Swarm Madness (a.k.a. HEEELLLLP, please)

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Sep 7, 2013
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There are plenty of salient details I'm sure I'm about to omit - so sorry for that, but I have so much to bring together in one thread - so I'll try to keep it brief :) .

So ... I've started this season (my first full one) with a colony of bees which I expected to be swarmy. As such, I made sure I had a bit of extra kit to hand (one additional hive - plus the Paynes poly nuc box I originally got them in).

Sure enough, swarm cells appeared, and on April 13th, I did my first AS. This appeared to go well, as has my management thereof since.

I now have two populated hives, and the situation as of 04/05 was that the hive with the old queen had built back out well (no new swarm cells), and the other hive had hatched a new queen (around May 1st ?), and I saw her - but clearly at his time there were no eggs / larvae; she was highly unlikely to have mated. Whilst the weather has been patchy since then, I might have expected her to mate shortly after that, and would (almost certainly ??) be expecting to see eggs or larvae by now ... but more of that later ....

Roll forward one week to last Sunday (11/05). Blow me ... the swarmy little beggars in the hive with the old queen had now started building new swarm cells - so to that extent, the AS can be considered a failure. I took down all of the swarm cells I saw - with a view to pondering my options during this week. The old queen was still there. I then had a quick peek inside the other hive and again saw the new queen; although eggs / larvae were still absent. mmmmm ....

Then ... today ...

... the hive with the old queen issued a prime swarm around midday. OMG. Quite a sight, and quite a situation. Without regaling you all with the detail (which included 2 30 foot ivy-infested hawthorn trees) - suffice to say I eventually (at the 4th or 5th time of asking) managed to capture the swarm, which has now been transferred to the poly nuc. I have filled the feeder section of the nuc with weak syrup, laced with Honey-B-Healthy, and (as it was all I had knocking around) have chucked-in a single BB frame of undrawn foundation for good measure. The nuc is closed - on the ventilation-only part of the 'wheel' (Quite co-incidentally, I have more BB foundation arriving tomorrow, so I will have the capacity to build more BB frames then.)

After the excitement all died down (mine) :ohthedrama:, I inspected both of the other hives.

The hive (which previously had the old queen), and which had issued the swarm, still looked surprisingly full. Unsurprisingly, there were several new queen cells, including 4 capped (I must have missed the cups on the previous inspection), and no queen. As such, I took down all but two queen cells, and will play it from there.

I was curious about the laying situation in the other hive, so I opened it up, and went through the frames carefully - twice. I know I am novice, but I have spotted a queen on every single inspection since I got bees back in July last year. She may have been there, of course, but no queen was to be seen. This hive is now concerning me, as the worker bees are now ageing, and there is still no sign of eggs/larvae.

So, to summarise, at present, I have:
- 1 hive which has just issued a swarm, and is believed to be Q-
- 1 hive which was Q+, but is now Q?. Either way, there are no signs of this Q having mated
- 1 nucleus box packed with a prime swarm (at the centre of which is (presumably) my old queen)

Furthermore, I have one new mated queen on order (she will hopefully nurture a less swarmy colony), which is expected within the next week or so. The original intention was a spot of regicide vs. my old queen. Missed the boat / p*ssed on my chips, as my mum would say.

What to do now ??? I am absolutely bl**dy clueless as to what my plan of attack should / could be. I'm out of my depth to the power of ten.

If any of you good people were please able to offer advice, that would be most gratefully welcomed. Thanks in advance.
Queen emerged on May 1 st ? still plenty of time for her to get mated as long as she has peace and quiet to do so. Did it not occur to you she might have been out on a mating flight when you inspected once again? I'd give her a ccouple of weeks before opening up.
Your prime swarm needs to be put in a full size box or they'll be off again (no point closing them up and hoping for the best. Personally I wouldn't have fed them at this juncture)
I would contact your queen supplier and postpone delivery of the queen until the swarmed lot have settled down, drawn comb and you have sealed brood. Then do the dirty deed.
You still have the mother hive with the QC's in, nothing much you can do at this point - reduce to one QC leave queen emerge and get mated then decide - she may be as swarmy as her mother soooo....... either requeen asap or squish her in the autumn and unite with the colony which now has the new bought in queen.
We still haven't decided what to do with your first a/s queen, but I think you can pick out your options from in here somewhere
As JBM says reduce to 1 qc or you will likely see a cast swarm. Beg, borrow or buy another brood box for the prime swarm then let all 3 settle down and sort themselves out for a few weeks before re queening / combining as you decide is best for you. Not the best situation but you are doing ok, keep calm and carry on....

If it's any reassurance I find myself in more or less in the same position. Started off with one hive. Carried out AS and created a nuc at the same time. Nuc and AS both swarmed as I left 2 queen cells in each. I now have 5 boxes of bits of bees and no sign of any queen activity. I want to combine but feel I can't as there may be virgin queens somewhere in the mix. My plan is to wait a further week, and then one more. If nothing then I'll get a queen.
My only advice would be to reduce QC's down to one. Especially if you have a queen on the way.
If it's any help, in my experience it is usually 3 weeks between queen emerging & me seeing eggs/larvae. Quite a good idea to leave them alone during this period but I can understand the wish to keep on looking. Virgin queens are hard to spot and may even be on a flight when you inspect.

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Just wait

I have had a similar experience I was told to wait as the bees have been sorting themselves out for millions of years so they know what they need to do, if we go in too quick we can create problems. I have one very swarmy hive that has been spilt and split good for the supply of nucs but not good for the nerves waiting for signs of laying. Best of luck have a cup of tea and put your feet up I am sure it will all work out. As virgins are hard to spot so if you introduce a queen you need to be 100 percent certain that one is not present before introducing a new queen otherwise it's £30 or so down the drain. You can use a test frame if you are really uncertain before embarking on queen introduction.
I found it took me some years before I was able to say with confidence, just by looking, that a hive that I thought was probably queenlees was actually queenless. I also found it impossible to be certain that I had found every queen cell - they hide them.

Test frames are really useful to confirm queenlessness.

Sometimes, if all else fails, and I need to be certain there is no queen, I have sieved them through a queen excluder. Usually after swarming there is a queen. Queenlessness with no queen cells is rare. When it does happen, it is usually caused by the beekeeper destroying queen cells after the old queen has actually left.

I think you need have to decide what your plan for your bees is ...how many colonies do you want? Do you want honey this year? Either way once they have settled, combining is an option.
I was quite relieved to see this post, as I now know I'm not the only one in this position. I found well developed Queen cells in my single brood and a half hive last week and basically did an AS into a fresh brood box in the absence of a Nuc. This lot are doing OK. However, the main hive, very full, are now putting up new Queen cells so I have to act again today. In the Welsh Beekeeping leaflet "making increase" it states, in the case of a double brood "where brood, bees and stores are divided reasonably evenly between 2 boxes, increase can be made by simply separating them and it is possible to complete this procedure without finding the queen - the 2 boxes are placed on separate stands more than a yard apart and a week later there will be emergency QCs in the box without the queen. I am inclined to go this way and make up to new brood and a half hives, one with the Queen and one with QCs. Any comments welcome.
When I started out last year, I wish I had got a bigger shed!
basically did an AS into a fresh brood box in the absence of a Nuc.-


How could you carry out the age old Padgen method (the one that works for all) by using a nuc for the old queen? The standard deep box is the norm for a standard A/S. Nucs are for when you run out of kit, for serious increase or for cast swarms.

From a brood and a half, there will be too many flying bees to be accommodated in a standard sized nuc? Where do you put the supers from your parent colony? If you are not depleting the flying bees from the parent colony, you are running a high risk of a cast swarm unless only a single queen cell is allowed to be fully developed. Where, if the flying bees are squeezed into a nuc, are they going to store collected nectar?

You are simply asking for cast(s) by not following the well-proven Padgen procedure, particularly if not experienced. The process is well documented, although some people think they know better and try to change it on occasions. But the proper original series of manipulations are as good as any and are unambiguous. Yes, there are other methods and these can be utilised lin appropriate circumstances, but there is no need to try to re-invent the wheel. If it ain't broke, why try to fix it?

KISS principles are good where bees are concerned. I try to stick with them wherever possible as it makes beekeeping so easy.

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Reducing to 1 queen cell

There is also a matter of timing to consider. It's very very important.

If a swarm has just left and there is still young brood and eggs in the colony, it is not the right time to reduce to 1 queen cell. What you must do is remove ALL sealed queen cells. If you don't you will lose more swarms, especially as you've seen the colony is still well populated.

Between 6 and 8 days later is the time to reduce to 1 queen cell. At this point in time the bees will not be able to make new queen cells.
Didn't use a Nuc, used a standard deep box. Myself and experienced helper have been unable to locate the Queen, making it difficult to follow a standard procedure.
I partly agree with Chris B but I still think you should look earlier than this to select the queen cell you want ie unsealed with large grub in it. Mark the frame and try not to damage it when you go in and remove all the others 6 days after the swarm issued. Then you might need to shake the bees off brood combs to find them all especially those small hidden ones but NEVER shake the bees off the frame with the selected cell.

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