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Discussion Starter #1
Howdy
I'm dealing with an unexpected swarm situation and am seeking quick advice. I also posted this question on another board but am trying to get as many angles as I can.

I have two first year hives going. I inspected Sunday and saw that one hive had both deeps filled up but the super on top (that had been in place for three weeks or so) had no comb being built. Zero. I had a queen excluder between the two deeps and the one super and would see a few bees up in the super but no comb being built. That was puzzling but I figured they would start when they were ready. We are in drought conditions here for the past six weeks and I figured they were just moving slowly.

Yesterday afternoon my wife spotted a clump of bees on one of our trees. Holy cow! Swarm! From all I've read I didn't expect a swarm the first year and so was not prepared for this surprise. No swarm cells were there when I inspected Sunday. I quickly built a passable temporary bottom board and knocked together some deep frames to fill the one extra deep box I have on hand. I then captured the swarm into a cardboard box that has one side screened for ventilation. the swarm was about the size of a good sized grapefruit. I got my box and frames together just as it was getting dark and that's where I left it for the day. So far so good.

It's morning now and the bees are still boxed on my back porch. My plan is to put the new tacked together hive next to the other two hives, lay down a sheet ramp to the entrance of the new box and dump the bees in front of it. Does that sound about right? I'm worried that they are not going to have time to get up to speed before Winter comes in this part of the world (Montana) so I'm thinking I'd like to try and recombine this group from the hive I think they came from using that newspaper trick. Should I wait a week or so before trying that? And since I hope to recombine could I drop them into an empty super instead of a deep?

I don't know why the bees wouldn't move into the super. I pulled the queen excluder tonight to see if that would encourage them to move up.
I'd appreciate any advice that might come in this morning before I dump the bees into/in front of the new deep.

Thanx.
 

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You're lucky that they are still hanging around.....I'd say dump em into the box you have and hope for the best. The first time we had a swarm I was reluctant ( scared :) ) to try to deal with it, the bees are more a hubby thing. They clustered in a tree in my front yard about 25 yards from the hive they vacated. When I worked up the nerve to go try to do something with them I was just in time to see the whole swarm flying away.
 

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I'm very new to bees, so if anyone contradicts my thinking, go with their opinion :)

I've read here in this forum that sometimes a queen excluder will also make workers reluctant to build up comb and store honey. Sounds like your workers were affected similarly. Perhaps you could try a different style of excluder and see if they like that better.

I think the reason your bees swarmed is because if the bottom deeps were full, the queen had no more space in which to lay eggs. I'd leave the excluder out, so she can go up into the super to lay eggs, or I'd put another deep in there.

I've read/heard about hives that died out because they filled their space with honey, and the queen didn't have enough space to lay adequate eggs to keep the hive going. Do you remember if your deeps are full of honey, or a good mix of brood, honey, and pollen?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
You may have hit the nail. There was quite a lot of honey and pollen but less brood so far as I could tell. I removed the queen excluder last night and will take a peek in a couple of days. Still unclear what I'm going to do with small swarm. I shook them into a new deep this morning and popped the closest thing to a lid on the box and walked away due to time. I'll check and see if they're still home tonight. If they stay around it's tempting to start a third hive but I don't know if they can get their numbers up in time to survive Winter. I'm leaning toward attempting to rejoin the hive.

Appreciate the advice.
 

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I doubt a grapefruit sized swarm can build up enough for winter, but stranger things have happened.

Look for queen cells in both hives!

I would have just grabbed the unused super, and shook them right into it, left it in place until dark and then moved it where I wanted it.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
The odd thing is that there were no swarm or queen cells in either hive (that I could see) when I checked them both the day before.

I had another box but no frames built. I hustled to get the swarm before it disappeared then built the frames and popped in the foundation after the fact.

With no swarm cells and an empty super on top I was caught flat-footed and slack-jawed when they bolted. I've ordered up the missing pieces for a third hive but will be trying to reintroduce this bunch I think.
 

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This is one of the times I think sign-up to a forum should REQUIRE a location. Depending on your location, the answer to your question runs a gamut of possibilities.
 

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Iddee said:
This is one of the times I think sign-up to a forum should REQUIRE a location. Depending on your location, the answer to your question runs a gamut of possibilities.
My original post states that I am in Montana. :)
 

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In Montana, a grapefruit size swarm will not make it through the winter. I would strain the bees thru a queen excluder to find the queen if there is one. Then kill her and dump the bees in front of the hive you think they came from. The reason for no q-cells is the queen is probably a mother queen whose daughter has been laying for a while now. The bees ran the old queen off and a few followed her. If you kill her, the workers will return to the hive if they are close enough to find it.

The super question is....They will not draw new comb until the comb they have is full and there is more necter coming in. If you don't have a flow going on, they will not draw. Also, they are reluctant to go thru an excluder until the super is part of the nest. Remove the excluder until they start to draw comb in the super, then replace the excluder if you want. Personally, I wouldn't put the excluder on this late in the year.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks. I wish I had known that about the excluder and drawing comb three weeks ago.

The knapweed is just now approaching full bloom and I think that's a major source of nectar around here at this time of year. From what I can tell it seems as though the reluctance to go upstairs is probably more likely about the excluder than a lack of flow. I'll get into the hives again this afternoon and see if I can figure who belongs where.
 

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Many a bee keeper calls those things honey excluders instead of queen excluders and pitch into some dark corner where bee equipment is stored, includeing me.

To get the girls to draw the comb in the honey super split the two deeps and place the honey super for 6 or 7 days between them. they will start drawing comb on day one and by the 7th day enough will be drawn they will not want to stop when you move it back on top.

:D Al
 

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Iddee said:
They will not draw new comb until the comb they have is full and there is more necter coming in.
That's interesting; I didn't know that. I thought they'd just draw comb wherever they found an empty space, until the hive was full. This is good to know, because it totally explains why my bees are sometimes "lazy". They're just waiting until they have a need for comb before they bother building it.
 

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Al has wonderful suggestions for encouraging new comb.

Personally, I'd go with reintroduction to either hive via newspaper AFTER I found and killed the queen in the swarm.

Ditch the honey excluder!
 

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Can you see eggs?

If both hives have them, I would not try reintroduction!

And on wax production, bees make wax when they are stuffed with nectar and have nowhere to go with it:)
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks again for the replies and suggestions. I ended up placing the deep I had shook the bees into on top of the hive I think they came from with newspaper in between. I carefully examined the little swarm and there was no queen present. Maybe there was a bigger swarm with the queen and these were the dregs?

:shrug:

I don't believe I saw any eggs in either of the two hives. Both had a few of the curled larvae and what I believe to be capped brood and lots of pollen and honey - capped and not. I saw one queen (in the hive that didn't swarm the following day - if indeed that was the hive) but even though both queens are marked more often than not I can't spot a queen when I inspect. So I don't really know what my queen situation is at this point. They were definitely out of rooms at the inn in the swarmed hive. Despite the empty super with the "honey excluder" in the way.

That's a great tip about placing the super between the two deeps. I think I'll do that in a few days. I've been into the hives for three days running and think I'll give them a rest before messing with them again. The queen excluder is no longer on. I hope to find more promising circumstances present when I take a look on Sunday.

As a side note and side distraction we are in Stage 2 fire restriction here with a major wildland fire just over the hill and upwind of here. Technically the smoker is illegal to use. The good news is that when the wind is right I don't need a smoker...

Boy howdy is it DRY in Montana this year.

:monkey:
 

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You do not need to use a smoker. Open the hives as gentley as possiable on sunny days, many times the girls will not even bother to come up and say hello.
But if they do just mist them with a 1:1 syrup mix from a spray bottle. Surely your wife has a empty windex or spray and wash bottle around you can TAKE.

Propolis is a sticky substance that bees produce from the buds of trees. The anti-bacterial properties in propolis, is why it is referred to as the medicine form the beehive.

:D Al
 

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Thanks alleyyooper for the no smoker suggestion. That advice runs against every thing I've read about getting into the hive but that's what I did today. I did suit up fully — which increased my confidence but it went fine and although there was some excited flying around the hive mostly nobody died.
The Governor of Montana declared a state of emergency for this area due to the fires today so no smoke is a big deal at the moment.
It appears my grapefruit swarm reintegrated as I hoped they would. I found two or three supercedure cells in the hive I think the swarm came from and eight or ten swarm cells. I again couldn't find the queen in this hive so I destroyed all the swarm cells and left the supercedure cells. There was capped brood but no eggs or larvae that I could see. Lots of bees in this hive though. After inspection I moved the 1st super of each hive to the position between the two deeps. I plan to leave them there for a week before bumping them upstairs again as advised here.
The deeps are loaded with honey in both hives and the supers are seeing some wax drawing action now.
That's the report. Chewing on what to do about the queen I can't spot in the one hive. Let the supercedure cells do their thing or order a queen this late in the year?
 

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We have colonies with so many bees in them we have not seen the queen in over three months. But we do see eggs in the center of the cell, a good patteren in the frame, we see flat capped brood which says the queen is laying fertile eggs.
:) That is what you need to look for.

All the books say the swarm cells are at the bottom of the frame, supercuidure cells in the middle of the frame!!!!!!!
Well the girls never read those books, They will swarm from supecidure cells as any queen will work.
It really sounds as though your hive is honey bound and they want to go and make room. At this point from what I am reading ( :nono: not seeing) I would split the colony, making an artifical swarm and start feeding for them to make winter stores. But that is just my option from what I am reading. Plenty of time yet with normal weather to make up a second deep too.

:D Al
 
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