I'm new at this. I built a hive from scratch - complete with tongue-and-groove top and bottom (using some of the plans I found on this site). I painted it, put in the frames (with foundation), and feeder - everything but a Welcome mat. I caught a swarm 4 days ago (a cluster about the size of a football hanging on a branch), put them inside, brought them home, took out the wedge sealing the door (so they wouldn't escape on the trip home)and replaced it with the feeder and a short wedge to leave about 1 1/2" opening. Once they were set I peeked inside - thousands of bees were happily crawling around. For the next couple days I watched them buzz in and out. Then yesterday I didn't see much action, so I put my ear to the box. I didn't hear any humming, so I peeked inside again. To my surprise there were only about a dozen bees. They had drawn a little bit of comb, but the place looked like a ghost town.
Did I do something wrong? Is there something special that can be done to make them stay. Should I make them stay inside the hive for a few days (put screen over the opening or something)? I thought I did everything short of mints on their pillows.
Maybe you should have tried the mints Actually, there isn't a thing wrong with what you did that I can see. You worked with what you had and made it as appealing as possible (less the mints) but the bees decided they could fine better accommodations elsewhere.
If you have/had other hives, placing a frame of brood in with the swarm is a great incentive for them to stay. Even several frames of drawn, used comb will help too. If all you have is new frames with foundation, there's not much else to do. This is my experience anyway. Maybe a couple of the "professional" swarm catchers on this board can add more? Dave, Matthew.....
I've lost many a swarm this way. They found something they liked better. My wife has been trying to establish a top bar hive, with little strips of foundation, and she's lost swarms, because we have no comb or brood to give them.
A frame of brood will usually hold a swarm. If they stay overnight, they are pretty much a sure thing. A frame of honey isn't quite as good, but better than all foundation. A frame of drawn comb is the next best thing.
Prime swarms will be more apt to settle in on foundation, and pop out the comb so fast that you can't believe it. Afterswarms are the ones most apt to move on, even after a few days. Maybe they get discouraged at trying to draw the foundation, and they don't have any eggs or hatching brood, because the queen isn't mated yet. Or maybe they all get excited and fly out when the queen goes on her mating flight.
I made a slide show of an easy swarm catch the other day. These were given drawn comb with a little syrup dribbled on it.
Try putting an excluder over the bottom board nd the deep you have the queen in over the excluder. Try clipping the queen before hiving her, many unmated queens or queens who have been mated but have not begun laying can get through an excluder. Being clipped, however, she will not get far and the swarm will return. Just a thought; bees do not always pick the best queen, buy a good commercial queen and requeen whith this after removing the swarm queen, reserve the swarm queen just in case the swarm does not take to your new queen.
I hived a swarm a few days ago that had ten frames with 1" starter strips of foundation only. I gave it sugar water right away. Later that same day, I went to look at it and it appeared to be getting ready to swarm again. I did not want to lose this one so I took a piece of wire excluder I had left over from another project and placed it in front of the hive across the entrance and threw some dirt around it at the base. It worked. All the bees settled back down and clustered around the entrance and by dusk they were all inside. The next day I removed it and they are now building comb at a great speed. I'm pretty sure this was a 2nd or 3rd afterswarm.