Bee Questions Answered - June 2018 - Swarms, Splits, & More!

Posted by Jennifer Radtke on Jun 15th 2018

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Here are a few questions with answers...


My Randy Oliver nuc just swarmed! Yesterday, there was a moment of sun and i added the third box. They gathered on their "front porch" just before sunset which i thought was odd. Then today they swarmed around3pm. I was able to get them into a box and sheet. I dumped them into the hive. I replaced two deep frames of honey with empty frames thinking maybe they were honeybound. I have been giving them sugar syrup because i didn't have any drawn frames. They gathered on their porch again this evening and I'm thinking tomorrow they might try it again? I was reviewing your last email and wondered if i should have put box 3 in the 2 position to give more room for laying? Would that help prevent the immediate risk of swarming?

Update:. The day after the swarm i took the super that i had just put on top and moved it into the number 2 position. Then i added another super on top. So from the bottom it's deep, super, deep, super. They seem to be back to normal. I did see queen cells in the bottom box. I hadn't seen them during my inspections because I wasn't sure if i should go into the lower boxes or just peak in the top. Seemed like too much disturbance? How tall is this thing going to get!? - Submitted by Yoni


Here are some swarm basics:

  • The existing queen will often swarm as the bees are capping the queen cells (this may be delayed with rainy/cold weather). The bees cap on Day 8. Basically 8 days before the swarm, you should have added a box to give them space, but better even to have added it 14 days or 2 weeks before the swarm.
  • As soon as they swarm, it's great to give the original hive more room immediately. A secondary swarm may emerge a week later when one of the first virgin queens hatch out. However, if the bees feel spacious, they may decide not to swarm again. Yoni did a great job in this case of adding not one but two boxes, giving them plenty of room. In addition, he added one of the boxes lower between the two brood boxes to force the bees to feel more spacious in the places they were super crowded.
  • The great thing about swarming is that the bees need to make a new queen. In the meantime, you will have a couple weeks where there is no brood in the hive and this reduces varroa mites greatly (usually down to zero!).
  • While they are making a new queen, their bee population will decrease about 4-5 weeks after the swarm, so your hive will not get much taller - 4-5 boxes is usually the size of a strong hive.


I did a walk-away split 3 weeks ago, where the bees will need to make a new queen. Yesterday, I did a hive inspection and did not see new eggs, so I pulled another frame with lots broods from the original hive and place it in the new hive. Is it ok if I put the queen in it too this weekend?


It takes 2 weeks for a queen to hatch out and then 2 more weeks for her to mate. You want to wait 4 weeks before checking for eggs. If no eggs, wait another week (so 5 weeks), and check again for eggs. If you are worried, you can put a frame that has small larvae and eggs in it after 4 weeks, if you don't see eggs/brood. Then go in a week later (week 5), if there are queen cells on that frame, then you know there was a problem with the queen mating. If no queen cells, they think they have a queen and look for eggs/brood again.

I would not put a new mated queen in a hive that is in the midst of queen mating. They will likely prefer their own queen (even though a virgin) to an introduced queen. If the new queen is not hatched out yet, they will more likely accept a mated queen in a cage.


If our bees have suffered a die off en masse, is all the leftover honey still OK to eat?

are you aware of a disease or mite that causes the bees to walk along the ground more than usual? Some kind of walking paralysis?


You only want to harvest honey frames that are fully capped. The uncapped honey is not done, has too high water content, and will ferment. If your bees died, you can usually harvest the honey, as none of the diseases can be passed to humans. I would not harvest honey from an American Foulbrood hive though as you could pass the spores on through your extractor/extraction process to clean frames/equipment. You could crush and strain it and then burn the frames and filter. Bring in brood frames to the BioFuel Oasis for Kelsey to check for AFB before harvesting the honey.

The most common virus passed on by the varroa mite in the United States is Deformed Wing Virus (DWV). In this case the bees can't fly and will crawl on the ground outside the hive. There are also paralysis viruses that the mites transmit.


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May your bees thrive!


Beekeeper, BioFuel Oasis