A trick for mopping up swarm remnants

We got our first Warré 2 days ago, and look forward to comparing how its occupants fare with those in our horizontal Top Bar Hives.

1 day ago Sarah offered me a cast (secondary swarm). She’d already collected it, all I had to do was drive the box home. Getting the bees into the Warré proved problematic though, because I’d tried to bait the bare cedar with lashings of lemongrass oil. I should only have used 2-3 drops; even I could only smell lemongrass in its vicinity. After unsuccessfully trying to walk them in, I resorted to pouring scoops of bees in. They came out as fast as I put them in. I think it was because even if the queen was in there, they couldn’t smell her.

By nightfall I’d made no progress. I returned in the morning. I opened the hive – only 5% of the bees in it. I replaced the two lemongrassed Warré boxes with 2 more, which I’d melted wax & propolis onto last night. Then I poured the clumps of of cold, dozy, huddled bees in and this time they seemed to stay in. (That’s not the tip – but it’s worth noting they’re a lot more docile when cold in the morning.)

Around lunchtime a minority began re-emerging and gathering in a couple of clumps on the fence next to the hive, one of the areas they’d gathered the night before. I poured them back in but the clumps immediately began reforming as bees flew out of the hive straight back to these spots.

So… figuring there must be lots of queen pheromone at these spots, I poured a few drops of peppermint oil on the fence at these points. Boy is that stuff pungent. If you do this don’t use more than 2-3 drops total or you will make the local environment of the hive uncomfortable for the bees. Anyway, it did the trick. Literally within seconds, they all fled – right into the hive.

Hope that’s useful for anyone faced with a die hard remnant of bees who won’t go inside and join the queen.

P.S. Don’t put the peppermint on the hive.

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One Response to A trick for mopping up swarm remnants

  1. hunneybun says:

    Just to say that we have hived two swarms since Easter and trying to walk them up a sheet-covered ramp was hindered the first time by folds in the sheet – so make sure this is nice and smooth. Also, not tucked underneath the landing board if you have one, as they get a bit stuck there too. Both times we saw the queen, but she needed a bit of help to walk in the right direction to start with. Bees are now safely ensconsed in both hives. Good luck to others having a go!


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