Secondary Swarm

My bees have just swarmed again – only ten days since the previous swarm!

Unfortunately, this time they decided to settle in next door’s garden.  My neighbour called round in an agitated state to tell me.  Fortunately they were in small tree, very low down and easy to access.  I went round to look and to reassure them that there was no risk, I put my hand inside the swarm (first time I’d done that) and didn’t get stung.

I shook the swarm into a cardboard box and turned it upside down onto a sheet ready to collect this evening.

As I write this, I’m looking out of the window, and it looks as if they’re swarming again.  Is that feasible?

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11 Responses to Secondary Swarm

  1. simplebees says:

    What you are seeing is cast swarms, or afterswarms. Each one will have a virgin queen and, depending on how many queens the colony has raised and what sort of mood it is in, there can indeed be several swarms. Such swarms typically issue 8 to 10 days after the prime swarm.

    I take it that the swarm felt warm, soft and slightly furry when you put your hand in? Did you persuade your neighbour to do the same? 😉

    Gareth, Cotswolds

  2. grahambrookbanks says:

    Thanks for the advice, Gareth. Yes, the swarm did feel warm and furry, but no, I didn’t suggest my neighbour tried it – I don’t think she would have been brave enough!

    The second cast appeared to start a small cluster higher up in another of my neighbour’s trees, but after a short time they just dispersed and seem to have settled down again. Fortunately they were out at the time!

    My wife is worried that they might swarm or cast again next week when we’re away. Do you think that’s likely?

  3. simplebees says:

    You asked:

    My wife is worried that they might swarm or cast again next week when we’re away. Do you think that’s likely?

    Cast swarms accompany virgin queens that hatch from eggs laid by the original queen that left with the first swarm. That swarm leaves when, or within a day or two after, the queen cell containing the first of those eggs is capped, 7 to 8 days after laying. The first of these queens emerges 16 days after the egg is laid, or 7 to 8 days after the first swarm. A delay of a day or two is not unusual as the newly emerged queen matures in the hive before flying. Hence the 8 to 10 days interval between the prime swarm and the first cast. Further casts may emerge from subsequent hatches of queen cells, which can be 3 or 4 days behind the first one. So that gives a typical cast ‘window’ of say 10 to 14 days from the issuance of the prime swarm.

    Does that help?

    Gareth, Cotswolds

    • grahambrookbanks says:

      That’s really helpful, Gareth.
      I’ve decided that if I’m likely to be collecting swarms in the future, i need a skep. Any recommendations where I can get one?

  4. Julia says:

    Bravo Graham!

  5. jen3972 says:

    My bees swarmed today and sadly they are about 20′ up in a conifer 😦 it was warm but breezy and after hovering helpfully around my apple tree, then my neighbour’s lilac shrub, they ascended and clumped up miles out of reach. It’s not ladderable as they are on the end of a branch. I’m really upset as its a big swarm from a strong and friendly colony.

  6. Paul says:

    For future swarms up trees, I suggest you make a swarm catcher along the lines shown at the bottom of this article:
    I got the idea from Gareths longer, “industrial” version. You can find short videos on how to make them on YouTube.
    When our bees swarm they settled, each time, in the tall conifers near their hive. I think because it’s high out of predators’ way – there is good visibility all round – and the resin smells like propolis, i.e. “home”. So you can probably count on future swarms settling in the same place. (Our very tall conifers grew in a neighbour’s garden, and he’s had them cut low now, so we no longer have the out-of-reach issue. That’s another way of solving the problem!)

  7. ruth talbot says:

    Hi Graham
    if your bees do swarm again and you need a home for them, give me a call as I am currently bee-less. 07553368053
    Ruth, Waltham st Lawrence

  8. grahambrookbanks says:

    An update on my recent swarm posting –
    We went out on Friday afternoon, leaving the swarm in an upturned cardboard box on a sheet in my neighbour’s garden. When we got home at 20:00 I rang a member of Winchester & District BKA who wanted a swarm and he came round to collect them, but unfortunately the box was empty. We had a good look around, but couldn’t see them. Maybe I didn’t get the queen when I shook them into the cardboard box? Might they have returned to the hive?
    Anyway, they swarmed again yesterday (Saturday)! This time at 11:45, just 30 minutes before we were due to go out to meet friends for the afternoon. Fortunately they settled in an easily accessible shrub in my garden and it was a very small cluster. I didn’t have time to deal with them so I rang the disappointed beekeeper from the day before and left a message that he could pop round and collect them if he wanted.
    When we got home last night at 22:00, there was a message saying that he’d called round but there was no sign of the bees. Same question – might they have returned to the hive?
    As I write this, there is plenty of ‘coming and going’ from the hive – the girls are obviously making the most of the sunny weather, but my wife doesn’t want me to go out in case they swarm again!

  9. jen3972 says:

    I have had that once or twice: I’ve wondered if it’s the mating flight and the queen has pit-stopped on her way back? So it looks like a small swarm and I’ve collected it to find them all bearding back at the hive a couple of hours later.

    Ps my swarm in the conifer was collected by climbing up and cutting off the branch and lowering it down. My beek friend did the climbing, I did the branch collection but I let him have the bees!

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