Our first bees!

Our beesWe hived our first swarm yesterday. They were given to me by a very helpful swarm collector from Sheffield BKA. I accompanied him on Friday to collect a swarm from somebody’s house but they were in a very difficult position and we were unsuccessful. I got a call from the swarm collector at about 6.30 yesterday evening. He told me that he had a swarm for me, that it was in a nuc hive around the side of his house and that he was off to pick up another swarm, so I was to get it and hive it by myself.

We picked the swarm up and took it in a taxi to our allotment. I’d met another allotment holder at the Sheffield BKA meetings who keeps bees on our allotment site. I checked if he was on his plot and asked him if he wanted to come with me to see the bees being hived. He asked me if I had a bee suit, a smoker and water to mist the bees to which I told him that I didn’t. He laughed and told me he was going to come and watch me get stung! I told him that I thought the bees would probably be pretty relaxed but I accepted his offer of a spare bee suit.

We shook the bees off each frame onto the blanket in front of our Warre hive and turned the nuc hive over and gave it a tap. With a little brushing we got all other the bees out of the nuc hive and watched the mass of bees slowly shrinking as they entered our hive. The other beekeeper left and took his suits with him. Having another beekeeper there had really helped with my confidence. We sat for ages and watched the bees. We left when it was took dark to see what was going on. Most of the bees had gone in by then.

It really was an amazing experience. Someone’s checked the bees today and they’re still in the hive. I’m gonna pop over now and check in on them before it gets dark. My only worry is that my partner got a phone call from the swarm collector today. He said that there’s a frost risk for the weekend and the bees need feeding or they will die. As he’s trusted me with the bees he’s caught I’m very tempted to follow his advice. We’ve had a really sunny day today. It’s supposed to be wet on Thursday but just cloudy tomorrow and over the weekend. I know natural beekeepers don’t like to feed for the first 3 days after hiving a swarm and it’s not considered good to feed unless it’s really necessary. I just don’t know if a chance of a frost means feeding my new swarm is necessary. Also, it would be good to confirm what the best thing to feed a new swarm is because I know different ratios are fed at different times.

It’s great to see that somebody else who uses this site has just hived their first swarm too. It would be good to know if anybody else who went on the natural beekeeping course on 22nd – 23rd February has had any success yet.

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4 Responses to Our first bees!

  1. Paul says:

    Congratulations on your success!

    That was brave, preparing to do a new thing with bees without a suit.

    I would not feed them if they have had a couple of days of good weather to forage in. Swarms fill both their bee stomachs with honey, i.e. concentrated nectar and can survive on this for 2-3 days. (This makes it difficult for them to sting you but they can, if you annoy them enough.) This allows them to spin some new comb when they have a new home which they will almost immediately start using for storing nectar they gather.

    The reason they swarm in April is presumably because there is so much nectar around now. Don’t worry about feeding unless there is a period immediately after they arrive that they cannot fly in, like temperatures below ~9C or heavy rain for more than a day. Conventional beeks probably feed to maximise bee numbers.

  2. therichcow says:

    Thanks for the advice. At the moment we’re not going to feed but we’re going to have everything ready just in case.

  3. deweysanchez says:

    They should be fine for a few days. It’s only if they can’t forage due to prolonged bad weather that it would be worth feeding. Many natural bee keepers will feed if a new colony is at risk. I won’t feed once they are established but think they deserve a chance to start with if the weather turns against them. A 1:1 sugar to water solution, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice added per litre. I use a “neetle tea” 100g per litre to add to the sugar and this has been proven to help colonies recover.

    • therichcow says:

      Thanks. Just a quick update – we kept an eye on the weather and the bees and didn’t feed them. They seem to have settled in really well, with lots of traffic coming in and out of the hive and some of them bringing in pollen.

      I thought I’d learnt enough of the basics about natural beekeeping to get me through the first couple of weeks. All it took was one beekeeper telling me to do something or the bees might die and I went into full on panic mode! It’s good that there are forums like this one and biobees where us beginners can get advice.


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