BBKA Forum

British Beekeepers Association Official Forum 

  • Swarminess

  • General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
 #3077  by SimnFishr
 13 May 2019, 21:03
My bees attempt to swarm every year (usually mid-april).
Some beekeepers tell me their queens are still doing well in their 3rd or even 4th year.
I know I should look out for swaming each year but are some strains less likely to than others? Should I requeen with a less "swarmy" queen?
 #3078  by mikemadf
 13 May 2019, 21:50
Breeders breed bees to be lsee swarmy. I had a Buckfast Q whose hive did not swarm until she died of old age at 5 . Her supercedure duaghter follows on.

The practise of catching swarms and using them to populate apairies is short sighted noinsense: breeding swamry bees. But unsurprisingly it is seldom mentioned.

Last year my hives produced 3 QCs and none swarmed. So far this year 4QCs and none swarmed.

A queen whose hive produces more than around 15QCs should be terminated in my view.
 #3079  by Chrisbarlow
 13 May 2019, 21:57
I agree with Mike. Some bees are certainly less swarmy than others. I have buckfasts and they swarm far less than any of the local mongrels I have had.
 #3080  by Patrick
 13 May 2019, 22:15
Hi Simon and welcome

Beekeeping, cameras and fishing tackle all have in common the persistent nagging doubt that whatever you have, you would surely do even better with something slightly different! It may help explain the unlikely number of fishing rods I own the last time I bothered to count..🙄

Bees attempt to swarm to reproduce, it’s natural and is not a problem if you manage it ok. Of course there are plenty of sources of queens that claim the world for their products, but it is usually not a one-off purchase policy as you may not be able to breed true from them and their daughters may prove problematic. If that is a route you want to try, give it a go.

I had one queen I kept for five years as an experiment once but generally I am not interested in keeping them over two years as their fecundity naturally declines with age. Attempting to swarm does not need to be an issue as long as your management means you don’t actually lose the workers in a swarm. Over time you can reduce swarminess but it is only one desirable characteristic - temper, honey production, laying rate and disease resistance are amongst others.

There are other views but mine is learning to manage swarming is a critical part of what makes a beekeeper and is part of the challenge. Learn to enjoy it and use the opportunities it provides, not least the excitement of entirely natural queen rearing.

It is possible your bees are unusually swarmy but more likely they are fairly typical. Learn to clip queens and it will make the swarming season a heap easier. Find out how good beekeepers around you manage swarming and compare it with your chosen method. If all you have done is the Pagden as taught on most beginners courses, try some alternative methods as well.
 #3082  by SimnFishr
 14 May 2019, 09:16
Thanks for the thoughts and advice.
My local mentor suggests I should simply expect (and enjoy) dealing with swarming - and the bees are well-tempered.
It is just that when you hear of others having very little swarming you wonder if there is a better way.
I take your fishing-rod analogy, Patrick.
 #3083  by Patrick
 14 May 2019, 10:23
I only wish my family was as understanding of my fishing rod “problem”...😄

I am aware that my response could feel like “just get on with it” if you are doing your best already. I also had problems managing swarming (and repeated attempts by the bees) so will try to give you a few pointers later this evening hopefully. Cheers Pat
 #3087  by AdamD
 14 May 2019, 16:35
I try to breed for low swarminess, going back 10 years colonies would always swarm and it was a pain to deal with. The 'problem' is now much less. (1 out of 11 last year). So yes, there are less swarmy bees around.

However are you giving them enough space?
 #3094  by Jim Norfolk
 14 May 2019, 18:51
Adam, my two year old queen swarmed today. All the swarming bees went back in as expected.but afterwards I found the clipped queen on the ground in front of the hive and moved her into a nuc. I went through the broodbox expecting to find capped queen cells but found just two healthy open queen cells. Clearly not swarmy bees as they didn't swarm last year. They may even have been going to supercede but became a bit over enthusiastic in the sudden warm and sunny weather. A huge colony on double brood with two supers and a brood box being used as a super, but not short of space. My other colony, a split from the first last July, has also made preparations to swarm with just a few queen cells developing, so swarminess may have a lot to do with weather prospects and how advanced a colony is for the time of year.

Interesting to know if anyone else is getting more than the usual number of colonies swarming.
 #3095  by SimnFishr
 14 May 2019, 19:35
Thanks Adam,
The swarmed hive seemed to have space (bees not using all brood frames and had 2 supers).
The swarm (19th April) was captured and hived but subsequently absonded. I cut out all queen cells apart from one then 2 days later cut out 3 emergency queen cells.
A further 9 days on the same hive swarmed again! The swarm was captured and hived, and fed. (Maybe I had damaged the queen cell I left and these were casts with virgin queens?). Again I removed all the emergency queen cells bar 3 on the point of emergence that I "pulled" (not in the same hive as the captured swarm)

7 days later (today) they have swarmed out again!
I have captured and hived them, put a queen excluder under and given them a frame of brood (and fed them).

These girls just don't like being here! :?
 #3096  by MickBBKA
 15 May 2019, 02:48
Come on Nigel, you must be so occupied with swarming you haven't had chance to reply to this thread :lol:

Swarming is a dark art IMHO...…. Just had my best, biggest colony on double brood, 3 supers that I made 2 nucs up from on Saturday swarm with no capped queen cells, and it was bloody huge. Think I have caught it but time will tell. 2018 queen, obviously ' swarmy ' ??? or just I never give such an amazing queen enough space ?

Is it just me or does it seem to be every bee breeder is selling Buckfast bees ? Surely they can't all be Buckfast ? Its nationwide, EU wide and who controls the pedigree ?? Now I know that folks who have the right contacts are getting island mated Buckfast and are getting a regular bee but what are the rest getting..? F1, F2, F3 ?

This is the point were I got banned from the last forum for daring to raise the subject of bee pedigree v local mongrels...……….. See you soon on another forum...LOL