Two Queens, or Two Swarms?

Another hectic day makes me think back to April and thinking that I was getting ahead. Foolish. Again it was bees that took up most of my time. I also saw two queens within what acted like a single swarm, rather than two swarms. This is how the day went.

After my early chores, I headed out to a meeting of the Horncastle Area Permaculture Initiative (HAPI). We were continuing on with creating a permaculture design for one of the group, which has been the focus for this year. The session went well, but on the way home, I got a call from my wife to say that one of the colonies that I manage had a swarm out. Sowe suited up, and collected it. No serious problems. Access was difficult, and my colleague/apprentice had not put together another hive, so I had to put the swarm into a bait hive, with old comb in.

On returning home, I checked my apiary for swarms, dropped my wife at work, and went for another swarm check, only to find a swarm spiralling on the opposite side of the field, awhich I hadn’t checked last time. At this point, I wasn’t sure if this was a missed swarm taking to the air, or a swarm from the last of my hives left to swarm. I suited up, and saw that the swarm was settling, and dealt with them as normal.

The first thing that I noticed was that the bees were more agitated than normal for a swarm. Having cut the branch in which they had settled from the tree, I gently laid it on a ramp, and bees started to make their way up the ramp, and into the hive. In some places, I saw what looked like little scuffles between individual bees, but took no notice. As the bees made their way in, I saw a meduium sized, orange banded queen, in the centre group on the branch. A short while later, I saw what looked like a smaller black queen, trying to walk into the hive, and appear to be chased away, and fly up to the roof. A short while later, bees started to pour from the hive, and climb up the front of the hive. The dark queen tried to go in again, but flew off. I managed to get the dark queen into a tube, and put her into the entrance. With more bees leaving the hive, I decided to intervene, and started to lift bees off of the hive, and put them at the entrance.

At this point I thought that I may have been mistaken about the two queens, which I discussed in an earlier post , do swarms travel with a spare queen, but one lump of bees that I moved had a distinctly orange queen. This queen was mobbed at the entrance, and I started to get concerned, as there were some bees clearly not happy. With a few more scoops, and a little luck the bees eventually decided to stay put. When there were just a few bees left at the edge of the ramp I moved it away,only to see a few bees and an injured dark queen, who was clearly badly injured, and being ignored now.

What isn’t clear is whether two swarms had gotten mixed up, and because of my interference, had set up home together with one of the two queens, or a swarm had flown with a spare, or if I was mistaken about the orange bands.

I’ll be watching this hive with interest.

Meanwhile, I hoe that tomorrow I’ll get the chance to innoculate all of my potted plants with mycorrhizal fungi, using compost teas as the carrier.

All of the best

Deano

7 thoughts on “Two Queens, or Two Swarms?

  1. A Life Less Simple

    We have just got a swarm which landed right outside our house; we’ve put it in a top bar hive and so far they seem to like it!

    Reply
    1. Deano Post author

      Hi Again
      That’s cool. Normally swarms cluster reasonably close to the parent colony while the scouts look for a new home. Do you know where they came from?
      All of the best
      Deano

      Reply
  2. A Life Less Simple

    We think we know where they have come from but there are two or three people who keep bees at the top of the village.
    They are still with us and were very busy yesterday when it was sunny, on the second day we had them we put some feed in the part of the hive they weren’t using but it was getting wasps visiting it so we have taken it away again, do you think that was alright? They are bringing lots back to the hive but I can’t tell if it is food or for building.

    Poppy

    Reply
    1. Deano Post author

      Hi poppy
      They will be bringing back nectar to build comb, and store honey, and pollen to raise young bees. Watch out for wasps. If they are getting into the hive, you need to reduce the size of the entrance, to make it easier to defend. I wrote a lot of posts about wasps last Summer. If you cannot stop them that way, you will need to consider trapping them, or hunting down the nests and destroying them.
      Ihope that it goes well for you,as it is heart-breaking when a hive is destroyed by wasps.
      All ofthe best

      Deano

      Reply
    2. Deano Post author

      Hi poppy
      Wasps are a problem, and I posted quite a bit about them last year. if they are getting into the hive, reduce the size of the entrance, to help the bees to defend themselves. You may need to put out traps, and even destroy the wasp nests.
      Good Luck

      Deano

      Reply
  3. chrisjsuk

    Its quite common for there to be two queens in a swarm – normally virgin queens coming out with a cast (secondary swarm) one of them usually kills the other while they are in the basket I have caught them in.

    Reply
    1. Deano Post author

      You’re not the first to say that they’ve seen two queens. I cannot be sure that what I’ve seen are two virgins, although it does make sense.
      Deano

      Reply

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