Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Moving a swarm into your Warré hive

Catching a swarm of bees is normally achieved by shaking, knocking, or sweeping them into a container supplied by the beekeeper, then allowing them until dusk to settle in order to catch all the scout bees that are out on 'house hunting' visits. This is normally followed by a further move when they are either again shaken into their new hive or onto a cloth covered ramp to ‘walk in’ to their new hive - see pictures at the foot of this post. All this shaking is certainly not natural and can be quite stressful on them. Even during the hours between their initial capture and the subsequent transfer to their new hive they will already have expended considerable energy settling in and building some comb.

In order to try and reduce this stress I have developed a Warré catching system that removes the second stage of this process completely. Basically, at the initial capture the bees are caught straight into their final destination hive.

As a member of YABeeP we will try and source a swarm for you. In order to use this bee-friendly swarm system, when your hive is 100% complete and ready to receive bees (see this 'Finishing touches to a Warre' page) you need to let me have your top box - that's the one with the hessian sheet stuck to the top with flour/water paste. When I go out on swarm calls I will capture the bees straight into this box which is then placed onto a specially modified swarm capture floor.

This floor has swinging lugs which holds the front of it open to allow any returning scout bees to join the swarm. By dusk all the bees will have returned and be happily clinging to the roof of the hive box already busy settling in.

The new hive owner is then given directions to the box location and, once dusk has arrived, they can easily collect the swarm by swinging the 2 lugs to the closed position, gently closing the front of the box, securing it for the journey with the ratchet strap and then you are free to travel safely home with your new swarm.

Once at the final hive location the box is placed beside the hive, the securing strap is loosened and it is left to settle from the journey for about 10 minutes. While waiting make ready the rest of the hive by removing the quilt box and roof leaving one or two (no more) Warré boxes on the base. Once the bees have settled just gently lift the box and place it on top of your hive stack, add the quilt box and roof – job done! The bees will all be in the roof of the collecting hive box and no bees will fly out during this process provided it's done after dusk.

Not only does this make life gentler on the bees with only one move, it also means they ar not thrown out of their chosen home and it means that I can leave the evening collection visit to you – you can have the fun of collecting and housing your own bees – no experience necessary. Please return the floor and waterproof lid to me asap so I can reuse it for the next swarm.

Obviously, for this to work your Warré boxes need to be built to the Warré spec. of 300 mm x 300 mm1 internal dimensions or it may not fit the swarm capture floor. A tolerance of c. 15 mm each way is catered for.

© Robin Morris - YABeeP

PS: For those who choose to use a horizontal hive your bees will be collected the same way. You'll just have to accept that your bees will get a second disturbance when you shake or walk them into your hive - sorry.

Footnote 1 - Don't worry if you have built one of YABeeP adapted Warré hives as I also have swarm catching bases/roofs for these.

The less attractive alternatives:

Shaking bees in
(poor bees!)
Walking bees in
(they're still evicted!)

Also see this video of a 'walk in'.....
....and another.

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