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Thread: Commercial swarm control methods

  1. #1

    Default Commercial swarm control methods

    A total off topic question, Calluna4u, but as a commercial keeper how do you manage swarming with the large number of hives and the limited time you have?
    Illegitimi non carborundum.....


    This post in a thread on a court case generated discussion on swarm control so I moved these posts to a new thread here. G.
    Last edited by gavin; 02-02-2017 at 02:26 AM.

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thymallus View Post
    A total off topic question, Calluna4u, but as a commercial keeper how do you manage swarming with the large number of hives and the limited time you have?
    Illegitimi non carborundum.....
    That's a moveable feast, could fill a book really. There are so many variables, and the order of the day for the teams changes according to a list of factors....date, flow situation, availability of queens, swarming status of the target colony, and even down to 'What do we have left on the truck?'

    We lose some swarms. Less than others probably, but more than folk with bags of time.

    But seriously, this is a topic I truly could write an entire book on, and still remember things I had forgotten to add in or could have put better.. We know what we intend to do on any given day or situation, but achieving it is the biggest challenge.

    To answer you question you would need to throw a situation at me and I can deal with that particular query as it is put to me.

    Had Gavin here with me until about half an hour ago and one of the very things we were talking about was an amendment to our splitting process in the early part of the coming season, so as you can see from that everything evolves as the years pass, and no years process is ever identical to that of the year before, even if the changes are very subtle.

  3. #3

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    It's a frustrating answer but understood....a book would be very interesting!. Not sure what situation I would throw at you as I appreciate there are many circumstances
    Okay, I'll go for 1.. I'm presuming clipped queens.
    1. No spare equipment and find unsealed queen cells. As a hobbyist keeping Buckfast bees my usual response is knock them all down and see if they are serious. Works about 40-50% of the time....does mean I have to return with more gear in case they really mean it.

    2. Return to find they mean it with Spare gear and find lots more unsealed Queen cells. For me it depends on A)queen age. If old I'll remove old queen and stick in spare Nuc with a frame of bees as a back up ( I don't have that many hives!) and depending on time and hive continue to knock down queen cells and introduce new queen, or of it's one of my Island mated breeder queen rob all (but one) the queen cells for mating nucs.
    or if there is a strong flow on at the time I'll tend to do what I call a bastardized Demaree with the box with Q cells on top of the supers and worry about the queen situation after the harvest.



    Yes, should apologize for a stupid question, just thinking about it at hobbyist level it demands some judgement.



    If I'm reading you correctly you are splitting, presumably to preempt later swarming.

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    Administrator gavin's Avatar
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    Perhaps I can help.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thymallus View Post
    A total off topic question, Calluna4u, but as a commercial keeper how do you manage swarming with the large number of hives and the limited time you have?
    Illegitimi non carborundum.....
    Staff!

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    Administrator gavin's Avatar
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    Try this thread from last year, subsequent pages have images.

    Essentially vertical splits with the old queen and a couple of frames (usually) down below.

    http://www.sbai.org.uk/sbai_forum/sh...x-flutes/page3

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thymallus View Post
    It's a frustrating answer but understood....a book would be very interesting!. Not sure what situation I would throw at you as I appreciate there are many circumstances
    Okay, I'll go for 1.. I'm presuming clipped queens.
    1. No spare equipment and find unsealed queen cells. As a hobbyist keeping Buckfast bees my usual response is knock them all down and see if they are serious. Works about 40-50% of the time....does mean I have to return with more gear in case they really mean it.

    2. Return to find they mean it with Spare gear and find lots more unsealed Queen cells. For me it depends on A)queen age. If old I'll remove old queen and stick in spare Nuc with a frame of bees as a back up ( I don't have that many hives!) and depending on time and hive continue to knock down queen cells and introduce new queen, or of it's one of my Island mated breeder queen rob all (but one) the queen cells for mating nucs.
    or if there is a strong flow on at the time I'll tend to do what I call a bastardized Demaree with the box with Q cells on top of the supers and worry about the queen situation after the harvest.



    Yes, should apologize for a stupid question, just thinking about it at hobbyist level it demands some judgement.



    If I'm reading you correctly you are splitting, presumably to preempt later swarming.

    Nothing stupid about the question. The answer will vary according to timing, but for the sake of brevity lets assume that you situation is as youwoud find it at time 2....rather than really having no spare gear and you need the answer as at the end of part 1.

    Sadly, dealing with it at, or even before, the onset of part 1 is the best time, as by the time you reach section 2, a further burst of cell raising, you have to accept that the swarm drive is pretty well irrevocable in the colony or by simple old style knocking them down methods you are going to run into serious instability and a colony 'off the stot' for a prolonged period.

    So....with the assumption you do not have a spare hive to hand.............we go for the vertical split as Gavin suggested, but not especially for increase, though you can convert this to increase almost any time.

    First thing is to assess the maturity of the cells. Its important, as by this method, if you leave immature cells, you are likely to lose a swarm.

    We can bypass the mature cells option very briefly, although the method is similar. With the vertical split you lift the broodnest aside and place it on a flight board (or similar) with most of the bees in it. Place a new brood box....which MUST contain at least a couple of frames of drawn comb unless there is a strong flow on......on the old place, and in the middle put ONE comb with minimal amount of open brood and absolutely no queen cells. Find the queen and place her in the new box. add excluder supers etc.

    Then lift your nest back onto the top over the flightboard, so there is no contact between the bees below and those in the split. The split should have its doorway facing a different way from the original hive. (The bees can smell mother and run down to the bottom if the entrances are on the same face.) If you have MATURE cells you simply select ONE and leave it only. The cell chosen can be from the colony itself or an introduced and protected one. The flying bees leave the top unit and return to the entrance to which they are orientated leaving the split more or less with house bees and a bit depleted, so if the cell hatches within a couple of days there is likely to be no issue of throwing a cast(e). Just check in a week or more to be sure they have not set up a group of emergency cells in addition to the one you left.

    However, the scenario was with open cells. In this case the determination will not be so entrenched that you have to leave so little brood. In this case we would add three bars of brood into the middle of the new box on the floor along with the old queen....then the supers etc on top of that. This normally, in a flow situation, gives you about three weeks before there is a need to repeat. It can be back to cells again at that stage though normally not. Similar to the mature cells scenario, you have almost all the nest bees in the split. With immature cells you MUST destroy all the cells and then you have several choices. The reason for destroying all the cells is that by the time you arrive at a hatching cell the splits bee power has returned due to the hatching of the brood and there will be a significant force of flying bees again. They are also likely to have made fresh emergency cells in the intervening period and your chosen virgin from the selected cell will then leave with a swarm leaving you with emergency cells in the split and half the bees gone.

    So....choice 1......the most basic.......destroy ALL the cells in the split......allow them to raise a fresh crop of cells and after 9 to 10 days go into the split, select and leave the best cell, destroy all the others, and leave the split to get on with it.

    Choice 2 again destroys all the cells in the split but adds a cell from one of your chosen colonies, due to hatch in no more than a couple of days, protected, and just check back again at 9 or 10 days to be sure than your introduced cell has hatched and that no further cell building is going on. If it is you have to do something about that (which would be a further long part to add in a post I promised myself would be short (ish).

    Choice 3 also destroys all the cells, but not immediately. Come back after a few days but before the cells will hatch and destroy ALL the cells (eyes like a hawk required as there can be some started emergency cells that are really hard to spot as they are only distinguishable by the increased amount of brood food with the larva) and then by the safest method available to you, introduce a queen to the split. Best results with a queen freshly harvested and in laying condition, poorest results with virgins.

    Skipping over to the end game of this, as I am sure most will know well about mating periods and what checks they need to make on the split and the parent colony, you have the choice of making the split into increase be adding a new floor roof etc and moving it to a fresh location, or you can use this as a requeening split. Reuniting should take place using the method and timing of your choice.

    In our case, which suits us, we do the reuniting at the heather. By then (in our system) there are no excluders to complicate matters, so you simply take the split down off the top, go into the hive below and lift off any empty boxes, spray the top bars of the bottom hive with air freshener, do the same to the bottom bars of the split, and simply build the whole thing back together as a single hive, final returning all the unused boxes right at the top. The upper entrance is now gone and the bees from there will not be able to find home and you will be surprised how quickly they find the bottom entrance and start streaming down and in. then you have a very strong colony for the flow, and they do sort themselves out with little difficulty.

    In some cases we leave these as two level colonies with the flightboard in place all winter too, if we have a good queen in both halves. This leaves us some spare colonies in hand to compensate for winter losses before they actually happen. I will try to post a picture of some wintering like this later today after I have been out.

    Gavin already referred to the flight board thread, and on the boards you can see the two flight holes on adjacent sides. This is so we can fly from the back in free standing situations and from the side when there are four hives on a pallet.

    However...................everything with bees has its variants and the ways things are dealt with needs to reflect your own particular situation. We regard blossom honey as something of a by product (albeit a valuable one) and our system is not designed to maximise it, its all about heather for us. If you do not do heather than you need to tweak all the above to meet your own local requirements.
    Last edited by Calluna4u; 20-01-2017 at 10:35 AM.

  7. #7

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    Thanks for taking the time to give such a good detailed and informative answer.
    Vertical separation splits seems to be the answer with the actions taken varying depending on stage of cells.
    Although I do like Gavin's Staff option

  8. #8

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    Yes....that's why I have 3 teams working the bees. I have two trusted team leaders and I lead one other team, plus Jolanta runs the queen and nuc production as a side operation.

    The idea of doing 2700 on my own is just the stuff nightmares are made of. In season there are normally about 8 of us on bee work, more at peaks such as the July migration and the autumn harvest, migrate back, and feed time. A completely separate seasonal team do the heather extracting.

  9. #9

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    Please find attached a pic of some hives wintering not far from here. There are 130 in the place and 21 of them have their split still above them. This should take care of all the winter losses in the group (most losses look like they will be queen issues anyway).

    This one selected to NOT be reunited due to having an excellent own bred queen in the bottom, and one of her offspring in the top.20170121_115840_001.jpg

    The markings on the hives tell us all we need to know.

    Smith hives of course, and apart from the poly feeders (our own mould) there is not a stick of gear there under 35 years old.
    Last edited by Calluna4u; 21-01-2017 at 08:49 PM.

  10. #10

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    Even more interesting, thanks. I'm beginning to see a pattern with commercial keepers in overwintering a couple of colonies in the same vertical space, same as your swarm control. I think Hivemaker has designed small nucs that fit 4 to a national crown-board so he can use the heat of the larger underneath colony to keep the 4 smaller nucs warm enough to survive the winter.
    Something I learnt to my cost in my early days that wooden nucs of bees just didn't live through the winters on the North Yorks moors.

    35 year old gear....LOL most of mine has a way to ge to even be that old

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