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Has my hive swarmed?


#1

Sorry folks, I missed all the warning signs, and my hive went to swarm… or did it?

Tiny bit of background.

  • Am a Novice, in Geelong (near Melb, AU)
  • Got a Nuc of bees 10 months ago in the middle of summer.
  • They didn’t really start filling the Flow frames until a couple of months ago, towards the end of our winter.
  • Certainly with a very wet spring, they have been going nuts… but I was complacent, and thought I had more time that I did… So I failed to harvest, or put on another box for them to expand into.
  • You can see from one of the pics below, that they started building comb in the roof, above the Flow Frames, so obviously pressed for space.

3 days ago now, they swarmed - were flying around everywhere, going a bit crazy. Was nothing I could do, and was just heading out to go away for the weekend, so just had to leave it.

Back today and inspected the hive. The honey did indeed appear to be gone from the Flow Frames (oh how so depressing)! :frowning: But there were still heaps of bees inside - both the Flow frames, and the Brood box were teaming with bees - I had expected to find them mostly empty. So is there a chance they came back into the hive?

I know I need to inspect for extra Queen cells etc (and find the original, if there); and I’ll get help with that from a more experienced beekeeper I know; until I get skilled up.

I tried to inspect lower into the brood box; but the bees were a bit grumpy, and not calming down from the smoker, and so I didn’t venture into the bottom box except to see that there were heaps of bees inside.

Any tips on any immediate steps I can take, apart from give my hive to someone who knows what they are doing? I will learn, I promise!

Swarming

The box on the ground is the extra brood box I should have put on top.

Comb in the roof.


First harvest, pics and observations
#2

Just a brief update. Spoke to the person I got the bees from, is just down the road from me. He said he’d be really surprised if they swarmed this early, given they queen is new this year, and we’re just coming out of winter.

It was a very sunny day when it happened, he said it was possible that they were all out at once for some reason (and I never saw them form into a ball of any sort).

Some cells of the Flow frames had honey; but most didn’t (hence why I thought the honey was taken, if they swarmed)…

It’s possible that the bees were bypassing the flow frames, and building in the roof first - as it was the roof on their initial box. My ‘mentor’ said he wasn’t expecting to harvest his honey until Dec, so it’s unlikely they’d filled up all available space.

I’ll have to do another inspection asap, when the weather calms down a bit.


#3

No way of telling without that inspection
I would do it asap as if they have gone you need to thin those queen cells down to just the one nice looking open one with a larva in it or they will cast and you will lose more bees.


#4

Ok, right.

I’m relieved to still see plenty of bees; but I think it’s tending back towards being a swarm, as I saw a secondary, but smaller swarm the day after the first (hence why I thought there might not be any left).


#5

I agree with @Dee and I disagree with your mentor. In fact, I believe that several people on this forum had a first year nucleus/package put out a swarm within a month or two of installation, even with a fresh queen in the hive. If the nectar flow is strong, and the nucleus is too, bees will get that swarming urge! :blush:

As Dee said, the only way to know is to inspect carefully, shaking the bees into the hive from each frame as you go (don’t shake the queen if you spot her, though), so that they can’t hide queen cells from you! Please let us know how it goes. :wink:


#6

I don’t agree with the comment that the new queen is unlikely to swarm, or that it’s too early… we have picked up around 15 swarms in Canberra already and it’s raining every other day.

I think it’s extremely likely they have swarmed and as others have mentioned, you need to inspect the hive to confirm the current state. The bee numbers in the hive can still appear high after a swarming event because they are building bees at this time of year.

I also think it’s possible that the bees are building comb above the flow frames as the flow frames won’t satisfy their urge to expand the hive to create space to lay. If the brood box is only 8 frames, it doesn’t provide much available space. It is interesting however that they appear to have stored honey in the comb in the lid, have you read the thread about coating the flow frames with wax to encourage them to use the frames?

Out of interest, are you running a queen excluder? and are you seeing large amounts of pollen coming in on the bees entering the hive?


#7

+1 1st-year queens will swarm. (1st-hand experience).

The comb pattern on the cover indicates that the cover does not slide over the outside of the Flow super. It isn’t telescoping - if it was, comb couldn’t be drawn to the edge nor would there be enough space for it. I recommend a better fitting cover.

I know bees get ornery and life gets in the way so you may want to put off an inspection or skip a management task but here’s a great quote from Grant F.C. Gillard, “The work has to be done. Putting it off because…you think the bees will be a little ornery just will not do. Suit up and get to it.”

I recommend his book, Beekeeping with Twenty-Five Hives.


#8

I had a new queen in march i think and they started building swarm cells mid august. I’m in Perth.


#9

+2
Especially if you feed and feed and feed


#10

Hiya Bobby, here in Oz telescoping lids aren’t common, in fact I’ve not seen any in the supply stores. Migratory lids, which are flush with the outside, are the norm.


#11

I am with Bobby. One of my two nucleus hives(five frame) swarmed less than a month after I placed them in the 8 frame brood box. Better to find out sooner than later so you can get a new queen if the supersedure queen does not materialize. I had two queen cells that were sealed when I realized the hive had swarmed. Both hatched but neither made it back to the hive after the mating flight. It has put this hive in a state where without a lot of help from me (feeding) I don’t know if they will make it thru the winter.

Good luck!


#12

@skeggley A migratory lid is 100% fine. The extra space in the lid pictured is the problem. Do y’all’s lids in Oz have that extra space rather than lay flush?


#13

A vinyl mat like @JeffH uses and loves for controlling SHB would solve the spacing issue. :wink:


#14

Hi @Bobby_Thanepohn & @Dawn_SD, thank you Dawn. Apart from providing somewhere for the bees to chase beetle to, before propolizing them in, the vinyl mat prevents the bees from building comb from the tops of the frames to the underside of the lid. Also I find the space in the lid handy to accommodate any increase in the hives population, then I know when to exercise swarm control measures. Bobby, generally speaking, all the migratory lids have that space. You’ll find the odd telescopic lid that doesn’t.

I have one telescopic lid but I inserted wood inside it so that it finished up with the space. It only telescopes about 10mil down the sides of a super.


#15

The following link may prove useful
http://www.actbeekeepers.asn.au/hints/mercer_mat.htm


#16

Thanks so much for all the replies.
I am using the queen excluder, and I also have the original lid which came with the flow - so I can put that on.

The weather today is rain + super windy, so I’ll wait till tomorrow at least, before giving the hive a good inspection. I’ll be braver now, have done much more reading, and watched some inspection videos. I have learnt much in the last 24h.


#17

It’s taken me a year to feel confident that I can access the hive without upsetting the bees too much, so don’t be too discouraged if it’s difficult the first few times. Hopefully you’ll pick it up quicker than i did. Gentle and precise and don’t panic if the bees are crawling on you - they probably aren’t upset just a bit disorientated.


#18

Check for the presence of the queen, and/or eggs as well as queen cells, sometimes they can be hidden underneath between the bottom bar of the frame and the comb. Whatever you do don’t destroy any queen cells if you are unsure of what you are doing. If there are a couple of capped queen cells then you could make a split and that way if the original hive loses the laying queen you can merge them back together again or vice-versa.


#19

That sure looks like a swarm to me. I’ve never seen it myself, however apparently the bees can do a practice swarm a day before the proper swarm. They may have done that during your weekend away. A queen can most certainly swarm in her first year. I can vouch for that. You need to get familiar with checking on the brood. That’s very important. I try to encourage flow hivers to use wax foundation so that the frames are, among other things easy to manoeuvre while doing inspections.

As the days lengthen & the bees are bringing back lots of pollen, it’s natural that the bees will want to swarm. It’s how they reproduce.

With my hives, (I live in S.E.Qld) I’ve been successfully exercising a preemptive swarm control strategy since, would you believe late July. You need to come out of winter prepared for this type of thing. Basically have another hive with frames ready for the new colony you intend on making.

If you don’t intend on having a second hive, you’ll find a bee colony very easy to sell.


#20

Here’s a bit of an update - it’s been a hectic day, to say the least!!

Weather was atrocious the last few days, until this morning. I went out to begin prep for a proper hive inspection, and another swarm started up! Or maybe it was the same one (and they had done a test swarm before), who knows. Except this time, I saw they landed on a small tree next door, so at least I knew where they were.

With the hive mostly empty (or so I thought, I started an inspection of the hive, (frame by frame). Got stung a bunch of times through a fabric glove… but got there.

The Flow frames (pic below), you can see they were definitely used, being capped right to the corners). Since it was almost a week since they first swarmed, I couldn’t tell if the bees had been filling the rest in the meantime, or if that’s what it looks like after a swarm has taken the honey reserves.

Brood frames - well I got a bunch of pics, and am going to get an experienced keeper help me read them. There were certainly lots of queen cells (maybe 10, I reckon); about half of which had hatched, I think. There was still a fair bit of honey in the brood frames, and what look like eggs in one or two frames.

Is it ok to leave the hive do it’s thing? The first queen out takes over, removes the other queen cells, and life goes on? Or is the consensus that I need to intervene (somehow) to prevent another swarm?

Back to the swarm next door… The Swarm actually split in two (not sure at what point). There were two swarms on the same tree.

I managed to catch the easy one in another brood box :slight_smile: Sprayed some sugar water, cut off the branch towards dusk, shook it into the box, where they stayed; closed it up and took it back home after dark.

A more experienced keeper is coming tomorrow to scoop up the one around the center branches (which is the one in the pic). Neither were very large swarms - so I guess it’s possible they were secondary ones.

The learning curve has been exponential this week… I appreciated the feedback.