I hope the swarming season is about over and that the bees will get down to the business of gathering nectar and making honey. The following is based on my observations of the past month. I’m not sure how valid my conclusions may be.
I had 4 hives that swarmed that I am aware of. All swarms were from hives that successfully overwintered. I saw one swarm in process. Two more must have occurred shortly before I arrived on scene. These first three swarms alighted in trees adjacent to the source hive. Luckily all were low enough to make their capture relatively simple. The fourth swarm was kind enough to occupy a vacant hive. I think I was able to deduce the source hive because of a dramatic drop in hive population from one week to the next.
Now for the interesting part. We are all taught the old queen leaves with the swarm. Also, the source hive is left with one or more replacement queen cells.
Hive 1, the source of my first swarm, successfully re-queened itself. It was about 2 weeks before I saw the queen and 3 weeks before I saw eggs. Exactly on the schedule in the reference books.
Hive A received the swarm from Hive 1. I saw eggs within a week after capture. So I conclude the old queen came with the swarm and almost immediately began laying.
Hive 2 swarmed. It had about 15 capped queen cells. In the later inspections I saw that queens had emerged from many of the cells, but after 3 weeks I saw no queens or eggs despite 4 or more inspections. I have re-queened this hive.
Hive B received the swarm from Hive 2. I initially saw a queen, but for whatever reason she never began laying and in recent inspections I have not seen her. I have since re-queened this hive.
Hive 3 swarmed 2 ½ weeks ago. Today I saw eggs. So it successfully re-queened itself.
Hive C received the swarm from Hive 3. It is queenless. I never saw a queen during any inspections. Did I fail to get her into the hive while capturing the swarm or did she die afterwards? That will have to be a mystery. I have re-queened this hive.
I did not see Hive 4 swarm. I did note the population drop, noted queen cells during a routine inspection, and finally saw both a queen and eggs.
Hive D was a voluntary capture. The swarm scouts must have liked what they saw and occupied the hive with no action on my part. It is queenright.
So 3 of the 4 hives that swarmed were able to re-queen themselves or 75% success. I have seen data that roughly 70% of hives successfully re-queen after swarming.
Only two of the 4 swarms are queenright or only 50% success. Did the old queen quickly die or did I fail to capture the queen when I captured the swarm? I guess that will be one of beekeeping’s mysteries.
But maybe the lesson to be learned is that both the source hive and swarm itself may end up queenless. A good beekeeper will monitor both and should also have a nuc with a standby replacement queen available at all times.