Rules Don’t Apply to Bees – Part 2 (The Girls Come Home)

Sunday, August 24, 2014 (1PM)

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A week after Pink Hive Swarmed, I’m at a vineyard with friends, and the phone rings. I answered to a frantic hubster who is claiming that the swarm has returned and “they are moving back into Pink Hive”.

“Are you sure they’re not doing orientation flights?”, I asked. “No, I know what a swarm looks like,” he said. Indeed, at this point, he’s seen more swarms than I have. What’s more, he videotaped the event AND sent me a convincing photo. The swarm covered the entire front surface of pink hive.

WTH?

Seriously? What the heck? It had to be the same swarm. I can’t believe a stray swarm would just happen to move into the same hive that just swarmed…unless they sensed that hive was weak. It wasn’t visibly weak though. In fact, I would never have known it swarmed if I hadn’t seen the swarm myself. I planned to wait 2 weeks before checking for brood. As it stood, inside and out, the numbers looked good!

We were thrilled to have them back, of course, but were a bit dumbfounded by what had happened.  So I proceeded to research the heck out of it.

Potential Theories

Theory 1:  I’ve heard of swarms moving into an empty hive.  That makes sense, it’s a ready-made home with no inhabitants and no threats.   Pink Hive was not an empty hive, it was an active hive, so this is unlikely.

Theory 2:  I’ve heard of swarms moving into weak hives – hives that are low in numbers and are either queenless or have a weak queen.  Since the hive had just swarmed, there’s certainly a chance the hive could have been queenless.  They were lower in numbers, but not weak.  Perhaps it was weaker than I thought.  It was a first year hive, and the swarm was a big one, so there’s no doubt the population was hit hard, regardless of appearance.

Theory 3:  Sometimes when a swarm leaves a hive, if the queen is left behind, they will return to the hive within minutes.  They’ll remain in the hive until a new virgin queen emerges, then they will swarm again – usually within a week or two.  When this happens, it is best to split the hive or create a fake swarm before they swarm again.  This should prevent the second swarm from occurring.   However, they came back within hours or minutes.  They came back a week later!

Theory 4:  They’ll often return to the hive if the queen is lost or damaged during the swarm process.  Again, this usually occurs within hours or minutes, which makes me wonder if the queen had been damaged or killed during our botched attempt to retrieve them or during their journey elsewhere.  This seems the most likely situation to me.  Their numbers were halved from their original swarm.  Perhaps their chosen location didn’t work out.

Theory 5:  They just needed a vacation, perhaps somewhere warm, a little less crowded where they could relax and enjoy some sites.  The Carolinas maybe, I hear that’s a popular place with the bees.  They’ve worked hard this season, they earned it :o)

If Only Bees Could Talk

Boy, wouldn’t we like to know the real story?  I do know that there’s a chance of another swarm, if it hasn’t happened already.  The traffic is minimal at the entrance.  I added another box for space. They have tons of capped brood. I’ll give them a check this weekend.

My money says they’ll swarm this Sunday, just after our big family arrives for a nice outdoor get together…in true BooBee fashion. Ha ha. Nothing like giving my inlaws a show!  After all, Sundays mid-mornings are their favorite time to swarm.  Of course I’ll either be useless the rest of the day, or I’ll just let them go…again.

Oh well, they’ll do what they want to do, when they want to do it.  :o]

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2 thoughts on “Rules Don’t Apply to Bees – Part 2 (The Girls Come Home)

    • Excellent! I’m heading into my 2nd winter, so I’m still a newbee too. You’ll certainly find lots of lessons learned, ideas, and experiences throughout the beekeeping year. Best of luck and ask lots of questions!

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