 5:00 I went back out there to see what's going on and I was in the middle of another swarm! These guys went to a low tree limb and I thought YES I can get this one. I ran back to the shop to get the hive body, etc. and allowed them time to "settle". I went back out there and these bees had swarmed from that limb to the front of my hive #1?? They were all over the entrance, legs, etc of that hive and went in it! I wouldn't belive it if hadn't I seen it with my own eyes. That hive was a weaker hive and I can only think of 2 things: either that hive was queenless & these bees sensed it and decided to take it over OR that was the hive that just swarmed and the queen decided she didn't want to leave?? I really didn't think that hive would swarm...but what do I know??????????????????? I really think these bees came from my other big hive because I split it and I probably could have split it twice - it was that big. So would a swarm of bees go to a hive that didn't belong to them?? :confused: :confused:

Sign me "frustrated and confused"!!!!!!!!!!!

May 18th 2010, 04:59 AM
jack writes:
My swarm traps are about 300 yds. from the bee yard.

and just the proper distance away for european bees I might add... not to far, not to close but just right says the black cat.

May 18th 2010, 07:34 AM
arkiebee, two years ago i used five frame nucs for swarm traps, i had two swarms move into them only to leave thee days to a week later later ? The only reason i could figure was there wasn't enough room for for the amount of bees. I started using deep ten frame hive bodies and haven't had any more trouble. I still don't know why they moved into the nucs in the first place??? Jack

May 18th 2010, 08:53 AM
Yup I used a shot gun. Had to stand out a ways to see the branch they were on. figure out where to shoot it to cut it off with out hitting the bees. Also had to figure out about where they would fall and place the hive catch box. Funny how they woll cling on to each other so tight it is like a ball of bees rolling down the limbs and landing on top of that catch box. Yes so do lat go and buzz about but they soon go to the box and in with the rest.
Of course that is only some thing you can do in the country, try it in the city and you probably will end up in a bunch of trouble.

:mrgreen: Al

May 18th 2010, 06:46 PM
Hello again,
We all have our thoughts and concepts on how we run our bees, I say our bees, because what we manipulate our colonies for what we want to accomplish. I am a amateur beekeeper, not due to me knowledge of beekeeping, but because what I do is for the love of doing it. I would likme to think I have some knowledge to impart to someone that wants to be willing to learn, we all need to learn more about our chosen career/ hobby.
Make no mistake about my comments, they are actually based on modern principals of beekeeping. For those of you that choose to take small portions of what was written, and discard everything else that was stated well I didn't make this thread to be insultuive nor to be insulted. I don't pre-judge anyone--that more for you to do for yourselves, rather then any single outside source. With that said, if ALL the information is not presented, how can anyone make educated descions, and contrary to previously stated comments, we need educated beekeepers more theen ever, for ONLY the educated beekeepers will allow managed colonies to survive whats here now, and whAtever is comming next. Managing for the productioin of feral colonies( swarms that escape ) is not a wise concept for there is a reason your managed colonies are alive and all or most the feral are dead. Can you stop swarming completely no but can you largely prevent it--absolutely. Well enuough preaching you will do whatever you wish to or whatever your work load allows either way you will decide.

May 20th 2010, 05:39 AM
a Barry snip..
With that said, if ALL the information is not presented, how can anyone make educated descions, and contrary to previously stated comments, we need educated beekeepers more theen ever, for ONLY the educated beekeepers will allow managed colonies to survive whats here now, and whAtever is comming next.

first and foremost I agree with the above snip 100% and your larger thesis 90%. without question there is a lot of bad advice out here in the world of the web where a nice web site or a certain bravado sounds and may even look like seasoned experience.

almost every issue can be looked at thru various lenses... so the image ain't always the same all the time for all of us.

I suspect most folks bring different objectives to the keeping of bees. so I suspect the proper management of bees should vary when purpose differs.

and sometimes you do need a preacher in the crowd to remind folks that there is a right way and a wrong way and to try and convince the congregation that the right way is the proper path.

as Ray Wylie Hubbard sezs in 'Conversation with the Devil'..

doin' what's right ain't so hard
it just ain't quite as much fun.