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Swarm: How long keep an hive closed/sealed after the catch?

Hi there, despite swarm management attemps the girls decided it was time to follow up the trial with a proper swarm…the bees are all inside the box, I lowered the branch inside the box and let the few one flying around enter the hive at dusk…once they had been all inside I sealed with masking tape the entrance and relocated the hive… how long can you leave the hive sealed without harming bees? 24/48hrs?
I am asking this as the location is beside the hive they left and few meters from the branched where they swarmed, alternately I can put branches at the entrance tomorrow at dusk?
Thank you so much for the all the tips!!

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It may be controversial but you don’t have to keep them boxed up at all. Certainly I’d say that there’s much more danger in closing them in than letting them come and go.

Make them want to stay, that’s what they want anyway. They don’t want to go back to the old hive location.

If you have a used box with drawn comb or better yet, open brood, they are likely to stay put.


The bees don’t go back to the original hive, so you can take that aspect out of the equation.

When you say “relocate the hive”, I thought you meant to take it away. If you want to make sure the bees stay in the box, a good idea is to take it well away from the scout bee’s foraging range, just in case the scout bees have found a hollow in a tree, or a wall cavity that they prefer above your hive, which can cause the colony to abscond. I’m not a fan of keeping them locked up because too many bees will be trying to exit the vent holes, which can suffocate the colony, as I found out the hard way.

As @chau06 said, a good frame of open brood is a good way to hold a colony to a hive.

Preemptive swarm control splits works well for me at stopping colonies from swarming. That’s something to consider in the future.



Hi Alok, thanks for the tips…this morning ( the one following the catch) I opened slightly the seal & matched the opening with the entrance reducer…I also added few branches at the entrance of the hive to facilitate re-orientation…there had been few bees flying back and forth between the hive and the tree where they swarmed…all back in the hive at dusk…
Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to provide them with brood as I completed the inspection on the mother hive few days back, but luckily enough I had affare with drawn comb, I had been impressed by how they sticker to that!! I keep you posted!!

Hi Jeff thanks for the tip, I was wondering about a split, but being a newbie (1 year of beekeeping), I wasn’ that confident in making that move…
What you reckon should I feed the mother hive?

Hi & you’re welcome Waldats. I wouldn’t feed the mother hive on account that the colony swarmed as a result of plenty of pollen & nectar around. Feeding might only encourage caste swarms, which could happen anyway, unless you have broken every queen cell down bar one.

PS @Waldats , don’t be intimidated by the thought of doing a preemptive swarm control split. It’s actually as easy done as said. It’s much easier to do a preemptive swarm control split than it is to split a colony by waiting for swarm cells to appear.

Let’s put it this way: If you can do a brood inspection, you can do a split. Instead of placing a bee covered brood frame back into the brood box, you place it into a different brood box, followed by a second, third or even a fourth one, while checking to see where the queen is. Then replace them with fresh foundation or drawn comb in either a checkerboard fashion or on the sides.


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Thanks Jeff it looks like you’ve read my mind…honestly I am starting to feel a bit more comfy in running inspections right now as the heartbreak of losing my first colony for overdoing last year…my biggest concern about split is how can I be sure I have given enough brood/bees/food to the new split…and at the same time how can I be sure not to weaken too much the mother hive??

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If I was making a 5 frame split, I would give the new colony 2-3 frames of brood and 2 frames of food. It will take the split a couple of weeks to build up a decent number of foragers (most of the bees will be nurse bees in the new colony), so they need enough food until they can forage. 1.5 to 2 frames of food should easily last them 2-3 weeks, but you can always feed them if the stores are getting low.

The mother hive should be fine with 2 frames of brood and 1-2 frames of food, as long as there is a good nectar flow. The mother hive will retain most of the foragers, so they can build up food stores quite quickly. The rest of the space can be new frames, or stickies if you have any of the right size.


Thanks Dawn this is pretty straight forward!!

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That’s a good question @Waldats , in the first part of the question, the thing is to make sure that every brood frame is covered in bees. I select the frames with the most amount of sealed & emerging bees, which insures a good population, which will actually explode during the following week to 12 days. I take that split away so that no bees return to the parent hive.

In the second part of the question, you don’t have to worry about taking too much away from the parent hive because it has a lot of bees in the honey super, plus the rest of the season to recover. A good idea is to place the remaining brood frames in the center flanked by drawn comb or fresh foundation on the sides.

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I guess I have to wait for next year…the girls decided to swarm again from the mother hive…that’s the second…I caught them and placed in a new box…roughly 2/2.5 frames full of bees…check picts…
Now two questions…
1 is it ok to eventually merge the two swarm later in the season?
2 do I have to remove the super and start feeding the mother hive? I guess it will be pretty weak after two swarms just days apart…

Any suggestion??

Well done in catching the swarm Waldats.

Yes you can merge the 2 swarms later on, with the newspaper method after killing one of the queens.

No you wont have to feed the parent hive. The bees only swarm because they are optimistic about every colony they split into being able to build up again during the coming months of spring/summer. That will include the parent hive.

I had to catch a swarm myself yesterday. It was my fault for having a split making a new queen in a 4 frame nuc box. I should have known better than to keep them in a box that small. Anyway I’ll get two colonies out of it, if both queens are successful in mating.

Thanks Jeff and how did it go with the swarm, did you catch it??

One more thing the first swarm hive started behaving very strongly so that I had to remove the entrance reducer, but then later today I found around 20 bees dead on the ground…could be that due to pray birds? I saw them hovering around the hives multiple times…I did not see any dead in front of the other 2 hives, but that may be due the location…the first swarm hive is a bit more exposed to excursions from birds…

Hi Waldats, yes we caught that swarm. We were lucky because we had to bend a branch, which didn’t bring it down far enough, so I sawed through the back of the branch, which brought it down low enough for us to be able to get them in a hive. Luckily they didn’t leave the branch during the sawing etc.

You’ll always find a few dead bees on the ground, especially after an inspection because it’s impossible to remove & replace frames without killing a few which get cleaned out fairly quickly.

I guess in your case, it could be from the birds.

Hi Jeff dead’s looked a bit less today.
I had a look at the mother hive which is again covered in bees, but few capped brood and the majority are drones…managed to see three empty cups and one which seems to be a supersedure cell, in the middle of the frame, which I didn’t thin out…question given that they swarmed twice starting one week back…the new queen shouldn’t have started laying? That’s might be the cause of the supersedure cell?
The first swarm is fine, good vibe and they drawn comb also from the top of the lid down (no queen excluder…)…I had to remove it and laid it down at the bottom of the box…hoping no damages to the queen, but I haven’t seen her…sorry no picts today!!

The ‘supersedure cell’ might just be another swarm cell. It may even contain the queen that the colony has allocated for that hive seeing as a second swarm issued.

No, don’t expect to see any new brood until at least 10-12 days after the virgin queen has emerged. Even then it’s best to wait for a further week, so that you’ll easily see capped brood or mature brood ready to be capped.

The capped brood you found is from before the swarm queen stopped laying. You’ll see more drones because they take an extra 4 days to emerge.

I use hive mats to prevent bees from building up into the lids. However I haven’t been using them on my splits. Recently two splits built comb up into the roof, which I broke down & retrieved a nice jar of unripe honey from, which we’ll use ourselves fairly quickly, mainly in Wilma’s coffee.

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