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Author Topic: Long hives swarming before honey flow.  (Read 1190 times)

Offline Bob Wilson

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Long hives swarming before honey flow.
« on: March 22, 2021, 09:13:57 am »
Last year my long langstroth hive swarmed before the honey flow. This year I worked hard to put off swarming by constantly adding empty, foundationless frames within  broodnest, thereby keeping it open.
Yesterday, just as our honey flow is about to begin (April-May), one of my long langstroth colonies swarmed, and the other two have queen cells already being filled with jelly.
Question 1.
Is this the best I can do, at this point?
Hive A- Found queen cells, but not the queen. I created two nucs with queen cells, one for me and one for a friend. It's a good, clean, gentle hive.
Hive B- Found the Queen and queen cells. I created a nuc, taking the Queen with it, and moved it to a different spot in the yard (simulating a swarm, I hope). Also I created a 2nd nuc with queen cells for that same friend.
Hive C- It already swarmed, so I left it alone. I didn't even go into it. It was a dirty, cranky colony anyway. I will be good to have a new queen.
Question 2.
Did the colonies swarm because they had too large of a poplulation, IN SPITE OF my faithfully adding empty frames within the broodnest, or did the colonies swarm because they had too large of a poplulation, BECAUSE OF my faithfully adding empty frames within the broodnest?
They each had around 17-20 deep frames with brood on them (Some were partial frames). There were a lot of bees in each hive.
But that means to put off swarming, I not only have to keep the broodnest open, but I have to also constantly knock back the population by creating nucs.
In other words, instead of inserting empty frames between brood frames, I have to REPLACE brood frames with empty frames.
I don't have room to keep creating nucs. I live in a subdivision. Just how many nucs do you create off each hive in the spring to keep the population from maxing/swarming before the honey flow kicks in? Does every beek have this issue with every hive, the balance between having enough space, but not allowing the population to get too big?

Offline Ben Framed

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Re: Long hives swarming before honey flow.
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2021, 10:48:57 am »
Bob you are correct in your idea of not wanting your bees to swarm as the ideal situation is to have the hive peaked out or almost peaked out just as the big flow hits. That way the bees can take full advantage, with a large workforce bringing in nectar for maximum honey production. I do not know much about long hives but I will insert a video by Bob Binnie , (in case you have not seen it), which explains the science of equalizing our hives before the main flow to help prevent the problems you are having.  I hope it helps you and others.

For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

Offline The15thMember

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Re: Long hives swarming before honey flow.
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2021, 11:16:33 am »
I'm sure others will respond with strategies to prevent swarming but not grow a yard.  I am approaching this point, although I'm not quite there yet, but I'm also curious to know some answers to these questions.  I think something that is helpful to remember though, is that just giving bees space won't always prevent swarming.  It's spring and healthy colonies are desirous to reproduce, and with colonies like this there may come a point where no amount of adding space will discourage a colony from throwing up queen cells.  So just because they are swarming even though you are giving them space, doesn't necessarily mean you are doing something wrong, Bob.  In fact the opposite is sort of true, your colonies are healthy and strong enough to reproduce, which is a good thing, just an inconvenience for you and your neighbors.  Hopefully more experienced members will respond with some concrete advice.     
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Offline Ben Framed

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Re: Long hives swarming before honey flow.
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2021, 12:22:06 pm »
Two things bees do is multiply and make honey. 😊 I have tried something a little different from my first previous seasons as I left empty combs on top. The bees are already working it in my zone. That reasoning was for another purpose but that may also help in swarm prevention to some extent? We will see. I have not found queen cells. BUT; As Mr Honey pump explained in yet even another topic, I should not basically expect to see queen cups until the drones in these hives are of proper aged  so, I will learn more when the drones are of age and how much this extra space helped. It may not help much since Bob did all he could even by adding extra space. So again as Don Kuchenmeister says Bees make honey and multiply. I suppose Bob could split as he did and re-introduce back to the original hive just before the big flow hits? Sell or give away the extra queen? Or simply sell the nucs?
For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: Long hives swarming before honey flow.
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2021, 02:29:43 pm »
Benframed,
I have seen that Binnie video. The bad thing is that in February I did just as he suggested and equalized resources from the gangbuster hive into the two weaker hives...which then made them bigger and now they have made queen cells too. (A good video, though)

15Member,
I am know how you feel. Why do bees swarm?
1. BROODNEST CONJESTION- I opened up the nest so the queen could lay, but the mass of bees in the back 15 deep frames had to crawl though the first 15 frames (broodnest) closest to the entrance to get out. Perhaps it wasn't queen laying congestion so much as entrance movement and these long boxes needing a back entrance. Do standard hives with three deep boxes have a bottom entrance AND and top entrance?
2. VENTILATION- I tend to think that a 4X.5 inch entrance is good all year, especially in March. Bees move air in their hives. I have beespace bottom, sides, and top of the frames, but the boxes are four feet long. Maybe I need to put a vent hole in the back.
3. CRITICAL MASS- Just too large of a population coming into the honey flow, even with an open broodnest.
4. REPRODUCTIVE URGE- My bees only care about themselves, not about me or my wants. Selfish little buggers.

Offline Ben Framed

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Re: Long hives swarming before honey flow.
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2021, 02:46:59 pm »
> Benframed,
I have seen that Binnie video. The bad thing is that in February I did just as he suggested and equalized resources from the gangbuster hive into the two weaker hives...which then made them bigger and now they have made queen cells too. (A good video, though)

Wow Bob the good news is you may have accidentally found yourself to be a bee raising champion!  All I can say is keep up the good work and sell those Nucs!
 :wink:
For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

Offline Ben Framed

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Re: Long hives swarming before honey flow.
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2021, 03:20:09 pm »
I'm sure others will respond with strategies to prevent swarming but not grow a yard.  I am approaching this point, although I'm not quite there yet, but I'm also curious to know some answers to these questions.  I think something that is helpful to remember though, is that just giving bees space won't always prevent swarming.  It's spring and healthy colonies are desirous to reproduce, and with colonies like this there may come a point where no amount of adding space will discourage a colony from throwing up queen cells.  So just because they are swarming even though you are giving them space, doesn't necessarily mean you are doing something wrong, Bob. In fact the opposite is sort of true, your colonies are healthy and strong enough to reproduce, which is a good thing, just an inconvenience for you and your neighbors.  Hopefully more experienced members will respond with some concrete advice.     


Good analysis Member... I think you are right his hives are healthy and robust.
For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

Online Acebird

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Re: Long hives swarming before honey flow.
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2021, 06:28:39 pm »
In fact the opposite is sort of true, your colonies are healthy and strong enough to reproduce,
Are they?  I think some bees are horn toads and do foolish things.  Beekeepers for hundreds of years have been breeding bees to be gentle, make honey, and not swarm.  All natural instincts are not good for the beekeeper and sometimes not good for the bees.  Bees that swarm, swarm, swarm are destined to die off but the genetics carry on.
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Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: Long hives swarming before honey flow.
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2021, 07:17:29 pm »
It is true that all these colonies came from the same hive that swarmed several times last year, the hive which itself I caught as a feral swarm.
But I tend to think my swarming complaints are just an excuse for still not understanding how to manage them.

Offline The15thMember

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Re: Long hives swarming before honey flow.
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2021, 09:04:04 pm »
1. BROODNEST CONJESTION- I opened up the nest so the queen could lay, but the mass of bees in the back 15 deep frames had to crawl though the first 15 frames (broodnest) closest to the entrance to get out. Perhaps it wasn't queen laying congestion so much as entrance movement and these long boxes needing a back entrance. Do standard hives with three deep boxes have a bottom entrance AND and top entrance?
2. VENTILATION- I tend to think that a 4X.5 inch entrance is good all year, especially in March. Bees move air in their hives. I have beespace bottom, sides, and top of the frames, but the boxes are four feet long. Maybe I need to put a vent hole in the back.
1. I run all mediums, but even when my hives are 6 or 7 boxes tall I only have a bottom entrance.
2. I do have a lot of ventilation in my hives.  This is a topic of much debate, since obviously bees in the wild don't have much ventilation at all in most instances, but I have my entrances fully open in the summer, and I use screened bottom boards and inner covers.  If I don't, I have too much mold trouble.  Right now I've got the 4 inch openings on the entrance reducers and solid covers on, but I do have the bottom boards opened.  As far as how that affects swarming, I have no idea.

In fact the opposite is sort of true, your colonies are healthy and strong enough to reproduce,
Are they?  I think some bees are horn toads and do foolish things.  Beekeepers for hundreds of years have been breeding bees to be gentle, make honey, and not swarm.  All natural instincts are not good for the beekeeper and sometimes not good for the bees.  Bees that swarm, swarm, swarm are destined to die off but the genetics carry on.
It is true that all these colonies came from the same hive that swarmed several times last year, the hive which itself I caught as a feral swarm.
But I tend to think my swarming complaints are just an excuse for still not understanding how to manage them.
Obviously it would be important in a subdivision to try and propagate bees that are minimal swarmers, for your ease of management and the comfort of your neighbors.  No one wants bees that swarm themselves to death every year.  All I meant was that swarming is a normal process for bees, and that everyone has to work against the grain to deal with it, especially when colonies come off the winter strong.   
I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led.  And through the air, I am she that walks unseen.

Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: Long hives swarming before honey flow.
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2021, 06:46:36 am »
I agree, 15Member. Thanks for the comments. They help.
Maybe all three boxes swarmed because they are all genetically from the same first queen I caught.
Maybe the the broodnest had to much traffic to get out the entrance.
Maybe they just all hit a critical mass of population.
It's hard for a junior beek like me to decipher. I will add this situation to my overall beekeeping continued education.

Online Acebird

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Re: Long hives swarming before honey flow.
« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2021, 08:28:33 am »
But I tend to think my swarming complaints are just an excuse for still not understanding how to manage them.
I don't think so Bob.  We all started with no experience and most with little knowledge.  I still don't know much.  You have been changing what you do yet the results are still the same on all your hives.  The only thing I think you could try is a Lang hive where there is more experience to draw from.  Maybe just start one hive while you rustle with the others.
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Offline cao

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Re: Long hives swarming before honey flow.
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2021, 12:10:20 pm »
The ultimate goal of most of the life on earth is to survive and multiply.  Your bees survived through winter and have built up to a point that they feel they have enough excess to go and multiply.  The timing of it before the flow in your area will benefit the swarm by having a good food supply to build up for winter.  And the brood break in the main colony will free up a lot of the nurse bees to do other tasks and increases the field bee numbers.  This should increase the honey stores for the original hive.  This is the basic explanation to what is going on.  How to stop them from swarming?  I think you have done what you could as far as giving them space to grow.  The problem with your bees is that urge to multiply.  That is not a bad thing as long as they only swarm once and not continue to throw afterswarms until nothing left.  In a good year it can be difficult to prevent swarming whereas in a bad year where the bees are struggling, they tend to stay at home and not swarm. 

To prevent them from swarming in the future you may have to pull the queen and some bees to simulate a swarm(before they decide to).  Putting them in a nuc until your main hive gets a laying queen then selling of giving away the nuc.  That may be the only way to stay with 3 hives.  I always tell new beekeepers that you can't expect to have a certain number of hives.  You have a range of hives, low to high.  If on wants 5, then expect to have a range of 2-10 hives.  When you have excess you can sell them.  When you have a deficit you split to make up the difference.


Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: Long hives swarming before honey flow.
« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2021, 11:15:06 pm »
Thanks Cao. Much appreciated.

Online Acebird

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Re: Long hives swarming before honey flow.
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2021, 08:26:45 am »
I always tell new beekeepers that you can't expect to have a certain number of hives.
Yup
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