Hi today a swarm is taking up residence in a dresser setting on my back porch and entering and exiting through an open spot at the top, of the top drawer. I’ve been thinking of trying bee’s for some time and it looks like the bee’s found me first. I would like the bee’s to stay and start a hive. What should I do during this first week? I will have to move the dresser eventually as it is just a couple of feet from my back door that I, pets and children use frequently each day. Do I just leave them alone for a while? Move the dresser ASAP? Buy a starter kit and then? Build supers into the lower drawers? Dump the drawer at some point into a hive? Any and all advice (other than marital, lol) would be warmly received. Thanks in advance. Noel from Banning CA
G’day Noel, assistance from an experienced beekeeper will be handy. Don’t be frightened to offer to pay for a service. You may gain some valuable knowledge in the deal. I would get onto it pretty quick. What I would do is place a frame of open brood in the draw for an hour or so, until it gets covered in bees. By that time, the queen should be on that frame. Then gently transfer that frame to a brood box sitting close to the drawer. Fill the remainder of the brood box with frames of fresh foundation or drawn comb. Then, with the lid on the brood box, rest the drawer upside down on the lid. If the queen is on that frame of brood, all the bees will go into the box. It will be good if you get a visual of the queen on the frame of brood first. However, sometimes it’s hard to find the queen with so many bees on the frame.
PS. once you get the bees into the box, it will be easy to move the box in short increments daily until the hive is where you want it to stay.
Hi Noel, I live just over 100 miles south of you, in San Diego. I agree with Jeff’s advice, but not many professional bee removal people will use his method in the US. By all means, call a few and talk to them - find out how they would go about removing the bees, and whether they would let you keep them.
I would also suggest you buy a starting kit. Mann Lake is a good online supplier with good prices and very fast delivery - usually under a week. There are several choices of starter kits, and I don’t know how much you are willing to spend. However this one has almost everything you should need for the first year.
In your region, most hobby beekeepers will have 2 brood boxes to make sure the bees store enough food to last the winter. The commercial guys only use one box, but they feed over winter.
How the bee removal proceeds is going to depend on how long the bees have been there. Most people don’t notice a swarm move in to their property, and they may have been there months! In any case, swarms are wax comb building machines - be prepared for a sticky mass of comb in that dresser.
I would bet that a decent bee removal expert will probably take out the lower drawers first to make space, removing the top drawer slowly and carefully. Bees start by attaching the comb to the “ceiling” of whatever space they have chosen, so pulling out the top drawer quickly will damage a lot of attached comb. Intact comb can then be “rubber banded” into hive frames, and transferred to a traditional brood box.
Once the removal is done, you should definitely move the dresser. Be aware that it will smell of home to bees, and you may inadvertently capture another swarm in it at some point. The way to prevent this would be a thorough cleaning, then seal (inside and out) with paint or varnish to cover the marking pheromones.
If you want to move the dresser now, don’t move it by more than a couple of feet every few days. If you do, you risk having angry homeless forager bees gathering at the old site wondering where their hive has gone.
Good luck, and please let us know what you decided to do and how it went.
Ed @Red_Hot_Chilipepper has a very good point. You are in the Africanized zone, as is San Diego. Without experience I really wouldn’t try to do a removal unassisted. Even with experience, Africanized bees are no fun, believe me, I found out from hands-on experience. More than 60% of swarms in our area are Africanized, so please be careful.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful and lengthy reply. There is a bee supply in Riverside called Pierco https://www.pierco.com/ I hope to go there today or tomorrow and purchase a hive and starter kit. If the bee’s stay after transferring them, I want to move them to a shaded spot on the opposite side of the house away from pets and kids and stuff. What time of day or night should I empty the drawer into the super and do I move it in one move as there are no short cuts to the other side of the house? Thanks again. Noel
If they have built comb, and you need to do a cutout, I would do it in the middle of the day when the foragers are out - less fighting bees if they are busy looking for nectar. However, I would put the new hive on top of the dresser once you are done, and duct tape up all the gaps around the drawers, so that any returning bees go the new hive rather than back to the dresser. Once it is dusk, I would then move the hive either 2 feet, or to the new site if you have to do that.
But please let me say again, DO NOT do this on your own for the first time. Get a pro to help. If the bees are Africanized, you will have more than 200 on you trying to sting you at once, and this can be very dangerous. Additionally, they will go after any other threats nearby (pets, children, spouses, neighbors), so please have mercy on others, and don’t be macho about it!
There are several schools of thought on this. The traditional advice is to only move bees by 2 feet every few days, or move them more than 2 miles. Traditionalists would tell you not to move a hive less than 2 miles but more than 2 feet all in one attempt.
However, @Michael_Bush has some advice that you can move the hive, if you change the view from the landing board for the bees enough to make them re-orient. You can do this by putting a large branch or potted shrub directly in front of the hive entrance. You may get some disorientated bees at the original site for a few days, so if you do this, I would definitely suggest that the “threatened” door to the house is not used for a week until you are sure that the bees know where “home” really is.
Funny. How did you know I was going to do the macho thing. Was I sending out manly pheromones? I don’t “think” they are africanized as they let me move about the dresser without attacking me. When all this does take place, do you move a hive at night for best results?
Thanks Dawn. Yes they are building on the underside of the top of the dresser. There is no easy way to remove it. It is solid oak and the back is like a tongue and grove panel as well. I can see inside the opening with a flashlight and I would guess that the structure is a couple inches deep (though it is so covered in bee’s it’s hard to know for sure). By coincidence I was talking to a man at church the other day before all this occurred and he has a nephew in the business (how fortunate), I don’t have his number but will try and contact him asap. BTW, is there a chance the queen will leave if I’m sawing with an electric saw (to remove the top) or does the queen generally stay put? I guess that’s a question I can ask this other person as well. I want to do this right, so will of course consider your advice in a very serious manner. What a blessing that you came along side me to offer advice. I am truly thankful.
They are all different. Queens generally hate noise, smoke and bright light. So she may run up, down or out. Really hard to know. That is why you need a pro with you. She won’t run far, but she she will hide well.
Hi Dusty, this is a transfer we did recently. The bees had only been there a couple of days. It was late in the afternoon, so we didn’t have much time to leave the frame of brood in the pot, however what we did worked for us.
PS. This is one we did during last winter out of a bird box. Anyway you’ll get the general idea of my strategy, this is assuming that your bees have only recently arrived.