Supercedure or swarm?

I can’t tell if the bees are trying to do a late swarm or if they are trying to supersede their current queen, but I’m hoping Simeon can help me here!

This hive is a deep box and two supers, no queen excluder. Yesterday I went in and there are a lot of bees in the deep box. The top super is basically empty, and the middle super is about 30% full of bees with open and capped brood, and has one swarm cell with a large larva inside. That box is about 50% drawn out with comb… In the deep brood box, I found 11 queen cells on 3 frames, of which 8 were capped, the other 3 have larvae inside. They are not necessarily at the bottom of the frames, some are in the middle of the frames and some at the bottom of the comb where the nees stopped building on the foundation. I heard piping coming from the front right corner when I got into the brood box, and the bees seemed to run towards the sound. I found the queen on the other side of the hive and saw her lay an egg. The interesting part though is that the bees seemed to be keeping her corralled, as in they didn’t get out of her way as she walked, and they were actually walking on top of her. She was moving very slowly. She is also really small! She’s not much bigger than the other bees. she came that way when I got the nuc this spring, but she has been producing a lovely brood pattern and there are ample bees in this hive. I can’t figure out what they are doing (planning to swarm vs replacing current queen), and what I should do (make a split vs let them sort it out). I’m hoping to have someone come look at this colony ASAP within the next few days so I can sort this out if they are preparing to swarm.

Thank you so much!!

It sounds to me like the colony is preparing to swarm, going by the number of queen cells you found. “within the next few days” might be too late. If virgin queens are already emerging, one would think that the primary swarm is imminent. I would split the colony by taking the old queen with the split & making sure that no queen cells are on the brood frames you take.

Then with the remainder, break all the queen cells down, provided that virgin queen is still there.

It’s difficult to give definitive advice because things might have changed by the next time you go in to inspect. Plus I don’t recall having that kind of situation myself

Good luck with it, cheers

Thanks Jeff! I know, I’m baffled myself. It’s pretty late for a swarm here so I’m worried about making a split… not sure they’d have time to build up enough to make it through winter.

What do yiu think of the “corralling” behavior? The workers didn’t seem to let the queen move about freely, they definitely were not getting out of her way. Never seen that before!

I’m hoping to go back in tomorrow and see if there is a virgin queen. I may have missed her, I did hear piping coming from the opposite side of the hive than I found the queen.

I feel like the more I study bees, the more confusing they get. Haha my first year was the most successful one I’ve had, as far as honey and no swarming! This year (my 3rd) has been the year of the swarms :see_no_evil:

Oh one more question… I’ve seen different ways for making splits. Some people take the old queen and put her in a mew box and leave the virgin/queen cells in the original box, so it’s like an artificial swarm. Others do the opposite, where they leave the old queen in the original box and put the virgin/queen cells in a new box. Does it matter which way you do it?

Hi Erin, I wonder if the bees were getting ready to ball & kill the queen.

In relation to splits, it doesn’t matter which way you go about it. Essentially what you’re trying to achieve is to prevent the colony from swarming, as well as caste swarms.

Once you get a general understanding of bee culture, it’s way less confusing because you can start to think like a colony of bees. Or you think you can think like a colony of bees.

Even if you split the colony to prevent swarming, there’s no reason why you can’t unite the colonies later on, once you know that they definitely wont swarm. Alternatively, well insulate the weaker hives & be prepared to feed them through winter, so that you have 2 colonies coming out of winter.


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