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OK, so they swarmed...any words of wisdom?

hi all,
the adventure continues…

after doing our swarm prevention 3 weeks ago, the ladies decided they didn’t care and swarmed anyway.

after a little bit of stress, we caught it and our one beehive ("we’ll only ever have one hive "they said) has become two!
have deposited them into a new brood box, they seemed happy when i left them at lunchtime.

i’m not worried about the new hive…reckon 70% of our very happy hive swarmed and is in it…it’s warming up…blooms are starting…they should be fine.

what do i need to do to manage the leftovers in the old hive?
can’t do an inspection until saturday…it’s the first day i’ll be home in daylight, and will be 3 days after the swarm.
going to open it up and look for hatched a queen cell.
if there’s an empty (hatched) cell, i’ll remove all others…if there isn’t, i’ll leave two and remove the rest.

should i remove the super, and downsize their house?

any words of wisdom greatly appreciated.


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There is some very good advice on page 17 of this document:


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Hi Ron, my advice is SHB related. Make sure that there are no brood frames containing brood or pollen without a good covering of bees on them. A greatly reduced population can leave some frames vulnerable to SHBs laying eggs in them, especially drone brood.

Also recap your swarm prevention strategy to see if you could have done something differently for next time.

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I have had a few hives swarm this year despite efforts to discourage swarming (removing frames, adding fresh foundation, adding supers, making splits). I have learned that there is a critical few weeks here when inspections need to be done at least every 7 days if you want to avoid swarming whilst ‘skimming the edge’ and building up a big population in time for the expected spring flows. It’s a balancing act.

also: once a hive has swarmed I have taken to immediately opening it up and seeing what is going on inside. Normally I will find anywhere from 4 to 8 queen cells. I usually destroy most leaving only the two that look best to my eye.

I helped a friend deal with his hive that swarmed a few days ago- in that case i found a queen cell just about to emerge. I popped the little cap off of it and a brand new freshly minted virgin queen ran out. As I now knew there was at least one virgin in the original hive- I set about destroying all the queen cells.

I told my friend to check in 12 days to see if the virgin queen is laying.

Destroying and limiting the number of queen cells reduces the risk of secondary swarming. There is a possibility your hive will swarm again- even up to three times maybe- each swarm smaller than the last, until number in the mother hive are massively depleted. The ‘after-swarms’ or ‘secondary swarms’ all contain virgin queens. The original swarm had the mated old queen in it.

I think for beeks in urban situations this is more important as swarms can alarm people and cause unwanted troubles…

Sometime if the original hive is still very strong I will split it - giving each new half at least one perfect looking queen cell.

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There is an interesting alternative in the document I linked above. They suggest gently opening all of the mature-looking queen cells, and let the hive decide which queen is best. The advantage is that if a virgin doesn’t survive her mating flight, there are many others who might. They have released as many as 18 queens into one hive doing this. Can you imagine the colony chaos? :open_mouth:

However, they also say that using this method, they have never had a secondary swarm, which must be an excellent thing. :blush: They do of course destroy all of the less mature queen cells, having released so many hopefuls into the hive! :grin:

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I’m hitch hiking off the booklet! :+1::+1:

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Hi Jack, next time you remove frames or do splits to prevent swarming, choose the brood frames that contain the most sealed & emerging brood. That puts a temporary stop to the population increase of the colony. This is what works for me. So far, so good this spring with zero swarms from over 50 hives.

A proper preemptive swarm control split should be good for about 4 weeks without any further intervention - so I’m finding.

PS Just think about the removal of the sealed brood during the swarm season:
On reflection,
#1. no more bees will enter the population for 12 days.
#2. the bees that would normally have swarmed will be required to raise the remaining open brood, as well as build new comb.
#3. during those 12 days, the population will actually decrease due to natural mortality.

So considering those 3 points I made, it’s easy to see how the strategy works at reducing a colonies desire to swarm, at least for about 4 few weeks, or until the population recovers.

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thanks dawn, i did read that last year, but was great to re-read it now that it’s relevant.
those welsh beeks have a lot of really good material out there, i come across it regularly.

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thanks jeff,
yep, already re thought. next year we’re just going to do a straight split and not try to be clever. we didn’t want to lose our fantastic queen and have now been bitten on the bum…won’t happen again. you live and learn.

thanks for the SBH advice, wouldn’t have known that.

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Hello there Jeff,

I do appreciate that strategy and agree with your thinking. My only issue is that I kind of don’t want to make that many splits. For me it would mean making 13 splits at least over this month. Which means I would need 13 nucs, places to keep them, and 75 frames or so. Then I would need to sell 13 nucs- or have 13 new hive bodies with apiaries to house them.

I live in a rental house and already have 4 hives here. Ideally I only want three. If I was to start selling a lot of nucs I would need to find a new apiary site for them- and then I’d have to make many trips from all my other apiaries delivering and moving hives around. Each year I have increased my numbers of hives but I need to take care that things don’t get away from me. There is only so much equipment I can afford to buy and store.

No worries Jack, you did say that a few hives have swarmed this year. I was just trying to help you and any other interested beeks avoid the hassles of swarms.

I have 50 plus hives. That doesn’t mean that I need 50 brood boxes for splits. I only split the colonies as I feel it’s needed. The income from the sale of nucs never goes astray. It’s quite handy if fact. Every nuc sold frees up another brood box for another split.

Anyway this information might be useful for others.


don’t get me wrong: your tips and strategies have proved VERY useful to me. As I think I’ve said before- whenever I beekeep- I always ask my self ‘what would Jeff do’? usually the answer is ‘use foundation’, ‘donate a frame of brood’, or ‘make a split’. I don’t always listen to my inner Jeff- and many times I have paid the price. Gernerally I ignore my inner Jeff at my own peril :wink: This year- I do plan to try and start selling a few Nucs- and you will be happy to know that I actually have taken quite a few splits from the most populous hives.

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Well done Jack, it’s good to know that my one finger typing on my new second hand laptop, that doesn’t have spell check, not to mention a dodgy key board isn’t in vein :slight_smile:

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Hey Ron, sorry I didn’t get down there in the time frame I was planning.
So you always though you would have just one hive – how many times have I heard that I wonder. :wink:Actually a second hive can be a big help and only takes a little extra time to manage. A split is a very saleable item but when I do a spit it goes straight into an 8 frame brood box and after a month to build up all going well I add a QX and a super and sell it as a full hive with a strong colony already producing honey.
It sound as thou everything went along ok and you will be better prepared and knowing what to expect when it happens again. I would advise against reducing the hive size after it has swarmed at this time of year. Reducing the hive is likely to risk further swarming as the colony will quickly build up in numbers with the Spring weather.

Yeah, we learnt a lot in the last 2 days. Next year going to just do a straight split. Don’t want 4 hives so we’ll try to recover some of the expense of the flows and sell the splits.

Did an inspection on the old hive today. 12 queen cells! Quick work from the girls.
Took the lid off the biggest one and a queen emerged. Removed the rest. Felt pretty good until I had a closer look at the removed ones (with glasses on) and one had hatched, so there are 2 Queens in there now I assume… Hope they sort it out without another swarm.
On the up side, even tho the swarm seemed big, there is a really good number of bees left and a large amount of capped brood.
The new hive is looking good. Normal looking behaviour happening there. Ordered the flow super for it, I think they’re going to need it pretty smartly.

Any advice on managing the old hive? That’s the one I’m less sure of.


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My advice on swarm control:

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I hope it works! I’ve tried everything but the Tarnov method of swarm prevention because my neighbors would freak at all the bees flying around.

About now Ron you are more stressed than the bees are and wondering if you have done it right.
I make up Langstroth hives, a single brood with a super added, along with everything that makes a hive, and there is no problem in selling them.
If the hive has two queens they will fight it out in most cases, so let them do it.
As for the ‘old hive’ leave it as it is. What has happened is normal bee reproducing behavior in the Spring if we don’t step in and do a split. The numbers in the ‘old hive’ will quickly build up again in a matter of a month with their new mated queen. Assuming your ‘new hive’ is now just a single brood box that is the one to spend your time on in making up a new Flow Super so the bees will have space to do their thing.
A hive normally will produce a number of queens when a single new queen is needed, I suspect the rate of queen getting through to be mated and laying is not that high and the best of the queens will survive.

The end result of the Tarnov method is the same as just doing a split with the queen at the new location and letting the field bees fly back to the old hive… Why shake all of those bees?

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