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Swarming conundrum

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DominicReady 

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I was given a swarm back in May this year, and it has since built up really well on a brood and a half. I even got about 13 jars of honey from them.

I opened the hive yesterday to feed them some more sugar syrup, and was really surprised at how many bees there are. Even before I opened the hive, there are around 20-30 bees coming and going at the entrance.

As it was a mild day here in Cornwall, I had a quick look at the half brood, and was surprised to find 6 queen cells - unsealed, but with royal jelly at the bottom. The queen cells weren't on the same frame, but were pretty much on three neighbouring frames. I was also surprised to see drone brood. However, I did see single eggs in cells, so it doesn't look like it's a laying worker.

I'm thinking this is either supercedure or swarming.
To back up the fact it's supercedure:
- the queen cells are all quite close together on neighbouring frames
- it's the wrong time of year to swarm(!)
- if my queen is laying drone brood, this might suggest she's running out of fertilised eggs

On the other hand, to support the theory they're about to swarm:
- the hive is really busy, and the bees are overflowing out of the hive when I open it
- the 3 used frames I had above the crown board for them to clean they've started to put nectar in
- I guess 6 queen cells is quite a lot if they really are just superceding the queen

Any thoughts on what's going on here??!

If it's supercedure, I'll obviously just leave them to it. However, if they really do want to swarm, I reckon doing an artificial swarm isn't appropriate, as it would make 2 weak colonies and they have no chance to build up for the Winter. In that case, maybe the best I can do is destroy all but 2 queen cells.

I'd be grateful for any thoughts /advice /questions to help me figure this out!

Thanks
 

Jim Lavie 

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You state "If it's supercedure, I'll obviously just leave them to it. However, if they really do want to swarm, I reckon doing an artificial swarm isn't appropriate, as it would make 2 weak colonies and they have no chance to build up for the Winter. In that case, maybe the best I can do is destroy all but 2 queen cells."
I agree, what can you do at this time of year? but I am no expert, what are they doing? Well I have a hive in a similar situation but don't know the answer, someone with more knowledge will be along. :)
 

jenkinsbrynmair 

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As you did have a poke around inside did you see the queen? could well have been emergency cells.
In the end, it's a bit late do do anything now - I'd just leave alone and wahtever happens will happen
 
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For my money -

Sounds like your queen has run out of steam :

Drone cells at this time of year ? Still a few single eggs around ? Building queen cells - are they in the middle of the frames ?

They've realised they have a problem with her and she's either dead or defunct and they are trying to replace her.

Nothing you can do at this time of year just let them get on with it. You may have a problem though as they will, almost certainly, be taking a virgin queen into winter ...
 

itma 

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Given the comment about refilling the frames above the crownboard, I'm wondering how much empty comb (for laying) is available in the hive?

I opened the hive yesterday to feed them some more sugar syrup...
It really doesn't sound as though that is needed, or a good idea.
 

DominicReady 

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For my money -

Sounds like your queen has run out of steam :

Drone cells at this time of year ? Still a few single eggs around ? Building queen cells - are they in the middle of the frames ?

They've realised they have a problem with her and she's either dead or defunct and they are trying to replace her.

Nothing you can do at this time of year just let them get on with it. You may have a problem though as they will, almost certainly, be taking a virgin queen into winter ...
Sorry for my delay in replying......

Didn't see the Queen, but I did see some individual eggs in cells. Agree, that it's probably best to leave the queen cells, and the colony alone now.Whatever happens, happens.

However.......I looked outside the hive today, and the colony still seems to be incredibly active. I'm talking 40+ bees at the entrance, either coming or going, and some bees are bringing back pollen. My initial impression was that they were in the process of starting to swarm, there were so many, with so much activity going on!

I already have a brood and a half. Should I consider adding another super? I'd imagine this is a no no, because the bees would then have a large hive to keep warm over the Winter.

I'm just perplexed as to how a colony that was collected as a swarm in June this year could be so strong it's spilling out of a brood + half in mid October!
 

jenkinsbrynmair 

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Too many - but not nearly enough
bees are very active at the moment - herer with us today dull, overcast, windy with the odd rain shower - yet walk past the apiary and itsa like a summers day with the noise from the hives - bees queueing up to get in to some hives. I'm afraid bees don't go by the calendar - they don't shut up shop on a given day just because someone calculated that's waht happened in previous years.
Don't panic - it's what bees do - too late to do much now anyway whatever some may try to tell you.
 

Erichalfbee 

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bees are very active at the moment - herer with us today dull, overcast, windy with the odd rain shower - yet walk past the apiary and itsa like a summers day with the noise from the hives - bees queueing up to get in to some hives
Hope mine don't mind queuing too much. As there were still lots of wasps about I left the entrances all at one beespace and went on holiday for two weeks . Naughty bee mummy :(
 

itma 

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Given the comment about refilling the frames above the crownboard, I'm wondering how much empty comb (for laying) is available in the hive?

It really doesn't sound as though {more feeding} is needed, or a good idea.
Ummm, how much laying space is there?

Lack of room for Q to lay (not least because of lots of Ivy nectar & your syrup spread everywhere to evaporate), plus a crowded hive, could well mean swarming.
There has been no answer on this.
**IF** I had, at this point in the season, seen a distinct shortage of laying space, but I had also seen eggs in a normal pattern with charged QCs, I'd have decided on consideration to tear down all the QCs (with eggs they could make more if they needed or were determined to) and I would have immediately given them a frame or two of empty drawn comb. If necessary, I'd have extracted some frames to get the empty comb and provide some new laying space instantly.

My thinking is that if you were to lose a swarm, that would be terminal for this colony. So its worth taking a small risk to stop a catastrophe.
The only risk is if those were worker-laid eggs, which sounds highly unlikely given what you say about the colony.
If they are trying supercedure, tough, it won't work now and they are doomed if they need a supercedure - whatever you do, short of sourcing a replacement Q from elsewhere.

I collected a swarm less than 3 weeks ago, and have heard of another (elsewhere in Kent) since then.
The bees don't always know best.
Swarming at this time of the year is perfectly possible.
And suicidal. (Unless you managed to catch the swarm.)
 
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Didn't see the Queen, but I did see some individual eggs in cells. Agree, that it's probably best to leave the queen cells, and the colony alone now.Whatever happens, happens.

Queen still laying but not much then ... and some drone cells ? I still think she's running out of steam ..

However.......I looked outside the hive today, and the colony still seems to be incredibly active. I'm talking 40+ bees at the entrance, either coming or going, and some bees are bringing back pollen. My initial impression was that they were in the process of starting to swarm, there were so many, with so much activity going on!


Mine were a swarm on 1st June ... now on 12 No. 14x12 frames and they hang out of the entrance as well ... mine are very busy today, even in the rain this morning bringing buckets of pollen in ..
..

I already have a brood and a half. Should I consider adding another super? I'd imagine this is a no no, because the bees would then have a large hive to keep warm over the Winter.

No .. don't add a super.


I'm just perplexed as to how a colony that was collected as a swarm in June this year could be so strong it's spilling out of a brood + half in mid October!


I'm not surprised ... swarms are conditioned to build up quickly ... they swarm to reproduce colonies ... think about it in the wild - they only have a limited time to get established. As well, you often find that a swarm queen will get supereceded quite soon after swarming (Again, presumably survival instinct ... new fresh queen ?) No doubt someone will disagree ...


You've got quite a few scenarios but the general consensus appears that there's not a lot you can do about it ... whatever it is.

ITMA sound's like he might be on the money though ...... Best of luck.
 

REDWOOD 

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Probably one of the downfalls of getting a free swarm is they are swarmy bees, Not much you can do now, if it is supersedure all well and good with drone brood and all you need now is a fine warm day
 

Itchy 

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Probably one of the downfalls of getting a free swarm is they are swarmy bees, Not much you can do now, if it is supersedure all well and good with drone brood and all you need now is a fine warm day
Virgin queen wont mate with drones from her own hive will she?
 

itma 

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The Queen won't have a say in it whatever drones gets there first hay ho
Quite, however inbreeding too close leads directly to a high proportion of the brood failing, not so much because of genetic traits, but because of the genetics not working out properly. Anyway, leads to very open 'pepperpot' brood, rather than near-solid slabs.
I'm sure someone will be along shortly to explain about Alleles and the like, but fundamentally, its not a good thing to happen.
 

jenkinsbrynmair 

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You must be thinking of Hap Lloyd and Dip Lloyd. Wrexham. Well, certainly doesn't do them any good.
Sounds a bit like that useless midfielder from North Wales now playing for Grimsby - can't remember his first name - surname is Ap Hazard
 

Itchy 

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My query relates to there being drone cells as well as supercedure cells, are the drones really only for the benefit of any other hives that maybe upgrading the queen?
 
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My query relates to there being drone cells as well as supercedure cells, are the drones really only for the benefit of any other hives that maybe upgrading the queen?
Itchy, bless you, hit the books ... Queens and drones fly to DCA's - Drone Congregation Areas - which can be quite a distance from the hives .. many virgin queens and many drones get together in these areas which are located in areas where there are specific landmarks or topology ... nobody really knows what locates the DCA's - there are a number of theories. But, they stay the same from year to year and some may be centuries old. Anyway, this ensures that drones from different colonies mate with queens from different colonies - thus keeping the gene pool sufficiently randomized to prevent inbreeding. You need to read up about the genetics of Diploid/Haploid species to grasp why this is so important.

There is evidence that queens mate with those drones that are able to fly the highest ... again, natures way of selecting the fittest gene pool.

So ... the answer to your statement above is YES ... drones from one hive will not usually mate with the queen from the same hive.

It's a bit more complex than this synsopsis but you should get the gist.
 
T

Tom Bick 

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Assuming the drone brood in the hive is the only drones in the hive they will have no chance of mating with queens from this hive or any other hive.
 

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