Time for expansion at the apiary – adding another swarm

A beekeeping friend of mine has called, her bees have swarmed and they are in the neighbours hedge, ideally they would like them gone as soon as possible – could I come and get them? Now this is a great chance to expand the apiary, get new sheets of foundation drawn out and its still only early June so the main nectare flow for the year is still ahead of us – this is a great oppurtunity for a new beekeeper!

I head over to my friends house early evening on a Sunday and she has already collected the swarm into a box which is currently sitting on her patio. I have taken a nucleus hive, otherwise known as a ‘nuc’ with me. This is a half hive, a good temporary¬† home but it cannot be extended like a normal hive.

We decide to rehive the bees using the traditional method, we spread a large white sheet on the ground, place the nuc in the center and shake the bees from the box near the entrance. Over the next hour we sit back in the conservatory, drink tea and watch the bees, about 20,000 of them, crawl into their new (but temporary) home. The dark mass of bees that was shaken onto the sheet gradually shrinks as they all fit into the nuc box and cover the frames. Once they are all in I block the entrance and pop them on the back seat of the car (the lid is strapped on – I’m not that brave or stupid!) and I drive them down to join my other bees at the apiary.

It’s semi-dark as I arrive and I have to crawl through wooden fences and under electric wires dragging a box of bees behind me – there is a murmer of annoyance every time they are shaken or gently knocked on the rough ground. Finally I arrive and set the box up on an up-turned milk crate and clear the entrance to set them free. Not a single bee appears – they are in for the night!

Two days later I returned to feed the new swarm with a light sugar syrup as this aids with the wax production and them left them to it whilst the family and I headed off camping for the weekend.

On my return visit 5 days later I was amazed to find that the bees had drawn out both sides of wax foundation on all 5 frames and the queen was busy laying eggs. It was definitely a good time to increase the ‘bee space’ and move them into a proper hive!

So from humble beginnings back in March with one soliary hive now in mid-June there are three hives – two with new queens for 2010, all working hard and bringing in the nectar to make sweet honey!


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