Tagged: swarm democracy
March 9, 2016 at 12:59 pm #10245
So today I am getting a really good demonstration of the swarm scouting and polling behavior described by Thomas Seeley in Honeybee Democracy. After a year of attending almost every meeting and Moorpark hands-on, plus participating in a cut-out and alerting my friends in the beek community about my desire for a swarm, my sad little hive continued to sit empty. Frustrated and also concerned because my fruit tree blossoms didn’t seem to have any bees on them, I split my hive and created two swarm traps from it. One I stuck in a tree near my bee pond (that I had noticed bees starting to use over the past month); the other I just left on an upper deck railing where the hive had been ignored for probably ten months. This morning, I returned from the Santa Monica Farmers Market to discover bees rushing in and out of both traps. I was nervous because the one on the upper deck was right over the back door and we have a new black and fuzzy puppy. So I put on my bee suit and brought the upper hive through the house and left it on the back lower deck while trying to figure out what to do. (It is now back on the stand I built in the backyard)
As soon as I moved the box, however, all the bees at both traps totally disappeared. I was perplexed because I hadn’t touched the trap in the tree which had been abuzz with activity. Suddenly, nada. Then, about fifteen minutes later, the bees returned to both locations! After a little while, they mostly realized the upper trap had been moved and dissipated (except for a couple of girls that kept flying into the house, I guess figuring their Apple maps were incorrect) but it was pretty clear to me that during the totally quiet period, the scouts had returned to the swarm and were doing their dances. I guess the tree girls were pretty impressive because now I have even more bees checking out the real estate. They are definitely walking around measuring and debating the merits of location location location plus my admittedly amateur roof (the other split got the good lid). But it has been really exciting. Of course, if they do move in, I will have to figure out how to get the trap out of the tree!March 9, 2016 at 1:05 pm #10246Rob McFarlandKeymaster
Thanks for sharing! Keep us posted on what they decide!March 10, 2016 at 8:27 am #10247
I am guessing the girls have moved in! But it is totally a guess because I never saw the huge cloud of bees descend, the way I did when a swarm first moved into a dead tree in the front yard years ago. There is, however, a definite stream in and out of the trap. Everyone seems very focused and busy.
Given that what I stuck in the tree was an 8-frame (foundationless) medium box, how long should I leave it there before hiring a mentor and getting the girls down to ground level? My instinct is that I should let them get some comb built and maybe some brood laid before disrupting them but again, but I really know extraordinarily little about all of this and would appreciate some advice (and a mentor!) I am in the wilds of Santa Monica… and I do mean wilds. A bobcat walked into the house last month.March 10, 2016 at 9:06 am #10248Rob McFarlandKeymaster
I would get them set up as soon as possible, they are going to fill it up quickly. They’ll be oriented to that position, so when you move them (at night) you should put leaves over the entrance so they get the idea they need to reorient. Don’t wait to get a mentor!March 11, 2016 at 8:05 am #10252
Thanks so much! Okay, I will get the little bee yard enclosure built this weekend.March 12, 2016 at 11:57 am #10255
Uh-oh. I guess this comes under the category of being careful what you wish for. I went out this morning to figure out how to build some sort of fence around the hive stand where I want to merge the bees in my colonized 8-frame tree trap with the empty 8-frame box already on the stand… and discovered some other bees are either seriously considering moving in to the “empty” or else already have. There is nowhere near the frenzied activity in and out of the box on the ground, so I’m thinking these are just scouts (or maybe real estate agents, this is Santa Monica after all) but by the time I get some sort of protection up (for the new puppy who was just spayed Thursday; and for the neighbors behind us who have a pool and grandkids) I might not have an “empty” anymore. I am guessing it would be a really bad idea to merge two different swarms, right?March 18, 2016 at 5:11 pm #10273Steven KanParticipantMarch 18, 2016 at 9:46 pm #10276
Thanks, Steven. I definitely have two different hives operating now. I am planning to head down to Pierce Mieras tomorrow to buy a second set of boxes so I can get the first swarm out of the tree. The second swarm still doesn’t seem to be functioning on all four cylinders though, so if it turns it out that it lacks a queen, I will probably combine it with the first. I am almost positive they both came from the same “mother hive”. If it does have a queen, though, I will have double the fun! I was under the impression “newspaper combines” weren’t recommended during swarming season.March 19, 2016 at 9:53 am #10277
Two swarms can not be merged if they both have queens, so this point must be made clear. Also, a queenless swarm will dissipate fairly quickly as they have no ability to form a viable colony—they will not occupy the box, in other words. Sometimes, secondary swarms are traveling with a virgin queen, and since she is not mated they have less fealty to her, though they do have some—just not as strong as a mated queen. A virgin will have to take more time to go on mating flights, so the appearance of eggs with her will be delayed in a new occupancy.March 19, 2016 at 9:53 am #10278
Two swarms can not be merged if they both have queens, so this point must be made clear. Also, a queenless swarm will dissipate fairly quickly as they have no ability to form a viable colony—they will not occupy the box, in other words. Sometimes, secondary swarms are traveling with a virgin queen, and since she is not mated they have less fealty to her, though they do have some—just not as strong as a mated queen. A virgin will have to take more time to go on mating flights, so the appearance of eggs with her will be delayed in a new occupancy.March 19, 2016 at 10:08 am #10279
Thanks for the clarification. I have seen a few bees bringing pollen into this “weaker’ hive so I’m more optimistic than I’ve been. Should I wait until I’m all set up and you’re here to open it up and check?March 19, 2016 at 10:16 am #10280
This is a common misunderstanding—seeing bees bringing in pollen does not necessarily mean there is a queen, virgin or mated. Bees are just “doin’ their job” and this is reflected in non-specific pollen collection. If the colony has been in the box a couple days, there is no reason you can not open the lid and have a look at the frames. Your looking gently will not drive them off, nor will they take off in a cloud. If they are queenless there will be few bees on the frames. I am assuming you had no frames with drawn comb to offer them. They will have a lot of construction to do if they have a queen to provide a place for her to lay. With no queen, there will be no organized behavior showing when you look in—ie. festooningMarch 19, 2016 at 12:35 pm #10281Steven KanParticipant
So would a queenless swarm be a good candidate for combining with a queenright colony or a queenright swarm?March 19, 2016 at 12:44 pm #10282
So, let’s clarify language—“Queen-right” is short-hand for a colony with a queen. Only ONE queen may occupy a colony of bees. (except for the fairly rare instance when a old queen is allowed by the workers to persist alongside her replacement daughter—I have had this several times)
Sometimes we pick up swarms that have already lost their queen or we fail to gather her in retrieving the swarm. These worker bees may be combined with a “Queen-right” colony with newspaper. Putting two queens and their colonies together will only result in one dead queen and a lot of dead workers.March 19, 2016 at 7:58 pm #10283
Is festooning an indication of a queenright or a queenless hive? I got the hive in question onto its new Pierce Mieras stand this evening; and also at Tom Skinner’s suggestion, removed the entrance reducer I had bought at a HoneyLove meeting. The bees were so calm about everything, including my clumsy attempts to level the hive on the new stand, that I was tempted to open it up and check on them. Now I know I can, I will do it as soon as I can get the tree hive down. Those bees are making it very hard to tape screen over the opening because they fly in and out, in and out, even after sunset.
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