Boomerang Swarm

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keithgrimes 

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At the local association apiary this morning. Swarm left the hive, got airborn, tried to settle in a sycamore and then flew back in to the hive! Someone had put a queen excluder under the brood box (?). So found the queen (on the contact feeder), added a second brood box, destroyed two queen cells and removed the queen excluder. Right thing to do do you think? Its not a strong colony.
 

RoofTops 

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The QX trick works well at preventing the loss of the queen but adding an extra brood box will make little difference if they are not a strong colony as the extra room means nothing to them other than more space to heat. They will most likely try to swarm again.

If you had wanted to do something a bit odd you could have left the queen cells and the QX and gone back and checked after about 2 weeks. At which point you could have removed the QX and sat back to see what happens. Either the bees would have torn down the queen cells and things would return to normal or there would probably be a new queen which would still have time to mate and settle down. You may also have found a new queen running along with the old one - supercession. If the former was the position - queen cells torn down, then normal weekly inspections would have to resume as they may try to swarm again. A variation of this system has been trialled in Scandinavia for the last 12 years on a very large number of colonies and it has been found to be extremely effective at preventing the loss of swarms. The system does not use a QX under the brood box but above it with the lower entrance closed off and an upper entrance opened. Foragers thus return and go straight up into the supers, avoiding the risk of clogging the brood chamber with nectar which may explain why there is evidence colonies with this system seem to do better than those without it.

Perhaps because they are travelling downwards bees passing thorugh the QX with pollen do not lose much, which is not always the case if they are travelling upwards through a QX. The colonies also do not suffer from the drones being unable to escape from the brood chamber. This is often cited as a reason why confining the queen is not a good system of swarm prevention, but the evidence so far disputes this. Colonies with a trapped queen do fine.
 
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Oakbear 

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Rooftops - apologies for my ignorance, but why are drones not trapped too?
They can't get through the excluder either....
 
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Midland Beek 

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Not sure what you are saying. But assuming that someone put a queen excluder under the brood box so that the queen could not leave with a swarm.

Firstly, two queen cells would suggest supersedure swarm and not swarming impulse.

If a swarm leaves and a queen cannot fly to it, for example damaged wing or being trapped in the hive by a queen excluder, it is no surprise that the swarm will return to the hive.
 

RoofTops 

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Oakbear - drones are trapped and you will often hear beekepeers saying this is a bad thing but what their evidence is for this view I don't know. Probably simply speculation. However, as explained above, the evidence gathered over a significant time and on over 1500 colonies is no harm comes to the colony as a whole. Of course the system is no good if you want to breed from the trapped drones but that might not be a bad thing if you wanted to control the mating to some extent and avoid inbreeding.
 

Haughton Honey 

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So are we to entertain using a QX to contain a colony in every instance from this piece of research?

If it's foolproof why isn't everyone using this method for swarm prevention?

(just playing devil's advocate here!)
 

keithgrimes 

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On the beekeeping course I did we were told that the queen slims down before swarming so she can fly better, so there is a chance she could get through a bee excluder.
 

RoofTops 

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The system will be available in the UK later this year. There is a picture of it below. Note the lower entrance closed off and an upper entrance with a short landing board, which is above the queen excluder. It is important to appreciate the system is not just hardware but has to be used according to a timetable.

We anticipate it will be greeted with a degree of scepticism here in the UK but the experience of some 20,000 colony-years of use is good evidence to its effectiveness. However, here in the UK the swarming season is longer than in the region it was developed so some modification to its use will be needed.
 
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