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Post Swarm Capture Hive Management


#1

I’ve been able to find tons of info on catching swarms and even doing cutouts.
This YouTube channel is particularly awesome for that: https://www.youtube.com/user/JPthebeeman
But I haven’t been able to find much information on managing a new hive obtained from a swarm, so I’ve got a few questions.

Some background that might color the answers: I’m in central Texas, USA, between Waco and Temple. Local beekeepers use between one and two 10-frame deeps for brood space depending on who you ask. (My local bee club seems very commercialized, focused on how much honey they can get, not necessarily on the welfare of the bees, which is the opposite of my take on things.) It’s well into spring this year, and most of the pastureland around me is completely full of wildflowers, especially Texas Indian Paintbrush. I captured a swarm by scooping them off a stone retaining wall into a box. They had collected about 25 feet from an existing colony that has been living inside the wall for years according to the lawn maintenance. I must have gotten the queen on the first go, because they then marched into the box even faster than I was manually scooping them in after the first scoop went into the box. I am 100% sure I got the queen, I found and caged her the day after I captured the swarm to get the bees into the frames (which I was having a small amount of trouble with only because it was the first time I’d tried it). 3 days after that I released her into the box and noted that they had begun to put down a small bit of comb on the queen cage. I also have had the queen excluder that came with the Flow hive between the hive box and the hive base with the entrance so that they can’t re-swarm and abscond. I have a feeder I built which right now sits on a lid above the brood box. There’s a tunnel through the lid and up into the sugar water that the bees can access without leaving the hive. I’ve then got an empty box and a hive roof on top of that to keep everything else out of the feeder. The bees took a good amount from the feeder the first day, but since then they seem to have started foraging more and there’s much less being removed from the feeder now.

All right, sorry for the length, on to some questions.

  1. There were a lot of drones mixed in this swarm. (more than enough to cover 1 square foot of surface area 1 bee deep just with drones I estimate.) Is this normal? I’ve let about half of them out of the hive, but most of the rest seem to have gotten stuck in the queen excluder near the entrance and have died. Is this a problem?

  2. How long should I leave the queen excluder on so that they cannot abscond? Am I safe to remove it after a week? Do I need to wait until they have a certain amount of brood? Is there a general rule of thumb for this?

  3. Is there anything I did wrong, or could have done a lot better? (besides getting them in the final box on day 1, I won’t make the mistake that led to that again)

  4. How often should I be opening and checking on this hive? Should they be left undisturbed for a period, or checked weekly for comb building activity, or???

Any experienced input would be greatly appreciated! TYIA

Obligatory pictures of hive and 2.5gal(9.5 Liter) internal feeder:



#2

The feeder you made is awesome! How did you do it!? The frame feeder I have seems to drown a lot of them.


#3

There were a lot of drones mixed in this swarm. (more than enough to cover 1 square foot of surface area 1 bee deep just with drones I estimate.) Is this normal? I’ve let about half of them out of the hive, but most of the rest seem to have gotten stuck in the queen excluder near the entrance and have died. Is this a problem?

Only if the plug the excluder.

How long should I leave the queen excluder on so that they cannot abscond?

If you’re going to do it, then until you have open brood. I’ve never done it.

Am I safe to remove it after a week? Do I need to wait until they have a certain amount of brood? Is there a general rule of thumb for this?

Yes. Any amount of open brood.

How often should I be opening and checking on this hive? Should they be left undisturbed for a period, or checked weekly for comb building activity, or???

I’d leave them alone other than maybe a peek to see that things are progressing correctly, for a couple of weeks.


#4

I’d agree with MB
I don’t bother with queen includer after hiving a swarm… they will stay or not.
If you’re desperate to keep them and have other hives give them a frame of brood (no adhering bees)
The downside of using an includer is that if you have a virgin queen she can’t get out to mate.


#5

I removed the excluder yesterday evening so they’d have an easier time going in and out. The bees spent the day today working, foragers are coming back packed with red-orange pollen, so I assume this colony isn’t going anywhere. At some point in this next week or two I’ll check the brood box to see if they’re putting comb straight in the frames and how much brood and stores they’ve managed to produce.

Thanks for the responses.


#6

I cut a hole in a lid and built a wooden extension tunnel with 4 pieces of wood. (Here’s pictures of a different feeder I built today.)

Put a bee box on it, and any bin that will fit inside. This bin happens to be 3 gal (11.4 litre). (The guy I got this idea from uses aluminum baking trays and throws them out when they get dirty rather than cleaning them) Larger bins may need custom reinforced lids to handle the weight.

Mesh portion of the tunnel is removable using the two wood screws. Remove it to get the bin out to clean it when necessary. You can stuff a rag over the opening while cleaning if you don’t want the bees coming out the hole.

Completed, just throw any roof on top after filling with sugar water:

Advantages: Can’t be robbed (unless they take out the entire hive). Can be refilled without opening the hive by just removing the roof and pouring) Very little drowning, limited access to the bin with easy to climb ladder all the way around. Bees will keep retrieving food even at night.

Disadvantages: Need one feeder per hive, takes a few hours to build each one. Removing the feeder to check the hive is an extra step, especially if it’s very full.


#7

I appreciate your sharing this. I was given (bought) a swarm two days ago and I’m new to beekeeping. I put sugar bags in on top of the board cover on the brood box and put the roof on. They are building in the attic now. So, I guess I forgot to find a way to keep them in the box. It’s a huge swarm, apparently and way too big for the one deep 8 frame Flow brood box. I’ve ordered two more mediums and will replace the baggie feeders with a jar feeder over the board hole. First, I have to knock them back into the box. This is almost too exciting for me.


#8

Follow up! I checked on this swarm after about 19 days in the hive. They were already capping honey cells and nearly had full (and straight!) frames full of comb!

And FYI, I’ve caught 3 more swarms since this one, and the only one I didn’t use an excluder on absconded. So if you really want them to stay, exclude the queen from leaving until you see foragers bringing back pollen.


#9

If the weather is good you do not need to feed a swarm

Or let them have a frame of open brood


#10

Sure, you don’t NEED to feed them, they often survive in the wild foraging on their own. But they’re not in the wild anymore, and now they need to make honey for themselves AND for me, and I’m willing to help out in the process as much as possible. If they’re not having to find and forage as much nectar then they can focus on drawing out comb, raising brood, foraging pollen, and making honey. You don’t NEED to feed your cat either. They’re perfectly capable of hunting for their own food. Just as many feral and barn cats do. You still feed your cat though, don’t you? Why would bees be any different? :slight_smile:

True that having brood should make them stay. But not everyone has, or wants to weaken, an existing hive of bees in order to make a swarm with an unknown queen and unknown traits stronger. So I question the logic of this option when using an excluder temporarily achieves the same result. Hiving a swarm is a great and cheaper way to start a new colony of bees, but you can never be sure of exactly what you’re getting.


#11

G’day Jason, I think you should copy & print this comment (the comment I’m replying to) & file it away somewhere & have a read of it in say, 5 years time. The logic of what experienced beekeepers are telling you will be much clearer then. You might view your comment with a little bit of embarrassment.


#12

Without a quote, there doesn’t appear to be a way to tell which comment you are replying to on this awful forum software, but I assume it’s the one directly above it. There is no chance I’ll be embarrassed about that comment regardless of how much time has passed. I’m not just basing the comment on my own experience, but that of my beekeeping mentor and the older generation of beekeepers who are involved in my local bee group, some of which keep hundreds of hives. All of which say it’s appropriate to feed all of your bees to improve their build up and drastically increase honey production. And none of which have ever told me to pull brood from an existing hive to strengthen a new swarm placed in a hive, they either use an excluder or just expect that a good percent of swarms will abscond. But, of course, if you ask 3 beekeepers a question you’ll get 4 different opinions, and you’re entitled to yours.

P.S. Why do you post without offering any constructive information to the thread? What is the point of it other than to come off as superior towards others? Feel free to explain how you manage a swarm after capturing it so we can maybe share some actual knowledge (you do capture feral swarms routinely, right?)


#13

Beekeeping fallacy: Feeding can’t hurt

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfallacies.htm#feedingcanthurt
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm#when


#14

I’ve read all of that, prior to you putting it in this post. Very little of it applies to my southern climate where temperatures very rarely drop below freezing (which was in the OP), or to my feeders (also posted) which don’t attract pests, can’t be robbed, and don’t drown bees. It also does not match the opinions of other experienced beekeepers in my local area. But thanks for posting more information for us to consider on the topic of feeding.


#15

To me swarms are free bees so if you lose them you lose them. I don’t manage them.
I suppose it’s a different way of beekeeping in other continents.
You seem to be much more proactive in managing your bees than we are in the UK. Hobby beekeepers where I live are happy to let the bees find their own way and take honey where they can. I never felt the need to force the bees in my care to do anything. I like to work with them.
I was always taught that swarms shouldn’t be fed for the first three days as they come stuffed with stores and they use those stores to draw comb leaving any nasties enwaxed.
Looking at a lot of USA fora there seems to be a feed feed feed ethos which is strange to me. There are even posts here where folk have put syrup on the top of Flow frames to get the bees to wax and occupy the Flows…madness. You might as well make your own honey from your own syrup with the bees as middlewomen


#16

Your correct Jason, that was the comment you referred to. It seems pointless anyone offering you advice when you question every bit of advice that is offered to you in such a sarcastic manner.

You ask a lot of questions. Now I have one for you. With your own experience, your mentor & the older generation of beekeepers in your club, some with hundreds of hives. Why are you asking questions on this forum when you already have your own strategies set in stone?


#17


#18

Another completely off topic post with no information offered, thanks. I see you like to not answer questions just as much as I apparently like to ask them. I ask questions specifically because my strategies are not set in stone and because I like to learn new things from people who are willing to share their own knowledge and experience on a topic, which you clearly are not, you’re apparently just here to troll in this thread.

What exactly has you so worked up? Feeding bees? Because I agree with everything Michael_Bush posted that applies to my climate, it’s not good to feed bees year round, but it is good to feed weak bees to sustain them. Or is it moving brood in with the swarm? Because Dee has posted that twice in this thread with absolutely no reasoning given as to why it’s a good idea, and it’s not even possible if you don’t have other strong hives to pull from. I know she posts a lot on this forum, but the only thing her profile says is she keeps 4 backyard hives. I’m not sure how that makes her an expert on keeping swarms, at least not from the information she’s given.

Nothing I’ve posted was meant to be sarcastic. No, I don’t just take advice given with no reasoning behind it and from someone who I have no way of knowing their actual experience on the subject.


#19

Thank you for the follow up post.
Here swarms are fought over, and can be easily sold if you get one. It is not unusual for multiple beekeepers to show up to collect the same swarm after the property owner calls multiple people on the various swarm collection lists. So it’s not typically something people want to let just fly away. Here, they say swarms vary in how much stores they are carrying depending on how long they’ve been in the swarm. After a few days, or after bad weather they’re called a ‘Dry Swarm’ and are typically much more aggressive when disturbed. So here they say to feed them… And I agree, there is absolutely a feed feed feed ethos here, at least in the time in early spring just before the nectar flow. The established beekeepers here say you want to build up your hive early so that they can reach larger numbers of bees earlier and bring in the maximum nectar and pollen during the season. I have no idea if this is effective, as Michael_Bush argues it’s not with plenty of others backing his thoughts, it’s clearly not necessary, but many people swear it increases honey production by far more than the cost of the sugar you’re using. I also agree that filling a flow frame with syrup is madness. I’m feeding my swarms because I want them to get comfortable and decide to stay s quickly as possible so I can remove the excluders, and I don’t want them to be aggressive at all considering how close to my house and kids I have to keep them.


#20

Ok Jason, you want some advice.

First of all, bees don’t normally swarm during poor conditions. There must be lots of pollen & honey around for bees to be swarming. Therefore you probably don’t need to feed a new swarm unless all of a sudden the weather turns bad & the bees can’t forage.

If you have only one hive during swarm season, chances are that hive could be preparing to swarm also. Removing just one frame of brood from that hive & replacing it with fresh foundation is a small step in preventing that hive from swarming.

I always stipulate using a frame of brood with young larvae in it. The reasons being: The bees will quickly slip into nursing mode to feed & nurture that young brood. As soon as the queen is able to, she’ll start laying eggs on that frame. Therefore, the bees will call that hive “home”.

Once you have caught your first swarm, obtaining a frame of brood is simple, just use a frame of brood from that hive for your next swarm & so on.

If you don’t like weakening a hive during swarm season by taking a frame of brood out to catch a swarm, just use it like a bank, borrow one & pay it back later. Simple.

Dee’s explanation of not using QX’s to hold a swarm in, in case a queen could be a virgin queen, in my view is very valid. The reason being: the virgin queen wont fit through the QX in order to go out to mate.

Feeding a swarm: I’ve never done it myself, however, it you like feeding bees & you feel it helps, by all means do it. You did a beautiful job on that feeder, it would be a shame not to use it. It means the bees can forage nectar during the day & use your feeder during the night.

I’m interested in where all these swarms are coming from, I’ve counted 4 that you caught. Are they coming from wild hives or other beekeepers hives? Are beekeepers allowing their hives to swarm so that other beekeepers can fight over who catches them?