Hiving a colony so that it does not abscond

Hiving a colony so that it does not abscond when doing removals is important for all beekeepers. Having sweated for a day or more getting a swarm out of a roof for example it is very disappointing if they then vamoose.

Bees empty boxes swarm arriving

A question from a fellow beekeeper

I started beekeeping with a few colonies that I was given and have been trying to build up my numbers by removing problem swarms from buildings, drains and air-bricks; and ceilings.

I manage to get the colonies out okay and also are able to settle them in a box in my apiary; but then almost all of these hives just abscond. Can you help?

Bernie's reply

It's not an uncommon problem, Mike. My experience exactly parallels yours. In short, they do not take kindly to being messed with.

I have a golden rule; I now immediately, preferably the evening of the day I removed them from their former happy home, unite the bees onto another weak colony. Plenty of smoke to get both swarms thoroughly confused and then just place the new brood chamber on the one you are trying to strengthen.

Some folk like to put a sheet of newspaper between the two boxes; this is a good idea if there isn't a flow on the go.

If the weak colony occupies only say five frames then I remove the others and slot in the brood from the hive you've just saved from extinction; just shake them all in. Fumigation of bees is awful. 

During a flow it's quite straightforward; in a dearth you might have a war, but unlikely. It is a good idea to feed them the next day.

The queens presumably fight it out and they never then abscond; you now have one strong colony with a huge work force ready to supply you with plenty of honey.

I hope this helps; it's an age-old problem.

Do you have any more questions?


Feeding kept bees

If you feed the new colony they are less likely to abscond. Initially just sliding one of these small devices into the entrance of the hive is simple. In a dearth it may attract hungry bees from other swarms.

Feeding bees, bottles and feeder

Overall I prefer feeding kept bees inside the hive. Robbing is unlikely to be a problem.

Simply remove two frames temporarily; sliding in a cut milk bottle filled with a mixture of sugar, honey and water works very well. Fill it with leaves and twigs so they do not drown.

Make the solution as concentrated as you can; 42% percent apparently is best.

Feeding kept bees inside the hive

Fill this a few times, then remove it and replace the two frames.

Sugar in the honey

The idea here is not to get any sugar into the stored honey; rather it's just to give the swarm a kick-start so they do not abscond having lost all of their nectar.

Interesting research shows that honey from small beekeepers actually has a low glycemic index[1]. But should you get any sugar or more commonly the high fructose corn syrup used by unscrupulous bottlers into your product, then it raises the GI alarmingly.

I find it interesting that the bees will usually ignore a sugar solution once the honey flow starts; they instinctively know it's very second rate.

Astonishingly natural honey that contains large amounts of pollen actually lowers the fasting blood glucose of diabetics. That cannot be said for the commercial products found in grocery stores. Refining as with almost all foods usually impacts negatively on the nutrients.

I'm assuming, Mike, that like me you have a few hives in your back garden in some village or town. Bees also bring back toxins from the flowers they visit. Honey from agricultural areas is often loaded with various ecocides like Roundup.

Whilst some gardeners may use pesticides it's far less than in commercial farming. Honey from say apple orchards or sunflower fields sounds divine but it is often contaminated.

Did you know, Mike that there is strong anecdotal evidence that beekeepers often enjoy long and healthy lives; I wonder if it's from the many micronutrients in natural honey, the pollen or even the stings? Hiving a colony so that it does not abscond may actually have a direct bearing on whether we reach a busy, zestful ninety or not.

High fructose corn syrup

The research is not yet conclusive but scientists are convinced that HFCS is extremely bad for us; and will soon be banned as has happened to the trans-fats in margarine.

Blue Zone longevity

Folk living in places like the Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica and Ikaria, one of the Greek islands are characterised by long and healthy lives; countries where "the people forget to die!" Beekeeping is very active in these areas.They scorn the commercial food found in grocery stores.


Demjohns of mead

What to do with the cappings, Mike, is a perennial question. We have started extracting the gleanings with warm unchlorinated water; and fermenting it into various meads. The Blue Zone countries, except Loma Linda where they are Adventists, are characterised by regularly enjoying a glass or two of unpasteurised natural wine with their meals.

Unpasteurised natural wines like mead make an excellent probiotic.

Hiving a colony so that it does not abscond leads beekeepers down many fun-filled avenues; more reasons why they enjoy such long and healthy lives. There is never a dull moment in their days.

Hiving a colony so that it does not abscond

Hiving a colony so that it does not abscond when brought to the apiary requires some skill.

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