Why do swarm prevention?

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Grant

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No matter what answers are given, @mischief will take the opposite.

Based on the introduction they're more likely trying to stimulate conversation or explore an alternative view, which is something NZ based beekeepers are not good at being open to.

Devil's advocate: someone who pretends, in an argument or discussion, to be against an idea or plan that a lot of people support, in order to make people discuss and consider it in more detail

Sort of the point of a forum really.

Playing devil's advocate here.....
Why do swarm prevention?

Also, don't assume people are new to the forums and trying to wind people up based on their post count, Mischief has been around a good 5 years
 
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mischief

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I can't decide whether this was posted to learn about the pros and cons of swarming or whether it's a plant by PETA to try and get more ammunition to use on evil beekeepers.
Everything I have written is based on over 50 years practical beekeeping experience.
If you really want an in-depth lesson on how to keep swarmy bees then you can't go past some of the YouTube videos on skep beekeeping in Germany where they encourage the hives to swarm multiple times every spring. They need lots of swarms because they kill the best fullest skep hives at the end of the season. It's fascinating stuff and they actually interfere with the bees a lot more than I do.
This sort of beekeeping is more suited to late summer\autumn honey crops whereas New Zealand's honey crops tend to be late spring early summer.
Most definitely in order to learn about the pro's and con's.

I had to look up what a PETA was....no I am not seeking ammo against you. Obviously, I do need to change my writing style.
I have learnt the hard way, that its always wise to question everything, especially when you do know just little you know about a given subject.
Far from knocking your expertise, I appreciated that you actually took time to write something worth listening too and wanted to know more.
Too many times I have found people quote what they have been told and that this gets handed down as fact, when its not necessarily so.
Along with that, there are times when it appears that things get done is such a way, simply because that it just the way it has always been done.

For a bit of back ground.
When I realised that it was actually possible for me to manage a beehive, using the long hive system, I read everything I could lay my hands on, up to and including lurking both here and on BS.
I wanted to know what people were actually doing and how it turned out, (not just read a bunch of books)....for 3 years.
I didnt just rush out and buy a bunch of bees and muddle my way through. When I felt that I had a good understanding, I bought the hiveware, equipment and then the nuc.
That was 1st Jan 2017.
I think I have done due diligence in this regard.

Now, I find that one of my hives- the original- is large enough that it may swarm, so I need to know.
I do wonder what the effects are with preventing bees to swarm, given that it is one way they reproduce themselves and yes, I do feel that they should have the right to do so, if they are in good health.
It does concern me that the general consensus is that its negligent to allow bees to follow their natural instinct- swarming; and that they are considered to be a health risk-AFB, yet I havent found any supporting stats for this.

I do feel that humans are too controlling when it comes to breeding any sort of lifeform and have in the past given examples of how bad it can get- Alsatian dogs for one. (Genetic bottlenecks are also very common with plant breeders.) I wonder if this contributes to the difficulties bees face today. According to the last colony loss report, the biggest cause was queen problems, not varroa or AFB. That disturbs me.

I feel that we pay too much attention to what we perceive as optimum and that species like bees would be better off seeing to their own reproduction. They have their own criteria and reasons for doing what they do and how they go about it and yes, I do feel that more attention should be paid to their needs.

I have seen those German vid's and even had them downloaded on a previous computer. I do question the 'fact' that they killed their hives in order to harvest the honey though. That wasnt what I observed from watching those vids.
The missing info in those vids was- what did they do with the colony?
I assumed that they merely turned the skep upside down, forcing the bees to move up into a new skep, freeing the old one up for harvesting. To me, that makes alot more sense than killing off your livestock. I no longer have the vids to go back and check though.
 
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mischief

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I can see where you are coming from "mischief". Just a little information on Varroa. The reason most of the swarms do not survive is Varroa is new to them and the bees have not learnt how to defend themselves with these critters. I am talking about AMM on Apis Milifera. The varroa jumped species from the Asian bee to the European bee and it will take a while for the European bee to live with the varroa. This is why swarms do not survive. I have seen pure AMM hives in the bush with no sign of varroa, not many mind you.
Thank you.

Oh!!!! so there are feral hives still out there. Thats good.....not too sure I'd like to have to deal with AMM's though.
 

mischief

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Based on the introduction they're more likely trying to stimulate conversation or explore an alternative view, which is something NZ based beekeepers are not good at being open to.

Devil's advocate: someone who pretends, in an argument or discussion, to be against an idea or plan that a lot of people support, in order to make people discuss and consider it in more detail

Sort of the point of a forum really.



Also, don't assume people are new to the forums and trying to wind people up based on their post count, Mischief has been around a good 5 years
Thank you Grant.
From now on though, I will be a little more mindful as to how I word things.
 
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Thank you.

Oh!!!! so there are feral hives still out there. Thats good.....not too sure I'd like to have to deal with AMM's though.
Why do you not want to deal with AMM's. Like anything else if they are pure bred no different to Apis Melifera( Italians). Any mongrel is not great to deal with
 
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I do wonder what the effects are with preventing bees to swarm, given that it is one way they reproduce themselves and yes, I do feel that they should have the right to do so, if they are in good health.
If you want them to swarm go for it, there are plenty of commercial beeks ready to sell you another one. If you worried about man's interference in beekeeping don't keep a hive.
 
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In the German video I saw they killed the fullest skeps at the end of the year by putting them over a pit containing burning sulphur. This was a first system of beekeeping used in New Zealand and swarming was encouraged.
Isolated AMM feral hives survive because they have never come into contact with varoa - they have been social distancing.
If you really want your hive to swarm then keep it stimulated with feeding unless there is a good natural honey flow occurring and keep it short of room. The earlier a hive swarms the longer it has to recover and produce a honey crop either for you or for its own winter stores. With early swarming you don't often get after swarms and provided the virgin Queen mates, hives can recover very quickly. Early swarming is nearly always caused by the hive becoming congested.
Some years are very bad for swarming and some areas with different floral sources notably broom and Barbary are much more likely to swarm than other areas. Late spring\early summer swarming can be caused by congestion but is more likely to because by a dearth in the honey flow and I have seen hives close to starvation, raising cells everywhere. Generally if a hive has enough room the swarming urge will go away when the main honey flow starts and I have seen hives pulldown swarm cells in these conditions.
Swarming during a dearth may be for reproduction but to me it seems more like the behaviour of African bees which will abscond during a dearth to a new area.
When hives swarm successfully the new Queen can be superb. Pre-varoa many orchardists had hives at the back of the orchard that weren't looked at from one year to the next and unless they got AFB they sometimes survived for decades without any care. Bees were quite capable of surviving on their own without mans intervention but now with varoa they cannot survive without care and certainly on the larger scale they can't have that care without producing an income for the beekeeper. To this end I do my best to stop them swarming which helps to maximise my income such as it is in these times but I have never had a year when at least some of my hives didn't successfully circumvent my best laid plans.
 

mischief

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Why do you not want to deal with AMM's. Like anything else if they are pure bred no different to Apis Melifera( Italians). Any mongrel is not great to deal with
lol, because I had heard that they are always grumpy and very difficult to manage...chasing beeks and stinging others who happen to be nearby.
With a neighbour who says she is allergic to bee stings, they would not be an option for me.
Pure bred Italians according to Fraz, are wonderful to deal with.

The other tidbit I gleaned, was that first cross hybrids can also be grumpy, but thats not too much I hear about and dont know how often this crops up.

If you want them to swarm go for it, there are plenty of commercial beeks ready to sell you another one. If you worried about man's interference in beekeeping don't keep a hive.
(Big fat sigh.....)
So, to answer my question, you are saying that hives will swarm to the point where they do not survive.
....Unfortunately (silly me), I do feel the need to ask if this is from personal experience/heard from a personal experience?

100%. No matter what answers are given, @mischief will take the opposite.
An unfounded comment Trevor and unworthy of you.

This @mischief is just trolling, just let him swarm and fly away ...
No, your comment is trolling and lowers the whole tone of the forum, shame on you.
 
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mischief

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when i first started it was very minimalistic beekeeping.
however one issue was hives that would end up very weak and even dead due to swarming. some would swarm so often they end up with so little bees they would fail.
then you have to catch the swarms, land owners don't like to see the hive fly away. swarms land in places where they become a problem that has to be dealt with. there is time taken up catching and dealing with them.
its almost as much work as swarm control and you loose out production wise and hive numbers.
Finally, I get the time to come back to your post.
I'm not too sure what is meant by minimalistic beekeeping- smaller hives/less hives/hands off type approach?

You mentioned before that this was around the start of varroa turning up, hope I got that bit right.
Did this sort of extreme swarming happen prior to that, to your knowledge?

I'm wondering if this only occurred with the arrival of varroa, whether or not is was an attempt by the bees to flee this pest, much like the Apis Cerana do?
 

Dave Black

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No Swarms.​


You won’t be beekeeping for very long before you come across a persistent set of propositions that are generally presented as some form of veiled rebuke. They go something like this:

Why not let bees do what they would naturally do?

Why not work with the natural processes of the hive?

Why can’t bees survive long without being untreated and unmanaged, why do we have to interfere?

They have been on this planet longer than we have/[for millions of years]; once we start 'looking after them', they are at risk of extinction...

It’s the right moral thing to do - allowing a lifeform to experience its true nature.


There is of course no basis for claiming that honeybees are at risk of extinction but focus for a moment on the moral subtext here. Philosophically, the idea that ‘nature’ and ‘natural’ represent some perfect, self-correcting, harmonious state of being, perhaps provided by a beneficent Creator, is very old. ‘Natural’ is used in opposition to ‘human’, which of course is far from perfect, evil even. It’s a false dichotomy, a myth, and helps to entrench a worldview in which humans are separate from and even inferior to, the natural world. An associated problem is one of teleology, our tendency to explain things we observe as the result of intent or design, as the way things ‘should’ be. Nature, as currently found, is inevitable, rather than accidental. One of the problems with trying to answer ‘why?’ questions is that we unconsciously think in terms of structure and purpose when there are none.

…appeals to nature can be potent. The conclusions seem based on what is “natural,” inherent, or inevitable. There is thus no recourse. Natural purpose seems both inescapable and irrefutable. Thus, even if one can imagine things differently, or argue that they “ought” to be different, one seems bound to the inevitable. Teleological-based claims can thus function as a powerful method of persuasion. Socially, they are a sort of rhetorical weapon. Nature, with its aura of intended outcomes, acts like a trump card to eclipse alternative arguments.

Teleology’s long shadow, Werth and Allchin, Evo. Edu. Outreach (2020) 13:4

In recent years this ‘natural’ perspective has become regarded as neither philosophically nor scientifically sound. To malappropriate a line from Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan, 1651) in a natural state (of society, or nature) life can be “…nasty, brutish, and short”.

Beekeepers have been working with bees for around 4,500 years. In modern times, the last 100 years or so, nothing stimulates the kind of remarks I opened with more than manipulations to control swarming. While few beekeepers argue that swarming can be stopped; most see it as undesirable and look for ways to manage it. What is it and what makes it undesirable? Why don’t we just let bees get on with it?

In simple terms, unlike other social insects, honeybee colonies function as a unit which includes, usually, a single reproductive female with a limited life span and many workers. To create more colonies, and to continue the life of the unit, bees must increase the number of reproductive females, apportion workers with these females, and house them in new, separate, nests. A colony will grow until it has achieved sufficient size, and accumulated enough food resources, to be able to sustain this process. Each new group containing a viable female and sterile worker bees is known as a swarm. The first and largest group will contain the colony’s old, mated, queen and a share of the workers, subsequent groups have new unmated queen (a ‘virgin’) and a lesser share of workers (and may be known as ‘casts’). These small groups of bees travel to new nest sites, so that the division of the original colony might result in half a dozen new colonies. One final group, containing a yet-to-be-mated queen (virgin) and what workers remain, stay in the original nest.

The potential outcomes of this process are uncertain and differ for each group. The original initiator of the swarms, the source colony, is left with a depleted workforce at a critical time of year, and queen pupae that may fail to emerge or be predated. murdered, lost, or poorly mated. In a sense it has traded off its winter security in order to produce new colonies. The first, prime, swarm has an old queen, not the best flyer, who may or may not establish a nest because sites can be in short supply, and may or may not lay enough to keep the nest going until she can be replaced or swarm in the subsequent season. If she stops laying the colony will die. The casts, with unmated queens, may not find a suitable site, risk exposure to the weather, and may not mate the virgins, killing the colony. If the season is unfavourable the swarms will not have time to create a large enough winter store of food and they will starve. If circumstances arise that leave any of these colonies without enough adult bees, they will be unable to defend, warm, or provide for the colony causing its demise. Weak colonies are also at a significantly higher risk from disease. In nature, something like 80% of swarms survive for less than a year. But it might work out.

An alternative strategy, perhaps complementary might be a better word, is for a colony to invest in male reproduction, rather than, or as well as, female reproduction. We can observe that honeybee colonies in fact do this, and that there is quite a lot of variation between colonies as to how much effort is applied to raising males rather than females, and in how many swarms are produced. The outcome of male production is also highly uncertain, but the probability of at least some of the offspring from the original hive founding new hives one way or another increases.

In purely biological terms colonies swarming presents risk and uncertainty. Honeybees may be unsuccessful in one year, or one region, but prosper in another. A new pathogen or pest might be enough to tip the balance of probability against survival. Could this translate into the extinction of the species? It wouldn’t be the first time a species’ reproductive ability, or lack of, has contributed to its extinction. In managed, monitored colonies all these challenges can be mitigated, and I think it’s reasonable that the increasing numbers of western honeybee colonies we have seen for the last 75 years, in contrast to the decline observed in more local Apis species, (dorsata, cerana, florea, andreniformis etc.) is due to this management.

In terms of the human supervision of swarming, beekeepers need to be able to explain that actually the goal is improving the outcome of this reproductive cycle, alleviating some of the risk unmanaged hives face. We can overcome a natural shortage of suitable nest sites and can transport colonies to new and profitable forage ranges, rather than leave them to die. We don’t want to have to rescue small, starving, disease-ridden colonies from wasps, or anything else; we don’t want the problems that come with ‘prime’ swarms that are in fact, well past their prime. We don’t want the ill-tempered, difficult to manage, occasionally dangerous stock that can result from unlucky mating combinations, or have to explain to family and neighbours why these critters are actually a good thing. We don’t want to have to rescue bees in barbeques, walls, ceilings, you name it. We don’t want pockets of inaccessible hives acting as reservoirs for pests or undesirable genes. We do want healthy, prosperous, fecund, predictable colonies. True, we aren’t doing it just because we are good buggars, and true, it’s our desire for honey and wax that fuels our generosity, but bees don’t pollinate out of the goodness of their leaky, tubular, heart.
 
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Finally, I get the time to come back to your post.
I'm not too sure what is meant by minimalistic beekeeping- smaller hives/less hives/hands off type approach?

You mentioned before that this was around the start of varroa turning up, hope I got that bit right.
Did this sort of extreme swarming happen prior to that, to your knowledge?

I'm wondering if this only occurred with the arrival of varroa, whether or not is was an attempt by the bees to flee this pest, much like the Apis Cerana do?
minimalistic is simply hands off as much as possible.
probably a bit of throw back to pre varroa days when it was common for beeks to run the likes of 1000 hives per beek.
even with varroa, as long as you got around them all with the strips, varroa wasn't a big problem.

swarming hasn't really changed since varroa came in. bees still do the same old stuff.
around here we have very temperamental spring honey flows which sets hives off into swarm mode.
these days we run less hives per beek, but spend more time looking after them. remember that two half strength hives do worse than a single full strength hive. so its in our interest to make sure they are all full strength.
this also pays off with other issues as weak hives always tend to suffer more disease.
and of course those strong hives can be split to make up for losses.
those booming hives that will simply swarm untill they are nothing, can get used to patch up other hives, or split for replacements.
there really is no good reason to let hives swarm.

one of the single most common problem with beginner beeks is understanding beehive size. many split half strength hives and wonder why they end up with dead hives. most will look at a weak hive and think its good. when you show them a good hive they are blown away.
you won't be good unless you know what good is.
 

Alastair

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Beekeeping is just a name and to be honest, appears to me to be rather over rated.

Why cant bees survive long without being untreated and unmanaged? How come?
They have been on this planet longer than we have, how come they all of a sudden- time-wise 'need' us to care for them?

Ask yourself not everyone else.

You tried caring for bees and not treating them, didn't work, had to get a treating beekeeper to come and save them.

Now you care for them, and treat them.

Why keep asking everyone else why they do it? When you do it.

You don't know why you do it? How would anyone else know why you do it?
 
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So, to answer my question, you are saying that hives will swarm to the point where they do not survive.
....Unfortunately (silly me), I do feel the need to ask if this is from personal experience/heard from a personal experience?
With my over 20yrs experience of commercial beekeeping, sometimes hives that swarm don't survive. (silly me)
 

Bron

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Big fat sigh.....)
So, to answer my question, you are saying that hives will swarm to the point where they do not survive.
....Unfortunately (silly me), I do feel the need to ask if this is from personal experience/heard from a personal experience?

About 10 years ago when we were just starting out we had hives in the bottom of the garden visible from the dining room table. In those days we were both employed by others and were building up our numbers and working weekends for ourselves. (So 7 days a week.)
We used to start the morning with a cooked breakfast. Cooked the bacon, eggs and hash browns, and made the coffee and tea. Looked out and said to himself, that’s a swarm in the tree. Sure enough about 20 foot up, a tree just above the hive. So after we box it up, put it on the truck & take it off on our adventures we’ve lost 2 precious hours. Yay we thought a swarm!
Roll on two weeks and same scenario as above. We’d missed one cell on our hive check. So we caught that one too, and 2 more hours lost of our bee weekend. Poor bees never recovered, never made any honey, and pretty well didn’t survive swarming twice.
We learnt hard lessons that season.
 

tommy dave

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s. most will look at a weak hive and think its good. when you show them a good hive they are blown away.
you won't be good unless you know what good is.
this can never be over-stated. I've had people open up a strong, but placid, hive of mine to show them some contrast - and have them need to be coaxed into continuing due to fear of "so many bees!!!"
 

mischief

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With my over 20yrs experience of commercial beekeeping, sometimes hives that swarm don't survive. (silly

Ask yourself not everyone else.

You tried caring for bees and not treating them, didn't work, had to get a treating beekeeper to come and save them.

Now you care for them, and treat them.

Why keep asking everyone else why they do it? When you do it.

You don't know why you do it? How would anyone else know why you do it?
You and I have history that most here do not know about.
Just to remind you of that last post that only you, I and Lil' John know about.....what would have happened if instead of rolling on the floor screaming with laughter, clutching my sides cos they hurt so much.....I had quietly reached over and hit the report button.

OH! didnt think about that ay? nor did I.....at the time.
It would have been game over, lil 'm' KO'd BIG AL.
If I ever see you pull a stunt like that to anyone else I will come down like the proverbial ton of bricks.

This thread is about swarming, not you. Leave the field.
 

mischief

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About 10 years ago when we were just starting out we had hives in the bottom of the garden visible from the dining room table. In those days we were both employed by others and were building up our numbers and working weekends for ourselves. (So 7 days a week.)
We used to start the morning with a cooked breakfast. Cooked the bacon, eggs and hash browns, and made the coffee and tea. Looked out and said to himself, that’s a swarm in the tree. Sure enough about 20 foot up, a tree just above the hive. So after we box it up, put it on the truck & take it off on our adventures we’ve lost 2 precious hours. Yay we thought a swarm!
Roll on two weeks and same scenario as above. We’d missed one cell on our hive check. So we caught that one too, and 2 more hours lost of our bee weekend. Poor bees never recovered, never made any honey, and pretty well didn’t survive swarming twice.
We learnt hard lessons that season.
Oh!!! Heartbreaking.
Thank you for sharing this.
 

Alastair

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Mischief I certainly lay no claim to a history with you, never even met you, your post has me confused, and I suspect you are confused.

And as to the stunt, I would like to know just what stunt?
 

mischief

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With my over 20yrs experience of commercial beekeeping, sometimes hives that swarm don't survive. (silly me)
I was asking (politely, under trying circumstances) was your (assumed) answer from personal experience or from a personal experience that you had been told about.....not questioning your experience/level of expertise.

My main point of interest here is- what effect does allowing a hive to swarm have on The 'parent' colony.. .. I am fully aware that swarms do not always survive- plenty of anecdotal evidence on that score.
 


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