After making it through a crazy roller coaster winter (and spring) that killed a high percentage of local bees, my spool colony finally swarmed on the 4th of July.
Then a few days later, they swarmed again. Here is my Facebook post documenting the second time. The first time they swarmed, they landed on my small apple tree a few yards away and snapped the thing in half. A few days earlier, I sat in front of the spool capturing and marking about a hundred workers and drones with a pink marking pen, just so if I caught them in a swarm trap or down the road, I would know they were from my spool and not one of my other colonies. As I approached the swarm on my now broken apple tree, I could see all the bees with the pink dots. A few days later, during an inspection, I saw the queen for the first time and she was a monster. I really want to propagate these hardy genetics, so I’ve since given eggs from this (now manageable) colony to a couple queenless colonies so they can raise daughters. The second swarm from the spool was given to another local treatment-free beekeeper buddy of mine. A few hours after the second swarm, I spotted three queens on the outside of the spool getting chased around and bitten by workers. I could hear one queen “piping” inside, so I guess they made their choice and picked the best one.
There will be no way to know if the spool’s new queen gets mated or makes it back from her mating flight. But at least now I have her mother where I can see her, and several of her sisters to take into winter and see if they have what it takes. It will be interesting to see if the original mother queen does as well in Langstroth equipment as she did in the spool. Will they supersede her the way many prime swarms do after getting settled in? Hopefully not, but time will tell.