Thursday 5 November 2015

Collecting a Swarm of Bees

Bee season is here and Brian has collected two swarms from back yards in the town during the past week.  Why bees swarm 
Aside from word of mouth in our community, we also put a small advert on our local Classifieds page on Facebook to let people know that Brian will collect the bees at no cost to them.
Collecting swarms is a great way to boost bee numbers in our hives and in this blog Brian explains the process of collecting a swarm.

The first thing I like to do when someone rings me to say they have a swarm of bees in their yard is to find out how big the swarm is and where it is situated. This way you will know what equipment you will need to retrieve the bees. 
For instance, what size ladder you will need for the job. 
The best way to ascertain the size of the swarm, is to ask the caller to compare it to something.
I start with a football. That's around 10,000 bees and work my way up. 
This is important because you need to know what size box to bring with you; either a nuc (newk, a 4 framed box) or a full sized box which has 10 frames. 
A small swarm the size of a football would not do well in a full sized box because there are not enough bees to keep the temperature correct in the box and they could die.
Right, that sorted, I head to my shed feeling exited to collect a new swarm!
I grab my bee suit, smoker, hive tool and brush. Then a bee box and frames, pruning saw and snips (secateurs). 
I do make a habit of keeping all my tools together in a box so all I need to do is grab the box because usually, by the time I get the phone call, the swarm has been there for a couple of days and could take off at any time .

When I arrive at the property, and if the swarm is hanging off a branch in the garden, I set up my box under the swarm and take the lid off the bee box. 
I then very slowly cut the branch off the tree around 50mm above the bees, being very careful not to bump the swarm.  They are very fragile at this stage and will fall off the branch very easily. You don’t want that to happen because you could lose the queen and then there is no way the bees will stay in your box. 
So anyway, I have cut off the branch with the bees still hanging off it nicely, and very slowly lay them on top of the bee box with the lid off.  The bees should now walk down the frames and start making their new home. 
If you see the bees look unsettled and lost, not sure what to do, there is a good chance the queen has died.
(You will need to get a frame of brood so they can make a new queen.) ** We will cover this part later.
You must remember the existing queen is the old queen from the original hive and getting close to the end of her life.
Right, if all went well and the queen is OK, and the bees are going into the box, put the lid back on the box and leave them undisturbed so they can settle in.
Return just on dark when all the bees have gone into the hive, close the trap door at the entrance of the box and take your babies home.
Now, before you get them home you need to make a decision; 
Do you want them to form a new hive? 
Do you want to unite them with another hive to build the numbers up quickly in the hive you have at home already?

In our next blog about bee keeping, Brian will explain how to unite the new swarm with an existing hive.

Wiring a frame before embedding the wax foundation onto the wire for the bees to start building their wax cells onto.

A fresh beeswax foundation before the bees have started building the cells.

Manual lifting the hives onto the ute or trailer when we want to move them to a new location was getting too difficult for us. They are really heavy, especially when three boxes high, so Brian fixed up some old cheap trailers to leave the hives on permanently.
When it's time to move to another location, he waits until dark to ensure the bees have returned from their day's gathering activities, closes the doors on the hives, slides the hives closer together, lifts the tail gate, hooks up to the ute and drives.
There are less sessions at the Chiropractor for us now that we do it this way!

Thanks for dropping by and don't forget to leave a comment or ask questions.

These are a couple of blogs I love to read and you might also enjoy them;

Eight Acres

Down to Earth


  1. I am looking forward to the next instalment. Fascinating. Thanks for sharing. Annie.

    1. They are really fascinating and complex little creatures Annie. We have learned so much but still lots to learn and I now realize that there is much to write about bees. :)

  2. Great info! I'm looking forward to learning more too. I think we are nearly confident enough to try catching a swarm now we had bees a few months and spent time working them.

  3. Brilliant. Beekeeping is something my Lovely Hubby is keen to get started on when he gives up the day job and is able to live here on the holding with me full time. He's done a beekeeping course to learn the basics and is joining the local society once he is home and able to get fully involved.


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