Archive for the ‘Swarming’ Category

Queen Cell

I haven’t written much about my bees this summer because, well…. there really hasn’t been much to write about! It was a very dry Spring and early Summer but it really didn’t seem to affect the bees much. They seemed to find enough pollen and nectar from the native trees and plants that could withstand the drought, and being in a suburban neighborhood, there were also many garden flowers and fruit trees that kept them happy,  and the queen kept the hive full of larvae . I checked the hive every couple of weeks in early summer looking for signs of swarm development, but with the drought, it appeared that the hive was in “maintenance mode”…. the newly hatched bees simply replaced the dead workers and the colony didn’t grow much.  I decided to encourage them to split by creating a crowded condition.  I took out two bars of filled honeycomb and pushed the divider board right up to the last comb. In this way, I hoped the bees would get the hint, assume they were outgrowing their hive box and create some new queens. Not much luck  Then the annual monsoon rains came .  Starting mid July we have had quite a lot of rain… some of it very heavy causing a lot of flood damage.  In a couple weeks everything turned green and plants began to bloom again, and it’s been that way through August.  That must have been the trigger.  I did my weekly check of the hive and to my delight, I found a gigantic queen cell.  Then another!  And another.  I had to act quickly and split the hive.  Sensing the imminent arrival of a new queen, half of the workers will usher the old queen out of the hive and look for a new home, leaving the queen larvae and the other half of the colony behind. ( there can only be one queen to a hive) They will swarm on a nearby branch, or pole, or house while the search party looks for a suitable new home for the queen. To prevent this from happening, and lose half of my bees, I had to locate the queen and move her to another empty hive along with a large number of developing larvae ) the brood) and workers to assist her in her queenly duties ( laying more eggs)  I got very anxious when after a couple passes through the hive, inspecting each comb for the queen, I couldn’t locate her.  Had the hive already swarmed? No… there were too many bees in the colony…. I just had to find the queen!  After about 15 minutes I found her, and placed the comb she was on into the empty hive box along with some bars of honey, brood, pollen and lots of workers.

I closed up both hive boxes and now I will await the outcome.  The old queen and workers have been tricked into thinking they just swarmed…. there is plenty of room for them to expand in their new hive box.  The queen larvae in the original hive will continue their development and the first queen to emerge will then kill her rivals.  After about a week, her workers will taker her out of the hive for her mating flight, where she will mate with up to a dozen drones, return to her hive and reign supreme…. building her new colony.

Will this be successful?  With the old queen and her workers accept the new hive box that I  put them in?

Will the new queen hatch out successfully and have a successful mating flight?

Will the new queen return to her hive box and begin to develop a strong colony of workers?

Stay tuned!


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Spring is swarm season. The queen bee has been busy laying eggs for the past couple months now, and in many hives, it’s beginning to get really crowded.  When the bees sense that they are running out of room, they create three or four queen cells and once they see that the new queen larvae are doing well, the old queen and half the hive simply leave and look for a new home. After they leave the hive they will find a spot to hang out until the scouts have found a suitable cavity  to build a new hive in.  And that is a swarm. Swarm
Yesterday a friend of mine who will was doing some work in a public garden looked over and saw this swarm of bees.  She called me up and asked if I could capture the swarm…. “Oh yes… I’ll be right over”.    OK…. I must admit. I had never done this before, but I had read all about it…. Now I was going to do it.  Lucky for me the swarm was in a honeysuckle bush and easy to get to.  I put a large box underneath the swarm and then gave branch a good shake.
Box under swarm

The entire ball of bees just dropped into the box. .  I collected more bees off the branch by brushing them off into a bucket, then shaking them into the box. I lightly closed the flaps of the box and waited. I saw that the bees were flying to the box and crawling under the flaps into the box!  That’s when I knew that the queen was in the box as well.

Bees in boxI taped up the box, drove home and gently shook them into my empty hive. I added two bars of empty honeycomb that I had saved from last year, and a bag of sugar water to give them some food to eat. Then I closed up the hive.  I was just amazed at how calm and non-aggressive they were throughout the whole ordeal. The next morning, I checked on them and they were just fine. It was if they had always been there.  I will check on them in three or four days to see how the queen is doing….. she should be laying eggs and starting up a brand new hive!


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