Spot the queen – The Apiarist

Synopsis : Swarmtastic! The primary swarms of the season and a well timed lesson on why swarm keep watch over is essential and the way clipping the queen actually is helping.


Temperatures have in the end completed a ‘standard’ mid-Might reasonable of low teenagers (°C), and on maximum days the bees are out foraging nicely. If the rest that is making the discrepancy between the most powerful hives and the also-rans much more marked. I’ve simply put my fourth supers on some, while a couple of hives are suffering to do the rest a lot with the primary one.

The oil seed rape in Fife goes over in a couple of fields, however maximum nonetheless has 10-14 days to head … and the forecast is incredible, so I’m hoping to nonetheless have time to grasp beekeeping victory (or what masquerades as victory for a beekeeper which is complete buckets of honey) from the jaws of defeat.

It’s now not going to be a bumper spring crop, however it would with reference to arrange reasonable.

I’ll thankfully take reasonable after my early enthusiasm used to be so comprehensively dashed a fortnight later.

After all, the mix of a just right nectar go with the flow and overcrowded colonies implies that the bees are actually busying themselves with swarm arrangements. The put up as of late is all about swarms, misplaced and located, some great benefits of clipped queens and the significance of statement.

Or, to position it in a different way, extra stories of slapstick beekeeping 😉 .

Let’s get the justifications out of the best way first

I inspected my colonies in Fife at the 10th of Might. All appeared OK. Since then ‘lifestyles’ had conspired to stay me at the west coast; developers , guests, crucial dog-sitting tasks and quite a few different unavoidable issues intended I couldn’t get again to Fife till Sunday the 21st.

Sunday used to be woeful.

I visited only one apiary to test a couple of bins … no bees flying.

Unsurprising because it used to be 11°C and dangerous rain.

I hefted a couple of hives to reassure myself that they weren’t going to starve … a minimum of now not earlier than the next day to come when the forecast used to be predicted to be a bit higher. Strangely, the most powerful hives had been reassuringly heavy 🙂 .

Relatively than open bins in what had been beautiful hopeless prerequisites I loaded a couple of empty supers  into the automobile for the next day to come and ran some non-beekeeping errands.


Monday 22nd dawned chilly and gray. I needed to seek advice from the opticians very first thing to assemble a brand new set of glasses (I used to be suffering to tell apart drones from employees, let by myself having the ability to see eggs) and, whilst on the town, fortified myself with caffeine because the polis cleared out the final of the revellers from the evening earlier than .

And, what with something and any other, I didn’t get to the apiary till past due morning to be greeted via leaden skies, temperatures of 13°C and a couple of spots of rain … a complete 12 days since my final seek advice from.

I suppose you realize the place that is going … 😉 .

Clipped queens and swarming

I typically clip my queens. ‘Clipping’ refers to shortening one of the crucial forewings in order that the queen can not fly strongly, or in any respect.

Returning a marked and clipped queen

Some beekeepers believe this tradition is barbaric and are satisfied to let their colonies swarm freely.

I don’t believe it barbaric or like shedding swarms.

Maximum swarms will perish until they’re hived via a beekeeper (research from Thomas Seeley display that swarm survival is, at easiest, ~20%), and swarms reason really extensive consternation to participants of the general public. I’d choose my swarms don’t die of hunger or illness, and don’t disillusioned civilians, so I clip my queens.

Queen clipping does now not forestall swarming, however it does forestall you shedding the swarm.

Since that won’t make entire sense, and as it’s related to the remainder of the put up, I’ll describe what typically occurs when a colony with a clipped (or unclipped) queen makes an attempt to swarm.

The colony makes swarm arrangements because of this that they produce queen cells and narrow the queen down (inflicting her to put fewer eggs) so she will be able to fly extra strongly. In most cases on a heat, calm and sunny afternoon, the swarm leaves the hive. This occurs on or in a while after the day on which the primary of the growing queen cells are capped. Deficient climate delays issues, however as soon as the elements is just right sufficient … off they move!

The swarm is an implausible sight, with as much as 75% of the flying bees and the queen leaving the hive.

It’s virtually as just right a sight as a swarm arriving in one in all your bait hives 🙂 .

Clipped vs. unclipped queens and swarms

An unclipped queen will choose a close-by department and the flying bees will ultimately huddle round her to shape a bivouacked swarm. The scout bees then survey the surroundings to choose a brand new nest web site to which the swarm ultimately relocates .

See also  Honey Bee’s Altruistic Habits | Bee Tradition

Against this, a clipped queen leaves the hive and crashes ignominiously to the bottom as she is not able to fly any distance.

Most often one in all two issues then occurs;

  • the queen climbs up the hive stand and both re-enters the hive or (extra typically in my enjoy) settles beneath the ground. The flying bees both go back to the hive or cluster beneath with the queen.
  • the flying bees abandon the queen and go back to the hive, leaving the queen (possibly with a couple of stragglers) mendacity within the grass in entrance of the hive.

Sadly for the clipped queen, her longer term survival likelihood is that deficient (until re-hived via the beekeeper).

If she returns to the hive both the bees or – sooner or later – a virgin queen will eliminate her, and if she results in the grass she’s going to ultimately perish.

Clipped queen and stragglers (from 2021)

The overall essential level is that queen clipping has a tendency to lengthen swarming. You’ll due to this fact investigate cross-check colonies quite much less steadily. Against this to an unclipped queen (typically swarming in regards to the time the primary queen mobile is capped), a colony with a clipped queen swarms ‘when the primary virgin queen is able to emerge’ (quoted verbatim from no higher authority than Ted Hooper in Information to Bees and Honey.).

Nope! … I’ll go back so far later.

Swarms: the nice, the dangerous and the unsightly

The 3 colonies (#3, #34 and #48) in my bee shed are more potent than the part dozen different colonies in the similar apiary. Whether or not that is likelihood or in reality displays the security presented via the shed is unclear .

At the 10th of Might all 3 had been having a look nice … a variety of brood, enough area to put, no charged queen cells and with 2-3 supers every. For the aim of this put up, most effective my notes for colony #34 from the tenth are actually related they usually had been …

One PC + egg, no CQC’s, M&C Q subsequent time!

… which means there have been no CQC (charged queen cells, i.e. queen cells containing royal jelly and a larva), however that there were a play cup (PC; the earliest type of queen mobile) containing an egg. The queen, a past due 2022 supersedure, used to be additionally now not marked or clipped and the observe used to be to ring a bell in me if I noticed her.

The opposite two colonies had been acting nicely regardless that I additionally famous that the paint at the queen in #48 used to be rubbing off and that she wanted marking once more.

I’ve referred to as those 3 colonies “the nice, the dangerous and the unsightly as they properly illustrate some great benefits of clipping queens, and display what occurs for those who do … and for those who don’t 😉 .

I’ll take care of them in opposite order as, a) it makes for a rather higher tale, and b) it used to be the order I inspected the colonies.

’the unsightly’ … colony #34

This colony had swarmed. There have been sealed and unsealed queen cells within the brood field, no eggs (simple to decide because of the brand new glasses 🙁 ) and no signal of the swarm. This used to be the colony with the ‘play cup plus egg’ twelve days previous, so considerable time to make some queen cells after which not anything to forestall them going.


Have in mind, the queen used to be now not clipped.

Mea culpa.

Totally avoidable had one in all 3 issues been accomplished:

  • I’d hired swarm keep watch over on my final seek advice from. Alternatively, possibly slightly untimely because it’s now not atypical to look eggs in play cups and for them to not turn into queen cells.
  • My go back seek advice from hadn’t been 12 days later. With just a one week lengthen I’d have discovered charged queen cells and – despite the fact that I couldn’t to find the queen – would had been in a position to avert swarming via in moderation splitting the field to split the flying bees off.
  • I’d clipped the queen 🙁 … possibly.

You win some and also you lose some.

In my defence, it’s most probably most effective the second one or 3rd swarm I’ve misplaced within the final 60-80 ‘hive years’ (choice of hives multiplied via years e.g. 20 x 3), and a minimum of one of the crucial others used to be additionally a past due season supersedure queen that I failed to seek out and clip earlier than it used to be too past due.

After all, it is going with out announcing that the swarm disregarded the bait hive positioned in the similar apiary 🙁 … now not unsurprising as maximum swarms go back and forth a minimum of 250-300 metres.

I got rid of all of the sealed queen cells and left one well-formed, charged queen mobile on a marked body. I will be able to slightly appropriately guesstimate the age of the open mobile and so know to inside an afternoon or so when the brand new queen will emerge.

’the dangerous’ … colony #3

It used to be slowly warming up.

A small tear within the differently still-leaden sky confirmed a patch of cornflower blue.

I got rid of my fleece (it were that chilly).

One bee (yellow arrow), hive front (purple arrow)

Whilst checking the touchdown forums at the shed I realized one bee flying out from beneath the shed.

See also  Oxalic Acid Vaporization Remedy for Bees

After which any other.

After which one flying again in underneath the shed.

The shed is picket, with a cast flooring supported on bearers status at the slabbed base. The bees – there have been a couple of now – had been on the nook of the shed, closest to the doorway to hive #34 (that I now knew had swarmed).

I attempted to appear underneath the shed flooring however may just see not anything. I driven my telephone beneath and took a photograph.

Hmmm …

Now not a lot lend a hand.

So I puffed a couple of large billows of smoke underneath there … and won a definite roar in go back.

There used to be a swarm underneath the shed.

This used to be each just right information and dangerous information.

Excellent as a result of I’d discovered it the use of my Leave out Marple-like observational abilities, dangerous as it intended one of the crucial different two colonies within the shed had swarmed .

I checked the following closest colony (#3, purple arrow) and, certain sufficient, there have been open and sealed queen cells. This colony used to be headed via a clipped and marked queen. I reasoned that they’d swarmed and he or she’d ended up crawling underneath the shed the place the flying bees (or a few of them) had joined her.

I got rid of all however one late-stage open charged queen mobile, up to date my notes and (metaphorically) rolled up my sleeves in preparation to extricate the swarm.

Let there be smoke

It used to be unimaginable to get admission to the distance underneath the shed. The ‘front’ used to be ~2 cm prime and there used to be most probably no more than ~10 cm of headspace beneath the ground.

I ready a nuc field with a body or two of drawn comb (one pinched from an empty tremendous as that used to be all I needed to hand), one body of basis and a body with some shops in it. After including the roof I driven the doorway of the nuc very as regards to the ground nook of the shed, regardless that angled obliquely so I may just see what used to be going down.

Puff, puff, puff

I then spent 45 mins forcing massive quantities of smoke underneath the shed in an try to inspire the bees to desert their fallacious house and transfer into the nuc. Each couple of minutes I’d forestall to let the smoke transparent, to respire a bit extra simply and to wipe my eyes (that have been streaming).

To start with a couple of bees got here out, then some extra, then they began roaring and rather a lot extra emerged … however once I ended puffing the smoke they’d get started to go back.

Obviously the queen used to be nonetheless in place of dwelling.

Extra smoke.

A lot extra.

After which she simply marched out 🙂 .

I did my easiest to shepherd her into the nuc field however, what with the coughing and the crying, overlooked her on the final minute.

And after that it were given so much more straightforward.

Stroll this manner

The bees had been quickly fanning furiously on the nuc front indicating that the queen used to be within the field.

I moved it rather additional away – there have been nonetheless a large number of bees milling about – added an extra body and left them till I seek advice from subsequent week.

’the nice’ … colony #48

By way of now the day used to be actually warming up.

The solar used to be out and it used to be an exquisite afternoon.

I used to be ‘kippered’ . As I closed up hive #3 an ominous roar began in hive #48 which I had but to open.

Bees began pouring out of the hive front, a whirling maelstrom above the shed and throughout me. Obviously the colony used to be swarming. It used to be an implausible sight.

The queen on this field used to be clipped and marked (albeit quite faintly) so I knew that the worst that would occur used to be that she would finally end up underneath the shed.

Now not one thing I used to be willing to copy 🙁 .

I watched the doorway for a number of mins however there used to be no signal of the queen and the bees weren’t settling. Within the absence of her unmajesterially plummeting to earth – and I reckoned she’d now not disappear underneath the shed straight away – I ready any other nuc field within the hope of making use of some retrospective swarm keep watch over.

And after I’d accomplished that (~10 mins later in line with the timestamp at the movies) the bees began re-entering the hive virtually as speedy as they’d left it.

An hour or so later and there used to be minimum front process.

I reasoned that the colony had tried to swarm, however that the queen both hadn’t left or had were given no additional than the touchdown board after which returned to the hive.

All quiet once more

If I may just to find the queen and make up a nuc I may be able to a) stay the vast majority of the colony in combination, b) forestall additional swarming, and c) really feel quite happy with myself 😉 .

Spot the queen (once more)

I got rid of the 3 heavy supers and gently prised up the queen excluder which I positioned out of doors, leaning it in opposition to the shed wall beneath the hive front. Any bees at the excluder typically go back to the hive which means I don’t must shake them off, thereby making the process of changing the excluder a bit more straightforward.

See also  Honey Recipe | Bee Tradition

A shufti throughout the field failed to seek out the queen however did divulge a couple of sealed and unsealed queen cells. I additionally noticed a few frames of rising brood appropriate for making up a nuc.

A a lot more thorough seek – throughout which I knocked again undesirable queen cells and got rid of the frames for the nuc field – additionally failed to seek out the queen 🙁 .

I used to be virtually resigned to creating up the nuc with a sealed queen mobile and hoping the quite depleted hive wouldn’t swarm once more after I did what I must have accomplished 10 mins previous … I re-checked the queen excluder.

And there she used to be 🙂 .

There you’re!

She’d both been there since opening the hive, or had left with the swarm and climbed onto the queen excluder after I stood it out of doors the shed. I think the previous as no bees were loitering at the floor after the swarm returned which I’d have anticipated if the queen were ‘misplaced’.

I re-marked her, popped her into the nuc field, rearranged the hive to go away one charged queen mobile of a recognized age, closed the whole thing up and in the end dropped off the nuc at any other apiary past due that afternoon.

We be informed from failure, now not from luck!

Au contraire Bram Stoker … you’ll be able to additionally be informed from luck, however you must all the time be informed from screw ups.

While two of the 3 colonies described weren’t abject screw ups – in spite of everything, I reckon I’ve were given maximum/the entire bees I began with – the actual fact that they swarmed indicated there used to be a failure in my swarm prevention and keep watch over.

My swarm keep watch over failure used to be omitting it altogether … as a result of I didn’t investigate cross-check the colonies for ~12 days.

As I mentioned … mea culpa 🙁 .

So what have I (re)discovered?

  • Mark and clip queens early within the season when colonies don’t seem to be overflowing with bees. Don’t put off it till “a greater day” as it would now not occur, it’s possible you’ll now not to find her or they could make a choice to swarm on that day 🙁 .
  • Colonies headed via clipped queens can swarm earlier than the brand new virgin is able to emerge. I opened all of the capped cells I discovered and all had been a minimum of 4-5 days pre-emergence (no melanisation of the pupa had began). My inspection 12 days previous were very thorough. I had now not neglected any queen cells.
  • Be informed the building cycle of bees. I know the growing queens I left will emerge in 9-10 days (31/5 or 1/6) so there’s no level in in search of eggs earlier than in regards to the 9th of June.
  • Investigate cross-check in just right climate (or be particularly observant). I noticed a unmarried bee flying out from underneath the shed. On a just right day there would had been rather a lot extra process.
  • However be observant anyway … 😉 … how did I omit that final clipped queen?
  • Copious quantities of smoke will shift a settled swarm. A large smoker is helping!
  • Have spares handy – nucs, frames and so on. – as you by no means fairly know what is going to occur within the apiary.

What must I’ve accomplished in a different way?

As I drove again house I mulled over the joy of the afternoon and puzzled what, if the rest, I will have accomplished higher/in a different way.

I believe I must have moved the nuc from the bottom adjoining to the shed. I choose hives on stands, or a minimum of now not at the floor. Alternatively, there have been nonetheless bees flying about – or even some rising from underneath the shed – so it is going to need to be transferred to a far off apiary subsequent week.

I must now not have neglected the queen at the excluder. Had I discovered her straight away I’d had been completed with hive #48 in only a few mins. I all the time take a look at the bottom of the excluder, however (obviously) now not all the time nicely sufficient 😉 .

As opposed to that – in addition to the teachings indexed above – it used to be a slightly a success afternoon.

Lochaber sundown

It used to be a protracted power house. Alternatively, had I ended the inspections previous I’d have neglected the solar environment over the Lochaber hills. It’s a paranormal time of the 12 months … ~17+ hours of sunlight, birdsong in every single place (at house there are cuckoos calling all day), the whole thing having a look contemporary and verdant and – as I write this – a parliament of owls having a singalong within the lawn 🙂 .

Glad beekeeping


Some ultimate issues that got here to thoughts throughout proofreading … in large part integrated to ‘head off’ comparable questions within the feedback.

  • the copious quantities of smoke used to shift the swarm from underneath the shed had not anything to do with colony #48 swarming. I took care to just direct the smoke underneath the shed (and into my eyes!) and the doorway to #48 is set 4 metres away.
  • I selected to stay up for colony #48 to go back after swarming quite than rummaging throughout the field and demanding issues (much more). I crammed my time via analyzing different colonies.
  • when did the colonies swarm? The 2 colonies with the clipped queens obviously swarmed earlier than the virgin queens emerged (the oldest growing queens had been 4-5 days pre-emergence). Having a look on the climate information I think they swarmed on Friday the nineteenth because the temperature exceeded 20°C earlier than losing considerably on the weekend.
  • assuming I’ve elderly the pupae appropriately, 4-5 days pre-emergence is 11-12 days put up egg laying. That might imply the colonies began swarm preparation at the day of my earlier inspection (10th), or the day after. The primary queen cells would had been capped in regards to the 17th, any other cheap day on which swarming will have passed off.

Leave a Comment