Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Installing a Swarm

(click any photo to enlarge)
Shaking bees in.
Following our the recent Hive Building Day some have been lucky enough to get swarms - a few within a week!

Emma kindly sent me some photographs showing how they were installed into her new hive so rather than just add them to that page I thought that it would be useful to post this as a separate page showing the methods of installing bees.

Basically there are several methods for installing a swarm of bees.

Tip: Have you seen this series of 10 short videos by Prof. Tom Seeley on swarm behaviour? 

Shaking them in
Walking them in - 1
The ramp is prepared
The easiest though less gentle method is to shake or tap them straight into their new hive. To do this hold the  upturned swarm container above the hive and sharply shake it or give it a hard tap to dislodge the bees - see the 'Walking Them In' video at the foot of this page which shows shaking and taping. If you are using this method please put some cut long grass in the bottom of your hive to soften the fall when the clump of bees falls onto the hard surfaces of the hive - if you damage the Queen you're in trouble! The bees will later chew up the grass and expel it from the hive.

Walking them in - 2
Bees are shaken
onto cloth
If it is a horizontal hive then the roof is removed, enough bars to make a gap big enough for the bees (around six)  and the bees are shaken out through the gap into the hive by giving a hard knock on the base of the upturned swarm container which usually sufficient to dislodge them - the bulk of them will fall with a hard 'clump' into your hive. Then replace the top bars.
Walking them in - 3
The journey starts.

With a Warré hive you just remove the top box which has the hessian ceiling stuck down with flour paste, turn it upside down then shake the bees into that. Once the mass of bees have fallen in gently turn the box the right way and put it back on top of the hive stack - usually 2 boxes in total for a new swarm. Add a third box at the base of the stack after a week once they are fully settled.

Provided the Queen was in the bulk of bees which were initially shaken into the hive several worker bees should emerge at or outside the entrance and start fanning (see photo & video at foot of page) to summon all the stragglers. With either hive type you use you then need to put the swarm catching container, which will still have many bees in it, on its side by the hive entrance so they can walk in. By dusk they should all be inside.

Walking them in
Walking them in - 4
See them go!
With this method a temporary ramp is made leading up to the entrance of the hive (hTBH or Warré) using pieces of wood or similar to support a clean soft sheet. Bees will instinctively climb upwards and if the end of their climb meets a hole into a potential hive they will go in.

Once the ramp is ready the bees are then shaken out by turning their container upside down and sharply knocking the base of it to dislodge them onto the soft sheet. Their fall onto a sheet is far more gentle than onto a hard hive floor so there is less chance of damaging them.

Walking them in - 5
Going, going.
Over the next half hour or so you can observe the bees fanning to attract their sisters and slowly walking up into the hive - it's great to see. With this method you can sometimes see the Queen, but if you don't spot her individually you'll know she is there as a clump of bees will accompany her as she walks up.

Walking them in - 6
And don't forget
those stragglers!
My thanks to Emma for supplying the 'Walking them in' photos.

Drumming your bees inYou may also wish to read this post of the Warrébeekeeping Yahoo group about drumming to encourage your bees to walk up into their new hive - I've not tried it yet but it sounds worthy of a shot! If you do try, please let me know your results so they an be added here. - YABeeP@gmail.com.

The YABeeP Warré Way
Because both of the above methods involve disturbing the bees twice - once when they are knocked into the hive swarm box then again when they are transferred into their hive - we have developed a method for those with Warré hives to collect them in their final home. This is explained on this page. There are a few  advantages. The bees are installed into their final home at the swarm site so don't need to be moved again - any work they do comb building and propilysing whilst in the swarm capture box is not wasted effort. It also means that they can be collected from the swarm site by their new owner - the swarm catcher doesn't need to return a second time in the evening - they should always be removed at dusk or later to ensure that all the scout bees have returned.
Bees fanning to attract sisters.
They are wafting a pheromone signal into
the air saying 'come and join us girls'.

This method can only be used where top boxes have been left with the swarm collector.

© Robin Morris - YABeePFacebook smileys


Kev said...

good article Robin, has anyone used the modified Warée's with a nuc yet?

YABeeP said...

Kev - Yes, apparently it went really simply - they just cut off the long lugs and popped it in!

Kev said...

I will take some pictures when I do mine so you can have that way of installing bees as well.