By Bernard Preston

Hiving a colony so that it doesn't abscond

by Mike
(Cape Town)

I started beekeeping with a few colonies that I was given, and have been trying to build up my numbers by removing problem colonies from buildings and drains and air-bricks and the like. I manage to get most of the colonies out okay, and also mostly manage to get them settled in a box in my apiary - but then almost all of them just abscond. Can you help?

It's not an uncommon problem, Mike. My experience exactly parallels yours. In short, they don't 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 happy home, immediately unite them onto a weak colony. Plenty of smoke to get them thoroughly confused and then just place the new brood chamber onto that of the weak colony.

If the weak colony occupies only say five frames, then I remove the others and slot in those from the hive you've just saved from extinction.

During a flow it's quite straightforward; in a dearth you might have a war, but unlikely.

The queens presumably fight it out, and they never then abscond; you now a 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.

Any more questions?


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