Swarm solution advice?

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by d.magnitude, May 5, 2012.

  1. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    I choked in the field today, and I'm now mulling over my options to best utilize what I've got to work with. Please weigh in....

    I went into one hive today that looked like it was fixin' to swarm at any time. It was 4 mediums, very full of bees, with maybe 12 or so total swarm cells at the bottoms of multiple frames. Also, a couple cells seemed like they were hatched (open "trap door"), but most were still sealed. *

    My standard procedure would be to look for the old queen, and move her out to a nuc w/ a few frames of brood (I call this an artificial swarm). Try as I might though, I could not find the old girl; there were just too many bees, and frankly I'm surprised I didn't wear out my welcome. So, what to do?
    1. Just let it go, and put a bait hive somewhere in the vicinity?
    2. Or the other extreme- bust the whole thing up into as many nucs as I can, putting a frame with one or more cells in each?
    3. Just split it in two, and perhaps just the queen right side would swarm, taking just half the bees from that side (only 1/4 rather than 1/2 of the original total)? Then I could recombine at some point with no great loss?
    4. Just look again really hard for the old queen?
    I didn't really have the gear with me at the time to do #2, but I could go back tomorrow to do any of the above (if it's not too late). I did spot what I believe was a virgin queen on one frame with an "open door" queen cell. I snatched her and did move her to a nuc w/ a couple frames to hedge my bets.

    I really wish I could salvage this hive intact, as I think it might be a good honey producer this year. On the other hand, I don't want it to swarm one or more times and then limp along the rest of the season.

    -Dan

    * I thought I remembered that swarms usually took off prior to the swarm cells hatching. I'm sure that's not always the case, and it certainly didn't look like a swarm had already left this hive.
     
  2. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Brek it down into 4 new hives, with cells in each. Wait 2 weeks and find the queen in each and combine as desired with newspaper.
     

  3. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    Thanks Iddee. I did just that yesterday, although it was a hodgepodge of splits. 1 single medium, 1 double medium, and 2 5-frame medium nucs (each w/ at least one capped cell). All that in addition to the couple frames I pulled the day prior with what I think was a virgin running around.

    I hope I didn't spread too thin, but as you said, I can combine as necesarry in a couple weeks.

    I wonder if I didn't get to it yesterday just as swarming was imminent. No bearding, but there was a fair number of bees hovering around the front of the hive. When I opened the hive to do the "bust-up" it sounded like I was in the middle of a swarm. I thought it was starting to rain, but realized it was just the bees bouncing off my hat and veil. There were a few more open cells, but still several closed. Not too testy though, all things considered. Just a couple stings.

    -Dan
     
  4. dr.buzz

    dr.buzz New Member

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    You followed good advice and I think you did it just in time. They can do that even a day in advance, from my experience. They almost look like they are on too much caffeine, just jittery and almost vibrating around in circles. I've seen it in an observation hive and regular colonies and the swarm came minutes later in two cases and the next day in the third. I actually have video of one colony I was inspecting and a swarm erupted while I had the hive open. I'll get it off the camera later and put it up if it's any good.
     
  5. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    on a lot of very populated hive what Iddee said is the best route for newbees and ofter plan B for folks like myself.

    for myself when I open up hives with a virgin on board either spotted or with queen cells recently hatched I most often just put everything back together as quickly as possible.
     
  6. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    You got that right, tec. It's like Richard Petty teaching a teenager how to drive. Sometimes it's hard to remember who the student is and their background.
     
  7. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    Sorry, I was feeling all cozy about what I had done till you said that. I need some elaboration now, please (says the teen driver to the Richard Pettys)

    I was thinking that since the hive was still so populated that the swarm had not yet left, even w/ a virgin spotted and some cells open. If I just put everything quickly back together as Tec suggested, wouldn't I still expect a swarm to take off w/ at least 1/2 the colony?*

    -Dan

    *or if a swarm had already issued (or was unstoppable) wouldn't I at least be thwarting after-swarms?
     
  8. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    a Dan snip..
    I was feeling all cozy about what I had done till you said that.

    tecumseh:
    didn't mean to destroy your peace of mind. if a hive is in the process of preparing to swarm I make a time line determination of what to do and what not to do (and it is this line in the sand that I think some folks mistake for as a disagreement between Iddee and myself on what to do when it comes to queen cells). this breaks down into if the evidence suggest the process is in it's early stages you do this and if you have gone beyond some point in time in the process evolution then you do something quite the contrary.

    almost always (in a swarm like situation and not superscedure) when you see a hatch queen cell or a virgin you can make a bet that the swarm is already gone. simply looking at population is a very inaccurate measure when it comes to swarming hives < I have watch a swarm issue from a hive and looking inside just a bit later you would swear the hive is still as populated as before. in this same situation if the queen is still present then a superscedure is in process.

    you are of course correct about the proportion of adults that leaves with the old queen, but constantly there after the brood is still emerging.

    at the point of having virgins in the hive and with some significant manipulation by the beekeeper you do run the risk that the bees in the box will murder the virgin and if she has already murdered her rivals the hive has no proper resources for producing another replacement queen.
     
  9. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    Well, you did destroy my cozy feeling of self-satisfaction a bit. But no worries, the bees to that to me all the time.

    As I said in my first post, I was aware that swarms usually issue before any of the cells hatch. But I thought based on the population that I was looking at one of the exceptions where they waited until after a virgin or two emerged (plus these cells were just at the point of hatching).

    I guess perhaps I misread the hive. Silver lining- I'm a couple nucs richer now, and I can use those for mating another round of queens later on.

    -Dan