Honeyflow.com | FAQ's | Community |

Bees swarmed twice on me


#1

G’day, I have had my bees for 11 months now, I had one brood box and the flow hive as the honey super. They built up their numbers quickly and they showed an interest in the Flow Hive frames. I live in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia and I thought we had a reasonably cold windy winter. ( I also noted that we have a lot of flowering gum trees in the area during winter). When I inspected the hive at the end of winter the brood box was bursting at the seams, lots of queen swarming cells and lots of drones, The Flow frames had lots of sealed honey and the examination window was completely full of bees. I added another box on top of the brood box but I was too late.
They swarmed, they unsealed most of the capped honey, took their fill and flew off, nine days later they did it again. The second brood box has no brood but lots of unsealed honey. My question is "will they eventually seal the honey when the bee numbers build up again and will they transfer the honey up to the flow frames to allow for expansion of the brood.


#2

Three weeks ago, I split a nuc from one very loaded, three box colony. Tomorrow the same thing will happen to my Flow frame colony. I need to open it up to check for brood in the Flow frames so it’s a good opportunity to increase the herd.

I’ve asked my lovely lady to video proceedings tomorrow. If it works out I will post a link. So far I’ve managed to split my colonies before swarming but I suspect it’s been as much about luck as management.


#3

Something I learned recently from sitting in a class taught by Ken just east of Tulsa Oklahoma here in the United States at Little Creek bee ranch, a swarm, is swarming for a reason or their creating queen cells for reason.

Let’s say you catch a swarm. That swarm laughed a hive with the old queen. The new Queen in the existing hive emerged and now is laying eggs in the old hive. The swarm with the old queen can be captured like many are and they will start building up their comb pretty quickly. But they swarmed the 1st time for reason so them creating new Queen cells and looking like they are going to swarm again, there’s reasons likely the Queen is not producing like the hive thinks she should be.

So what was suggested to me as well that I learned, you want to make your hive thank they have swarmed and by doing so with such a new colony is find your Queen and remove her. This is only if you have Queen cells and they are about to emerge.

Again I’m writing this as I’ve stated before from what I believe I have learned from classes and some old-time beekeepers. I’m certainly there is some flaws in my thought process here and what I understood and always looking to be corrected so I can learn more.


#4

You say “second brood box”. Does that mean that you have 2 brood boxes with a Flow super on top? If so, what is in the first brood box? Empty space? Brood? More queen cells? My first thought is, why did they swarm? It is quite common to have a primary swarm, and then a secondary “cast” which is a smaller swarm. It is a normal way for bees to reproduce. Unfortunately for your hive, the first swarm may take more than 60% of the population with them, and the secondary will take a lot more of the remaining bees. However, there must have been a stimulus, and I am wondering whether they had run out of space or become honey-bound in the brood boxes. If you don’t inspect frequently (at least once a week) in early spring, looking for queen cells, you are accepting a big risk of swarming. If you see queen cells, as you did, you may want to consider making a split, as Marty suggests. There are a couple of good articles about swarm prevention here:
http://www.wbka.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/wbka-booklet-english-PDF.pdf
http://www.wbka.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Swarm-Control-Wally-Shaw.pdf

OK, now to your questions. Will they cap the honey? They will if they want to. Sometimes they don’t. If there is no brood in the frame, you could test the honey with a refractometer and extract it if it is less than 18% water. Refractometers for honey are very cheap on eBay and Amazon. Moving stores around takes quite a lot of bee effort, so I wouldn’t expect them to move it much until the colony size has recovered from the two swarms.


#5

Hi 3 Cav,

I am guessing you must do limited inspections of your hive(s). Am I correct or wrong? Did you notice trees were flowering but a did you also watch to see how active your bees were !?! Things happen very rapidly each Spring as pollen/nectar begins.

As for the unsealed honey… Your bees will cap it either when they have enough worker bees or when the nectar hits that magic moisture level. So I’d not be concerned about the uncapped stuff.

A couple of beeks have wrote notes on managing your bees. As mentioned, bees swarm for a reason n there are ways of preventing MOST swarming if your checking your colonies every couple weeks during this very active period. Sorry you’ve had this double yammy so early ! It’s all a learning curve at times… Don’t take people’s comments too person but use what you can n move on !

It’s quickly moving into winter up here but my bees have been semi-active. With the exceptionally mild temps my bees are bring in a few scraps but using up more honey supply’s than normal. They had already devoured two large winter sugar cakes laying on top my inner brood box so lucky for me I checked yesterday by just a quick peek not a hive inspection… So I added two new patties … Every season is a new adventure.

Wishing you very good luck bro n just learn n move on … :+1::us:
Gerald


#6

Thanks very much for the replies, I think my biggest mistake is comparing beekeeping here in Australia to beekeeping in Europe and USA etc. We do not have the extreme conditions in Winter as you have. I looked at my hives every day to see what the bees were up to and I left all the sealed honey in the Flow frames for the bees. As it turns out I could have taken some honey even in winter because where I live there are masses of flowering gums in winter time. I didn’t do full hive inspections except right at the end of winter but in future I will. It is all a learning curve but it is very satisfying, regards Neil


#7

G’day Neil, I’m in S.E.Qld, I only use one brood box. The trick is to make sure all the frames in the one box are A1 with mostly worker comb. I find that with 2 brood boxes, some colonies use the bottom box for brood & part of the top box for brood & mostly honey. Another colony will use the bottom box for brood & the top box for all honey, whereas another colony will use the top box for brood & mostly ignore the bottom box. Each colony is different & I guess it depends on the time of the season.

For me, I decided to go with one brood box per colony & do a lot of swarm control during the swarm season, which is not all that bad because the hives still produce honey plus I make more colonies.


#8

I’m a little further north then you Jeff but roughly what months would you consider swarm season?
My Nuc has built up well over the last month with the help of some feeding. I’m at the stage now of deciding to purchase another brood box and frames or sit the flow on top.

In regards to swarm control do you remove full frames of honey from the brood box and replace with empty foundation frames?


#9

Neil,

Looks like your getting some excellent local advice as well as learning along the Beekeepers trail. The bees will always throw you a new curve ball but the more experience n time you have observing n working your bees like Jeff, Science Master, Dee, Dawn n others the quuckier you can respond. There isn’t a day, week, or month that goes by I’m not learning a dab or bit about my @Girls. Made a few real bonkers/mistakes this first year back n it was having good advice n a mentor to yell “Help” from got me back on track with less troubles n loss. We’re waiting for possible low temps n some snow coming Sunday n Monday. Should get a pix or two to post if it happens :snowflake:️:snowflake:️:snowflake:️.

Keep on keeping Bro,
Gerald here in Washington State.


#10

Swarm season starts here at the end of July. Basically not long after the shortest day. As the days start to lengthen & the bees start bringing in lots of pollen.

The frames I remove from the brood are the frames with the most sealed brood. You don’t have to remove frames of honey out of the brood. The bees normally remove the honey first, to make room for the queen to lay. I only use one brood box. A good indicator for when to weaken out a colony as swarm control is when they have brood right up to the top bars & are starting to make drones just under the QX.

The trick is to try & get in to weaken the colony before it prepares to swarm. Most times it works. I don’t think I lost any swarms at all this season. I thought I lost one, but as it turned out, I didn’t.

It’s been an unusual season, this time last year I was in the middle of a beautiful honey flow. Right now is the complete opposite. I think the fact that I didn’t lost any swarms was more the unusual season rather than my good management.


#11

I run double brood boxes as this takes off a bit of pressure. In the swarm season, late winter to early summer, I use frames of brood from the strongest hives to boost the slower ones then when there are enough drones around its time to use them to breed. From what I read you had a single that got crowded then you put on another box, they had already started swarm preparations. You need to keep the brood from becoming crowded with either honey or brood. Good thing is that you can use it for multiple uses.

Cheers
Rob.


#12

Dawn when I inspected the hive at the end of winter I expected to see some brood in the centre but what I found was the box was choc a block comb with brood was allover the tops of the frames and they had already built many queen cells. After reading my bee book I realized that they were about to swarm but just in case I put another box on top. They did swarm of course and they went into the field next door, I actually got them into a swarm box but for some reason they left it.

.
I have since collected 4 swarms around the area and put them in nuc boxes. My quandary now is that I would like to remove the second brood box and just have one but what do I do with 6-7 frames of mostly unsealed honey. Regards Neil


#13

Thank you for the clarification. Well, the way I see it, you have at least 2 choices. You test the honey as I suggested and extract it if it is ripe. Or you merge a queenless or weak swarm with your hive with all the stores, and let them use the honey for an extra boost.


#14

How’s this for an idea? I have a 5 frame nuc that is ready to go into a 8-10 frame hive if I set them up and when I see expansion with brood, and the population expanding I put a queen excluder on and transfer the second brood box which has all the uncapped honey in onto this new hive.
The original hive still has the Flow super with lots of uncapped honey and the new box gets a great head start in life. I also have a refractometer on the way to test the condition of this uncapped honey.


#15

Should work fine, but if there are bees on the uncapped honey, you will need to put newspaper between the honey frames and the nucleus, or the bees from the two hives will fight.