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I think my bees are about to swarm advice please

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grangebees 

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Hello All - I am new to beekeeping. Someone kindly gave me a very old hive last year and in july a swarm took possession. I have read up as much as I can and have gone to a beekeeping weekend, but it is still difficult without experience

I had checked the hive (from outside) this morning and pollen going in and bees active. About 3 ish I saw the first drones I have noticed, and there were quite a few of them, there seemed to be more bees about, and I opened the entrance, a bit (it has been quite cold until today)

Went for a cup of tea, and heard something buzzing about, and outside the front of my old stone house (about 400 yds from the beehive which is in an apple orchard) quite a lot of bees were flying around, and going in and out of a crack leading to the false ceiling to my vaulted bedroom. ie completely unaccesible, and potentially dangerous as the bees would easily have come into the bedroom and sitting room below.

Got a smoke bomb on a stick (have had to use these in the past as hornets often build in the stone walls of my house near to the doors in just too dangerous a position to be tolerated)

I certainly hadn't seen a swarm, and the time scale was really quite short - could these have been excited scout bees? Anyway they didnt like the smoke bomb, and dispersed/disappeared after about 3/4 of an hour.

I hadnt open the hive this year, as I spoke to an old beekeeper, and he said it was too cold yet. But in the circumstances opened it up (it was lovely and warm with us today) The hive was very full of bees and honey (as I said I am a complete novice so I didnt really know what I was looking for, and the quantity of bees made it difficult) but there was at least one queen cell which was still sealed I didnt examine all the brood frames , as I was beginning to loose my nerve and the day was drawing in.

I put on an extra super for them, but unless I was knocking nurse bees on the ground they didnt behave as I expected, and seemed to clump together on the grass, by now it was getting dusk, so I got a bait hive and put it by them and most went in. Didnt know what to do, so took a frame of honey and put it in the bait hive in case they were none flying bees and would have nothing to eat.

By now it was almost dark and getting quite cool so decided to leave til tomorrow.

I have another (equally ancient) hive which I had set up as a bait hive. Can I take three or four frames of brood with a couple of queen cells and transfer them to this hive tomorrow?

Do you think they have already swarmed or were just preparing to?

Should I start first thing in the morning or wait until the day has warmed up?

Incidentally the bees were very calm, and although I smoked them far more than I would have liked because there were so many of them, and probably squashed lots of them they were not at all aggressive to me.

Sorry to make this such a long post but if any one has the time I would be most grateful for any advice. Susan
 

admin 

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Hi Susan welcome to the forum,It does sound like they are about to swarm.

Do you think you could find the Queen ? Do you know if she is marked ?

If you can find her then you need to move her to the empty hive with a couple of frames of brood and stores,leave the sealed queen cells behind in the old hive so they can have a new queen.

The bees will then think they have already swarmed.

If the hive is full of bees like you say then I dont think they have swarmed yet.

This is my second year of beekeeping so its worth waiting until others have posted what they think/would do who have more experience than me.

p.s out of interest did you treat them last year for verroa ?
 

grangebees 

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Hi and many thanks for your reply - I am trying to be as non-interventionist as possible, and hope eventually to go on to Abbe Warre hives, but I did treat in the late summer autumn for varroa, though I couldnt bring myself to open the hive in the cold weather and pour the acid on them (even though I had specially got it!)

As it was a swarm that chose the hive themselves I would think it came with an unmarked queen, and when I have seen other people identifying the queen I have never managed to pick her out myself, I expect it takes quite a while until you can achieve something like that.

I am pretty sure I will not be able to pick the old queen out from the quantity of bees that is currently in the hive , though I did just wonder if I had inadvertantly knocked her onto the floor as there was a clump of bees on the grass in front of the hive, and when I put the bait hive by them they all went in pretty quickly! Do you think I could have been as lucky as that?
Many thanks Susan
 

Roy S 

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It sounds like you will have a swarm pretty soon if you dont do anything. Is there any local beekeepers that could help you?, I'd do an artificial swarm ASAP if you have enough spare equipment to do it.
If you are unsure of this process and new to beekeeping it sounds like it may be an intimdating job for you.
Where about in the UK are you?
 

grangebees 

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Roy S
Sorry I must have gone to bed just after you posted. Have quickly read up on artificial swarms. I have two hives

Could I take frames with a couple of queen cells and just put them into the empty hive, together with some frames with honey and brood. I am pretty certain I would not be able to identify the queen.

If that might work would I be best to put the hives side by side or some distance apart.
I moved my hive with the bees to the orchard last winter, and put the extra hive as a biat hive in the original position. This is about 30 yards away on the other side of a few trees. Hope you get this reply Susan
 

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Could I take frames with a couple of queen cells and just put them into the empty hive, together with some frames with honey and brood. I am pretty certain I would not be able to identify the queen.
Yes you could,it's called a "Walk away split" but you dont want the old queen in the new box so would need to find her first.
 

grangebees 

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Hello Admin

I find your comment in red at the bottom particularly relevant this morning!

Just checked on them, there are some bees on the comb in the bait hive still (it is about 12" away and the entrances are facing each other)

There are about 40 or so bees on the landing board of the main hive doing nothing in particular, though the hives are still in shade, and it is fairly cool this morning. There are also quite a few dead bees on the landing board, presumably those I squashed yesterday

If I try to do something what time of day would you suggest I attempt it, and shall I try for the small 5 frame bait hive that is right nearby or the larger empty hive about 40 yards away, or shall I move either further away (I have a few meadows)

Or I could move the 5 frame bait hive to near where they were yesterday, I could put it up on some step ladders so it would be fairly near my window. Thanks Susan
 

jon 

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there was at least one queen cell which was still sealed

Do you think they have already swarmed or were just preparing to?
Your hive has almost certainly swarmed if you saw a sealed queen cell. Have a good look around the orchard as the swarm is probably hanging from a branch somewhere. If you find it, shake it into a skep and leave the skep for an hour below the swarm site until all the stragglers get in. Assuming the queen is in the skep, the bees will fan so that others are attracted in.

Place your empty hive where you want it permanently and use something to make a ramp up to the entrance. Cover this with an old sheet or suchlike. Take your skep or box of bees and tip them out in front of the hive. They will start to move in. If not, smoke them a bit toward the entrance but they should go in themselves. Don't worry about the number of bees. A swarm is usually bloated with honey and very calm.

You will need to go back to the original box and remove all but one queen cell or a series of casts will leave 8 days from now as more queens hatch.

The other possibility is that you lost the prime swarm 8 days ago and that casts are now leaving. Try and get a more experienced beekeeper to look through the original hive and try and work out what is happening.

re. advice that it was too cold to check:
If this was the first time you checked the hive it could well have been very full of stores leaving the queen no room to lay which would have produced an early swarm. Some older beekeepers are excellent but others haven't a clue. Age is no guide.
 
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jon 

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There are a couple more things to consider.

When you looked in the hive did you see eggs? This would indicate that there was a queen there within the last 3 days.

Also, be careful about removing queen cells. One of the most common mistakes is to panic and destroy all queen cells to prevent an imminent swarm. If the swarm has already in fact left a week before there will not be suitable larvae with which to create a new queen and the hive will become hopelessly queenless and probably very aggressive.

Or I could move the 5 frame bait hive to near where they were yesterday, I could put it up on some step ladders so it would be fairly near my window.
There is no point in doing this. If they have taken up residence in a cavity they will not come out. They have chosen the site where they want to make their brood nest. Are there bees coming and going from the crack in the wall today?
 
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Poly Hive 

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A sealed cell does not indiceate that a swarm has left. If it has been cold they have been awaiting their chance.

Sorry to say Susan but beekeeping does involve intervention if your bees are not to be a constant nuisance to you and your community. Many find bees, especially swarms of bees very frightening, and if you carry on in a that vein your popularity with the neighbours will likely plummet.

As you cannot find the queen, and as you have sealed cells, and as the weather is fine, (and your elderly advisor gave you frankly bad advice regarding inspection weather) you need to split the colony TODAY.

Into the existing brood box leave a couple of frames with brood and one frame with a cell. Fill the space with foundation.

All the rest of the brood and any bees on them put into your other hive and move it as far away as you can. With luck the queen will be amongst them and they will settle down. The Original site will raise a new queen from the cell you have left them.

Please be aware that a colony of bees can move very fast in their development and need at LEAST three supers to give them adequate room.

Also you need to find a mentor to advise you at your elbow and give you some confidence.

Bees are not toys and can be aggressive and difficult to manage with serious consequences to others up to and including death. This needs to be deeply considered.

I am not trying to put anyone off I just feel that there is some very fluffy thinking going on and bees are far from fluffy creatures.

Now and again someone has to mention the hard facts. Bees can kill.

PH
 

jimbeekeeper 

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Sorry to say Susan but beekeeping does involve intervention
Aslo why give away your bees?

The hint is in the title "Bee-KEEPER"

All of the replys above pretty much cover what you need, and inparticaulr what Poly Hive has said.

Bees are a wild animals and there danger is known
 

jon 

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A sealed cell does not indiceate that a swarm has left.
PH
Not necessarily but a very high probability.
Susan mentioned that it was a warm day and that bees were going in and out of a crack in the wall of her house. It could be just scout bees but time will tell.

I agree with all the comments about intervention. Unmanaged bees will swarm and can take up residence anywhere. In this case I suspect that a swarm has taken up residence in the roof cavity.

I would definitely remove a frame or two of bees with a good queen cell to make a nuc as a back up.
 
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Poly Hive 

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I disagree Jon, I have seen bald cells in a colony with the queen present, the cells were but hours from hatching and the Queen is still there.

People put too much empahsis on these timings and they can often be wrong.

Having said that decent swarm inspections coupled with the NECESSARY knowledge go a long way.

PH
 

jon 

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It is impossible to give the right advice here without being able to look through the colony. The queen could still be present or she could have gone a week ago - or she could be hanging from the branch of an apple tree in the middle of a prime swarm.


Making a split or a nuc gives more options so i would definitely do one or the other.

let alone beekeeping died with the arrival of varroa. I was able to inspect half my colonies on 18th March when the temperature hit 16-17c and the remaining ones towards the end of March on a similar warm day. I had to remove 2-3 frames of sealed stores from the majority to make room for the queen to lay. A fortnight is a long time to leave a colony alone at this time of year.
 
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Poly Hive 

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My colonies have jumped forward three frames of brood in the last 10 days.

I have to go on holiday on Thursday so am leaving them with a brood box of foundation to muse over and a super of cut comb to boot.

I am away for 8 days so with luck that should keep them suitably amused.

PH
 

grangebees 

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Hi Everyone and thanks for the advice from all. I expect I have done the wrong thing, but in the circumstance I just did what I thought might be best.
And I will let you know how it all worked out.


This morning as soon as it warmed up I checked the little bait hive that I put a comb of honey which also had an unhatched queen cell on it, and bees were not coming in and out, but some were on the comb, and some were on the spare frames.

I opened the main hive, and looked for eggs but could see none, though there were lots of capped cells and cells with honey, I did find a frame with what I assume was uncapped brood, so I took that frame and added it to the five frame bait hive, and found another frame with an unhatched queen cell on it and put that in also

I got the brood box from the extra hive I had put out as a bait, and sorted through the frames in the main hive and found two frames with unhatched queen cells on, and put another 2 full frames of bees and honey in though I am not certain there was any brood in it and I am not that experienced

I checked that there were at least 2 sealed queen cells in the original hive, replace all the frames I had removed with empty frames, moved the small 5 frame hive about 100yds away, and returned the brood box to the other hive (40 yds away)

Feeling a little bit shaky, though didnt get stung and the smoker kept going for the first time ever, so I must be making some improvement.

I think this is going to be called learning by experience. I am expecting the delivery of a top bar hive which was ordered last week before all this started to happen.

Now!!! You can all tell me my mistakes, and I shall try to take it on board for the future, please be gentle I had only had them since last July.

Many many thanks everyone Susan
 

admin 

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I think its all downhill now after the manipulations you have carried out Susan.

Do you have any bee books and a mentor ? if not then go get both.

Its amazing how fast you can get upto speed with a helper who has experience.

I think the buzz word is also confidence.

Well done you for getting stuck in.

Regards the TBH if you do not use it then I will buy it from you,I am always after a little extra timber for the fire come winter time.
 

jon 

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Susan, forgive me but I can't work out what you are trying to do.
Had the hive already swarmed or not?

little bait hive that I put a comb of honey )
There would have been bees in this as they will be robbing out the honey

little a frame with what I assume was uncapped brood, I am not certain there was any brood in it )
Uncapped brood will be cells with either eggs or grubs of various sizes. Sealed Brood looks completely different from sealed cells of honey.

replaced all the frames I had removed with empty frames,
Empty frames or frames with undrawn foundation?

little small 5 frame hive about 100yds away, and returned the brood box to the other hive (40 yds away)
bear in mind all flying bees will return to the original site unless you move them more than 3 miles away.
 
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