Imminent Swarm vs. No Queen

Discussion in 'Beekeeping 101' started by Larus, Jul 26, 2012.

  1. Larus

    Larus New Member

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    One of my hives has suffered an unfortunate demise because of a mistake I made two months ago. At the time, I did an inspection of the hive and found:

    - a high population of adult bees (as high or higher than last inspection)
    - great pattern of closed brood
    - no open brood or eggs
    - 3 frames with queen cells (some capped, some about to be) at/near the bottom bar.

    I decided there are three possible explanations for this:
    a) The queen has suffered an unfortunate demise somehow between the last inspection and this one.
    b) The hive has swarmed, the old queen has left, and the new queen hasn't been born yet.
    c) The hive is about to swarm and the queen has stopped laying in preparation for her journey (I read it in a book that one of the preparations to swarm is "scaling back brood production").

    I eliminated option (b) because the adult population was not reduced by one half as I would expect to see. I also eliminated option (a) because on my previous inspection, one week before, there were eggs and open brood, and I was reasonably sure I didn't see the queen, let alone squish her somehow. So, I decided on option (c) and to prevent the swarm, removed all the frames with queen cells to a fresh nuc. Turns out I was wrong - the hive wasn't preparing to swarm - something had happened to the queen. On next inspection, it was plain that the hive was queenless - no brood of any kind and no sign of a queen.

    Thus, I made a judgement error due to lack of experience and crippled the hive when I should've left it alone to raise a queen, or requeened it. My question is: what could I have done better? What should I have looked for to better distinguish between choices (a) and (c) above? Thank you.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2012
  2. Zookeep

    Zookeep Active Member

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    ok, 1st, if the hive has decided to swarm its not the cells you needed to take out its the queen, she wants to leave so you force the swarm your self by taking her and a few frames and make up a nuc, the old hive thinks the swarm has happened now and goes about raising a new queen, also if there are multiple cells on more then 1 frame you can make up another nuc with a frame of cells just make sure to leave 2 or 3 cells for the parent hive, nomatter what has happened, a,b or c the bees know what they are doing and some of the cells should have been left there. now at this point you can give them a frame of eggs from the nuc to raise a queen or combine the nuc that you move the cells to to save the old hive.
     

  3. Larus

    Larus New Member

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    .

    In other words, I could've known for sure if I went through the trouble of finding the queen. I think that's what I will do next time in this situation - try to find the queen. If she's there, I'll do what you suggest. If I don't find her, I'll leave the queen cells where they are, and leave the hive alone - like you said, the bees know what they are doing.

    Unfortunately, that ship has sailed. For reasons external to beekeeping (I lost my job, had to find a new one, and had no time or money for beekeeping for a few months), I didn't take proper care of either the nuc or the hive in question, and both of them dwindled down to zero. I just wanted to have a better plan for next time.
     
  4. indypartridge

    indypartridge New Member

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    I wouldn't have been so quick to eliminate option B, in fact, seeing what you did, that would've been my first guess. I've had colonies swarm three times and still seem jam-packed with bees.

    No eggs - queen hasn't laid in at least 3 days; might be getting ready to swarm.
    No open brood - queen hasn't laid in 8-9 days; I'd guess she already swarmed.

    But, as Zookeep said, the only way to really know option B from option C is to look for a queen.
     
  5. PerryBee

    PerryBee New Member

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    I don't know about anyone else, but I find it next to impossible to tell if a hive has swarmed by population alone (visually) :???:. I have lost swarms in a yard and tried to figure out which hive it came from and about the only way I can be sure is to look for eggs in each of them. They all seem equal other than that.