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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here.Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Swarm Event - Bad Ending

My sweet friends Gina and Phillip captured and swarm and offered it to me for my top bar hive. I was so excited, but when they called me I was at the symphony. We decided that I would get the swarm at their house at 7:00 AM the next morning to take it to my top bar hive.

Meanwhile, the top bar hive is still in my carport and not where it is supposed to be at my daughter Valerie's house. At intermission at the symphony, I called Valerie and Jeff and told them that they needed to get the hive to their house. Jeff went at 10:00 PM after his class and took the hive legs off to transport it to his house.

The next morning Gina calls me so excited about these bees. It's a huge swarm and they have captured it by hanging a nuc box in a tree. Before the crack of dawn,Gina in her p.j.s, and Phillip in his apron, climbed up and retrieved the box.

I needed to get the swarm installed before picking up my grandchildren at 8:30. I drove to Valerie's house to find the top bar hive waiting for me.

The cardboard nuc box is sitting on the ground waiting to enter the new home for the bees.

Phillip had guessed this was a 4 - 5 pound swarm. When I opened the box it was totally filled with bees.

I dumped the box in and the bees didn't go to the screened bottom.  They didn't look particularly comfortable and I was stung four times in the process - once on my finger, three times on my leg (they went up my pants leg).  I also had a bee inside my veil the whole time.

Nonetheless, I closed up the top bar and went home.  The next morning I went to Valerie's to have breakfast with them.  We walked out to the hive and found that the bees were totally gone - only a small clump of ten bees remained.  The swarm was so strong that they had pushed the top bars open about six inches to provide a hole through which to leave.

I returned Gina's nuc box to her and just wanted to cry.  It was such a great swarm and she was so sweet to give it to me.  I hope she'll get another and keep it for herself.

I don't know why they left.
  1. The hive is brand new and smells new.  Next time, maybe I'll drop some old comb in the bottom of the hive.  I smeared homemade swarm lure on the follower boards, but that didn't do the trick
  2. I didn't have every top bar on the hive - maybe it didn't feel enough like a horizontal tree trunk to them
  3. Maybe the screened bottom makes the hive have too much light - especially standing on legs as it does.
Plan going forward: 
  1. Put all the top bars on the hive
  2. Drop some old comb in the bottom of the screen
  3. Take off the legs and lower the hive to sit on cinder blocks, thereby creating a darker space....or add a bottom board.

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  1. Anonymous6:01 PM

    I assume the bees have distressing emotions aroused by impending danger.
    They have react accordingly.

  2. Anonymous10:09 PM


    I noticed you said the bees pushed open the top bars to get out. Did you have the entrance closed up?? I will be doing the same thing in 2 weeks when the package of bees arrives to be placed into a TBH. So I was wondering if the protocol is to close up the entrance for some period of time when hiving them?

    Please let me know is you can.

    Annette from Placerville California

  3. Annette,
    Some TBH keepers use a queen excluder to keep the queen in for the first week. I used a regular entrance reducer and that was enough.

    The best thing to do, especially if you're starting w/a pkg, is have honey and comb that is ready-to-use in the hive. Package bees aren't bonded to each other, but if you stock the pantry and give the queen a place to lay right away, they will usually stay put.

  4. Anonymous6:09 PM

    Linda -
    I had the same thing happen with my TBH.
    I think the bees perceive the Screened bottom to be "indefensible" and move to a "safer" darker space.
    I closed up my TBH screened bottom with a piece of wood hung on L hangers pressed up under the hive for about the first 3 weeks of the second swarm's install. Then I lowered the brackets to have the board about 1.5" below the screen for the rest of the summer.

    -Erin Forbes


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