Bees swarmed whilst doing shook swarm - what did I do wrong?

Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum

Help Support Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

ksjs

House Bee
Joined
Jul 24, 2011
Messages
195
Reaction score
0
Location
North Wales
Hive Type
National
Number of Hives
3
OK, first big bee disappointment since starting but I guess stuff happens and it's all fairly standard. Nonetheless I was trying to do everything right :confused:

Basically my bees swarmed and I'd like to know what I did wrong:

They're a single colony, national hive on brood and a half, queen in her first year (produced by supersedure last autumn).

Previously I'd seen some play cups but couldn't see any eggs in there. Yesterday, after our first real good weather for months I inspected having carried out last inspection on 17th May so 7 days previous. During that (on 17th) inspection I added the half brood as they'd had brood on 8 of 11 frames with little space left.

Main things to come out of yesterday's inspection were:

1. Presence of their first proper queen cell. A small pool of royal jelly with a tiny larvae in it (so small I couldn't really say that it was 100% a larvae). There was only one of these properly formed cells - see attached photos ending 85 and 87 (upside down and 1 is blurred). There were however 10 play cups and 1 had an egg in it (upright so v fresh).

2. Weird 'broken' area of what looked like drone brood, all hatched, with some dark bits present.

3. They'd drawn 6 of the 10 frames of fresh foundation in the super (under main BB as this is being used as an additional half brood). Queen had laid in 2 of these drawn frames.

4. Honey was coming in as they'd virtually replenished the 2 brood combs which had stores (previously these had been nearly depleted). I had been feeding them sugar syrup (thin) as an aid to draw fresh foundation (think I may have been confused in mixes as this probably should have been thick syrup).

5. Something that was maybe nothing but it reminded me of a supersedure cell, like something had hatched. See attached photos, ending 83 and 84, again upside down.

At about 1 yesterday I completed inspection and decided to collect my thoughts before proceeding. I didn't open them up again yesterday (even though maybe I should have) as I didn't want to hassle them any more and I assumed that the queen cell was young enough that I had time.

I had been planning to do a shook swarm on them as I wanted to split / make increase and was thinking I should do this sooner rather than later in case they didn't make queen cells. I have been unable to spot queen for some time. I didn't change plan as the queen cell only, in my mind, give the non-queen new colony a better chance i.e. they might be able to raise a queen from a queen cell rather than an emergency cell.

I started manipulation early this morning and this was as follows:

1. Gently smoke bees.
2. Remove entire hive off stand and set aside.
3. Place fresh floor and BB on stand with fresh foundation and 2 frames of brood (to help entice queen to stay / lay) leaving gap in middle in which to shake bees. There's also a QE between floor and BB.
4. Shake bees from main BB into new BB.
5. Shake bees from super (which had been under main BB) into new BB.
6. Get any stragglers on roof etc into new BB.
7. Put QE on top and then place 'old' BB on top of this and super on top of that.
8. Close up and breathe a sigh of relief.

Until my partner says "You need to have a look at this", at which point I see a small cloud of bees above our neighbour's garden. They then took off and I have been unable to locate them, I've asked around locally and put up signs but to no avail. It's way too much of a coincidence that I spotted this cloud just after the manipulation.

There's still reasonable activity around the hive, they're still bringing in pollen. I'm not sure what my next step is. For now I'm thinking: inspect tomorrow to assess numbers / try to determine if there's been a swarm then, subject to this, either continue with plan and physically split the 2 old and new parts of the hive (the idea being that between manipulation and then, nurse bees are with the old brood) or re-unite in which case I'd have to hope they can make an emergency queen or the swarm cell hatches etc. I am however concerned about brood being very spaced with few bees to cover / feed them i.e. there's capped brood (2 frames) in bottom BB, mainly capped and some uncapped in top BB (6 frames) and 2 uncapped frames in super above that.

I assume the queen cell was more advanced than I thought, the extra space I provided maybe wasn't enough, the upheaval of the manipulation / smoke (keep in mind this is the 2nd lot in less than 24 hours) triggered something and / or stuff just happens with bees.

If you read that lot - thanks for your patience / indulgence. Any thoughts or advice, about what I did or didn't do correctly and what my next steps should be, are much appreciated.

Cheers!
 
Last edited:
why did you do shook swarm to increase?
 
Last edited:
Why was Q not clipped either? Neighbours deserve more consideration.
 
Why was Q not clipped either? Neighbours deserve more consideration.
I thought this wasn't necessarily standard practice. I also thought it isn't necessarily the best way to manage the bees. Perhaps, on reflection, maybe it would make things easier in practice? Definitely one to consider for future.
 
Guys I'm sorry but I've had a few drinks so excuse me!

Give us all a break - the OP does not say the queen was unclipped!

I haven't posted on this forum much. I am a novice but am trying to read as much as I can and frankly the attitude on this forum sometimes is a little unnerving. How are we meant to learn if everytime we post something we get shouted down! There always seem to be a lot of harsh comments on this forum and I don't always see why it is necessary.

Okay rant over but that is the way I feel about it, but shame as a novice I am the only one trying to make a constructive comment.

If they have swarmed there must be a capped queen cell (if queen unclipped) otherwise they are likely to have lost her and returned in most cases to the hive. What state is the queen cell now? Has anything hatched from it or is it still capped -this might be the supercedure cell you mention that looked like it had hatched. I am begining to think that if they are on the point of swarming any manipulation tips them over the edge.

Do you have a queen in your hive that you tipped the bees into? Are there any queen cells still present - if so you might end up with further cast swarms. If no queen cells and you are not certain about whether you have a queen you will need to put in a test frame - a frame of brood with uncapped larvae that, if queenless, the bees can start making queen cells from. If they make queen cells then you are queenless - if they don't you might have a virgin queen. You will need to wait a few weeks for evidence of a virgin queen having mated (hopefully) and laid eggs. The likelihood is that if they did swarm, they took the queen with them and left a hatched virgin queen.

Sorry if I am incorrect with any of the above, but trying to help. Don't shoot me down folks!!!!!
 
If you wanted increase why did you try to put all the bees into 1 hive?
 
Last edited:
Commiserations ksjs.

I think mostly what you did was OK in terms of a shook swarm, although as you can see, it is not what most would do in your circumstances. If you are asking if there is anything you could do next time to stop them absconding, then there are a couple.

I guess the question is did they just abscond or were they about to swarm anyway?

It would have been worth confining the queen while you did the manipulation to protect her and to help them settle around her. You could also have temporarily put in a frame of unsealed brood in with the foundation - that always encourages them to stay. You could have done the manipulation late in the day - it makes them less flighty when it is nearly their bedtime. ( Some people will argue with this last one as of course there will be more bees to handle... ) Just my opinion. Total respect for asking for feedback so that you are in a better position to prevent it next time. not worthy
 
Why was Q not clipped either? Neighbours deserve more consideration.

Clipping the queen is neither here nor there - it's just for the convenience of the beekeeper - not out of consideration for the neighbours!
 
Clipping the queen is neither here nor there - it's just for the convenience of the beekeeper - not out of consideration for the neighbours!

Not exactly...it gives the beekeeper an extra week to keep his or her bees out of some neighbour's roof/chimney/barn/abandoned sofa:

I have just about lost count of call-outs this week: pending solution are two chimneys, a window sill with rotten window (tenanted, now agreed with owner), a barn floor space, and a house siding. All have honey bees newly firmly in. And those are the ones left over as of the end of the week.

The BKA swarm list have noted how many casts there are around....so beekeepers are not checking properly even the next inspection. And I expect some are our members too.

I have lost a swarm this week....hived prime in a full commercial, sealed worker brood laid by queen...now vanished. Odd things bees! BUT we are in the middle of nowhere (as could be the OP). She would have been clipped.
 
I agree with susbees about clipped queens. . If you are in the middle of nowhere and they abscond, then it is only you who suffers. If you have neighbours everyone including other beekeepers could be put out. With a clipped queen, not only do you give yourself more chance of stopping them, but if they do go, the prime swarm won't go far and will go back when they find she can't fly.
 
Can somebody outline the pros/cons or differences in opinion about wing clipping?

When people have said it will only hive you more time is this because they will swarm with the first newly mated queen that hatches?

My hive swarmed this we despite by experienced helper and myself doing an artifical swarm. She left anyway. If she was clipped would this have helped?
 
I haven't posted on this forum much. I am a novice but am trying to read as much as I can and frankly the attitude on this forum sometimes is a little unnerving. How are we meant to learn if everytime we post something we get shouted down! There always seem to be a lot of harsh comments on this forum and I don't always see why it is necessary.

:iagree:
 
The perceived con of clipping is the queen is balled.

Rubbish in my experience but it persists.

The pro is you gain time. Not a great deal admittedly but four days or so can make a huge difference.

Is it not better to have your error exposed at no cost on here than make a monumental error with your bees and have them suffer your mistakes?

PH
 
The perceived con of clipping is the queen is balled.

Rubbish in my experience but it persists.

I choose not to clip any of our queens for this reason, if a customer asks we do not offer a clipping service. Have seen it too many times before.
 
Last edited:
The perceived con of clipping is the queen is balled.

Rubbish in my experience but it persists.

PH

I've had this a few times. I now smoke the area around where I release her and it helps. Also put her back the comb location where I picked her up.
 
No idea what the difference is for others but it is not something I have encountered and I have done more than a few.

PH
 
The only time I witnessed a queen balled by her own colony was after an aborted clipping. I put her straight back when the workers reacted to me picking her up - scissors not even in my hand. My conclusion, on rare occasions any messing with the queen could prove fatal, including clipping, marking, caging, touching.
 
To answer the post, you don't know that that was your swarm and will probably never know unless you find eggs and brood in the next week. I think you have your wires crossed on swarm control and increasing your stock but what you did was ok. Now you need patience and let them settle down. You may have an old queen in the shook brood box. If not the you have no way of getting one without adding eggs from the top brood box. I will tell you what I would do in your situation and you may take that advice or not. I would recombine the hive by removing the QE. Then I would take a frame out with a good queen cell on and a couple of frames with brood and one of stores and put all these in a nuc. Leave them to see what happens. I would then shuffle the old bb around so that you fill the spaces with new foundation and take off the new bb again leaving your old hive with or without a queen but with the remains of everything else. They will make queen cells if they have to. You will know when there are no eggs. I would then let them get on with that too.
I would see how that hive builds up and consider splitting later if you want to increase further. But be patient. Let both hives build up numbers. I think this is your first year so get used to handling them and don't worry too much if they swarm. You may or may not catch them. You have to build your confidence and get to know what your bees are trying to tell you. Do that through weekly checks and be discouraged from opening them without a good reason. If you are for example checking for eggs, once you have found them close them up again.
Hope this helps
E
 
Last edited:
Back
Top