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Author Topic: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?  (Read 2365 times)

Offline Joelel

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Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« on: October 19, 2009, 10:21:45 PM »
Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
Acts2:37: Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39: For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
40: And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation

Offline BjornBee

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2009, 08:29:21 AM »
Nature intends it to be that way..... ;)
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Offline Sean Kelly

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2009, 09:42:43 AM »
Nope.  None of my bees have swarmed and I've done nothing to prevent it from happening.  I'm good about giving them the space they need and have been pretty lucky.  But it does happen alot with most people cause I get TONS of swarm catching phone calls every year.  Bonus for me!  I like free bees!!!  Plus it gives me a chance to educate the public.

Sean Kelly
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Offline JP

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2009, 11:24:51 AM »
It is perfectly natural for a healthy colony to throw off reproductive swarms come spring. The prudent beekeeper will check their hives for drone brood and make splits to prevent swarming.

The bees in my area begin swarming early March, late February, but rest assured they are preparing to do so weeks before the event.

Besides reproductive swarming, they can swarm later on from being honeybound or abscond for a variety of reasons including varmints and ants. Again, the prudent beekeeper will manage his hives to prevent swarming.


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Offline Joelel

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2009, 11:39:16 AM »
What is the best way to make splits to prevent swarming ? Just split the queen and some brood and honey and bees to an other hive ? Then introduce a new queen to the hive ?
Acts2:37: Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39: For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
40: And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation

Offline BjornBee

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2009, 03:03:48 PM »
Joelel,
Splitting is swarming. It's just called "artificial swarming"...  ;)


Maybe this will help...

Most beekeepers are sold a bill of goods in regards to “preventing” swarming. I think that is a bad way to present it, and many don’t fully understand it. Swarming has advantages. Swarming is a function of nature that is programmed to allow bees the BEST chances for survival. Let me write this out, and maybe you will understand better.

To understand swarming, you must go back and understand how bees are programmed in nature.

A few things hold true:
1) Bees prefer a certain size cavity. (a little more than a deep)
2) If they survive winter, they will fill up that cavity and be prepared to swarm early season, giving them the best chance at the swarm surviving.
3) If left to their own control (In other words, a feral colony, or a managed colony that is not manipulated) a hive will swarm in 9 out of 10 colonies. They will also swarm again in about 5 out of 10 hives 30-45 days later.
4) Nature always plays the best odds in her favor. Which queen is cast out first? The old queen. In other words, nature plays it’s best chance, that the established colony has the best odds with the first year queen.
5) First year queens are more productive, hives swarm less, and winter survival is increased.

So along comes a beekeeper, and what is the average goal in regards to swarming? To stop it completely. By either clipping a wing as if that will helps, cutting out queen cells, or by splitting prior to the flow dooming the colony to never reach peak production and killing your honey harvest to some degree.

Now, we can lower the swarming impulse….or better yet, delay it. This can be done by reversing boxes, expanding the brood chamber, and other tricks. What we are doing is delaying the swarm urge. (although flow has more to do with swarming than most realize)

The beekeeper is at odds with what many try to do with swarm control. After all, don’t we want the strongest colonies possible? But by feeding, and expanding the brood chamber, are we not also increasing the swarming urge?

What one should do, is use good swarm “control” and quit thinking about “prevention“. Because after the honey flow, what is a good thing  to do? Why, that is to perform “Artificial swarming”, which has many benefits. Swarming is a form a supercede. So when you do these splits, replace the old queen (which would of happened naturally if NOT for the beekeeper) as well as introduce a new queen in the queenless split.

I have many beekeepers call me up and ask “I had a swarm and can’t figure out what I did wrong”. Or “I had queen cells a few weeks back and I cut them all out, but it looks like the queen left anyways”. Both of these comments tell a story of bad information being passed and a lack of understanding within the hive.

My advice….suppress swarming as much as possible. Then perform your own artificial swarm (splitting) later in spring and allow your bees to take advantage of the lost benefits that we take from them in trying to optimize honey production.

I’ve had beekeepers in the past suggest bees “normally” only swarm every 2-3 years. What a crock! There are some insects programmed to perpetuate their species at long intervals, such as the 7 year locust. And some insects only reproduce when environmental circumstances dictate (rain in arid areas). If not for beekeeper intervention, honey bees are programmed, and will perpetuate their species every year. And more than that in good years. BTW….AHB’s can swarm up to 18 times a year!

So try to understand swarming as to the benefits it provides. It’s not about “prevention”. It should be about “controlling” it, till a more opportune time so a beekeeper can manage it, allow the bees to benefit from it, and give the hives the best chance for survival, with a young productive queen.

I do what I can to delay swarming, but also know that pre-flow splitting, cutting out cells, and many other advice given to beekeepers….is usually far worse than the swarm to begin with.

Hope this helps.
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Offline Joelel

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2009, 08:54:03 PM »
Joelel,
Splitting is swarming. It's just called "artificial swarming"...  ;)


Maybe this will help...

Most beekeepers are sold a bill of goods in regards to “preventing” swarming. I think that is a bad way to present it, and many don’t fully understand it. Swarming has advantages. Swarming is a function of nature that is programmed to allow bees the BEST chances for survival. Let me write this out, and maybe you will understand better.

To understand swarming, you must go back and understand how bees are programmed in nature.

a few things hold true:
1) Bees prefer a certain size cavity. (a little more than a deep)
2) If they survive winter, they will fill up that cavity and be prepared to swarm early season, giving them the best chance at the swarm surviving.
3) If left to their own control (In other words, a feral colony, or a managed colony that is not manipulated) a hive will swarm in 9 out of 10 colonies. They will also swarm again in about 5 out of 10 hives 30-45 days later.
4) Nature always plays the best odds in her favor. Which queen is cast out first? The old queen. In other words, nature plays it’s best chance, that the established colony has the best odds with the first year queen.
5) First year queens are more productive, hives swarm less, and winter survival is increased.

So along comes a beekeeper, and what is the average goal in regards to swarming? To stop it completely. By either clipping a wing as if that will helps, cutting out queen cells, or by splitting prior to the flow dooming the colony to never reach peak production and killing your honey harvest to some degree.

Now, we can lower the swarming impulse….or better yet, delay it. This can be done by reversing boxes, expanding the brood chamber, and other tricks. What we are doing is delaying the swarm urge. (although flow has more to do with swarming than most realize)

The beekeeper is at odds with what many try to do with swarm control. After all, don’t we want the strongest colonies possible? But by feeding, and expanding the brood chamber, are we not also increasing the swarming urge?

What one should do, is use good swarm “control” and quit thinking about “prevention“. Because after the honey flow, what is a good thing  to do? Why, that is to perform “Artificial swarming”, which has many benefits. Swarming is a form a supercede. So when you do these splits, replace the old queen (which would of happened naturally if NOT for the beekeeper) as well as introduce a new queen in the queenless split.

I have many beekeepers call me up and ask “I had a swarm and can’t figure out what I did wrong”. Or “I had queen cells a few weeks back and I cut them all out, but it looks like the queen left anyways”. Both of these comments tell a story of bad information being passed and a lack of understanding within the hive.

My advice….suppress swarming as much as possible. Then perform your own artificial swarm (splitting) later in spring and allow your bees to take advantage of the lost benefits that we take from them in trying to optimize honey production.

I’ve had beekeepers in the past suggest bees “normally” only swarm every 2-3 years. What a crock! There are some insects programmed to perpetuate their species at long intervals, such as the 7 year locust. And some insects only reproduce when environmental circumstances dictate (rain in arid areas). If not for beekeeper intervention, honey bees are programmed, and will perpetuate their species every year. And more than that in good years. BTW….AHB’s can swarm up to 18 times a year!

So try to understand swarming as to the benefits it provides. It’s not about “prevention”. It should be about “controlling” it, till a more opportune time so a beekeeper can manage it, allow the bees to benefit from it, and give the hives the best chance for survival, with a young productive queen.

I do what I can to delay swarming, but also know that pre-flow splitting, cutting out cells, and many other advice given to beekeepers….is usually far worse than the swarm to begin with.

Hope this helps.


This sounds good and know most of what you say but, right now what I'm interested in is expanding my number of hives from two to 10. I thought if they are going to swarm anyway in the spring, I thought I would split them before they swarm and maybe keep more bees.So,when would you split to expand hives ?
Acts2:37: Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39: For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
40: And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation

Offline BjornBee

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2009, 09:31:50 AM »
Oh crap! Here I though you wanted to know about splitting to stop swarming.

What is the best way to make splits to prevent swarming ? Just split the queen and some brood and honey and bees to an other hive ? Then introduce a new queen to the hive ?

Now it is "Splitting to build numbers".

Seems if it's not asking a question, to offer a rebuttal to the replies, it's just asking evolving questions, until you can put your own information forth.

I was hesitant to take the time after some of our other conversations. But I put forth about 20 minutes of typing, and an explanation worthy perhaps of a thank you.

I think I'll slide over to the "mildew and mold" thread, eat some popcorn and wonder why nobody replies....

Have a good one!

(This thread does perhaps crack a humble feel to it internally for me and makes me wonder about my own responses sometimes. So I got something out of it.... ;)  )
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Offline JP

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2009, 11:37:40 AM »
Bjorn made a very good point, I forgot to mention. Don't expect to be able to prevent every swarm, it won't happen. "Control" is definitely the right word of choice.

In spring, when you begin seeing drone brood is a good time to make splits, weather permitting.


...JP
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My pictures can be viewed at http://picasaweb.google.com/pyxicephalus
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Offline Scadsobees

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2009, 01:34:24 PM »
What is the best way to make splits to prevent swarming ? Just split the queen and some brood and honey and bees to an other hive ? Then introduce a new queen to the hive ?

Do a search, there are about 4,526 ways of making splits.  Walk-away, 50-50, with new queens or roll-your-own queens, 5 way splits, etc etc.   Check out Michael Bush's website, he outlines all of them well.

If your purpose is to prevent swarms, Bjorns got good info, and if you don't succeed in preventing a swarm then you can split at that point and just use the provided queen cells.  Or just catch the swarms that proceed from the hive and use those if you are fortuneate enough to have them hang around long enough.

If you want hive increase then first decide how much increase, and decide then what type of split to do, and how much you want to put into them (queens, feeding, etc).  You can actually split them in the spring for swarm control and then also after the flow for increase (although you won't get any honey that way)

Rick
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Offline ziffabeek

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2009, 01:44:25 PM »
Hey Bjorn,

Thanks for your 20 minutes.  I very much appreciated that information as I've been thinking about next year as well and wondering about that very aspect of "managing" my one little hive.

So it wasn't a total waste of time! :D

love,
ziffa

Offline Joelel

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2009, 09:06:00 PM »
Oh crap! Here I though you wanted to know about splitting to stop swarming.

What is the best way to make splits to prevent swarming ? Just split the queen and some brood and honey and bees to an other hive ? Then introduce a new queen to the hive ?

Now it is "Splitting to build numbers".

Seems if it's not asking a question, to offer a rebuttal to the replies, it's just asking evolving questions, until you can put your own information forth.

I was hesitant to take the time after some of our other conversations. But I put forth about 20 minutes of typing, and an explanation worthy perhaps of a thank you.

I think I'll slide over to the "mildew and mold" thread, eat some popcorn and wonder why nobody replies....

Have a good one!

(This thread does perhaps crack a humble feel to it internally for me and makes me wonder about my own responses sometimes. So I got something out of it.... ;)  )

OH crap, I guess about everyones marrage is on the rocks and they don't get any. Maybe that's why we all have them little bleep bees.
Acts2:37: Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39: For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
40: And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation

Offline BjornBee

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2009, 09:43:08 PM »
OH crap, I guess about everyones marrage is on the rocks and they don't get any. Maybe that's why we all have them little bleep bees.

That's funny. You just called Robo a liar on the other thread for using an all inclusive word after he suggested you argue all the time (I agree with Robo), then turn around and suggest everyone's marriage is on the rocks and they don't get any. What a hoot. May I also suggest that you may consider "little willie syndrome" while your making a list about yourself....  :-D That may in fact the reason you have a problem with the first two things you listed for yourself.... :shock:

Now I hope you know that I never take things too seriously. This is all said in good natured jabbing.  ;)
« Last Edit: October 21, 2009, 10:04:41 PM by BjornBee »
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Offline BjornBee

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2009, 09:44:11 PM »
Hey Bjorn,

Thanks for your 20 minutes.  I very much appreciated that information as I've been thinking about next year as well and wondering about that very aspect of "managing" my one little hive.

So it wasn't a total waste of time! :D

love,
ziffa

What a wonderful reply. Thank you.

Have a great day!
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Offline Ernest T. Bass

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2009, 11:15:50 PM »
Ditto what ziffabeek said... I enjoyed reading your post. I'm actually surprised that you beeks go through the trouble of reiterating to the newbees the same info that you've typed a hundred times, but I do enjoy the constant 'refreshing' of good info, since I'm kind of lazy to dig up older posts..
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Offline Joelel

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #15 on: October 22, 2009, 12:47:09 AM »
OH crap, I guess about everyones marrage is on the rocks and they don't get any. Maybe that's why we all have them little bleep bees.

That's funny. You just called Robo a liar on the other thread for using an all inclusive word after he suggested you argue all the time (I agree with Robo), then turn around and suggest everyone's marriage is on the rocks and they don't get any. What a hoot. May I also suggest that you may consider "little willie syndrome" while your making a list about yourself....  :-D That may in fact the reason you have a problem with the first two things you listed for yourself.... :shock:

Now I hope you know that I never take things too seriously. This is all said in good natured jabbing.  ;)

I hope you don't crack your nuts laughting,most squirrels do.
Acts2:37: Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39: For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
40: And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation

Offline sarafina

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #16 on: October 22, 2009, 12:53:39 AM »
Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge with us BjornBee!  I found it very informative.  I cannot have more than 2 hives because I am in a neighborhood, so splitting them isn't an option for me now.  If (and when ) they swarm then so be it.  I am mainly learning how to keep bees until I can relocate to our retirement property in a few years and then I can have as many as I can handle (and afford LOL).

Online deknow

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #17 on: October 22, 2009, 11:44:45 AM »
a couple of thoughts:

1.  if you are in a neighborhood where having more than 2 hives is a problem (not just on paper, but with your neighbors), you will definitely have a problem with the neighbors when your bees swarm.  this is probably the most likely thing (outside of a stinging incident) to get your neighbors to complain and perhaps force you to remove your bees.  an old method is to make a split (queen in the smaller portion on a new stand).  the old queen keeps brooding (and the split perhaps drawing nice comb for you), while the larger portion is raising a new queen.  when the new queen is proven, the old queen can be pinched, and the 2 parts of the split reunited....resulting in one hive, a new queen, and a good population produced by the old queen.  there are details (ie, if you do this at the beginning of a honeyflow and move the vast majority of open brood to the small split with the old queen, the parent colony will raise some queens, but for the most part, the work force is refocused on storing honey because there i little brood to care for).

2.  please consider the ultimate role of the beekeeper.  bees produce honey basically to sustain over the winter, and to provide for reproduction (swarming).  as beekeepers, our role is to redirect some of that reproductive energy into the production of surplus honey for the beekeeper.  this is a task best suited for subtle manipulation, not brute force.  keeping this in mind as you tend your bees and consider honey harvests and swarming will help you keep everything in perspective.

3.  with #2 in mind, remember that in general, you can make bees, or you can make honey.  only in a very good year can you do both effectively from the same colonies.

deknow

Offline kathyp

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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #18 on: October 22, 2009, 11:59:28 AM »
sarafina, split your hives if you need to and stack them.  not a great solution, but that way you can toss a queen in the new split and sell it as soon as you know it's going well.  you can keep your neighbors happy, make a little money, and you are only out the bother of stacking and the cost of a queen.
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Re: Do all or most bees swarm every spring ?
« Reply #19 on: October 22, 2009, 12:44:40 PM »
Quote
2.  please consider the ultimate role of the beekeeper.  bees produce honey basically to sustain over the winter, and to provide for reproduction (swarming).  as beekeepers, our role is to redirect some of that reproductive energy into the production of surplus honey for the beekeeper.  this is a task best suited for subtle manipulation, not brute force.  keeping this in mind as you tend your bees and consider honey harvests and swarming will help you keep everything in perspective.

This is a role that is not necessarily a given.  Not all bee handlers are working with bees for honey production.

Many, likely even most are likely to do so, but it shouldn't necessarily be an automatic assumption that everyone working with bees is primarily after honey.

I'm sure some see this as nitpicky, but when  I see conclusive terms such as "ultimately" it sets off warning lights for me.

In terms of the question at hand, as has been already said, swarming is natural form of colony reproduction for honey bees.  In my limited experience, I favor facilitating bees natural behavior rather than trying to dictate it.

meaning, I know the bees will likely swarm, instead of trying to prevent it, I work with it.  Set up bait hives within the roughly known 'swarm' area and keep a close eye on them, particularly in the spring.

 I anticipate working with TBH from this point on and while there are minor manipulations one can do to prevent them from becoming honeybound,  I won't be getting overly ambitious in doing much beyond that in terms of 'swarm management'.

Big Bear