Catching Swarms And Setting Up a New Hive
Each year right around the middle to end of April is the prime time that our hives will begin to swarm. We've had our hives for right around three years but still feel very new to bee keeping, there is just so much to know and learn about the whole process. We have tried to prevent the hives from swarming but so far we have not had any luck with that, so we have decided to embrace the fact that they swarm. One thing that I have read is that swarming is a sign of a healthy hive, if that is the case we have some healthy hives!
The photo above is the first swarm this year and it was really big, the first swarms usually are the biggest so watch for those early swarms. We happened to miss this one though, they hung for one day and we just didn't have the time to catch them the first day. The second day while getting our box and frames gathered up we turned our backs for a few minutes and when we came back to get them they were gone. It can happen just that fast. The very next day Larry was walking across the yard and just as he looked up a swarm flew over his head, he followed it as far as he could but then lost sight of it. Our hives always swarm the same day or within days of each other and it happens like clock work. In order to keep them from swarming you must split the hive, we have not attempted this process yet . I have six hives now and I ask myself how many more do I need?
Well apparently I needed one more. I have a hard time passing up a mass of bees hanging on a bush. Just shake them off into a card board box or right into your hive box. With this swarm after we dumped them into the hive box they stayed in the box for one day and then they decided to move out again, we had never had this happen before. So we caught them again, put them back in the hive and tried something new.
We took a queen excluder and cut it to fit over the entrance of the hive. This keeps the queen from leaving and prevents them from swarming. This can only be left on the hive for a couple of days. It did keep them from leaving again and they accepted their new home. The next step to help the new swarm is to feed them like crazy! It takes eight pounds of honey or sugar for bees to make a pound of wax, without wax and comb the new queen can't raise brood, so when they move into an empty hive with no honey and no comb they need lots of food to survive. So Feed, feed and feed!
Just a warning about using the excluder this way. Don't use it in the spring to keep hives from swarming or you can find yourself left with a virgin queen and a dying hive. Also the drones can not leave or enter the hive, those drones that die in the hive, the worker bees can not remove them because of the excluder and the dead will pile up and block the entrance. So this can only be used very temporary, I would say not more than 2 day.