"What's all that black stuff all over hive 1? Oh no... They're my bees!"

Swarm capture. A 'how not to' guide.

2017. After an extremely efficient expansion in early spring and despite my mediocre efforts to quell their swarm impulse, the girls (and a few boys) decided it was time to buzz off.

The story begins with a mid-week, after work visit to install a fresh super for the storage of honey. That was all, nothing more nothing less. In and out.

As it turns out the bees had other plans for my evening...
As I'm walking up the paddock I can see in the distance a black mass at the top of the hive and I'm wondering "Is that mould? What is that?" I get a little closer and it hits me. I've seen that somewhere before... That's a cluster of bees!!
I stop immediately and race back to the house. "Err, guys, You might want to see this! Bring a camera, they've swarmed!"
Now I'm desperately trying to think back to all those books and articles I've read.
"OK, I'm going to need a box with no holes- a crisp box, that'll work..."
Armed with my box I'm going in fully suited and booted.
Now I've never done this before and I never shy away from a challenge, so I put the box above the swarm cluster in the vain hope that they'll just climb up into it, sure enough bees begin to make their way up into it.

Due to the rapid expansion of this hive in the early spring I was beginning to get a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of bees, so I had decided to split the hive in order to thin out the numbers and create a second colony.
I had left it too late. With the absence of good inspection weather that coincided with my own free time, I had not been fully inspecting the colony. So I'm in this situation, I should just deal with it.
By now it's about 18:30 and I have to drive 20 minutes home to get my spare hive and then return, set-up and I should have a box full of happy and willing bees to shake into their new home. I have a plan.

Damn! I haven't got DN4 brood frames built up!! So now I have to build 11 frames with foundation... I stop at 6, that'll be enough for now!
I get back, haul the new hive up the field, get suited up, set up the hive with a little ramp leading to the lovely front door and check the box...
Absolutely no bees in the box!!!

Time for plan B.
By now Susie is encouraging me to flick the thousands of bees into the box and then dump them in the hive. That'll work, I'm thinking, If I get the queen in there they will all follow her in. So I begin flicking this angry mass of bees onto the ramp in the hope that they will mosey on in there and set up shop.

The bees are piling up on the ramp and some have splintered off and are clustering UNDERNEATH the hive! I continue anyway getting as many as I can into the box and onto the ramp.
By this point a medium sized group are now making their way up the ramp and are exploring the empty hive. Result! I think this is going to work.
After about an hour of sweating and getting hundreds of warning bumps to the veil from angry guard bees, it looks like I have cleared most of the bees off of the hive, some are still making their way into the empty hive and the cluster underneath hive one is completely inaccessible.

I have to let nature take it's course. I'll come back tomorrow.

Tomorrow comes and I receive this picture from susie...

Cluster of bees under hive one

Cluster of bees at the front entrance

bees on the ramp to hive 2

It must have been the load that fell on the floor and clustered under the hive. "I will come over after later"
So, again, after work I go over and check inside the new hive. NO BEES!! They seem to have nipped off as well, so I set about removing the bees from the front of hive one and dump them all into the new hive. Which I have imaginitively named "hive two". All the bees safely tucked away I close up the new hive and I have yet to see if they have set up shop. That will be tonight...

Here's what I SHOULD have done...

So... Fair enough the improvised crisp box was an alright idea, but this is what I would have done with hindsight.

  1. First up I was on the right track, but I should have collected all the bees into the box, including the queen! (Very important!- Where she goes the others WILL follow.)
  2. Next I would put the box on the ground, propped up slightly to enable the others to follow her pheromone scent into the box.
  3. Then leave them while I got my fresh hive set up and returned that evening (even though it was already late)
  4. Set up the hive and dump the bees in...

Simple?! Well life is about learning and I like to think when I get the chance again I will get it right!!