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Reasons for Swarming other than Space issues

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  • Reasons for Swarming other than Space issues

    Something odd happened in Montana and Canada (Alberta) this summer. We had a record number of swarms happen in June on newly installed nucs (First of May) who were just building up. Many of them had plenty of space with Second boxes above them. I would inspect them (or people would send me picture) and not all frames were drawn out. And of the ones drawn out I wouldn’t call them packed. The only other detail I can offer is that we had 3 straight weeks of rain in June. Thunderstorms nearly every day. The week the storms broke the bees started pouring out of the hives leaving cells behind. It sure educated me to stop telling new beekeepers that first year hives rarely swarm with ample space. Wrong, they still do. Any guesses as to what was triggering so much swarming in first year hives? And is there anything we can manage differently for next year to avoid it or not? Several of my class mates in my beekeeping class from around the country reported similar stories even in commercial yards they work in in the southern part of the states this year. So it wasn’t just inexperienced hobbyists going through this. They also reported extensive rains in May and June as a precursor to heavy swarms.
    Kalispell, Montana Zone 4a
    Certified Master Beekeeper

  • #2
    The most common cause of newly installed bees swarming is feeding constantly. The existing comb gets backfilled and new comb isn’t built fast enough so the sequence of events follows the swarm pattern. The queen has no where to lay. The emerging bees have no brood to care for so they swarm.
    Nehawka, Nebraska. My website: en espanol: auf deutsche: em portugues: My book:
    -----"Everything works if you let it."--James "Big Boy" Medlin-----


    • atollerson
      atollerson commented
      Editing a comment
      oddly, we had a mix of that going on. half the people experiencing early swarming were not feeding at all and the hives swarmed anyways with 7 empty frames above them not drawn out. Upon inspection (which would have been about the day of capping of the queen) the frames seemed only partially filled with brood or resources. Of the half of the keepers feeding: only a few were backfilled and could be considered crowded. the rest were in that same state of several empty cells and a refusal to draw out comb above them. I'm sure there's some sort of magic combination of feeding timing versus the intense prolonged 3 weeks of daily thunderstorms we had. I'm just not sure what the protocol should be. and why extended wetness would have shut down comb building and increased queen cells with or without feeding.