Catching & Hiving Large Swarm

Catching & Hiving Large Swarm

Catching a swarm of honeybees should be on everyone’s bucket list.  It is one of the most beautiful, exhilarating and rewarding experiences life has to offer.

Swarm From East Facing Hive June 2015
Swarm From East Facing Hive June 2015

At the end of April, I bought 2 nucs, with last years Queens, and 6 weeks later they have now both swarmed.  I am confident this latest swarm came from the East Facing Hive in the farmer’s field.  Although this hive still has eggs and I didn’t spot a queen cell, it was looking quieter.  I’ll check for Queen cell in a week.

The reality of beekeeping for the novice/improver is not being quite sure what is happening.  My cousin Simon had 2 colonies 6 weeks ago, now he has 7.  The bees are feisty and he has no idea which hives have queens.

Unusually for me, the swarm catching and hiving went to plan.  The bees were on the branch of a tree at shoulder height. A few shakes into my swarm catcher bag and job was a good ‘un.

I put an empty brood box at the location of the hive and put Queen Excluder below to make sure madam stayed.  I added in some drawn comb and a couple of frames that were solid with winter stores as well as flat foundation.

I went back to the branch a few times as the bees kept gathering and shook them into the bag and transferred them to the box. The scout bees didn’t start fanning pheromones at the hive entrance until I grabbed a few handfuls of bees from the branch and ushered them through the hive entrance.

Is the Queen in the bag
Is the Queen in the bag?

Later I move the hive to desired location, added Queen Excluder above brood box (in addition to the one below) and jumbo feeder on top with thin sugar syrup.  Perfect.

So I now have three colonies. This one and the 2 original nucs (now in brood boxes) neither of which have mated queens.  The hive in the field has just swarmed but has 9 frames of brood and is quite strong. Will this be my productive hive this summer?  Or will this large swarm with laying queen get up to size for the July nectar flow?

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Author: Roger

regaining my sanity through beekeeping

6 thoughts on “Catching & Hiving Large Swarm”

  1. I caught my first swarm this year and it certainly is thrilling- in a kind of Holy Moses I hope I get this right sort of way! They were my bees as I witnessed them swarm. They were keen to help my learning and honing swarm catching skills as they really didn’t want to stay and they swarmed a further three times. Fortunately I managed to retrieve them each time thanks to the patience / paranoia of my long suffering neighbours. My original mentor told me (a man of great age and experience) that you can only ever hope to manage swarming not prevent it. If the bees want to swarm, they are going to swarm pretty much regardless of what the books say. I find this reassuring information as I stumble through my bee keeping journey
    There was no queen by the time all this had gone on so I have requeened and now have three hives.
    I was a bit disappointed that the colour on my marked queen was so dark I thought my feeble vision will not be much helped by the breeders paint so decided to highlight her with a flouresent colour I got a while back. I just hope I didn’t do either of them any damage in the process.. So far so good but the bees are doing a pretty good job of wiping it clean I fear.
    I am glad things seem to be looking up for you bee wise. A poor start in spring is so disheartening so it is good things look to be back on track for you!

  2. Had this last year a month after getting my nuc. They swarmed and settled onto a branch on my gooseberry bush. One cardboard box, one snip and it was as good as over. I left the box upside down for a few hours then gathered it up and upended it into a sheet with the ends stuffed in entrance of the hive to be.
    It was such an experience watching them march like soldiers into their new home. I ran for my video camera but the battery was flat. Nothing ever works out perfect.

  3. This is a monster swarm! I marked my first queen yesterday so beginning the process of working it all out! We need a blog on people’s approaches to requeening though and where they get their Queens from as I need to steel myself to do this.

    1. I buy mine. This year I got Buckfasts from bees4you from a lovely lady called Jean in Kent. So far great queens but she doesn’t use the little numbered dots on the thorax but just appropriate coloured paint.
      Got a queen from Sipa bees last year that is doing good work and is nicely marked. Not convinced she’s a Buckfasts but hey ho.

  4. On your opening page you mention adding a Q excluder ABOVE to stop the Q absconding. Below the brood box would be more use (as someone who forgot this detail first time round). Also, apparently it’s best to leave them 24-48 hours before feeding, so that any pathogens in their stomachs are used in comb-building, thus lessening the pathogens in the hive from an early stage. Perhaps you’ve mentioned this somewhere else?). We hived a swarm last night, after our 2 colonies died out over the winter. Feels like Christmas today! ?

    1. Hi Emma, Thanks for comment. Earlier I mentioned the QE below and then further down mentioned QE above. I have edited so that it is more clear.

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