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Slow Build Up and More Swarm Paranoia

Although the Richmond, Virginia area forecast called for rain most of the weekend, there were a couple of moments that allowed for a quick hive investigation. It was very windy, but at least the Sun was out. I actually opened both the Geronimo hive and the Albo hive, removed all frames but used no smoke. There were a couple of irritated bees, but most went back to work after cursing me out pretty good and buzzing in my face a bit.

Both hives had evidence of larvae, but I could see no eggs. I now see that waiting for a mid-afternoon inspection decreases the chance of seeing any eggs substantially for me. At this time, I do not have any direct Sun to look into the cells (the deciduous trees have leafed out, providing late afternoon shade, and do not give me a clear view into the cells. There seemed to be a million bees, but only a moderate amount of capped brood, compared to earlier.

This has me wondering if the Geronimo hive did swarm. The queen cell was clearly built up at this point and the end appeared to be torn off. After freaking out early on, I let them sit for 12 days or so. Maybe there was a small larvae in that cell when I looked back on the 12th. This is discouraging on two fronts: I may have lost a bunch of bees (reducing my honey gathers and wax builders) and I may have missed an opportunity to do a split.

Finally, and maybe a consequence of the above, neither hive has even touched my honey supers yet. They have not even started to draw out wax. I am a bit worried, because the top deeps are fully drawn out, but only about 50% full of capped honey. By the textbook, I should not have put the honey supers on until these were at least 70% full. Everyone was so hyped up about the flow this year that I may have jumped the gun on these supers. I am still on the fence about whether I will pull them or not.

The only bright side of this mess is that a colleague at work, who is also a beekeeper, recently contacted me. When I expressed my concerns to him, he did not seem too concerned (work was so busy that I only glanced at the email and will study it more carefully tomorrow). He said that he knew of other beekeepers that had slow build up until the end of April because they did not do any early feeding. I definitely did not feed my hives early on, as recommended by some, because I was worried they were honey bound (also the reason that I probably didn’t do a split and maybe the reason why the Geronimo hive swarmed.) But, hopefully this will mean that I will start to see real progress at my next check in a couple of weeks.

Finally, I only did a cursory check of the new Westover hive. The swarm seemed to have drawn out 5 frames, but I didn’t dig too deeply because they were a bit defensive. I can stand in front of the hive and watch them from a foot away, without causing any problems. But, opening them on a windy, partially cloudy, cool day seemed to be a bad idea. I decided to wait until a good warm day this week and take my lunch break to inspect for eggs. Regardless, the more that I read about a swarm, the more that I believe that I will replace that queen. The problem is that I want to keep the genetics going, if at all possible. Feral swarms receive no TLC and are, in my novice opinion, the best way to work towards an apiary that can make it on its own without my constant tinkering. I am leaning towards waiting for the flow to be over (letting them use all of the resources to the best of their ability) and then pinching the queen (assuming I can find the wiley little thing), allowing them to raise their own, young queen. The second choice would be to get a queen from a guy that advertised on Craig’s List from the Chesterfield or Powatan area earlier this year, claiming to have some local queens that had not been treated.

I am likely to have my hands full soon, when the two new Nuc’s arrive. So, who knows what will happen when things amp up around here.

3 comments to Slow Build Up and More Swarm Paranoia

  • I am with you on the genetics. I don’t think you should kill the queen. It seems like you have a vigorous hive, and as you suggested, if you were more in tune with them you could have prevented swarming and maybe gotten a honey flow. But it doesn’t matter. I had two hives swarm this spring. I am kinda kickin myself for not opening them in mid-March, but I am learning about them. The parent of them all swarmed once, and her offspring swarmed twice. But my hunch is that they won’t swarm again this year. I did miss the spring nectar flow, but oh well, I have three new colonies to strengthen and two that will definitely be up to full steam by our blackberry flow. All that said, I do have a keen memory and remember where I stored that Maple Honey for that hive. Top box on the outside. We’ll see if it remains.

  • Doug Ladd


    get in touch with me if you want regarding the gentleman in Chesterfield. I have requested a few of his Carnolian queens for myself this year and depending on timing may not have hives to put them in, unless i make small nucs to maintain them until i can make more splits. I am also getting some queens from a guy in Blackstone with a proven track record.

    Also on your post above this one, what gloves do you use? I use the latex coated garden gloves from tractor supply where most of the hand is covered andthe rest is like spandex… i like thee alot and find them to be my best option because they fit tight. I do not like leather gloves AT all…

  • Hey Doug,

    I have been doing a lot of thinking about those queens and whether I wanted to get one or not. As of right now, I am going to try to let the new swarm hive live with the old queen (at least through the main flow). I will be opening them again this weekend, so I might be singing a different tune come Monday (if they attack me!) My current plan (which never seems to play out, when it comes to bees) is to let them go through the flow and see if they will naturally do a supercedure of her. If not, I might consider pinching her and forcing them to raise a new queen. I am interested in this bloodline of bees.

    But, I might want to try a split off of one of my existing hives and introduce one of the Carnolian queens to them. The main factor here is how much honey they make. I want to experience a natural honey build up with these two hives (sort of an educational thing for me.) So, I would be reluctant to split them unless one of them is simply not building up (or unless one of them builds up a lot and makes a enough honey that I will be interested in doing other experiments on them (such as splitting and using a new queen.))

    Thanks for the tip on the gloves. I use some heavy bee gloves from Dadants. I usually do not use gloves, but am a bit nervous about the swarm hive. I will get a pair of the ones you mention and give them a shot.

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