Hello! We are in the middle of a swarm capture not going as planned, and I am hoping for advice of the experienced beekeepers in the forum.
For the context, we are second year bee keepers: starting from a nuc in December last year, we now have one buzzing overwintered hive, one split and one swarm which happily settled in a trap hive (7 frame Apimaye + super with ideal frames in the super + Swarm Commander). These are all going well.
I have found a swarm in a nature area close to our house on Friday afternoon, they most likely came from a feral hive in a tree a hundred meters away. We really need no more bees, so left them to sort themselves out. But they were still all there on Saturday evening, and the forecast says rain will return tonight, so my husband and I set out to “rescue” them.
We shook them from the shrub into a make-shift nuc made from the Apimaye super (7 frames) with cardboard top and bottom (ideal frames and Swarm Commander inside), and kept the entrance open, hoping the rest of the bees will follow inside. They were not too keen, so we shook the rest into a bucket, closed the nuc and brought all in. The nuc is placed under the eaves (cardboard, rain forecast). We opened the nuc entrance in the queen excluder mode and poured the bees from the bucket on/around the nuc - it was just before dark, we hoped they will go in immediately or in the morning…
Today the swarm is divided - some bees in the nuc, some on the nuc, some forming a cluster above under the eaves. We assume the queen is in the nuc unable to leave it, as if she was with the bees in the eaves or on the nuc, all bees are free to join her. But why aren’t they joining her in the nuc?
Thoughts, comments, suggestions for action (or inaction) welcome!
Hi Maja, this is right up my ally, & welcome to the forum.
If you can find a way to place a frame of open brood next to the bees under the eve, the bees, including the queen will move onto it. Wait about 20 minutes before lowering it down, before gently placing it into the brood box. With the queen on the brood frame, all the bees will go into the hive.
One suggestion would be to make a loose picture frame support on the top of the frame, hooked over a suitable length pole, with a slot cut into the end, to accommodate the wire/string.
Good luck with the swarm. I’ve also read that too much swarm commander can have the opposite effect and repel the bees - it might also be the case with a fresh application. I’m just trying to think of reasons why they might not want to go in.
Thank you JeffH and Outbeck, this is really helpful for future rescues!
Here is an update: the bees spent most of the Sunday arguing - as far as I can read bee language, it was a frantic “come, come, it is really close” in both the around-the-nuc group and the under-the-eaves group. To my great relief, the nuc camp was more persuasive (so the queen is likely stuck there), because at 4pm they all started flying - spectacular sight! - and the overwhelming majority moved into the nuc - it took a while, as they only have two tiny openings available to prevent the queen from leaving. By the evening, there was only a handful under the eaves and a small group on the top of the nuc. As we were leaving for work, they were slowly waking up, and all was quiet. Now, why aren’t they all in? Could it be not enough space? It is a seven frame nuc, but has 5 ideals and one full frame, all empty with just starter strips (that was all we had around the house) - properly spaced and with the plan to add another frame (and perhaps swap if still empty) at the inspection in a week. Is it possible they are not all fitting in, as there is not enough surface area? The swarm was less than a football size.
Let’s see what they do next!
It’s possible that the bees wont like the internal dimensions of the hive, so therefore they could leave once the scouts find something they find to be more suitable.
I always give a swarm a 10 frame brood box. Also a frame of mostly open brood. A frame of open brood is in my experience, the best way to avoid a swarm from absconding. To be doubly sure to avoid absconding, even with a frame of brood, move the hive well away from the area as soon as the vast majority of the bees are in.
I’ve never used swarm commander, however I’d put my money on a frame of open brood above swarm commander any day. On top of that, too much open brood wont repel the bees.
PS, I’ve never, nor would I consider reducing the entrance to “two tiny openings”, so as to avoid the queen from escaping. Maybe I’ve been successful enough using open brood that I’ve never sought alternative methods.
Hi there Jeff, as I was reading @Maja’s post I thought that sounded like a decent idea, provided the box also has other ventilation. If I didn’t already know about your method of using an open brood frame (or didn’t have one to use), I could see myself trying the “queen excluding entrance” method. Could you elaborate on why you wouldn’t consider it?
Hi Eve, it’s simply the frame of brood strategy that negates the need to lock the queen in the capture box. I have heard of beekeepers using a piece of QE at the entrance as a means of preventing the queen from leaving.
Also if beekeepers jam a large swarm into a smallish size box, a swarm could overheat in a hive with two tiny holes that a queen can’t fit through, which you referred to. At least a QE has a measured gap that we know a queen can’t fit through, which allows more room for bees to get air circulation, provided we fit the QE over a standard sized entrance.
Finding the queen before placing her in one of those hair clips that they use to temporarily hold queens is another option.
I just realized that I never got back to the thread - sorry! - so here is a very late update in case it turns useful for other readers. Yes, the nuc hive had lots of other ventilation - it was an Apimaye nuc, with queen excluder openings. But interestingly, it was the idea of giving them brood from another hive that likely made them abscond after a few days - it turned out that the very strong hive from which we took the brood frame had a low-level hive beetle problem… The strong hive was dealing with it easily (just a larva or two on the tray in oil from time to time), but when we checked the frame after absconding there was lots of beetle larvae. Yuck (the chickens were happy though). From the timeline, I think what happened was that there were some beetle eggs brought on the brood frame - and these, when hatched, went unchecked by the week swarm. I hope the swarm found a better place after absconding - and we have a strong intention of not bringing in swarms that do not want to move in with us in the first place :).
Hi Maja, if the frame of brood came from a strong colony, it would be highly unlikely that the frame came with hive beetle eggs. The likely scenario, from my experience would be that the swarm was too weak in numbers to be able to prevent the beetles from laying eggs in the brood frame.
Perhaps if you added a lot of nurse bees with the frame of brood, the population might have been strong enough to prevent beetles from laying eggs.
Other factors such as dead bees & honey spills can also play a role in allowing beetles to lay eggs.
A weak colony CAN prevent beetles from laying eggs in a brood frame. It just has to be strong enough to completely cover that frame of brood, plus a few more for good measure.
If a full frame of brood is too big for the bees to completely cover, perhaps a frame that’s 1/2 brood & half honey would be more appropriate.