First bees

On wednesday, 23rd May, I had a call from Harry that a ‘pestaker’ was bringing a swarm from Tetbury about 40 minutes away.  I dashed over to Shilton and waited to usher the ‘pestaker into the drive’  He arrived in a BMW and he had shoved the bees into a plastic bag sealed with gappa tape and thrown into the boot, with no ventilation.  On opening the boot, some of the bees had escaped and were all over the boot, including trapped into the indicator aperture.  He was unable to drive to the apiary, so we were forced to bring the warre hive 200 metres up to his car.  Harry then got as many of the bees into the hive as we could and I sorted the spacers, etc. It was such a hot day and it was plain that many of the bees were dead and it was so sad that they had suffered such trauma.  He assured us that the Queen was in the body of the swarm that we had transferred into the hive.  Harry arranged for some food and drink for the bees and we decided to leave them where they were.  There were lots of dead bees at the hive entrance and through the observation window,we could see many dead that had not survive the trama.  There has, however been plenty of activity, and when Harry looked into the top of the hive early this morning, Friday, there were plenty of live bees.  Melvin and Greg had moved the hive into the apiary last night and this morning, Friday, we noticed that bees were still flying around the site wher the bees had previously been locate, about 200 metres from the apiary..  We put a cardboard box at this location with an entrance hole and they are showing interest in this.  Harry is thinking about putting another hive at this position and we would like some advice, because, as you know, these are our first bees.  We want to do all that we can to help the bees survive against the odds, they have been so calm and Harry and I have been so at one with them that we feel no need to wear our suits when closely observing them.  They really do seem to know that we want to help them and certainly mean them no harm.  The bees look like a cross between the black bee and the southern european bee, or at least the do to us novices!

Any advice and comments most welcome.





About melvin56

passionate about bees, permaculture and biodiversity.....and plymouth Argyle F.C.
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3 Responses to First bees

  1. susiehelm says:

    I don’t know but I think the problem may be the moving of the colony from the place where you put them in the hive to the place where you have now put them especially if they were in the original place for any length of time. There is a sort of rule of thumb (I think) that says move them either two feet or two miles. ie; if you want to move a hive from one spot to another, do it very gradually , or take it somewhere much further away, let the bees re-locate, and them bring them back again late in the evening. I have had to do this in the past- a major hassle and I didn’t enjoy driving in a bee suit (even though they were well sealed up) but it seems to work.

    For now though, probably best to leave well alone . Hopefully you have the queen in the hive and the colony will build up especially if you feed it.


  2. Lynne says:

    Hi Melivin & Harry – Congratulations! Sounds like you did your best for the bees in difficult circumstances.

    A few thoughts that may help:
    – if they have started to build comb in your Warre, they will most likely stay there. as this means they have committed precious resources to it;
    – imo, probably best not to feed them as it will only disturb them and make them less likely to stay… once they have established themselves in the hive though, built their nest, you could… right now i think there is a good amount of nectar and pollen around so best to leave them to themselves for a while and keep your fingers crossed.
    – a few are returning to where the hive first was as the foragers locked that location in as their new home the next day and perhaps also because a few may have been outside the Warre when it was moved, and they don’t know where the rest of the colony now is; for any future incidents where you load up a hive with bees in one location but need to move it to another, move it asap so they don’t fix on the wrong location, or as Susie says, you have to move the hive just a few feet a day to it’s new location or totally break their ‘map’ by taking them >3 miles away for a few days, then taking them back again.
    – if you now place another hive in this position for the foragers, it is unlikely they will set up home there if their queen is in your Warre already but you may get some settling into your box there at night, and you could then take them back to sit next to their hive for them to emerge next to it in the morning,… may help and won’t harm.

    Good luck!


  3. Paul says:

    This is not the easiest start to beekeeping I’ve heard of!

    You really need to wear some protection. We went through a painful lesson when we caught a swarm last year: they seemed incredibly docile for the first day or two, much calmer than our other bees. Then the first sting. Next day, a couple more. They ended up much more defensive than our other colony, a real problem in our small garden – their initial calmness was not a good indicator of their temper a few days later.

    I now know that calmness is characteristic of all swarms. It is because they have nothing worth defending in this state – they have left their home, their stores, their brood behind.Why sting someone and kill yourself when you can fly away? Also before swarming, they stuff their crops with as much honey as they can, and like us this makes them sleepy and passive. But once they begin making comb they have committed their resources to a new home, and they need to defend it – they only carry one lot of starter-honey with them.

    Now you may, of course, have lucked out and got some really chilled out hippy bees like Linda’s. They do seem to have held no grudges about their brutal treatment before reaching you. But that is very unlikely and you will find out in the long term anyhow. Please put on at least some minimal protection when you go near them until you know their temper better.

    By the way, our bees are pretty agitated right now and I think it is probably due to over-meddling as I tried to “help” and inspect and, not so long ago, I split the hive; it adds up to a lot of intervention over the last two weeks. I also tried helping the two weaker colonies by feeding them syrup, but I took the feeders out the other night and they were untouched. So I suggest you do not feed them – they can find and prefer more nutritious forage than human-prepared syrup without you interfering with the colony.


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