And then there were 14…

It’s been a long, busy, and odd week in the bee yard….

We’ve had 4 swarms that we have been able to capture, and are darn near running out of equipment. Today, after Anita checked the yard around noon, I checked the yard around 4:00… walked around, looked, and “voila”! (Swarm number 4)…

I was finishing up our annual flail-mow of the flower field on Saturday, and watched as the Blue Hive swarmed….and now this….

It’s a good thing, and gets us extra hives, but I was hoping that us using the Pagden method a bit more disciplined this year, would have had a more “tame” effect (less swarming); I don’t think that is really the case.

We’ve also seen some strange things… for example, after we “Pagden” split our Blue Dots on Yellow hive, we left it alone, and waited about 15 days, and inspected, expecting to find a laying queen, brood, eggs, etc. What we saw instead was NO signs of laying, NO queen, but a handful of decently made queen cells, and one supercedure cell (NOT on the bottom bar of the frame, but made near the center-middle of a frame).

So, what does THAT mean? All we can figure is that while we were giving this hive the time it needed for queen emergence, mating flight, and laying, all she was able to do was to squeeze out a few replacements (worker brood takes the longest to emerge, so we would have seen brood). Did she get hurt on her mating flight? (Possible). Did she know she was hurt, so layed some girls with her last breaths? (I don’t know).

Today, the swarm was in a more difficult place, and don’t think we got the queen on the shake of the tree limb they were on; I think she missed the box, cause the swarm did not show the pattern of moving into the box (it was near the ground). It appeared that the hive was clustering on the outside of their new home, near the top, so we smoked, brushed, etc. to get the bees into the box… It still did not look like they were moving into the new hive…. So, I picked it up and moved it to its new location, and then what do I see? I see a (the?) queen on the ground with some attendants, just kinda hanging out; not scurrying, etc. I pick her up carefully with my fingers, place her close in front of the entrance, and watch her walk in…. Man, I hope she’s not injured!

Anyway, then they all started the “walk” into the hive.

I think all the swarms are due to the multiple queen cells we left in the hives, after moving the existing queen into the Nuc (as per the Pagden method). Each one seems to cause subsequent “Casts” from the hive (hence multiple swarms from the same hive?). Our thought process was to stay conservative, and ensure the hive without the queen had plenty of viable queen cells to work with; but like last year’s experience with multiple queens and multiple casts from Blue, I don’t believe that emerging queens ALWAYS kill off all the other queens (queen cells) in the hive…. What else explains this swarming behavior? (We checked these hives every 5 days, and made the splits when we saw charged (or capped) queen cells…. What’s the likelihood that the hive with the queen cells, would swarm again, within the emerging, mating, and laying timeline of the new queens? Seems unlikely, but they certainly are hard to predict sometimes).

I’ll write later on how all these turn out; we exited winter with 5, and are now up to 14 (outside of our goal of 10; however, to operate 10, you probably have to be prepared to operate 13, and do something with the many swarms from the splits. This year, we will be giving away one of our swarm / splits to Mark (who helped us catch the Feral hive in Newark); we’ll sell some of the others as functional hives, and/or we’ll keep the rest for emergencies (cause we WILL have them).