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To be considered for a swarm collected by the club please make sure you have the following ready, i.e. assembled and installed in the hive’s permanent position.

You may get a call from the swarm collector and you need to be in a position to house and look after the swarm with very little notice (could be minutes rather than hours).  Bees cannot be kept on hold for any length of time. If you are not ready the swarm will be offered to whoever is next on the list.

You must have the following fully assembled:

  • Stand – on solid ground and with access for inspection from the rear or side.
  • Floor – either solid or open mesh with a selectable small / large entrance block
  • Brood box.
  • Queen excluder.
  • Crown board with feeder hole.
  • Roof.
  • Eke or empty super.
  • Frames with foundation installed.
  • Dummy board.

You will also need either immediately or within a day or two the following:

  • Rapid feeder
  • Sugar solution of 1:1 mix, i.e. 1 kg sugar to 1 litre water
  • Pollen substitute patty 1 kg (depending on weather)

If there is a good nectar flow on, You may also need a super with frames. The bees could fill any frames with nectar and you do not want brood frames filled with nectar so that the queen has nowhere to lay. When there is a good nectar flow on bees can fill a super with honey in a week.

Once the swarm is housed in your brood box the bees will immediately start to fly and orientate themselves on the hive’s position. If you then move the hive to another location the bees will not be able to find the hive and may become a nuisance. Remember: 2 feet or 3 miles – that rule applies from day one of housing a swarm.

A swarm installed in a new hive has no stores; neither nectar or pollen. It takes a lot of energy to produce the wax needed to draw out foundation. You must feed the bees a “thin syrup” of 1:1 sugar:water from 24 hours after hiving the swarm. If the weather is bad; that is either cold <10C, raining or very windy, then you need to keep on providing them with both carbohydrate = sugar solution and protein = a pollen substitute patty. Failing to do so could result in dead bees.

It is better to feed the bees small quantities (1/2 liter) of thin syrup but often, rather than fill the feeder to the brim. Thin syrup will go off and ferment and it takes only a few days for fungal growth to appear as dark blobs on the surface. Continue to feed until the bees have drawn out about 5 brood frames, or until a good nectar flow commences. Do not continue feeding as the bees will take the sugar syrup and fill the whole brood nest with sugar, leaving no room for the queen to lay. You are feeding the bees only so they can draw out comb, you are not providing them with stores for the year.

If the swarm is a prime swarm (usually large in size and will contain a fertile queen), then it may be beneficial to place the queen excluder below the brood box for one day only. That will prevent the queen leaving and the swarm absconding. Once the bees have been in the brood box for a day they will have started drawing comb and it will feel like home and they are less likely to abscond. You must then remove the queen excluder from below the brood and place it on top of the brood box.

A cast swarm is usually smaller and has a virgin queen. She must be able to fly out and mate with drones in the drone congregation area. A virgin queen has a limited number of days when she can mate, so it is vital that she can leave the hive to fly on her mating flight. Do not leave the queen excluder in place below the brood box for more than 24 hours.

Do not open the hive for at least two weeks, and 3 weeks if it is a virgin queen. Opening up the hive may make the bees abscond. If you see bees flying and bringing in pollen then take that as a good sign. On the first inspection take only a quick look for eggs and larvae. As soon as you have confirmed either of those then close up the hive again. There is no need to check for any swarming activity until later.

A small swarm is best housed in a smaller box so they can keep warm. You can reduce the effective size of the brood box by installing a dummy board(s) in the brood box. Make sure the bees have access to the feeder. The position of the dummy board(s) depends if you have the frames “warm way” (parallel to the front of the hive) or “cold way” (perpendicular to the front of the hive).

As always, if you are concerned or need any advice, there are plenty of club members who will be more than willing to help out.