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signs of swarming

 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3356
Location: woodland, washington
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what do folks look for to indicate that swarming is imminent in a colony?

if the hive in question has got a window, I look for bees sort of hanging around underneath the lowest combs. not like when they're chaining to build more, but more of a mass of bees where there wasn't one before.

I've also heard that the noise following a knock on the hive is substantially different just before swarming. more of a hiss, perhaps? hard to hear much of anything inside my hives made of thick wood, though.

new queen cups would be a pretty sure sign, but what about evidence that is observed outside the hive?
 
David Heaf
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Tel wrote "...but what about evidence that is observed outside the hive?"

On the times I've been in the apiary when a swarm has issued there were what are sometimes called mass orientation flights, but which Tautz sees as flights preparatory to swarm issue. Bees are seen 'dancing' in a cloud in front of the hive about to swarm, facing the hive. If a swarm does not issue, the cloud melts away. The latter occurs within the space of up to about a quarter of a hour.

Another useful indicator is scouts appearing at batit hives within range of the apiary. The pre-swarm cluster, that Tel describes, can start looking for a new home before issue.

The pre-swarm cluster is also described by J-M Frèrés & J-C Guillaume in their book 'L' Apiculture Écologique de A à Z'. Their 'ecological hive' is a modification of the Warré, the change so far most attractive to beekeepers being a window in the back of each box. It is from these authors that the Warré with windows is derived. Presumably the reason pre-swarm clusters are not reported in frame hives is that the space is filled to the floor with wood and combs.
 
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