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Lesson 1 for 2011 – Swarm Prevention! Ha!

After hiving two swarms yesterday (and splitting a Nuc), I was ready to get home and do another equipment check. I thought that I had more then enough for any possible increase this year, but am now beginning to wonder. I might be making a trip to Chatham (my nearest Dadant location) sooner then I thought. I might rig a few things together with some of my spare lumber for the time being. But, I think I am good…

A swarm of bees on a thuja branch

Larry casts another swarm

So, I get home to check on my swarms. Both were silent, but so were the rest of my hives. It was close to 6 PM and the temps were around 60 F. I really expected to see more activity, but I guess the bees were calling it early today. I checked the hive top feeders and saw plenty of bees from both swarms eating up the sugar water, so they were there — just calling it for the day. Finally, on a whim, I decided to check some of the many evergreens (thuja’s, hollies, magnolias, and cryptomeria to name a few) for another possible swarm. The first daggone one I checked (a Thuja Green Giant) had a swarm! This was also close to Larry, so I guess they swarmed again! I hived them quickly and saw another setup (Deep, 10 frames foundation, Bottom Board, Top and Inner cover) get used up! Man! Things are starting to get a bit squirrelly.

I was just telling James, a nearby beekeeping buddy, yesterday that I always like to have more then I need in case of crazy events. Now, when I expected to increase by maybe 5 or 6 (1 of my own overwintered Nucs, 2 Nucs of local bees that I plan to get in a trade for my other surviving overwintered Nucs and 3-4 Nuc experiments), I am already looking at 8 new hives (3 swarms and 5 nucs) before I have even traded for my two new Nucs! That’s 10 new hives and we really aren’t in swarm season yet! Wow! I know bad news has to be somewhere in my future – but let the good times roll while they can!

One thing that I have learned is that a hive really is going to swarm once it sets its mind to it. Larry was building up stronger then any of my other hives. Then, on March 19, I notice a bunch of swarm cells. Thinking that I knew what I was doing, I took the old queen on a frame of brood and a frame of brood for Nuc B, and then a frame of brood with two swarm cells and a frame of brood for Nuc C (my first Nuc to hatch a new queen) from the hive. I also shook two frames of brood from this hive. Just writing that out makes me shake my head in amazement. I took a bunch of bees AND the queen. In my mind, this would have signaled the hive that they swarmed and the remaining queens would fight it out to ‘rule’ Larry when hatch time came. Instead, it appears that Larry is casting one swarm after another. I now even wonder if I caught the main swarm, as none of them have been as big as the Westcastle swarm.

In retrospect, I now wonder if I should have split the hive and removed more of those swarm cells. Next time, I will try a different strategy just for the sake of experimenting. I can’t really complain this time, as I wanted genetics off of Larry and now I have 4 new queens (assuming a queen emerged in Larry and is still in there!) and the old queen. I had planned to use this queen to produce the eggs/queens for my Summer Nucs (for Overwintering). Now, I will probably look to the Mosely hive or maybe Geronimo (I wonder if they have swarmed…)

The main lesson here is that you need to be prepared to change your plan constantly as a beekeeper. Keep a goal in mind and have a plan, but pretty much expect the plan to change nearly every week. Just keep your eye on the ball!

2 comments to Lesson 1 for 2011 – Swarm Prevention! Ha!

  • Not sure exactly where you’re located, but when you mentioned that Chatham is your closest Dadant supplier, I thought I’d share this website:


    I recently discovered this vendor, Jerry, who sells Brushy Mountain products. Prices are good, with no shipping charges. Can’t beat that. I’m guessing this would be a shorter drive for you. I recommend calling ahead to check on availability and shop hours.
    Happy Spring!

  • Thanks, Heidi. I will definitely check them out – they are a good bit closer to me (I’m in Richmond, Virginia.)

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