Scout bees and bait hives

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Jimmys Mum 

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Hi all,
My 2 bait hives both in my apiary, have proved to be a useful tool to warn me of imminent swarm preparations. One of my hives swarmed yesterday and i caught the swarm clustering and hived it elsewhere - so it never actually made it to the bait box. I'm as sure as I can be that I only missed 1 queen cell so would be surprised to see a further cast swarm emerge.
But......there is still a lot of activity (20-30 bees each) still hanging around the bait hives today. I know they came from the swarmed hive as I did the flour dusting trick and watched 'ghost bees' returning to the now depleted hive!
My question is, following a swarm, do the scout bees immediately stop scouting for a new pad or does it take a day or two for the message to filter through!
Or......can I expect more excitement with my skep and stepladder????
Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.
 
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My guess is that most bait hives are an attraction for "robbers" in the first instance, and is why so many bees will "investigate" the bait hive.

Secondly I was given to believe that once the main mass of bees swarmed onto a convenient ( or inconvenient!) branch, they then despatched scout bees to find a new home... read something about crazy dances and buzzing loudly to shout down other scout bees finds... the craziest dance and loudest buzz winning the " lets find a new pad" competition !
 

Jimmys Mum 

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Thanks for the reply. Agreed, bait hives went up in April and initial interest was probably robbers checking out the comb. Then very little interest through May. 10 days ago there were probably 50-100 bees daily hanging around. Then I did an A/S and scout activity eased off then picked up again, peaking the day of and the day before they swarmed which was yesterday.
There were still plenty around this morning but over today they have slowly dwindled possibly suggesting that the message "my hive has swarmed" has taken 24hrs to cause those scout bees to change their behaviour. Well maybe .......????
 
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Tom Bick 

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Thanks for the reply. Agreed, bait hives went up in April and initial interest was probably robbers checking out the comb. Then very little interest through May. 10 days ago there were probably 50-100 bees daily hanging around. Then I did an A/S and scout activity eased off then picked up again, peaking the day of and the day before they swarmed which was yesterday.
There were still plenty around this morning but over today they have slowly dwindled possibly suggesting that the message "my hive has swarmed" has taken 24hrs to cause those scout bees to change their behaviour. Well maybe .......????
Yes I would say you are about right with the exception the scouts checking out the bait hive after you collected the swarm were obviously with the swarm and wondering where did they go?? And taking a couple of days to re adjust.

It would have been interesting to see if they would have gone into the bait hive but nerves of steel would have been called for.

One question how long did you watch scouts at your bait hive prior to the swarm leaving the hive.
 

nematode 

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I found queen cells I my hive two weeks ago. A couple of days prior to the inspection lots of my bees took a sudden interest in my bait hive (lots of activity around the bait hive for three days in a row). Once I carried out an AS they lost all interest in the bait hive.
 

Jimmys Mum 

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It would have been interesting to see if they would have gone into the bait hive but nerves of steel would have been called for.

Yep, I was tempted to wait and see but knowing my luck it would have ended up in somebody's chimney!

One question how long did you watch scouts at your bait hive prior to the swarm leaving the hive
.

I didn't make a written note (although for interest I will next time) but I guess 14 days, possibly a bit longer but definitely a firm committed interest about 10 days before.
 
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Tom Bick 

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Passing bees do show interest in bait hives but thats all it is but 10 days of increasing interest is to me a reasonably long time. It is possible separate scout bees with one lot taking over interest after another lot but then you would possibly see a reduction of interest and then gaining. Did you by chance remove queen cells from your swarmed hive the previous week before it swarmed?
 

Jimmys Mum 

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Yep Tom I did. But.....I'm pretty sure it swarmed because I missed a Q/C on the frame I moved over into the swarm hive with the Queen. Or actually, another possible scenario is that I missed one of the emergency cells when I checked 5 days later. I broke down 4. It was my very first attempt and I think nerves got the better of me. I was blowing all over the frame to move the girls off but reckon they still hid one from me! But feel soooo much more confident now I've done it once. Even if it wasn't completely successful! Nothing like learning from our mistakes :)
 
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Tom Bick 

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So if I understand right you removed swarm cells to try to prevent swarming. But the bees built more QS. If so all you did was delay the obvious.

From my own observations I have seen scout bee activity at a hive up to six days before a swarm arrives or it all goes quiet, when its the latter I think bugger the beekeeper has inspected and found queen cells. If the beekeeper simply removes the queen cells the bees are still on swarm mode and the scouts will still continue to look for a new home ahead of the swarm and this is perhaps why you had interest in your bait hive over 10+ days.
 

Jimmys Mum 

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So if I understand right you removed swarm cells to try to prevent swarming. But the bees built more QS. If so all you did was delay the obvious.

From my own observations I have seen scout bee activity at a hive up to six days before a swarm arrives or it all goes quiet, when its the latter I think bugger the beekeeper has inspected and found queen cells. If the beekeeper simply removes the queen cells the bees are still on swarm mode and the scouts will still continue to look for a new home ahead of the swarm and this is perhaps why you had interest in your bait hive over 10+ days.
Hi Tom, thanks for trying to help me make sense of it all. I've got my notes out and put some dates in to help.
No, I did a proper artificial swarm as was shown on our beginners course. Obviously stuffed it up somewhere....! Best guess is that I missed a queen cell.
8th June. Spotted 5 queen cells in hive, none sealed but seemed quite advanced. Marked queen was still present with eggs.
Moved the original hive to one side.
Put a new hive on the original site.
Moved one frame of brood with queen on into the new brood box checking that there were no queen cells on this frame. Looking at these dates I think I must have somehow missed a queen cell on that one frame.
Broke down all queen cells in the parent hive except for one large unsealed one.
9th June. Thought a swarm had moved into one of the bait boxes as so much activity but just scouts as no bees there by dusk!
12th June. Checked both hives. No new queen cells spotted in either, but not to say they weren't there! Queen present and laying very well in the new hive. One sealed queen cell present in the parent hive as expected.
16th June. Checked both hives again as the scout bee activity was concerning me, and this time I saw 5 queen cells in the new hive - all unsealed but maybe one of these was not just unsealed but 'newly hatched' Broke them all down without properly checking the contents. Queen still present and plenty of eggs. But if this is the case surely my original queen would have left soon after the 'missed' queen cell was capped, not as it hatched?
17th June. New hive swarms. Pretty sure with my marked queen although I didn't spot her in the swarm. Checked through the swarmed hive as didn't want any cast swarms. And there were no other missed queen cells. Couldn't see a new virgin queen but closed up very quickly.
I Plan to leave both hives for 3 weeks now before checking for new laying queens.
Will give the hived swarm a week and then check to see if I can find my original queen and make sure she is laying okay.
Then another new experience.....re-uniting. :)

(Note, I had another hive making swarm preparations at exactly the same time but that one has been artificially swarmed in the same way and is all fine so far (fingers crossed)).

Assuming the scouts were all from this hive, it would appear that they were checking out the bait hives from the point of queen cells first being built or very soon after.

Soooooo complicated!
 
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Tom Bick 

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Its possible you missed a queen cell with the old queen its also possible they just like swarming and a third its a case of supersedure that has triggered swarming.

I think you have done everything pretty well and if you missed a QC well we can all do that. The important bit is you have dealt with it well.



I think the bees start to look for possible new sites early in the swarm preparations. Not to say they always get it right or fined a location before the swarm exits the hive or that the chosen location is actually available on the day.
 
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drstitson 

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icanhopit - the initial scouting of options takes place over days. presumably how long a swarm stays at it's marshalling post before heading off to new home will be dependent upon recent weather - as finman says swarm preps often occur when bees have nothing else to do and that presumably that includes lack of scout flights.

the scouts will obviously need to reorientate themselves wrt swarm location (more than the magic 3ft) in relation to new site before directing the bulk of the swarm.
 

Jimmys Mum 

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Thanks for the advice Tom. Its just such fascinating stuff. Love how the little darlings keep me on my toes. Honey would be an added bonus of course! :)
 

greengumbo 

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Thanks for the advice Tom. Its just such fascinating stuff. Love how the little darlings keep me on my toes. Honey would be an added bonus of course! :)
You should get hold of "honeybee democracy" by Tom Seeley.

Fantastic book that all beekeepers should read and is nearly all about the dynamics of swarms and scouts :)
 

Jimmys Mum 

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You should get hold of "honeybee democracy" by Tom Seeley.

Fantastic book that all beekeepers should read and is nearly all about the dynamics of swarms and scouts :)
Thanks, I will :) .....especially as I seem to have some quite smarmy stock!
 

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