Swarm Questions

Posted on behalf of Tramcaro:

Watching a greater spotted woodpecker and one of his offspring climbing one of my garden trees last Tuesday, I suddenly noticed a swarm in the tree.  I had been away and come back the previous evening and my husband said he’d noticed lots of bees flying around the day before, so I realised the swarm had been there overnight. It needed collecting fast so I shook it into a prepared (traditional frames) baited nuc with old comb, left the nuc on the top step of the ladder all day, and hived it the next day into an empty National. During that afternoon another v. small swarm appeared in the same place. As I didn’t have another hive free, I collected in a skep I recently made and have left the bees in it, under cover so it won’t get wet.  Question 1. How long after bees swarm can you join them to another colony?
Yet another large swarm appeared the next day, in the same place (how lucky I am if they use the same spot each year. Question 2. Is this possible?).  I collected it into a top bar nuc, after 2 attempts to get the queen, and immediately went onto the internet to find a TBH for sale.  Found one, went and got it.  They are still in the nuc (2 days now) and now the weather has changed.
Question 3. How long can I leave them in the nuc?
Would much appreciate some advice.

Tramcaro

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6 Responses to Swarm Questions

  1. Paul says:

    Don’t know the answer to questions 1 and 2.

    Re: question 3. Many days. I have a cast in a bait hive, which has a volume about one third that of a full TBH. They have plenty of room as it was a cast, not a full swarm. They’ve been there 6 days now and I am waiting for a day without blustery wind to transfer them. I initially left them in there because the queen was flightly and not keen on going into the bait hive, so I used a queen excluder as in “includer” to ensure she stayed in for a day and the colony committed its resources to comb etc.

    Bees seem to like swarming onto the same location year after year. Our neighbour used to have some tall leylandii which of course smell like resin (propolis – home!) and provided a high safe place for swarms to congregate after emerging from our, and neighbours’ hives.

  2. simplebees says:

    Question 1. How long after bees swarm can you join them to another colony?

    A queenright swarm will see itself as a separate colony so care needs to be taken if combining it (presumably because more colonies are not desired?) It is sometimes said that a newly issued swarm can be thrown on the ground in front of an established hive and the swam will enter peaceably. I have never tried this and have heard reports of fighting in such instances. It is a different matter if one is using this method to unite a swarm (or a colony) that has lost its queen (for example on her mating flight). Then it usually works OK.

    The other way of uniting is to place the bees in the same hive, separated by newspaper. The bees chew through the paper and mingle their scent as they do so. I have done this many times with vertical hives – one places the boxes one above the other with a sheet of newspaper between – but have never done it with a horizontal hive. There is no time limit in this case.

    Yet another large swarm appeared the next day, in the same place (how lucky I am if they use the same spot each year. Question 2. Is this possible?).

    It is not unusual for swarms to use the same spot to collect upon after leaving the hive. I have had 6 swarms this year collect on exactly the same spot, from several of different hives.

    Question 3. How long can I leave them in the nuc?

    Until the bees run out of space.

    Gareth

    • tramcaro says:

      Thanks for your advice Gareth. Always v. helpful. I have hived the nuc and to date still have that swarm, so that hive (new TBH) is clearly OK.

      Since then a tiny tiny swarm issued from that TBH you helped me remove one colony from (who are doing so well in the home-made hive). Fascinating: they swarmed on the wire base of the hive and I left them there. The next morning, checking on things, I saw they were in the grass alongside, and only noticed that because they started to fly off. I watched them go only to watch them return a few minutes later to the same spot.. Quickly got a skep and sprayed both bees and inside of skep, placed it over the top. They all started to go in. I then spent much of the day wondering where I was going to put this small caste. Late p.m. I checked again and they had come out from under the skep and were in another patch of grass. So I waxed a bit of semi fresh comb onto 2 top bars, stuck the dowling comb supports into the ground over them, covered them partly with the skep and partly with sheet. Once they were mostly on those bars, I transferred them into the end of the TBH we removed that colony from. Flying bees then followed and job done.

      Inevitable question: since it is a v. small caste, it won’t build up in time for the winter, so want to reunite with the colony they came from (still down the other end). Will have to find the queen and destroy her – or can I leave it to the bees to do?

      • simplebees says:

        Make a temporary follower board from heavy corrugated cardboard with a hole in the middle of a couple of inches in diameter. Tape a single thickness of newspaper over the hole and place the follower board in the hive between the two existing FB’s, making it as bee proof round the edges as you can; tape over any obvious gaps. Then remove one of the existing FB’s. The bees will chew through the newspaper and combine without fighting, sorting out any queen issues themselves.

      • tramcaro says:

        Thank you as always. Yes, I see what you mean, except that after fixing the cardboard FB very carefully, I presumably have to remove both existing FB’s rather than just one of them. Wonderful weather for bees and humans alike.

  3. simplebees says:

    I presumably have to remove both existing FB’s rather than just one of them.

    My mistake, should have said both as you guessed.

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