Once we have
'collected' our swarm we
have to put it in a hive, in such a manner as it will not depart a
further time (which would waste our effort in capturing it). We must
make our hive as attractive as possible to the bees so that they have
no desire to leave.
Time of day... Evening seems to be the most opportune time
to hive a swarm as it then has at least an overnight stay on the combs
or foundation that you are providing for them. The natural instincts
of the younger bees to clean the comb or wax workers to build fresh
or repair old comb will all help to knit the group into a new colony.
Time of year... In early spring and summer a swarm has the
opportunity to develop and even gather a surplus. The later in the
year a swarm occurs the less time is available for 'natural' build
up and so drawn comb and feeding will help balance the equation.
Comb versus foundation... When I first started beekeeping
I used foundation for hiving swarms, but as I built up stocks of comb
I changed to using several drawn or part drawn combs flanked by
frames with full sheets of foundation. With the advent of varroa, and
the treatments for it, I have made a further change to starter strips
just 20 mm wide (some recommend 25 mm, but I have a cutting jig for
Wild comb that the swarm has built whilst it has been
clustering or if it has been 'in the wild' for some time, there
may well be combs with brood. If either of these items are available
they can be fitted into, so called,
'swarm trapping frames'
that will enable the comb to be salvaged and provide a 'magnet' to
help keep the swarm in one place whilst the new nest is established.
Feeding will keep the bees 'busy' at home and will aid any
wax work that they may need to do. Some will say that a syrup with a
high concentration of sugar should be used, but I use 1 kilo sugar +
1 Litre of water. The reason is simple... Many swarms occur in hot
weather and a strong syrup loses some of its water by evaporation,
thus causing crystallisation.
The makeup of the swarm receiving
hive has some bearing on the effectiveness of the hiving
The mechanical part of the operation is usually conducted
by using one of two methods. The traditional and 'pretty' way of
doing it and the straight forward 'chucking them in', both of these
methods will work.
Whichever of the two methods we are going to use involves
'throwing' the bees out of the swarm box... This is illustrated at
left and is not a violent action, but one that is a firm enough
thump, using the heel of the palm, to dislodge the bees from their
clustering in the box and disorient them sufficiently, so that they
do not fly up in a cloud.
Throwing them straight into the top of a hive. This is
the method that I have used most often. Although I have had a few
failures, notably one that is written about on the page
'Combs that smelled of PDB',
it is generally a reliable method.
Prepare your hive as shown in the diagram at right. Throw the bees into
the gap in the middle of the box and put the loose combs gently on top
of the pile of bees. Allow these combs or frames of foundation to sink
as the bees disperse, then when they have dropped to their normal
position brush any loose bees inwards, finally placing the roof in
Disease risk... You have to be aware that your swarm may be
diseased. I have collected many hundreds if not thousands of swarms
during my beekeeping career, but I have not had an occurrence of any
major disease. Nosema and Acarine have been present on occasions but,
a fresh start on new foundation has almost always 'done the trick'
having said that any colonies that did not appear to be 'normal' and
vigorous after a few days were closed up and dispatched with a half
pint of petrol. Since those days we now have to cope with varroa and
some late swarms can carry a considerable mite load.
This is the traditional way that it is done. The hive is
prepared with combs or frames of foundation and a ramp is made using
a board from the ground up to the hive entrance. The bottom portion
of the board has a cloth spread over it encompassing an area of
ground in front of the hive.
Finally the bees are thrown onto the cloth... They will crawl up the
board and start fanning at the entrance, whereupon all the bees then
scuttle up the ramp and into the hive. You may be lucky and spot the
queen who will probably run a little faster than the workers and maybe
run over the worker's backs rather than the board.
The cloth is used to present a continuous surface other wise many bees
get lost it the grass or cluster under the ramp, which slows down the
Disease treatment... I was taught as a beginner to feed
syrup that had been laced with Fumidil
"B" , which I did for a few years until I began to question
whether such treatment caused the disease to be masked and thus
propagated further rather than being reduced. With the added stress
that varroa now causes I am thinking of returning to the original idea
of treatment of swarms with Fumidil "B" but, I am still concerned that
it is a mask rather than a cure.
The equipment in the illustrations is of the non standard
type that I use... Most British beekeepers use "standard"
National equipment and
thus will use a crown board and a telescoping roof instead of the
one piece insulated
'Rational' type that I have
Written... September 2000, Revised... 19 December 2001
Revised... 12 June 2002