Can too much room cause swarming?

Discussion in 'Beekeeping 101' started by BSAChris, Jul 8, 2013.

  1. BSAChris

    BSAChris New Member

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    My friend who introduced me to beekeeping is on holiday for a couple of weeks, and a day or two before he left he called asking for my long ladder since one of his hives had swarmed. Yesterday, he called from holiday and asked me to go up to see his neighbour, who was reporting swarmlike activity in her back yard. By the time I got up there (which was several hours after she'd left a message for him) all that was left was about 20 bees clustering on a branch in her yard - I thought they were probably sniffing where a queen had been some hours prior.

    In any case, his hives (there are 4 strong hives, and now 2 very sparsely populated ones) have LOTS of space. He has 3+ supers on the strong hives, and on the one empty hive one super and the next empty one has two. These are all from packages installed this spring, and he put extra supers on all of them just before going on holiday to make sure they didn't run out of room. We talked about this and figured the worst that would happen would be they'd fill up the top super and live some in between empty - not a big deal. We're in the middle of a hot summer with no relief in sight, so cold nights were not a concern.

    However, it got me to wondering - can too much space cause as much trouble as too little space?
     
  2. ApisBees

    ApisBees Active Member

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    The bees in there preperation for swarming started 10 days to 2 weeks before the bees actually swarmed. when he added the extra space in preparation for going on holiday he may not have went into the brood nest to find that the bees already in swarming mode. Also crowding is not the only factor in causing bees to start swarming. lots of bees in a hive and a lack of forage will cause bees to be sitting idle in the hive rather than out foraging. The idle bees in the hive with nothing better to do at the time will make queen cells. Bees swarm normally in the dearth between the intense spring flow that causes the bees to expand its population and the main honey flow usually a week or two before the main flow starts. A time when there are lots of bees in the hives and little for them to do to keep them busy.
     

  3. pistolpete

    pistolpete New Member

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    the swarming impulse starts up to a month before they actually fly off. Once initiated, swarming preparations are hard to disrupt. So just because your friend added a bunch of supers a few days ago does not mean they won't swarm. They were probably too crowded before that.
     
  4. riverrat

    riverrat New Member

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    going to have to second what was stated above.
     
  5. BSAChris

    BSAChris New Member

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    Good points - so the key is to always stay a few empty frames ahead of them so they have something to work on? And feed them during a dearth, if they don't have enough stores?

    I don't think we're in our summer dearth yet. although I've not been doing it long enough to really recognize that. We still are heavy with wild flowers, and the big crop around here is potatoes which are flowering at present (I don't know if honeybees like them or not though! Have read conflicting report on that topic).
     
  6. riverrat

    riverrat New Member

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    You always want to make sure they have plenty of room. But not to much they cant defend. You are right feed if light. Dont feed if you have honey supers on. A good way to tell if you got a flow on is to watch the entrance to the hive. If bees are lounging around probly not much going on. If its like an international airport with lots of bees taking off and landing going straight into the hive wasting no time the flow is on
     
  7. BSAChris

    BSAChris New Member

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    Good advice! Mine are like JFK at noon, as were his strong hives when i was in there yesterday. So we must still have the flow on.