Friday 31 May 2013

Putting a swarm into their new hive

Today we were called by a neighbour who had seen a swarm of bees passing over their house and settling in a tree in a nearby garden.  The swarm was several meters high from the ground but we were able to capture it with our home made swarm bag, which looks like a pillow case on a stick!

We got the swarm into a box, and took it to the National Trust apiary at Hanbury Hall.

This is where our story begins. There are several ways to introduce a swarm to their new home:

The simplest is to take the roof and crownboard off the newly prepared hive and simply shake all the bees into the hive.  You then leave the hive entrance blocked up overnight in the hope that after a night of incarceration the bees will have started to think that the new hive is 'home'.  This usually works, but every now and then a swarm decides that it does not like your choice of home for them, so the bees fly off to find another.

A second, more traditional method to get the swarm into a hive is called 'running' the bees into the hive.  The bees are tipped onto a board outside the new hive.  The board slopes up to the entrance of the hive.  The bees then walk up the board into the hive.  The theory is that because the bees have 'found' the hive for themselves and walked in, they will think that it is 'home' and they will not re-swarm later.

I haven't done any research into the comparative success of the two methods.  I generally use the first method, because throwing the bees into a hive is quicker, and swarms are generally collected at inconvenient times when I am in a hurry!

This time though we were not in a rush ... the only job I had to look forward to was clearing out the shed!

The video shows the second process, 'running' the swarm of bees into the hive.

The bees did stay in the hive, and are now on show to the public surrounded by a mesh cage in the Walled Gardens at Hanbury Hall, a National Trust property in Worcestershire.