Swarm, no brood, virgin, wha'?

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JonnyPicklechin 

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First inspection of a packed hive 2-3 weeks ago, huge activity, tons of sealed and OB. Then the weather came and there was no inspection. I was planning Monday, yesterday.

Then whilst fixing bikes in the garden, a swarm, I watched it initiate. I even waited quizzically at the entrance to see if I could see the queen. I had seen her at the previous inspection, a blue, clipped queen. I was relaxed as was expecting them to fall somewhere as the queen's attempted aeronautics came to nothing, but was surprised when the swirling mass alighted on a camellia 15 feet from the hive. I have since collected the cluster and rehoused it, a caste swarm size covering about 3 frames in the NUC.

I wondered then what had happened. I had not seen any QCs in the hive 2 weeks ago. I have not yet looked into the captured swarm figuring I need to let it settle down a bit, obviously itching to look for whatever queen they have, but expecting a fleet footed virgin.

The strangest thing is that going into the original hive I was expecting to see some sealed brood. I know a laying queen goes off lay before the swarm but I am scratching my head given that this was not a prime swarm, the queen was clipped and there is no real sign of any brood. Finally, I did not see any opened, spent, queen cells. To be honest I did not spend a great deal of time looking so there may very well be one or two there... Had she been superseded? If so, why the swarm? Co-incidence that a supersedure and swarm can happen at the same time?

Could anyone can shed any light.
 
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Bazzer 

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Have you interupted an orientation flight of a virgin queen? Often a lot of bees initially go out with her and then return back to the colony - how long after they emerged did you collect them?
 

domino 

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I've got something similar. Two hives had brood, now none. They seem happy, at the moment I'm assuming they are off lay - can't see them swarming now. I'll check next week, lend them a frame of eggs, if they try and raise queens I'll unite.

Can't see any queens getting mated this time of year.
 

StephenT 

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Can't see any queens getting mated this time of year.
No shortage of drones around here for a few weeks now. And the Swifts haven't arrived yet to eat the mating queen.
 

Murox 

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First inspection of a packed hive 2-3 weeks ago, huge activity, tons of sealed and OB. Then the weather came and there was no inspection. I was planning Monday, yesterday.

Then whilst fixing bikes in the garden, a swarm, I watched it initiate. I even waited quizzically at the entrance to see if I could see the queen. I had seen her at the previous inspection, a blue, clipped queen. I was relaxed as was expecting them to fall somewhere as the queen's attempted aeronautics came to nothing, but was surprised when the swirling mass alighted on a camellia 15 feet from the hive. I have since collected the cluster and rehoused it, a caste swarm size covering about 3 frames in the NUC.

I wondered then what had happened. I had not seen any QCs in the hive 2 weeks ago. I have not yet looked into the captured swarm figuring I need to let it settle down a bit, obviously itching to look for whatever queen they have, but expecting a fleet footed virgin.

The strangest thing is that going into the original hive I was expecting to see some sealed brood. I know a laying queen goes off lay before the swarm but I am scratching my head given that this was not a prime swarm, the queen was clipped and there is no real sign of any brood. Finally, I did not see any opened, spent, queen cells. To be honest I did not spend a great deal of time looking so there may very well be one or two there... Had she been superseded? If so, why the swarm? Co-incidence that a supersedure and swarm can happen at the same time?

Could anyone can shed any light.
I reckon you have 'missed' something, will be interesting to discover which queen is in the "swarm" and which is in the hive.
 

StephenT 

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Are you sure? The sand martins have just returned up here!
Yep. They normally arrive the first week of May to savour the smog. There's a nesting site near us and haven’t seen any in the sky yet.
 

JonnyPicklechin 

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Thanks Murox for getting back on topic. Seems there is a missing clue in this. I'll check the swarm today and see if I can see a queen.

I think ill get a frame of eggs in the original also and see if they start to make an emergency QC. I suppose a question to experts might be have they ever experienced colony swarm and leave no queen or QCs?
 

madasafish 

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Sometimes bees abscond but then they leave nothing behind except a few dead bees.
 

Antipodes 

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First inspection of a packed hive 2-3 weeks ago, huge activity, tons of sealed and OB. Then the weather came and there was no inspection. I was planning Monday, yesterday.

Then whilst fixing bikes in the garden, a swarm, I watched it initiate. I even waited quizzically at the entrance to see if I could see the queen. I had seen her at the previous inspection, a blue, clipped queen. I was relaxed as was expecting them to fall somewhere as the queen's attempted aeronautics came to nothing, but was surprised when the swirling mass alighted on a camellia 15 feet from the hive. I have since collected the cluster and rehoused it, a caste swarm size covering about 3 frames in the NUC.

I wondered then what had happened. I had not seen any QCs in the hive 2 weeks ago. I have not yet looked into the captured swarm figuring I need to let it settle down a bit, obviously itching to look for whatever queen they have, but expecting a fleet footed virgin.

The strangest thing is that going into the original hive I was expecting to see some sealed brood. I know a laying queen goes off lay before the swarm but I am scratching my head given that this was not a prime swarm, the queen was clipped and there is no real sign of any brood. Finally, I did not see any opened, spent, queen cells. To be honest I did not spend a great deal of time looking so there may very well be one or two there... Had she been superseded? If so, why the swarm? Co-incidence that a supersedure and swarm can happen at the same time?

Could anyone can shed any light.
I'm thinking virgin queen with the swarm in the camellia from a supersedure cell that you missed.
Original blue marked queen still in the hive, and possibly also another virgin queen or capped supercedure cell.
 

JonnyPicklechin 

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I searched the captured swarm and sure enough saw the VQ...

I reckon you might be right about the original hive. The blue queen has probably just gone right off lay on swarm issue rules. I was thinking to look again more carefully. If I find her, remove her and put her in a NUC. I don't expect to look and find a VQ in such a busy hive.

After the blue queen search, whether positive or not, It might be a good idea to put a test frame of eggs / OB in there and see if they don't make a QC just in case it has gone weirdly queen-less, right?
 

Antipodes 

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I searched the captured swarm and sure enough saw the VQ...

I reckon you might be right about the original hive. The blue queen has probably just gone right off lay on swarm issue rules. I was thinking to look again more carefully. If I find her, remove her and put her in a NUC. I don't expect to look and find a VQ in such a busy hive.

After the blue queen search, whether positive or not, It might be a good idea to put a test frame of eggs / OB in there and see if they don't make a QC just in case it has gone weirdly queen-less, right?
I don't think it would hurt, as long as it has no disease. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a virgin in there, and you might see her anyhow.
 

JonnyPicklechin 

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So my test frame had 6 qcs on it within 24 hours...so ive added a caged mated queen.

So they swarmed with no queen left or maybe they attempted a swarm and somehow the clipped queen came back, they casted and she perished?

Another one for experience.
 

jeff33 

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First inspection of a packed hive 2-3 weeks ago, huge activity, tons of sealed and OB. Then the weather came and there was no inspection. I was planning Monday, yesterday.

Then whilst fixing bikes in the garden, a swarm, I watched it initiate. I even waited quizzically at the entrance to see if I could see the queen. I had seen her at the previous inspection, a blue, clipped queen. I was relaxed as was expecting them to fall somewhere as the queen's attempted aeronautics came to nothing, but was surprised when the swirling mass alighted on a camellia 15 feet from the hive. I have since collected the cluster and rehoused it, a caste swarm size covering about 3 frames in the NUC.

I wondered then what had happened. I had not seen any QCs in the hive 2 weeks ago. I have not yet looked into the captured swarm figuring I need to let it settle down a bit, obviously itching to look for whatever queen they have, but expecting a fleet footed virgin.

The strangest thing is that going into the original hive I was expecting to see some sealed brood. I know a laying queen goes off lay before the swarm but I am scratching my head given that this was not a prime swarm, the queen was clipped and there is no real sign of any brood. Finally, I did not see any opened, spent, queen cells. To be honest I did not spend a great deal of time looking so there may very well be one or two there... Had she been superseded? If so, why the swarm? Co-incidence that a supersedure and swarm can happen at the same time?

Could anyone can shed any light.
Pure speculation but it could be a prime swarm that failed first time and returned when your clipped queen slumped to the ground and swarmed again with the first virgin? You sometimes get just 1 or 2 cells when they swarm. Last year one of my hives made 1 cell only and swarmed when the virgin emerged.
 

jenkinsbrynmair 

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So my test frame had 6 qcs on it within 24 hours...so ive added a caged mated queen.

So they swarmed with no queen left or maybe they attempted a swarm and somehow the clipped queen came back, they casted and she perished?

Another one for experience.
Most probably they swarmed with a clipped queen, she crashed and burned into the nearby undergrowth. The swarm would then have returned to the hive, only to leave with the first virgin to emerge - thus a prime swarm headed by a virgin. It's no mystery, it's what usually happens.
Clipping a queen does not stop swarming, it just gives you a few extra days to sort out the mess with limited damage - usually to go in after they swarmed and returned (sans queen) and to remove all the queen cells bar one to ensure they don't swarm with a virgin.
 
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