Friday, June 26, 2015


This story submitted by beekeeper Gerard.  It has several valuable lessons we can all profit from.  

"I might have mentioned that I had captured a swarm that came from one of my hives several weeks ago.  I had put them in a deep with foundation figuring they were full of honey and would draw out the comb and life would be good.  Then I decided to "help" them by putting on a super (above an excluder) with drawn comb and some honey from last season so they would have plenty of honey for comb building.  And since they had so much in raw materials now I might as well add the second deep of foundation right away.  So, two deeps of foundation, an excluder, and a super of drawn comb with some honey.  What swarm could ask for more?

Two weeks later I thought I'd take a quick look to see how they were doing.  Not an inspection since they were in a new place.  In and out.  Many bees were in the super, but the deeps were hardly started and not a lot of bees in them.  Not what I was expecting, but also didn't think a whole lot about it, I added a super to give them more room since the first super was so crowded.

Last weekend I took a better look and found both supers full of bees, and the deeps virtually empty with no drawn comb.  That wasn't right.  I pulled some frames from the supers and found capped brood cells, but the bees were so angry, and I was using a mended veil and a bee got in, that I just removed the deeps and moved the supers down to the screened bottom board and got out.  So what the heck was I dealing with?

My new jacket and veil arrived and today I went to study this more in depth.  I found larvae, capped worker and capped drone cells, pollen and honey, but did not find the queen or eggs.  I also didn't go over every frame.  The bees were again pretty agitated, but the new veil proved bee tight.  I figured with larvae and capped brood cells that I could say the colony is queenright, but how did she get above the excluder?

I texted a friend about this, and that I thought maybe the queen was on the cover when I added the excluder and supers?  How else could she get above the excluder?  The friend said maybe she's a small queen and got through the excluder.  That triggered the thought that the colony would indeed have thinned the queen down in preparation for swarming and she may very well have slipped through the excluder with encouragement from the colony.  Let's see, foundation here, drawn comb there.  If I would have waited a couple of weeks before "helping" the bees with extra honey, perhaps they would have drawn out the deeps like I expected.  Anyway, I now have a three medium (supers) colony building up nicely.  Next time I go in to inspect and hunt for the queen will be sunny with less humidity."  


1) In preparation for swarming the bees do slim down the queen by feeding her less and possibly chasing her around the hive so she is slim enough to be able to fly.  

2) In this slim condition the queen can sometimes pass through an excluder.  Remember how small some new  queens look when received in the cage in a new package of queens.

3) The bees tend to be more aggressive on high humidity days. Sometimes even smoke will not calm them.

4) Keep your equipment in good condition; especially your veil.

5) The rules about bee behavior are frequently ignored by the bees themselves.     

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