Tag Archives: swarm


At this time I have had 8 swarms as of 4/7/16. I have caught 5. While out of town I call others to come and they got 2. The 8th seemed to know where they were going and escaped successfully. I now have 10 hives.
RESPONSE- sounds like a lot of swarms. Some years the bees just want to reproduce

Spring Swarms & Survey Count

I have 2 additional hives, due to swarming this spring. They swarmed the end of April. I don’t know if this is useful to you, but thought I would mention it.

RESPONSE – We will hopefully capture this in our next season’s survey, if you would return and provide information next spring. . Our year is April to April. We have had several April swarms this year – more than normal it seems. Trust the colonies do OK.

Weak Swarm Hives

Most significant loss was 3 weak swarm hives to yellow jackets in September – should have requeened. Thanks for conducting the survey!
RESPONSE – Weaker colonies are always more vulnerable. And what a great yellow jacket year it was (for them) – hopefully they will have smaller populations and fewer successful nests this coming fall.

Do “tiny” hives count?

The second swarm we caught was *tiny* so we did not expect it to survive winter, but thought we would give it a chance. Not sure that it should really count in statistics? Also, I think you might have a typo in section 3. It asks for how many colonies we had going into fall 2014, coming out in 2015. Shouldn’t that be 2015/2016? Thanks for doing this!

RESPONSE: First question of section 3 asks how many overwinter colonies from 2014 (so it was a colony overwintered in fall of 2015, i.e. not a nuc or package started in 2015) survived until 2016. It is an awkward wording so we will make it better for next survey year survey.  A tiny or large swarm – we are not discriminating on basis of size.

?? “mite bomb” ??

I treated only 1 hive with oxalic acid. They absconded 2 weeks later. The others had very high mite levels and lots of DWV. 2 queens from — heading splits died with their colonies during cold snap in Dec. with lots of food on the next bar (both TBH). Langstroth hive from a nuc from —– died between Jan and Feb. The only hive that survived well was headed by a swarm queen from another beekeeper. The other surviving hive is alive but puny.

RESPONSE: I am unsure that the Oxalic acid or the high mite numbers caused the bees to abscond in your hive. Oxalic acid ONLY kills mites on the adult bee bodies – if there was a lot of brood when you used the oxalic, all those mites would have survived since it does not penetrate cell cappings. Splits (see report from last year) have heavy losses – depends on the time of year the splits were taken and what was done to try to get them up to speed to survive winter.  It is a good idea to try different stocks. You may have had a colony that was a “mite bomb,” a colony with lots of mites and they spread to your other colonies and thus you did not have good survival, despite the different stocks.   I hope you small survivor colony is progressing well.


Feeding: I fed fondant during winter (it is soft and can be immediately consumed by bees) in the weight of honey, I included 10 shallow frames of comb honey. I gave away or sold swarms and splits which were not included in the count of my hives.

RESPONSE: Fondant is a good, but more expensive, source of sugar for bees. You had good results with it. On our survey giving away or selling hives (nucs) is not included. We are looking for reports on activity during the overwintering period.

Early spring swarming altering counts?

On section 11: I wanted to reply 3-4 colonies, based on my current hives swarming. Went from 2-3 hives due to a swarm from one of my hives this April 2016. Questions about packages of bees vs. swarms of bees might be of use in terms of overwintering, Queen health and survival. With regard to varroa control, allowing for natural swarming to break the mite cycle might be an informative category. In terms of learning beekeeping, my best source has been the online Warre listserv. Might want to include such a category (yahoo groups) in your questions. Thanks so much for doing this! I look forward to seeing the results.

RESPONSE: That you for your comments although we do get at many of them within survey questions.  Allowing annual swarming might be a good response option to split out. I think online sources should be an option – will see about adding it & we do have category other which is where you would state this. We will transfer it from here this year.

Great “Newbee” Questions

This year is my first year having bees on my own-I am so excited! I had a couple questions that I am sure are total newb ones:

Question 1 – Is it better to purchase a new colony or to bait a swarm?

Dewey’s response – When starting, it is better to know you will have a colony, and when it will arrive, so purchasing a package/nuc/established colony is the surest way to get started. You can still seek to bait a swarm – and if one comes to the trap you can always bolster your purchased colony with the captured swarm. You won’t need a complete extra hive but will need an extra box with frames to hold the swarm. Use a sheet of newspaper to unite the swarm with the purchase or if you feel really confident manage the new colony and the trapped swarm as two colonies. You can still plan to unite them later in the fall.

New colonies, whatever their origin, are initially smaller and a joy to inspect but they also have reduced chance of successfully overwintering. Uniting helps improve chances of overwintering.

Question 2 – What are your thoughts on buying used bee equipment?

Dewey’s response – The purchase of used bee equipment entails some risk but has some advantages for establishing a new colony (whether a package, a colony split or a swarm capture). If a nuc is purchased as the starter hive, you are in fact purchasing used be equipment – the frames they occupy at least and, if a wooden nuc box it too may have been previously used.

Our two major concerns with used equipment

  1. A) Is it standard with your existing equipment or frames and boxes you will be purchasing? Is it in good shape? How can you tell? – well there is the rub.
  2. B) The second major concern is if are you buying someone else’s problem? Bees with heavy mite population, if used equipment includes the bees, or disease. Of the diseases, most will be cured by good weather and good bees but one disease, American Foulbrood (AFB), will not cure itself and could potentially contaminate your equipment and the equipment of neighboring beekeepers. Even if you don’t think you have neighbors with bees, you do. You can google AFB and get lots of information but until you have seen AFB scale and can recognize you most likely will miss it.

There is used equipment, and then there is used equipment. Equipment with bees is the greatest risk, equipment containing frames that still have comb or ruminants of comb is next in riskiness and if your purchase is of clean boxes, covers, and frames without any comb the risk is very minimal. Brush away cobwebs, any residue and then use new foundation for the frames. No need to seek to sterilize as anything we can do will just be a lot of work for little gain.

If in doubt on whether the equipment is standard size or there could be AFB scale ask an expert to check it out or bring one or two frames with comb, not all of them, to your next local bee meeting and get opinions from others at the meeting. Be prepared to get more than one opinion that may not all agree.

Welcome to the beekeeping family. We wish you great luck in the season ahead!

2015 Survey Q & A – Tracking a “colony” in your apairy over the year

Q – So hard to track what a “colony” is as I split and reunite several colonies per year, or unite overwintered colonies or divisions with swarms, etc.

A – Thank you for doing a survey. YES it is hard to track one colony as we do many manipulations – sometimes they do not fit into neat checked boxes. I am seeking in the survey how many boxes did you have going into winter (OCT) and how many boxes did you have this spring before dividing, adding swarms etc. It is a snapshot in time.
Sorry the survey did not really help you define what is going on into the easy to check boxes. We seek to make the survey more effective each year. Appreciate your comments.

2015 Survey Q & A – Swarming

Q-My hive swarmed in late March if that is of any interest to you. A few days after that swarm, there was another swarm that landed on the exact same place on my house as the first one. Both were collected and homed in new hives off site with friends. Both are doing well.

A –This survey is getting at losses overwinter. Early swarming means a strong colony that survived. It is not unusual that the swarms landed on the same spot – they do leave powerful odor clues behind. Good to hear you have captured them and they are in hives – we now need to hope the mating of the virgin queens (in original hive and in one of the two swarms -the 2nd most likely) goes well (weather adequate for flight and enough drones in neighboring colonies for the virgin to mate with). It is very early for matings – hope for the best.