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Small swarm collected in Sydney at end of Feb

I was called to look at a “hive” (it was a swarm) in a local primary school’s grounds yesterday morning (late Feb in Sydney). I was a bit surprised as I don’t usually see swarms much after December.

It was only small compared to what I’d seen in the past, maybe a rockmelon size, hanging on a thin branch at shoulder height so I cut the branch and put the ball of bees in my corflute box. I didn’t get any photos as I was working solo and quickly since it was a school with kids about. I wasn’t able to leave the box in place until dark as I usually do as it was in a very high traffic area so I waited as long as I could and by then most of the bees had entered the box so I took them home. When I went back to check in the afternoon no bees had returned to the spot so I’d say I got the majority of them.

What do you think of their chances of survival this close to autumn/winter?

I’ve added two frames of brood and two frames of honey donated from my existing established hives but don’t particularly want to weaken them any further either as they get ready for autumn. At the moment the swarm and donated frames are still in the corflute box as the numbers aren’t big enough to transfer to a spare 8 frame wooden brood box that I have but they can’t stay in the corflute box through winter. I’ve also added a beetle trap with DE in it to the corflute box as SHB is a particular problem with weak hives here.

Anything else I can do to help them along? I shouldn’t need to feed them if I’ve given them 2 frames of honey, yes?

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Sounds like a cast swarm if it was that small. That would mean that it probably has a virgin queen in it. Survival will depend on whether there are still a decent number of drones in your area. Adding brood and honey was a great idea.

I might consider buying a wood 5 frame nucleus to overwinter them. They may find it a lot easier to defend a smaller hive. The other possibility would be to find the queen and dispatch her, then newspaper merge them with another hive. :thinking:

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Assuming the 2 frames of brood was capped brood. Then I’d leave them in the nuc for a bit, they may strengthen enough to get them into a 8 frame box if we get a decent autumn flow. Worse case, find the queen in a few months and merge as dawn suggests.

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Sounds like you’ve done about all you can at this stage. Depending on how they build up over autumn- you might want to buy a good wooden Nuc to overwinter them in. If you do end up transferring them into the 8 frame one before winter check their stores and feed them over winter. I had a few late season small swarms I caught last season perish over winter- in hindsight I should have fed them up more.

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Thanks for everyone’s advice. I’ll keep an eye on them and see how they fair over the next few weeks before I decide whether to merge or build them up over autumn/winter.

I wouldn’t normally ‘bother’ with such a small swarm but the school really wanted them gone quickly as you can imagine. The kids were all asking what was going to happen to them so I feel like I’ve got to do my best to help them survive now.

It was so funny though when I went back the next day, the story of the bees had grown bigger and spread to more kids as no doubt most school yard stories do. Suddenly there were kids claiming to have spotted beehives all over the school. I found myself trailing groups of very serious and adventurous 6 year olds on treks through the trees, peering into bushes on the off chance that they were telling the truth and there really was a feral hive in there somewhere that was throwing out swarms. But no such hive was found, as believable as the 6 year old’s stories were, so I told them I already took the original swarm home to my place so there probably aren’t anymore bee hives or swarms at school now and they replied “:astonished: why would you want bees at your house?” :joy:

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Good advice from all and I think you have two options open to you given your location and into the very start of Autumn… You could keep then in a nuc box to build up naturally but I also consider you have time to move them into an 8 frame brood box and feed them if needed to build up in numbers and promote comb building giving more brood area and room for stores over winter. In your location the bees will be able to forage to some extent right over winter.
Giving them the 2 frames of honey is a positive step forward.
Regards

Fabulous account, thank you so much for the update, and the giggle it gave me. My mother is very sick in hospital right now, and this kind of story about our youngsters is a real ray of light. Whatever happens to the swarm, you clearly did the right thing, twice in fact - once getting the bees, and second time engaging the youngsters. Wonderful stuff.

:grin:

It must make you feel all fuzzy, you have been adopted by the kids and the school… :laughing: Well done.
Cheers

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That’s not great to hear @Dawn_SD, I hope she (and you) are OK.

I have found beekeeping is a great conversation starter, with kids and adults alike. There is usually a funny or entertaining story in there somewhere too (eg. the time I got stung on the tip of my nose standing on my nice neighbour’s shed roof trying to retrieve a swarm just as she arrived home - oops), probably because
A. the receiver of the story is imagining a ‘cartoon perception’ of what they know about bees.
B. its not happening to them :wink:

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BTW: rockmelon size is well worth it- I caught one that was teacup size! You could literally count the bees- it was so tiny. That one refused to ever do well despite my nurturing and I did combine it with another small swarm. Given that you gave them so much stores and resources- combined with their swarm comb building ability- I would say they have a good chance to make it with a little help. Come spring they will explode if they make it through winter. And being it is likely a cast swarm- there is a chance you have a fresh virgin queen.

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