Which colony should I keep?

I am giving a swarm to friends from another area as a part thank-you for something they did for me.

I have the option of 2 swarms I could pass on, each of which will have been on 2 Warré  boxes for 1-2 weeks by Sat when I see them when they come to a Gareth’s training day being held here on Sat.
Q 1
Given they will probably take the bees to go home after the training (between 5 and 7 pm), well before dusk, should I:
a. lock the bees in the night before so they are all aboard but trapped in all day? They will be on a travelling floor which is ventilated – I use this floor for swarm catching – see it here.
b. leave them flying and hope that any out foraging when they take the hive will migrate to the neighbour hive 3 feet away?
Q 2
I have the option of either of 2 new colonies to pass on – the first which is larger I’m pretty sure issued from one of my own colonies, the 2nd which is a good size yet not as big was caught in Weston-super-Mare so it’s from outside my immediate area.
My thinking is mixed in that keeping the first (my bees) would mean I was keeping bees that are truly locally adapted, but on the other hand would I be better keeping the Weston bees to add to my local gene mix?

(the 2 options – click to enlarge)

If the answer to Q 1 is a. then it may probably be best to let the Weston bees go as they are a smaller swarm so could better survive being locked in for a day, especially if it’s warm?
Any thoughts?
This entry was posted in Moving Hives, Natural Beekeeping, Swarms, Warre Hives. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Which colony should I keep?

  1. Lynne says:

    Hi Robin

    Interesting questions which got me thinking… not sure there is one real definitive answer, so many unknown variables, but here are my thoughts… which are just more questions maybe.

    Q1 – A key consideration here for me is what is the lowest stress option for the superorganism as a whole. I can see either option working out in various ways, but my inclination would be to let them fly and stopper them up at 7, or as late as possible, as that is the lowest stress option for the bees; the traveling is going to take it’s toll so best not to add to it. While it is likely that a good number of flying bees will be outside, it is also likely that a good number will be inside, and the colony will produce more asap if needed, graduating from other roles, And if tyour friends judge that hey are severely short of foragers, supplemental feeding may help. Whereas the ~36 hour confinement (Friday night to Sunday morning effectively) may be more stressful, particularly if it’s hot. So, perhaps the key consideration for this decision is probably what the weather is going to be like in your local area on Saturday. Given that, you may only really be able to decide this on Friday evening, with the latest forecast at that time.

    Q2 – A key consideration on which swarm to keep is perhaps how diverse the gene pool is already in your existing colonies and locale. Have new genes been added to your other colonies in the last few of years… say from another swarm? Or are there lots of other colonies within a 5-10 mile radius to contribute to the drone gene pool? I’d keep your own swarm if the answer is that there is a good local diversity anyway.

    Either way – good luck!

  2. Paul says:

    Q1 – (a). Reasoning: if they have plenty of stores, (like, enough for a couple of days) then try to save as many as possible so the colony is as strong as possible. They can regenerate stores rapidly until the June nectar gap hits, which I think will be late this year given the weather patterns so far; I heard them say on Gardeners’ World that everyone’s plants are 2 weeks behind this year which has thrown all the flower shows off balance!

    And I don’t think colonies are too happy accepting neighbours, unless they’re drones which I’ve heard said visit other hives (no one knows why). They’ll be treated as robbers and chucked out with prejudice. You can only get away with it if they are sister colonies in the two halves of the same hive, then they recognise each others’ scents.

    If the hive has ventilation the bees shouldn’t overheat. You could always move it, once sealed, to a shady area. Or chuck some water on it.

    Q2 – One factor to consider is, how big is the recipients’ apiary? If it is a small back garden give them the milder, less stingy colony.

    I don’t know enough about bee genetics and acclimatisation to comment on which to keep from that perspective. I did find an old (1860’s) pamphlet where a beekeeper said “given the choice of aggressive and mild mannered bees, I would go for the aggressive ones every time, they are always much more productive”. I think he kept his on the Northumberland moors though, no neighbours to worry about.

  3. simplebees says:

    I see the forecast for your area is 20C on Saturday. That’s a bit on the warm side to keep bees locked in all day unless you have a cool spot you could move them to – somewhere where the temperatures will stay in the mid teens. One could always remove the quilt and put mesh right across the top of the box and put them somewhere that is both cool and dark. That would minimise their stress. How warm does the garage, or the passageway by the garage, get?

    The other option, as you say, is to allow the bees to forage and then take pot luck with the number of foragers that are in the field when the hive is closed up. Bees returning to find their hive gone will fly in a circle to look for it and will likely find the neighbouring hive if it is 3 feet away. At that point they will seek to enter, believing it to be ‘their’ hive. Their demeanour may mean that may go unchallenged. If they are challenged, they will likely show submissive behaviour – tongue extension, food sharing etc – as they are not in the mindset of robbing. Hence there is likely to be little disturbance but there will inevitably be a transfer of foragers from the moved hive to to the one remaining. How much depends entirely on circumstances at the time.

    As to genetics, as you know, I am of the belief that inbreeding of our bees is one of the factors involved in bee problems and I personally would opt for wider genetics in my apiary if the chance arose.

    Sort of 6 and half a dozen, I know, but I hope this helps.


  4. Ali says:

    You could make a party of it and invite the person/people you want to give the colony to for tea and after dinner drinks, then they can take the colony after dark on the Saturday night. Win-win!

    Give them your colony and expand the local gene pool both here in Yatton and wherever your friend(s) live.

    That’s my tuppence h’appeny worth. Have a great day tomorrow. 🙂


  5. FollowMeChaps says:

    Thanks for all the responses guys ‘n’ gals. It’s probably going to be warm again tomorrow so I’ll not lock ’em up. I’ll decide which box tomorrow.
    Ali – I’d thought of that but they can’t stop.

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