Swarm Update

I can see through the observation window that the swarm that I reported a week ago is clustered and building comb.

The hive that threw the swarm started from a late swarm last year.  It had been hived in two Warré boxes, but had only filled one of them, the lower box being empty.  Today I checked this hive. I tipped the occupied box first on its side and then upside down (keeping the combs vertical in the plane of rotation) and had a good look at the bottoms of the combs.  I expected to see several queen cells.  Despite having a clear view up between the combs (a good portion of the bees having left with the swarm), I saw only two queen cells, both capped and at or near the bottom of two adjacent combs.  One of the queen cells was completely perfect, like the pictures one sees in the books.  The other was less so, but still passable to a non-bee such as myself.  However, clearly it, or its occupant, was not passable to the bees, as the side of this queen cell had been torn open and it was empty.  The bees had chosen which queen they wanted.  I expect the remaining queen to emerge from her cell in the next few days.

So much for the idea that swarming bees always make a multitude of queen cells.  This hive appears only to have made two.

Gareth, Cotswolds

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5 Responses to Swarm Update

  1. jen3972 says:

    Has anyone ever witnessed a mating flight?

    • simplebees says:

      Has anyone ever witnessed a mating flight?

      There are occasional sightings, but they are rare. They happen several hundred feet up in the air. More often a queen is seen with a ‘mating sign’, bits of drone trailing from the end of her abdomen on returning to the hive. I saw one such last year. Also, occasionally queens are found on the ground still locked on to a drone. The drone is said to stop flying during the mating, leaving the queen to do the work of keeping them in the air. But, as I said, observations are scarce.

      Gareth, Cotswolds

      • jen3972 says:

        How interesting, thank you. I have calculated approximately when a virgin queen might fly but never been known what a mating flight ‘looks like’ – or indeed if it is visible to a human observer. From what you say it is a rare sight and a privilege to witness it! I will carry on watching and waiting 🙂 thanks again.

  2. simplebees says:

    When the queen is out on her mating flight, a group of bees will sit outside the entrance to the hive fanning their scent into the air to guide her home. Seeing such a group tells you that the queen is out and about. If she does not return, these bees are often joined by others as they sit and wait. I had one hive last year (a swarm with a virgin queen) where this persisted over several days because the queen had not returned from mating.

    Gareth, Cotswolds

  3. I am warning my bees to accompany the new queens in great numbers on their mating flights, as there seem to be quite a lot of hornets about, to add to the risky birds.
    The only thing I have ever seen with regard to the bee’s matrimonial mysteries is the queen bee being catapulted out of the hive onto the alighting board by colony members ….. which suggested that they decide when she goes; another time I saw a queen take off followed by a whole cloud of bees …. looked deceptively like a swarm but turned out to be the entourage, I guess.
    Wishing everyone happy swarming!
    Heidi

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