Triple swarming hive

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Stuart Pitches

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Looking for reassurance more than anything else I think.

I have 2 colonies in my north devon garden. Last year one of them swarmed 3 times and the original colony survived just fine. Everyone I talked to said that was pretty unusual.

In the last 6 weeks both of my colonies have swarmed 3 times each. Each time I collect them up as they always seem to end up at a neighbours and give them away to local keepers. All of the new colonies bar one have been totally fine, with the other one surviving but being a bit small.

I am hoping that this behaviour is due to them living in a pretty ideal environment and not anything else? I would be worried if my colonies kept leaving but it’s always splitting.

I’m a very light touch keeper, just letting them alone most of the time. I only take honey once or twice a year and never have to feed them. In 5 years I have only lost 1 colony.

Attached are a few swarm photos.
 

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Bees swarm. That is their natural behaviour. It can be aggravated if they do not have enough room in the colony. You say you are " light touch", that is probably the key with no swarm prevention procedures going on
 
Looking for reassurance more than anything else I think.

I have 2 colonies in my north devon garden. Last year one of them swarmed 3 times and the original colony survived just fine. Everyone I talked to said that was pretty unusual.

In the last 6 weeks both of my colonies have swarmed 3 times each. Each time I collect them up as they always seem to end up at a neighbours and give them away to local keepers. All of the new colonies bar one have been totally fine, with the other one surviving but being a bit small.

I am hoping that this behaviour is due to them living in a pretty ideal environment and not anything else? I would be worried if my colonies kept leaving but it’s always splitting.

I’m a very light touch keeper, just letting them alone most of the time. I only take honey once or twice a year and never have to feed them. In 5 years I have only lost 1 colony.

Attached are a few swarm photos.
No inspections in the brood chamber at all?….just supers on in the spring and then off when they’re full?

Do you use queen excluders?

Get much honey?
 
Bees swarm. That is their natural behaviour. It can be aggravated if they do not have enough room in the colony. You say you are " light touch", that is probably the key with no swarm prevention procedures going on
Thanks.

Neither of the supers are anywhere near full so there is space. I could always put another one on I guess.

So if I have enough colonies and enough honey, is there any reason I would want to prevent swarming?
 
No inspections in the brood chamber at all?….just supers on in the spring and then off when they’re full?

Do you use queen excluders?

Get much honey?
I go in maybe 3 times a year on average. I do exclude from the super. I never take a whole super at once. Maybe 8 frames max.

Honey wise we probably get a supers worth from each hive a year. Maybe a little less.
 
Thanks.

Neither of the supers are anywhere near full so there is space. I could always put another one on I guess.

So if I have enough colonies and enough honey, is there any reason I would want to prevent swarming?
If you don’t practice any swarm management your colonies will swarm three or maybe even more times. It’s what bees do.
Thanks. Good to know. For some reason I thought once a summer was the norm but that seems to be incorrect.
 
Swarms getting into roof spaces chimneys soffits and walls. Not much fun for the poor householder faced with that.
Good point. I catch just about every swarm and make a new colony but I see that I could get ahead of the curve and split them manually. Swarming bees are pretty cool though.
 
Thanks. Good to know. For some reason I thought once a summer was the norm but that seems to be incorrect.
The first swarm takes around half the bees and the queen, leaving behind any number of queen cells. If the colony is still strong the bees will guard the emerging virgins till they are ready to fly and another swarm will issue with another half if the colony. A third may go too before the bees deal with the spares and settle down with their choice. Sometimes bees swarm themselves to extinction leaving a colony too weak to survive the winter
 
The first swarm takes around half the bees and the queen, leaving behind any number of queen cells. If the colony is still strong the bees will guard the emerging virgins till they are ready to fly and another swarm will issue with another half if the colony. A third may go too before the bees deal with the spares and settle down with their choice. Sometimes bees swarm themselves to extinction leaving a colony too weak to survive the winter
Yes I was worried about that. We have kept one of the swarms and will combine later in the year if one of the other hives looks weak. Thanks.
 
I have 2 colonies in my north devon garden. Last year one of them swarmed 3 times and the original colony survived just fine. Everyone I talked to said that was pretty unusual
unless you reduced the queen cells down to one after the first swarm left, it's not at all unusual - in fact you are lucky they only cast twice.
 
So if I have enough colonies and enough honey, is there any reason I would want to prevent swarming?
it's anti social and can spoil other's enjoyment of their space, as well as costing them money, it can weaken the colony leading to it's collapse, just leaving them alone and not making regular interventions can have a negative effect on a colony. It can lead to spread of disease.
 
it's anti social and can spoil other's enjoyment of their space, as well as costing them money, it can weaken the colony leading to it's collapse, just leaving them alone and not making regular interventions can have a negative effect on a colony. It can lead to spread of disease.
Mind you, it's probably the only way the bees are coping with varroa
 
it's anti social and can spoil other's enjoyment of their space, as well as costing them money

This is a very important point. Getting someone to remove a swarm that has decided to make a new home in the roof of a house or a chimney where it causes a problem can cost well into four or even five figures. If any beekeeper told me that they never lost a swarm I'd be highly unlikely to believe them -- it's too easy to miss a well-hidden queen cell sometimes, but responsible management of our livestock means that all beekeepers should attempt to minimise swarming in my view and I don't think some BKAs running beginners' courses emphasise it anywhere near enough.

James
 
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