New bees update

I spent a lot of time observing the bees this morning and wanted to share my findings with the group for comments and guidance.  As some of the flying bees had been returning to where the hive had been originally sited, we had placed a cardboard box here and last night Harry took the box the 200 metres to where the warre is located and placed it alongside.  When I arrived this morning, there were still some bees flying around the original site,but we have  decided to leave this alone now.  I went to the apiary and there were a number of bees congregating at the entrance of the cardboard box, at this stage I have not opened the box to see how many were in this box and what they were up to.  With regards to the bees in the warre, as I stated on a previous post, due to the dreadfully sad and thoughtless mode of  transportation of the bees from the swarm to us, there was a very high mortality rate of bees when transferred from the plastic bag to the warre.  It still saddens me to see the mound of dead bees when I look through the observation window.  Most of the surviving bees are huddled in the top right hand corner of the hive, I am assuming that, following their trauma, the are not sure yet whether they will stay put.  I have observed the landing platform of the hive and the dead bees are being dragged out by the living and thrown out of the hive.  I have also seen bees flying off with dead bees attached.  This must all take up so much energy, and So Harry and I are contemplating suiting up in the evening and scooping out as many of the dead mound as we can.  Is this a good idea?  We are also considering putting another empty warre hive in the apiary to try to tempt the cardboard box bees, and maybe the bees in the existing warre.  Bees at the entrance to the warre have been lifting their abdomens and fanning has been taking place.  I am convinced that the Queen is still in the hive.  Flying bees are coming and going, but I see no evidence of any nectar or pollen being collected and I am minded that they might still be thinking about swarming and not settling in the warre.  Harry had, with the best of intentions, put some sweet liquid next to the hive, all that did was to attract ants and I have removed it.  Are ants a threat to colonies of bees?, do they steal honey?   I take on board that the docility of the bees is probably due to them having nothing to protect at present and they certainly seem to have no problem with me being sat there watching with my cup of tea. As always, all comments and advice is very much appreciated.


About melvin56

passionate about bees, permaculture and biodiversity.....and plymouth Argyle F.C.
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4 Responses to New bees update

  1. Lynne says:

    Sounds pretty hopeful, I think, despite the awful start they had. The bees cleaning out the dead and fanning their nasonov glands would seem to indicate that they have pretty much decided the hive is viable as their new home.

    Putting another hive in the apiary is a great idea – it won’t cause any problems and it may catch a swarm or be attractive to the existing ones as an alternative home.

    However, I would suggest that you don’t open the hive and disturb them for a few days at least, maybe a week. I know it’s tempting because you know you can do things that will help them, like removing the dead bees, but on balance it is far more likely to make them feel the hive is not a secure place. The dead bees do not pose an immediate problem for them, while the stress of having their new nest exposed is much more likely to cause them upset. What you could do is remove dead bees from outside the entrance.

    Feeding now is not a good idea, as mentioned before, because swarms come with full stomachs, and any disturbance is going to be an extra stress on them. Feeding is normally done inside the hive, and you don’t want to open them up now. Also, feeding outside the hive is a bad idea mainly for two reasons: it can attract wasps/robber bees, and also ants as you have seen. Wasps will rob the bees of larvae as well as other resources – you could place a few wasp traps around the apiary,as a precautionary measure. It’s not great for hives to have ants robbing them of nectar, but if it’s a low level it shouldn’t be a problem, but best to discourage it. We stood the legs of our TBH’s in water dishes to discourage ants for this reason, but they breach that sometimes. However, not to any extent that seems to cause problems for the hives.

    Btw, you won’t be able to ‘see’ nectar on returning foragers, it’s done internally. Only pollen is evident when it’s being brought in.

    Good luck! And keep up with the updates – it’s really interesting to hear how they are getting on.


  2. lindarowan says:

    Dear Melvin, I can only share thoughts as a newbie, doing things through trial and error (and the wisdom of Gareth!) – but bees are very forgiving I have found. Last year I caught a small swarm which had come from my wall and popped them into a Warre which I had just made on a course with the edenbeehives chap. They settled in very quickly but in August there was a lot of robbing from the bees in the wall. I got fed up with all the fighting, they were still too small a colony to put up with all this (though it did enable me to see them soothing and licking each other after one battle). I thought of moving them to a friend’s place but in the end I wanted them near to me so I decided to do what you shouldn’t do – move them a short distance to the other side of the garden. I read that you can put a branch over the front of the hive to encourage them to re-orientate themselves, so I pinned a bamboo branch over the front. I also put up a glass screen resting half way down the landing board, blocked off one side and just left one entrance, a narrow chicane, which was easier to defend – this worked really well, also with wasps, I found that for about 3 days a lot of bees were making their way back to the original site, where I had put a spare nuc. Quite a few times a day and especially in the evening I would scoop them up and pop them in the Warre. Eventually they got the message and nobody went back to the nuc. So if they are going to the original site you could do the same, leave a nuc there and scoop up any stragglers. I find that the Warre windows satisfy the curiosity about what is going on inside – I look in every evening and they don’t seem to mind. I don’t know about removing the dead bees, but maybe it would help. I also experimented with feeders, and found that mine preferred the plastic contact tubs from Thornes (1/4 gallon), filled with syrup. I make some nettle tea and make 1 pint to 1 lb sugar, with a tiny spot of vitamin C. I cut a little hole in the top cloth on top of the cluster so that they can just go up and down as they wish. Bearing in mind that they have to make their own comb, I think feeding them must help and encourage them. I was wondering about you adding some rescue remedy because of all they have been through. Very best of luck to you both, it was lovely meeting you all the other day.


    • Lynne says:

      Yes, to feed or not to feed – always an interesting question, with many possible answers! For me, the key is not to stress the bees by opening up the hive at this point, but reflecting on Linda’s comments, overall if feeding can be done without exposing the nest or unduly attracting wasps/robbers/ants, then it’s a good idea.


  3. Paul says:

    My thoughts parallel Lynne’s. Don’t disturb them any more than necessary; they wouldn’t bother clearing dead bees out if they did not intend staying. Opening the hive could tire them unecessarily, when they are low on stores, trying to defend it.

    I get the impression that at most only one in four returning foragers has full pollen sacks, so you might miss them if there are only a few bees to start with. If they ignored the syrup I think it must mean they’ve found something tastier they prefer. They will already be starting to store this in the comb they’re building. Luckily they have one big factor on their side – the weather right now. Great for flying, and loads of flowers about.

    Ants are only a minor problem for us, but what Lynne is perhaps unaware of is that this may be because I eliminated an ant nest near our hives when I noticed there were always a dozen or so ants on the hive. I reckon bees can’t do much about ants beause bees do not have strong grabbing claws or strong mandibles to kill them with; their sting is so large compared to an ant it is too clumsy to kill a fast-moving ant with. So I would discourage ants whenever possible or they could steal hard-gathered nectar & honey – they are definitely after sweet stuff. (I also smeared vaseline on our TBH legs to deter ants at one point, it wasn’t entirely successful.) When it comes to pests, I think beekeeping is a numbers game: you’ll never completely eliminate a pest, but you can improve the odds in the bees’ favour so they don’t have a significant resource drain from that problem.

    If I understand correctly, the cardboard box is where the Warre was when you originally transferred them from the pestaker’s black bin liner(!) and is 200m from the main colony. If you simply pick up the box and put it and the bees in it next to the Warre, near enough to smell the main colony, hopefully some bees will realise “she’s in there!” and rejoin the main colony. You could repeat this later to collect stragglers.


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