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Swarm season in Perth - are we doing the right thing?


#1

So Perth weather has been up and down this spring. It has been the coldest September on record, yet every warm day we are getting plenty of swarms about on our hills property.

A couple of weeks ago a hive in our tree swarmed & we caught it :). Pretty sure it was an afterswarm as very small, though we could spot the queen easily so not sure if she was a virgin. We left them in an 8 frame box with 4 frames on it with some syrup as we knew the weather was going to be grim for the following days. Fast forward 2 weeks and there were still bees so we went to do our first check today and found that they had drawn zero comb (we put in very old comb from a feral hive and foundationless) and were still clustered around the queen. Not sure if this means they aren’t planning on staying (you think they should have worked that out in 2 weeks), or if it has been so cold they have no reserves to build. We transferred them to a Nuc with mostly drawn frames as there were not enough bees to fill the big box. The weather will be nice for a couple of days now so hopefully they can get building. We saw the queen alive and well, so I guess that is something.

As we went out to check our first swarm today the tree hive swarmed again - this time much much bigger & clustered on a tree branch! We were running quite low on supplies so could muster a brood box with around 5 frames mix of foundation & foundationless. Cut the branch off & put it in the box & closed off. All the bees went into the hive over half an hour or so so the queen was surely in :). After a quick trip to the bee keeping shop, we returned with a plan to remove the branch from the brood box & potentially add a second box full of frames above as there really are a lot of bees in this swarm. Our plan was scuppered though when we went to lift the hive lid and found that the swarm was clustered to the queen excluder! So we now have a box containing a swarm, a few frames and a branch. My current plan is to check on them every day or two and when or if they move into the frames remove the branch and either fill the box with frames or add a second box on top. Any suggestions if this is correct would be most appreciated as I don’t want to a) spook them into leaving, or b) fill the box with frames so they think there is not enough space and they leave (I have read that the bees need space to cluster - is this right).

All in all I am excited with our adventures but confused about the best course of action with our current two swarms or the best plan for the next swarm that will inevitably come our way in the next week or two :slight_smile: We only have one other small hive so have no drawn frames and no brood to give to the swarms unfortunately.

Cheers for suggestions,

Julia


#2

As i understand it… i’m new to this. A strong swarm wants lots of work to do. So you want some empty frames for them to work on. You want to get the frames in soon so they dont start building in the wrong places. Probs alternate empty and full frames so that they are encouraged to build parallel comb.

With the small swarm you will probs need to feed them if you want them to do much as it sounds like they dont have much energy.

Any experienced beekeepers want to back me up ir cut me down?


#3

They need protein too.
If it was a swarm with a virgin queen has there been the weather for mating?
Sometimes…a Cast can leave before the Prime…don’t ask me how that happens, I don’t have a clue but I have heard it described.


#4

I wouldn’t. I would go back and shake them all into the hive and make the space up with frames before they start getting creative around the branch


#5

Thanks for the wise advice both which has been heeded :).

We went out today and stole a fully drawn frame with a bit of capped honey and some pollen from our original hive (which is looking nice & active and bringing in plenty of pollen so shouldn’t mind too much). We then donated this to the Nuc swarm, which are looking a lot happier in their little home and were chewing up bits of burr comb from the old Nuc and hopefully starting to think about drawing some foundation. I feel we have now done the best we can for them so fingers crossed they will survive. We have had quite a few nice days scattered in between the rain and cold so I’m hoping the queen has managed to mate.

We then went to the big swarm (which has at least twice as many bees as our own hive) and went about removing the branch. A large number of bees were still clustered on the queen excluder but a lot were running around the frames. Hubby lifted the excluder and swarm & I reached in and pulled out the branches brushing the few bees left on them into the frame. We then filled the box with frames with foundation and gently lowered the swarm back on. We did use a tiny amount of smoke but mostly to move them down into the box so we didn’t squash them with the crown board. It was a truly scary experience (although no one got stung or even attacked) and we have learned not to leave in branches next time and fill with frames. The bees settled again as soon as we put the lid on and are now just flying in and out of the box. Fingers crossed they decide to stay!

Thanks again for the advice. We will leave them now for a couple of weeks. Before seeing how things are progressing.

Cheers heaps,

Julia