bees for head 8

Swarms & Swarm Catching

Shanvaus Apiary Manorhamilton

You will  see how the swarm is got out of the tree and into a box which is absolutely empty. This is extremely important - the box should have a mesh floor or a ventilated top screen (must be covered while taking the swarm) - otherwise it contains nothing, it simply is a container big enough for the bees to form a new swarm cluster inside. Once you have all bees in the box, do this:

Rule 1: Keep the swarm in a cool, dark place for 3 days with no feeding and no comb

Do NOT shake a swarm of bees out of a bush and into a broodbox filled with frames of drawn comb - you are not doing your bees a favour! So, let the “Macho-Beekeepers” (the type frequently found on “YouTube” videos!) have  their way and let their bees abscond the hive and fly away the next day  You and your bees have: 3 days for preparations....

At Shanvaus Apiary every swarm, those of unknown origin as well as those we have seen leaving a particular hive is treated in the same manner: The swarm is kept in a swarm box with no comb or foundation and placed in a cool and dark place for three days. Foulbrood spores, which might be present in the bees’ systems are digested within this period and are no longer infectious. Meanwhile the beekeeper has prepared a hive with at least 10 foundation sheets. We use permanently wired frames with soldered-in foundation.

Rule 3: Feed generously immediately after the swarm is hived.

With the help of 4 - 6 litres of thick sugar syrup (3 parts sugar - 2 parts water) a swarm of medium size should be able to draw out 10 frames of foundation within 7 to 10 days. If you find your top-feeder nearly empty after 48 hours, top up with another 2 -3 litres to keep the wax secretion of the younger swarm bees going. A big swarm often needs a second box with another 10 frames to draw out.
 After finding a laying queen and the first patch of capped brood the colony can get a queen excluder on top of the brood boxes and supers with more foundation which will be drawn out and filled with honey as soon as enough nectar is available.


Hiving the swarm late on the evening of the third day on foundation and immediately offering at least one gallon of 2:1 syrup for the first night of the colony will provide a completely new and hygienic start and can make use of the bees’ natural drive to build fresh comb after swarming.

We, at Shanvaus Apiary, never experienced any case of American Foulbrood since we started in 1990

The main reason is the particular treatment we apply on swarms, not only on such of unknown origin but even when swarming has happened while we were working at a hive right beside the affected colony.

The first rule is to catch the swarm in a way causing only minimal stress to the bees. If the queen is spotted on the cluster she is caged and attached to the inner side of the front wall of the swarm box When the box is positioned safely and provided with an opaque lid the bees almost always move into the container voluntarily and can be collected when flying has stopped in the evening.

Swarms, hanging from a mix of branches and twigs are sprayed with water - ideally mixed with a little thyme solution - and each twig clipped separately and gently laid on the bottom of the swarm box. If you find the queen, proceed as mentioned before, if not, remove all of the small clusters from the tree or bush, put them into the box, if necessary with the twig, leave a small gap at the swarm box for bees to enter and again wait until evening.

Swarms located at the upper branches of a tree can be removed by cutting the branch partially off and gently lowering it until the cluster can be received by a second person holding the swarm box. Again you should try to spot the queen.

If you already keep bees, you know that there are innumerable ways in which a swarm can settle down, in crevices of buildings, chimneys, move into empty hives and so on. Anyway, after the bees have all moved into the swarm box provided, the entrance is closed (the box is either fitted with a mesh floor or needs a mesh lid for ventilation) and transferred to a cool, dark place and left there for three days.

In the evening of the third day the bees are taken to their new location where a hive complete with fresh foundation is waiting. Up to four central frames are removed. The swarm box is pushed on the ground, the lid removed, and the bees sprayed with water.The bees are slid into the gap between the frames, the cage with the queen (if caught before) inserted between two frames and the frames, which had been removed, gently entered again. The frames will slowly move into position.

When bees are no longer present on the edges of the hive the Adam-feeder is placed on top and filled with sugar syrup. Feeding is repeated whenever the feeder is empty until a sufficient amount of comb for laying and storage is available.

“Healthy Bees the Key to successful Beekeeping”

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Rule 2: All swarms have to be hived on fresh foundation

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