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September Swarm?

As often mentioned here, I do not do a lot of hive management after June. Usually, I’m in a hive once a month at most after the busy season (at least that’s how I currently do it.) There are risks to this approach, as with any approach. I wonder if I experienced one today!

Last weekend, I went to inspect the one weak hive that I should have whacked and converted into a couple of Nuc’s. This is actually one of the three Nuc’s that I purchased from another beekeeper in Varina last year (3 Nuc’s that were very inferior in my opinion, now that I have some experience in this stuff.) I overwintered the thing and let her start to build up. Unfortunately, by July, she had not done that well at all. I had wanted to requeen this hive in 2010, but the owner (my father – he ‘owns’ the hives but I manage them 100%) did not want to kill the existing queen. I think he felt sorry for her. Come this Spring, the Nuc appeared to be building up pretty nicely and I promoted her to a Deep and let her roll, eventually putting a Medium on her. In the end, that hive did very little after the initial build up. I let my father over rule me last year and this year (he still wanted to let the hive try to make it), but I will not do it in 2012.

Regardless, my father had put a feeder on the hive (as I always say, if you have to feed them this time of year, they are either new hives (this one was not), you took too much honey in the Spring (this one never had supers to even put honey in) or the queen is inferior (that’s my vote.)  At any rate, I had looked at his feeder and decided that these bees couldn’t even take feed like a good hive. So, I was going to give the hive one of my ‘storage’ frames (a Deep that had a little honey and a little pollen on it). I wanted to get them storing honey from that feeder.

Well, when I got out to the hive last weekend, I found that they had finally figured out how to take the syrup and were working it hard. I decided not to bother them and took my deep frame back to my home yard. Having a ton of chores, I took the ‘storage frame’ and put it into one of my old Deep boxes and went to work on my yard (why do today what you can put off to tomorrow…ugh!)

Of course, I forgot about the frame until yesterday, when I noticed a ton of bees going into and out of that Deep. Well, it appears the starter hives in my backyard have found that daggone Deep – I FORGOT about that daggone thing! Last night (when robbers would be home and I could safely get the frame), I felt horribly (again, laziness seems to be the theme of this post) and put it off for tonight…

This morning, I was set to go out and put some entrance reducers on a few hives in Charles City (and I need to check on the queen of two more hives before I am satisfied) and decided to get that daggone frame now, using my bee brush to get the bees off of it and dropping it into the freezer for a few days in case the SHB or wax moth had gotten some eggs in it.

WHOA! I pulled the top off of that Deep and there were a few thousand bees all clumped on it. This wasn’t robbing! It was a daggone September swarm!

So, there you have it. For one, this is the first September swarm that I have been involved with (a fellow beekeeper in my area said he picked one up a few years ago, about the size of a baseball – this one was bigger then that, but only a little – a bit bigger then two softballs). Secondly, I assume this was from one of my starter hives (all of those queens were marked, so I will know in a week or two when I inspect them), but this goes back to the original risk – I wasn’t fully inspecting these starter hives and missed this swarm. I’ll have to check them all over the next week to make sure a new queen came out. It would really be cool if it turns out to be from a nearby feral hive (but I doubt it.)

At any rate, I moved the swarm into a Nuc and gave them 3 more frames of fully drawn wax (with some resources.) They only have one frame of foundation, which I gave them since most swarms like to draw out wax like monsters. Finally, I put both a boardman and a top feeder on them. The goal is for them to fill out this Nuc before the end of September and then I’ll drop another Nuc with resources on top of them. I normally do not overwinter Nuc’s like this, but I have the resources to do so and it should be good fun (I don’t think many September swarms make it – but I plan to give these guys a big shot!)

3 comments to September Swarm?

  • Doug Ladd

    i think the season has alot to do with it. I have personally seen 2 september swarms so far from my hives (ALL RUSSIAN hives). The one i caught was about 2-3 lbs of bees and the other just yesterday had to have been 4-6 lbs of bees as it was huge on the branch.

    I really like the Russians but i have learned i can not feed them like i do my other hives, once they get a box of stores they hit the air. Lesson learned, Russians are a managment change for me since i feed heavy. I wouldnt call this a bad trait, as not feeding saves money!

    Back to my point, i wouldnt be surprised if your hives have some Russian in them, i see ZERO swarm tendency in my other hives even slam crowed and packed. I know there are a few Russian folks in the ERBA and with your swarm collection this year who knows… just a thought.

  • Interesting. You are no doubt right.

    The parent queen came from one of my strongest hives this year (well, it was the strongest in March/April, before I effectively created a ton of Nuc’s off of it) was my Larry hive. There were two things of note about this hive. One, I left a shallow of honey on them (which they laid into by the first week in April…and also the reason why I messed up with switching the supers and caused a weird ‘dueling swarm’ behavior), but the second reason has always made me think they might have some Russian in them. They would actually fly at 41 degrees or so. And I am not talking about a bee or two, I’m talking about a good bunch at any given time.

  • Oh i’m a firm believer in September swarms. Especially since my one nuc did it yesterday. They had plenty of room but they went anyway. I think it had to do with the fact that the nuc was a combine between two other nucs that both came from swarms this year.

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