Emergency Help Please!
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  1. #1
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    Apr 2018
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    Walker, LA, USA
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    Default Emergency Help Please!

    Okay, i just wrangled my first swarm. I'm completely inexperienced in beekeeping and the action was one that happened very quickly and with out much planning. Swarm showed up at my job site, they were gonna gas em tomorrow, so i went out an bought a bee hive and went back at sun down and captured the swarm. I'm not even sure i got the queen, but i got 90% of the swarm, maybe 4-5lbs. of bees. Seriously, a massive swarm(i think?). I got home and prepped the hive box with a couple of saucers of sugar water. An old man told me i should keep them locked down for 24 hours, so i covered the entrance with a bit of fine screen. But i have no idea if this is correct or what i should do next.I made an impulsive decision that may be the catalyst to something i have wanted to for a while. Any help on my next move would be HIGHLY appreciated.

    Thanks for your time
    ~c

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    Default Re: Emergency Help Please!

    Don't seal them in or you could easily smother them! If your hive has comb the bees will quickly adapt to it. Congratulations on your swarm capture.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  4. #3
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    Jun 2013
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    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Emergency Help Please!

    The OP probably doesn't have any drawn comb since she just purchased the equipment today. (But to the OP: that's OK. Your swarm bees will make come faster than at any other time in their existence.)

    I would not seal the bees up other than as necessary for transport, especially in a warm climate like yours.

    The key question is if you got the queen, and if she was moved successfully with the swarm. If so, then they should settle down to living in their new hive. If for some reason you didn't get the queen, then the hive will not survive as they can't raise one on their own. (You can buy free-standing queens, however, so that may be a possibility.)

    I would go look at the place where you collected them from early tomorrow morning. If there is a remaining small cluster of bees, I would try to collect them and reunite those bees with the ones in your boxes. If you lay a sheet down on the ground in front of the hive with the edge of the sheet right up on to the entrance and then shake any new bees on to the sheet they may just walk right up and in.

    The other alternative would be to open the boxes and dump the bees down in.

    Opening the box may rouse the bees, so be sure to have some protective gear on - at least a veil, long pants and long sleeves.

    If the bees are defensive about their new digs that probably means they do have a queen and have adopted your boxes as their new home. (Bees in a swarm are NOT defensive, so their demeanor yesterday will be different once they have decided they have a home to protect/defend. Not bad, just different from your experience, so far.) If you look closely at the bees near the entrance, you may see some apparently standing still, with their butts slightly raised. This would be a good sign, too. What these bees are doing is spreading a pheromone that is released from a gland at the tip of their butt. It's a homing signal. What you probably won't see is their wings beating so fast to blow that scent outward, but that's what they doing.

    Either way, you have started on an exciting adventure. And if you've successfully hived a swarm, you can take satisfaction that you have probably saved them not only from bug-spray, but also from perishing from a host of other perils that claim nearly 80% of all swarms before the end of the first summer.

    All my bees are originally from swarms and they were hived with only a little more advance notice than you had. I was really scrambling and playing catch up throughout their first summer. Somehow we, the bees and I, got through it and they thrived, despite my best, but often utterly clueless, efforts to take care of them.

    I couldn't have done it if I hadn't discovered BeeSource, and you've already got here, so you're that much farther ahead.

    The saucers of sugar water may become an issue because they will draw other bees to your hive, perhaps initiating some attacks on your hive. I would remove them and let the bees find their own sources of nectar. If feel you need to feed, then I would buy a frame feeder or top feeder which keeps the syrup completely within the hive. Bees in a swarm leave with a couple of days of honey in their stomachs to see them through until they find a home, so they're probably good for now. And swarms are wax-drawing machines, so they will draw out comb as fast as it can be done.

    There is one thing, though, that I want to caution you about: I don't know where you are in LA, but in some parts of the south (near to TX, for instance) there is some risk that a swarm of unknown origin may be Africanized honey bees. These can be kept as regular honey bees, but they may not be a good choice for beginners. The bee store where you purchased your equipment will know if that is a risk in your area. I think Africanized swarms are usually smaller, though, so the 4 -5 lb size may indicate they are not.

    Also see if you can hook up with a beekeeping club. That's the best source of good local advice and help. There are bee clubs all over the place. The bee store will know where your nearest club is, and how to find out when they meet.

    Have fun with your bees! And welcome to beekeeping. Bet you didn't wake up on Monday morning thinking you'd be a beekeeper by nightfall!

    Nancy

  5. #4
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    Apr 2018
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    Walker, LA, USA
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    Default Re: Emergency Help Please!

    Thank you both so much for the advice. I removed the obstructions and will be checking up on them tomorrow. There is a risk of them being Africanized. Time will tell if they are. Either way I'm very excited.

    A quick question: Would a strip of very fine screen prevent airflow enough to smother the bees? It would seem the airflow restriction would be minimum.

  6. #5
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    Apr 2018
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    Walker, LA, USA
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    Default Re: Emergency Help Please!

    Oh, and Nancy, regarding the sugar water saucers, I only had them in there to tide the bees over during captivity. I'll be removing them in the morning. Thanks again!

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Emergency Help Please!

    No, the fine screen wouldn't impede ventilation, but the bodies of lots of bees frantically trying to find a way to go out will close it down completely. Bees have no concept of screening so they would just pile up against it because they will want to go out, to secure nectar and water and to poop, because that's just what they do. And they won't be able to sit back and figure out that for the moment they can't get out, so they might as well keep the entrance clear so they fan some air inwards.

    Screened boxes of bees are moved around by truck all the time, but their safety depends on the cooling due to the moving air as the truck barrels down the road. Even short pauses for break downs and refueling can cause bees to die. I think I have read that trucks hauling bees are even exempt from those highway weighing stations if it is too long for more than a momentary slow down.

    The other reason to remove the saucers is that lots of bees may be drowning in them. Bees can be dumb about water that's too deep for them to get out of. Pebbles or straw in the water would give them some safe perches. But you get big points for thinking about food and water for them.

    It will be interesting to see how they are in the morning. Did you buy a veil or jacket that can protect your face? And do you have a smoker? Cool white smoke is best, not hot smoke which gets them riled up. A good emergency source of fuel might be pine needles, or even strips of old blue jeans or UNTREATED burlap.

    Good luck!

    ETA: If they do turn out to be AHB, they may able to be busted down and then re-queened with mated European queens, which will produce daughters that are Europeans. Bees only live six weeks so you can change a colony over pretty quickly. You will need an experienced person to help you do a re-queening of an AHB colony, however. That's not in most beginners' skill sets.

    Nancy

  8. #7
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    Apr 2018
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    Walker, LA, USA
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    Default

    The bees themselves block it. That makes sense. I had read that when moving a hive, folks sometimes lock up the hives for up to 3 whole days so the bees can get oriented. Is that wrong? This is pertinent as the bees are in a temporary location while I build a hive box rack. The location is 50 feet away room the current spot. Any tips on moving the hive?

    I was fortunate enough to have an old veil and smoker and wore a duck canvas jacket with wrists taped over leather gloves when I first captured them. My uncles used to dabble in beekeeping when I was a child. I even have a centrifuge. The old hive box was beyond saving unfortunately. Still acquired two stings, but it wasn't bad.

    The saucers are wide and very shallow. I made sure that a bee could comfortably stand in them, and I had placed another smaller saucer upside down in each to further prevent drowning (hopefully).

    I removed a few of the slats when dumping them in to give more room. I plan on reinserting them today.

  9. #8
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    Mar 2018
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    California, USA
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    Default Re: Emergency Help Please!

    One thing that calms down Swarms is cool Weather and no Light. Placing in a Garage that has AC would be terrific. :-)
    The Hive works on Smell. The reason they tell you this is to let them make a standard smell of their new home.
    Often Swarm catchers move them at Sunset. A Swarm will Eat a large amount of Honey before they leave. Don't worry about feeding for a few days.
    Often Swarms are sent off with a Older Queen.
    I would Purchase a Mated Queen and put it in the Hive in the middle and let them eat off the Sugar Plug.
    This will assure you will have a Queen for the Hive.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Emergency Help Please!

    Quote Originally Posted by SWINEMOTHER View Post
    The bees themselves block it. That makes sense. I had read that when moving a hive, folks sometimes lock up the hives for up to 3 whole days so the bees can get oriented. Is that wrong?
    Yes, that is wrong. Bees put out a tremendous amount of heat and can smother pretty quickly, particularly in warmer climates. I have even seen bees smother with a screened lid on as there is a tendency for bees to periodically get quite active (in human terms, panicky) and a single layer of bees can, in effect, seal off the screen leaving the great majority of them with no source of fresh air.
    BTW, re-read Enjambres' posts. She is knowledgeable and patient with explanations.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Emergency Help Please!

    Don't worry about (eventually) moving them 50 feet. There are ways to do that successfully when it's time to tackle that.

    When you replace all the "slats" (what beekeepers call frames), be sure to put in all of them that the box will hold (either 8 or 10, depending on what kind of equipment you bought). And push them tightly together so that the little ears that stick out on the far ends of each one of them touch. It is very important to do this now, when your bees will be working overtime to draw new comb. This will keep the combs straight and evenly thick, and just about as perfect anything handmade by thousands of insects in the dark can possibly be. There will be a small amount of extra space beyond the room needed for the frames, roughly divvy this space up on each side of the frames, keeping the frames in the center of the box.

    At this time of year I expect that in LA you are having what beekeepers call a flow, so that the bees will be able to find enough chow on their own. So, for now I think you can probably skip feeding them. (My own bees up here in NY are still eating their stored honey and the supplemental chow I give them because nothing is blooming yet.)

    In re-reading your post with references to stacked saucers and slats, I am now wondering if you have acquired a different style of bee box than the most common kind. Are your boxes roughly 20" by 16" and about 9 5/8" high with carved-in U-shaped handholds on each side? And how many are on your stack right now? You may have boxes that are only about 20" x 13" (these would only hold 8-frames) and no matter which outside dimensions you may also have boxes that are only 6 5/8" high. Or you may have something else altogether.

    It would be helpful to know how many and what size boxes you are using so more on-point advice can be offered. The only really critical thing would be if you had 8-frame equipment ( 20 x 13) and only one 6 5/8 high box. That would be too-small a space for a full sized swarm and they might leave to try their luck again elsewhere. (The fast cure for not having enough space would be to add another box of the same size - with frames - which they would see as "enough" space to settle down in.) Bees will live in all kinds of places, shapes, styles of equipment so there is no wrong kind of bee boxes.

    A good basic set for right now would be: from the top down:

    Cover,

    Inner cover (flat, thinnish piece with a hole in the middle and perhaps a notch out of the rim on one short side.)

    Bee box (one or two boxes, depending on whether the boxes are 9 5/8" or 6 5/8" tall.)

    Frames either wooden with plastic foundation in the middle, or all plastic frame/foundation combos. You can get by with no foundation but it is much trickier because the bees may not observe the correct orientation of the box, and they may draw the combs out at right angles to the frames making for a real mess. My advice would be to use foundation with your first bees.

    Base with a wooden entrance reducer that can partially block the full-width entrance. (The entrance reducer is often kind of jammed up between the raised sides of the base when you buy new equipment and you may overlooked it when you were setting up the stack. )

    Hoping you will update us later about how it's going and, especially if you found a cluster still at the capture site and brought them home, too.

    Lucky, lucky bees to have found someone to hive them.

    Nancy

  12. #11

    Default Re: Emergency Help Please!

    If it was five pounds of bees I would consider another box now. Hitting high 70's where we have our yards in Louisiana and the flow is starting to get good. We have had good size colonies load a deep full of honey so fast in down there when the flow started we were scrambling to get more boxes on. Better early than late and a 5 pound swarm should have no problem protecting their hive from robbers since you dont have 30 or 40 other hives sitting next to it.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Walker, LA, USA
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    Default Re: Emergency Help Please!

    Thanks again everybody. Just an update on my situation:

    My bees have taken to the hive, so i successfully got the queen. Horray! I have put all of my frames back into the box. Currently I have one box, ten frame capacity, frames are 17" x 8". I do believe that it's already pretty stuffed, so my priority is going to be on building a second box of the same dimensions ASAP. Likely this weekend. I have a base and cover as well. Shortly after I will be building another box up top, which is where the honey will be stored eventually, or so i was told. One final note was i went back to the site and the rest of the swarm was still there. Not many, maybe a coke can sized cluster. I will be heading there right at sunset to gather them up and reconnect them with there colony.

    I have removed the saucers, and was pleased to find that I had no casualties visible.

    Enjambres: I have the standard size, I believe. It fits the dimensions you wrote. The saucers were small, and i had removed a few frames, so i had a decent amount of working space, which is where I put them. Frames are replaced and saucers are removed. Thanks again.

    I suppose I'll use this thread as a mini-update log for the first stretch of my beekeeping experience. Just want to say that this community seems super helpful and kind. Thank you all.

  14. #13
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    Feb 2012
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    Forsyth, Missouri
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    Default Re: Emergency Help Please!

    Congratulation on your first Swarm/Hive.
    If you go to the beesource home page there is a link called Build It.
    You will find plans for the other boxes you are going to make.
    Good luck and enjoy.
    Zone 6b 1400'

  15. #14
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    camden, tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Emergency Help Please!

    Quote Originally Posted by Hillbillybees View Post
    If it was five pounds of bees I would consider another box now.


    Yes if it was 5 pounds of bees they will likely need the space. Even if they do all fit in the deep hive body they will draw comb fast. I hived a swarm last year that drew two deeps in 10 days and a medium super a few days later.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Emergency Help Please!

    This is great news! You have done very well.

    Swarm bees are comb drawing maniacs, (they have to be because it is literally a race against time to raise up more bees to replace the rapidly-aging ones that were in the swarm). So expect them to be making wax and getting it shaped into cells for Herself to lay in ASAP. New wax is soft and fragile, so handle any frames you pull out with care. In fact, I wouldn't pull any at all for a week, at least. Even the newest beekeeper will be able to recognize the fat white grub-like larvae that will fill some of the cells in about 10 days time. (If you saw them out in your garden you'd probably step on them to protect your veggies, but they are your new baby bees, so think kindly of them.)

    One thing though: you say you have a cover. Is it like the lid of a shoe box where the sides extend down all around it a few inches on all four sides? Or is it flat with just a cleat that hangs down along both of the short sides? The first is a telescoping cover, and the second is called a migratory cover. Both work well.

    But the telescoping cover requires a second, inner cover, to keep the bees from gluing it down. An inner cover looks like this: https://www.betterbee.com/wooden-hiv...rame/ics10.asp

    The reason you need the extra inner cover is that the sides of a telescoping cover hang down and prevent access by a hive tool to pry it up when (not, if!) the bees glue it down. If you have an inner cover on they will glue that one down, largely ignoring the outer cover. But because the inner cover is flat and the same size as the box you can easily slip your hive tool in and pry the pieces apart. They will be busy gluing the cover down right away, so I would consider it moderately urgent to get something like an inner cover in place. A temporary solution would be to take clean feed sack (one which has never had any pesticides or rodenticideds on it, or in it) and lay it down across the top of the hive before you put the cover back on. That way the bees may glue the feed sack down and leave the outer cover loose.

    Nancy

  17. #16
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    Louisville, KY
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    Default

    You can use just a wood telescoping cover in the short term. It shouldn't hurt or cause problems unless it's a cast plastic type. I've left hives for several weeks with just telescoping covers or inner covers as main top. Many of my hives propolize the outer cover to the inner cover anyways.

  18. #17
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    Apr 2018
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    Walker, LA, USA
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    Default Re: Emergency Help Please!

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    This is great news! You have done very well.


    One thing though: you say you have a cover. Is it like the lid of a shoe box where the sides extend down all around it a few inches on all four sides? Or is it flat with just a cleat that hangs down along both of the short sides? The first is a telescoping cover, and the second is called a migratory cover. Both work well.


    Nancy
    I have a telescoping lid that goes down about 2 inches all around and that has a sheet metal top. I also have the inner cover.

    as an update on the species, I have a Black Russian swarm. They're fairly prevalent around central LA apparently. Supposed to be a pretty stout bunch and hard working as well. Very pleased. Maybe more aggro than europeans, but not as bad as Africanized. I don't yet have a hive tool, but i will be getting one shortly.

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