Catching my first swarm

Hi people

Just inspected my hives this morning and did not see any signs of swarming. Anyway, about half an hour later I saw a massive cloud of bees on my lawn not far from my hives. I followed them until they settled on a low branch. Turned out to be a small swarm.

  1. Could this be my own bees swarming?
  2. I placed the branch with the bees inside a nuc with two frames and foundation. Left the nuc under the location of the branch.
  3. Now what? Shall I place them in a permanent location this night or next morning? Feed them I suppose? I’m s it ok if they are next to my other two hives?

Thanks for your help.

Shake the bees off the branch into the nuc and put a set of frames in there or you will end up with crazy comb. If you can, get a frame if sealed brood from one of your hives and put that into the nuc, it will help them settle. Leave them for a day or two then give them some food.


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Ok. Am I too late to do that now? I read that I should not touch them for a week.

At this stage they have two frames and the branch is in the box. I can add 3 more frames if needed if I won’t make them abscond.

Update. Took advice above and added 3 more frames with foundation and got rid of the branches.

Once it gets dark and all the bees are hunkered in, I will move them to their permanent location. This is only 30m away or so. Would that be an issue? I live on a small block and don’t have much options.

Thanks for the help.

Should be OK to move them but put a leafy branch in front of the entrance when moved. It will stimulate the to reorientate.


Thanks Rob

I’ve been “preparing” for my first swarm for years… then I capture my swarm and feel like a rabbit in the headlights.

I’ve placed a queen excluder entrance to minimise chances of them absconding. Should work a bit like the branch for reorientation. I saw a dozen or so bees back at the original location and I’m not too concerned. I think they eventually found their way to the hive.

But I have another problem. The nuc might overheat. I have placed some polystyrene on top and some boards to shade the sides, but it has been a very hot few days here in Perth and found them all bearding outside. The entire swarm I guess. The queen must be inside. Not an ideal situation and probably I should have placed them in a full size box.

Chalking this down to lack of experience.

Hi @Beeeuu , what I would do straight away is place a frame of mostly young open brood next to & touching the beard. Then after about 30 minutes, place the frame of brood, with bees into the brood box. Then place the nuc box next to the entrance of the brood box. There’s a good chance that the queen will be on that frame of brood, which will lure the rest of the bees into it.

Thanks Jeff. This morning I found them inside on their own accord. I added a bit more shade.

I am considering adding a frame of brood to give them something to do. The reason I’m reluctant to do that is I have some chalkbrood in the other hives that I’m trying to get rid of, and I don’t want to infect these right away.

The world of an amateur backyard beekeeper is a complicated one, with the lack of resources. I only have two hives.

You’re welcome Beeuu. The only reason for giving a swarm a frame with open brood is not to keep the bees occupied, but to stop them from absconding until they accept their new home, which wasn’t the choice of the scout bees. If we put a swarm in a box that doesn’t measure up to the expectations of the scouts, they might lure the colony away, in favor of a hollow that meets their expectations. In other words “abscond”.

We can probably help you with your chalk brood issue. My suggestion would be to close up any ventilation & reduce the entrance to no larger than 15, less for a weaker colony. Make sure the roof is nice & dry going forward.

Cheers Jeff.

Before I left for work this morning, I did give them a brood frame. Fingers crossed I won’t be be wasting it because it was the one with least chalkbrood. I found them bearding outside again this afternoon but not as bad as yesterday. Temperature today is only slightly less hot, also could be the extra shade I provided. Or their motherly instinct kicking in to tend the brood.

Regarding the chalkbrood I must have had it for about a year now. Got a bit worse over winter, but still lingering on. My hives are as you described with no ventilation and just a 12cm opening. Advice I now got from a local beekeeping shop is to do the opposite - increase ventilation. Maybe your area has a more humid climate which closing up helps to keep out of the hive Jeff? Here in Perth climate is drier I believe.

The worse hive is the one with the untidy bees that leave all the dead mummies on the floor. So I am considering replacing the queen. Not a good time though as my honey flow season is round the corner for me. Purchasing one is a mission so it will be a feral one.

I also read about putting in a ripe banana which must be pseudoscience. Another option I read about is to feed 1:1 sugar acidified to pH4 and keep hive as strong as possible.

Give the ripe bananas a try, which I’ve never done. You never know, they might work.
I would avoid getting advice from a beekeeping shop. This is based on personal observations.
I tried re-queening on two occasions, which worked both times. I got the colonies to make new queens with different progeny.

If you watch the video “City of Bees”, then get an understanding of how bees air condition their hive, then you’ll see why I suggest to rid your hive of added ventilation, which only works against the bees in their effort to air condition their hive.
When you think about it, you’ll also see why I suggest to keep the roof dry of any external leeks

A new beekeeper recently told me of massive condensation in the roof with a strong colony. I replied that I get the opposite. I get more condensation with a weaker colony. The difference being that this person had a screened floor, while mine are solid.

On another personal observation, I put a colony into the brood box with a screened floor for a customer. I noticed WAY more condensation in the roof of this hive, than any of mine with similar populations. It really stood out when removing the roof.

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I’m pretty sure that some beekeepers put a ripe banana and the chalkbrood eventually clears, and assume it is was the banana that cured it. Apparently there is no proof at all it works.

I’m not inclined to increase ventilation yet. I only get some condensation on the sides in the colder months. I use a plastic hive mat on the top bars and never see any condensation there. I always find it bone dry. I do have a bit of polystyrene on the roofs.

My gut feeling is that inadequate nutrition might be a contributing factor. It’s a bit of a tough spot here and bees struggle to find adequate supplies most of the year. Even spring can be a bit weak. They get a good run for about six weeks when the red gums flow and that’s about it. I probably should feed more and harvest less.

From what I read from memory, bananas put the bees into a cleaning frenzy. I think this is where re-queening helps, you possibly get bees with better cleaning tendencies, without needing bananas to encourage them.

What you said previously about keeping a hive as strong as possible is also a good point. Keep the drone population down by keeping all of your brood combs at around 98% worker comb.

A strong worker population means more bees to carry out air conditioning & cleaning duties. This is my theory as to why I get more condensation with weaker colonies

So that first swarm I captured seems to be holding on. Thanks for the help.

Yesterday I inspected all hives. One hive is still weak and have to keep on feeding. Other two sort of ok, not super strong, no queen cups on the bottom, no drones. I added a super each as the marri season is about to start.

This afternoon, around 5:45 pm I saw a cloud of bees on top of my hives. I thought maybe orientation flights, but looked more like a swarm. They then settled under my hive stand in a piece of wood. Looked like a very small swarm. I thought it was late in the day for them to swarm… but at least it was easy to catch them. I got a phone call, and by the time I went back I only found a few dozen bees lingering and a fair few just walking on the back of hives. Looks like they just dispersed. Was not worth trying to catch the remaining few.

Obviously I’m inexperienced. What could this be? A swarm? Pretty sure not a robbing event. What should have I done?