Author Topic: The Swarm Gene  (Read 1409 times)

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Offline Jen

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The Swarm Gene
« on: May 24, 2023, 04:26:23 pm »
Hi everyone, 15 plus years ago, when I was just starting on this forum, I experienced my first swarm. I had 2 hives. Lazybeekeeper will remember this, and many others who were on this forum back then. After this first swarm, both hives swarmed again and again... on and on

What a way to learn about swarms when they are coming at a new beekeeper by the dozens. I didn't even have enough wooden ware to house all those swarms. I caught them in ice chests, cardboard boxes, and a suitcase :D

Anyway, the following year the same thing happened with the same hives and queens. I was dumbfounded as to why a hive would swarm itself to nothing. And the forum members were hollering "Switch Out That Queen!" I had no idea how to switch out a queen!

THEN, one of the members here said that they thought I had queens that were genetically swarmy. I don't remember how I got new queens, or if I simply got new bees. And then learned how to prevent swarming.

This year one of my hives swarmed, and I caught the swarm and all was well... I thought. First, I haven't had a swarm that I know of for... well, years. THEN! three days later same hive swarmed again. Boy! did my alarm go off! I wasn't able to catch the second swarm. I doned my bee veil and jumped right into that hive and went all the way down. I found 15+ queen cells of all ages, newly capped, uncapped, more being built. Those cells were in the bottom, middle, and honey super. Bingo! Swarmy Queen.

I live in the city so I can't have swarming bees. I proceeded to tear down all evidence of any kind of queen cell. I did find one lone virgin queen wandering around like she didn't know what she was supposed to do, so I clipped her, put the hive back together and turned her loose again.

To me, turning her loose again with out all the present queen cells that were in the hive, was a giant leap of faith that the remaining bees would settle for just her. But it all worked! The swarming stopped, the virgin got mated, and So Far So Good! As I tip toed away from the hive saying a little prayer for new queen.

Okay... That's my swarm story for this year. What do any of you know about 'The Swarm Gene'? I'm all ears  ;D
There Is Peace In The Queendom

Offline Zweefer

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Re: The Swarm Gene
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2023, 08:32:45 am »
I can’t believe it’s been 15 years already!
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Offline LazyBkpr

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Re: The Swarm Gene
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2023, 08:54:21 am »
I can’t believe it’s been 15 years already!

   RIGHT?

   Was that the first Jammie Swarm Jen?
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Offline Bakersdozen

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Re: The Swarm Gene
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2023, 11:40:11 am »
I can’t believe it’s been 15 years already!

Wow!  Time flies when your busy beekeeping.

I am not an expert on swarms.  I know that colonies can have repeated swarm until there is almost nothing left of the original colony. 
Maybe it's time to take a more proactive approach.  Look at the conditions that create the swarm urge.  Some considerations:
1. Age of the queen
2. Size of the colony or crowded conditions
3.  Availability of plentiful food sources is probably a factor
4. Colony's inability to spread the queen's pheromones

Any others?
So, when you know a queen is at least 2 years old you might consider doing a split and moving her to another box.  (Sell any unwanted splits) This will keep the colony size manageable to prevent over crowding and allow for the queen's pheromone to be spread throughout the colony.  In my area, there is a swarm season.  It is now when there are plenty of food sources and a nectar flow happening.

Spotting queen cells before their capped is a signal of the colony's intention to swarm.  Find the queen and split them if you can or at least take the queen cells and create a split.
If you find multiple capped queen cells try splitting those up into different nuc boxes.  Nucs are a great resource in the apiary.  I like a nuc going into winter incase another colony is too small to get through the winter.  You can always combine with a nuc.

Offline neillsayers

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Re: The Swarm Gene
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2023, 10:29:45 pm »
I have found that Russians are a swarmy strain. But they all swarm, especially if they are having a good year, it's what they do. Making splits will chill that activity, but that's the same as culling the queen and putting a new one in. Brood break, more room etc....

At our last local beekeeper's meeting some of the old heads were talking about how adding more supers without an excluder will slow down the swarm urge, which is reasonable as it gives the colony more room. Don't want them to get claustrophobic. :D

What I didn't understand from your narrative was you said you clipped the virgin queen. Not wing clipping, right?
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Offline Lastfling

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Re: The Swarm Gene
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2023, 09:46:37 am »
May be wrong but I was thinking she temporarily caged the queen while sorting things out.
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Offline Jen

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Re: The Swarm Gene
« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2023, 02:18:03 pm »
Hi Neil, I can understand why you would think that, I caught her in a queen clip and put her in the shade while I examined the hive.

These are new purchased queens that went in about mid season last year. So this is the year I'm learning about them full season. I do believe they are somewhat mutts. I like mutt queens. However, my alert is now on for the swarm gene.

During my investigation I did notice that all three of my hives were quickly getting nectar plugged. But I've been checking on my hives about every 10 days thru spring and it seemed to me that they had enough room.

My alarm went off when that same hive swarmed twice in one week.



There Is Peace In The Queendom
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