theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!
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  1. #1
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    Question theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    I captured a nice-sized swarm last week, and they seemed happy with their new digs -- bringing in pollen, and otherwise staying-put.

    After a couple of days, though, I noticed that #s in/out the deep were low. Checking the box: hardly a dozen bees left. One frame had a good comb in it, and there was some stored pollen here and there.

    SO ... what could've prompted this?

    I was adding barrels of water into a pond maybe 12' away from the deep, off-and-on, for 2 days. A few times, scouts let me know they didn't like that ... so I started doing it early/late so not many bees would be out. Could the noise and vibration of the water hitting water/pond liner scared 'em?

    I also used a screened bottom board for the deep; ordinarily, I use a solid one (to imitate darkness and coziness of a tree cavity). Nights were kinda cold this week, too. Excess ventilation?

    Possibilities here? Any ideas/similar experiences?

    Thx for feedback ....

    Mitch

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    I would suspect the screen bottom board.
    The other activity may have contributed ( or not)
    I still have some screen bottom boards, but keep the stickey boards in place & the ends closed up , so it stays dark below.
    Started summer of 2013, just another new guy, tinkering with bees.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    This is the swarm that was hanging out for several days? They seem like an indecisive lot. Two years ago I had a swarm move into a box, stayed there for several days, then left. Who knows for sure?
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    Packages and swarms don't like screened bottoms sometimes.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    For a number of years, I believed that adding a frame of open brood to a hived swarm would anchor them. Last year I had one I picked up at a business a few km down the road where even that didn't work. They were in a box with 9 frames and a feeder, 1 frame of open brood from one of my colonies, 5 drawn frames one of which had honey and pollen, as close to an ideal new home as we could imagine, even had a feeder with syrup in it. Two days later I watched them fly off abandoning it all.

    Sometimes a swarm will just leave.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    double post

  8. #7
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    I always try to move swarms away from where I catch them. I figure they may have found a home spot already and may tend to go there if you don't move them from the area.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    Quote Originally Posted by JWPalmer View Post
    This is the swarm that was hanging out for several days? They seem like an indecisive lot. Two years ago I had a swarm move into a box, stayed there for several days, then left. Who knows for sure?
    Hi, JW -- this was actually a swarm that took up in azalea bushes ~15' away and several days after the "stump swarm" that lingered 4 days. [The stump swarm I've kept in its bait hive -- but their #s are really small; odds are, nonviable. I'll probably move 'em into a nuc]. A shame -- the 2nd swarm was really large, and I was feeling good about it. C'est la vie.....

    Mitch

  10. #9
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    If a new swarm is bearding it will almost certainly move. People put a swarm in a box and it appears to fit. But the bees do their math and know that once they have built their combs and expanded population some, they are not going to fit. They do not know a benevolent beekeeper is going to come and give them another box, and they leave in the first few days.

    However the most common way people drive swarms out without even realising, is letting the sun shine on it and heat the lid. The new swarm does not get ventilation and temperature control sorted for several days, they decide it's too hot and go looking for something else. Although the current low temperatures it is less likely that happened in this case. If the swarm was hanging out, I'll go with too small of a box, or, something in the box they didn't like. Such as manky combs, excess EO's, or whatever.

    Just another thought, were the bearding bees under the bottom board? If so, could be the queen was trapped under the ventilated board and couldn't get into the box. Swarm eventually gave up on it and looked for something the queen could get into.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  11. #10
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    If a new swarm is bearding it will almost certainly move. People put a swarm in a box and it appears to fit. But the bees do their math and know that once they have built their combs and expanded population some, they are not going to fit. They do not know a benevolent beekeeper is going to come and give them another box, and they leave in the first few days.

    However the most common way people drive swarms out without even realising, is letting the sun shine on it and heat the lid. The new swarm does not get ventilation and temperature control sorted for several days, they decide it's too hot and go looking for something else. Although the current low temperatures it is less likely that happened in this case. If the swarm was hanging out, I'll go with too small of a box, or, something in the box they didn't like. Such as manky combs, excess EO's, or whatever.

    Just another thought, were the bearding bees under the bottom board? If so, could be the queen was trapped under the ventilated board and couldn't get into the box. Swarm eventually gave up on it and looked for something the queen could get into.
    Hi -- in this case, there wasn't any bearding. The population idea may've been in operation (there were a whole lot of bees in that swarm -- 1 huge clump and 2 smaller ones). I never noticed any bearding under the box, either [didn't actually look, but there wasn't anything that stood out]. The box itself had a frame with an old wax foundation but the other frames were all empty.

    Odds are, I'll never know the reason the bees decided to split. Godspeed, I guess ....

    Mitch

  12. #11
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    I caught a swarm today, and I'm curious as to whether I should obstruct the entrance.

    I caught about 10:30am-2pm. It took me a few tries to get the queen (I'm guessing.) I put them in 2 deep 8 frames with 3 frames of comb. By 2pm, they were coming and going. I moved the new hive about 40 yards away to the location that I want to be permanent.

    Will they return to the old hive? Will they reorient? In the past, I've placed foliage or a board to obscure the entrance, encouraging them to stay in or at least reorient. Suggestions? Right now just got the entrance reducer to smallest setting, hoping for the best.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    Newly hived swarms are excellent at re orientating.

    If you do not want the swarm to leave, have the entrance on the biggest setting. Also shade the hive lid from the sun for a few days, just a bit of cardboard on top will do.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  14. #13
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    Newly hived swarms are excellent at re orientating.

    If you do not want the swarm to leave, have the entrance on the biggest setting. Also shade the hive lid from the sun for a few days, just a bit of cardboard on top will do.
    Even with temps below 70 degrees? The entrance is about 3/4 in. Not enough?

  15. #14
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    Unless it's a tiny swarm, giving them a 3/4 inch entrance is a great way to encourage them to leave. The bees spend the first few days deciding if they made the right choice, and an entrance that small is a negative. It is not garuanteed they will leave, just, the chances are increased.

    Let me explain why i believe this. Firstly, collecting swarms is not a profitable pursuit for commercial beekeepers, there are better ways to make increase. However because of a need to keep various people happy, as the locally known beekeeper, i have been obliged over the years to collect swarms, usually not even from my own hives, and typically have had to collect maybe 30 to 50 swarms each season, which over the course of my career would be several hundred swarms at the least, and possibly in the thousands.

    So i think i have enough data to form valid statistics. What i can tell you is this. First few years, some swarms would leave, i would shrug my shoulders and mumble "stupid bees". But after a while, in a hot spell, the penny dropped. I looked at some boxes that swarms had abandoned, and realised they were just so hot, they were unliveable for a new swarm that could still look for other options.

    So i changed tack. I housed new swarms in larger than needed boxes, with big entrances, and shaded. Too cool is OK, they will deal with that. Too hot is not OK. Swarms leaving became a thing of the past. Just never happened any more. Except when occasionally due to lack of time or proper equipment, i would have to put one in a container that did not have a big enough entrance, or was exposed to excessive sun. Then i would come back, bees gone, slap forhead and go "why didn't i do it right".

    I learned, from hiving a large number of swarms, seeing the same scenarios over and over, what works.

    Now here is the kicker. I don't know why, but it must be some function of human nature, i can tell people what to do to ensure their swarm will not leave, but for some reason almost everybody doubts my opinion on this. They keep coming up with reasons why i must be wrong, continue doing what they do, continue losing swarms, and wondering why, even though doing it right, is almost zero % more effort than doing it wrong.

    I used to get frustrated, but I'm past that now. All I'll say is I've laid out what i believe to work and think my own experience has demonstrated that. But i can't prove it on the internet, and frankly, don't even blame anyone for not accepting it because you have to be skeptical of what you read on the internet.

    But I've thrown in my 2 cents, that's all.
    Last edited by Oldtimer; 04-02-2019 at 10:01 PM.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    Something i should add, there's a few other things new swarms don't like. Over feeding, stinky old combs, screened (non solid) bottom boards, too much messing by the beekeeper.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  17. #16
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    Something i should add, there's a few other things new swarms don't like. Over feeding, stinky old combs, screened (non solid) bottom boards, too much messing by the beekeeper.
    I appreciate the advice. I hope the bees find these 16 deep frames to their liking. Knock on wood, I've never had a swarm abscond. This one came from my own hive (the only one I didn't check). Really thought they were behind my most populated one. I placed a board, shading the entrance so that they'll need to go around it. Hopefully they'll orient coming out. I don't think temps are high enough to warrant covering the top here in TN yet.

    I don't think the scouts will find 2 deeps with comb elsewhere and decide to leave based on wanting an extra 2 inches of space on the entrance. I am familiar with the 70L 2in entrance rule for swarms though.

    Reducing the entrance to prevent much air flow and putting the board shading the front is meant to save a few bees from returning to the hold hive. I will remove this tomorrow.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    I think you are probably right in all the way you have done it other than the entrance. Shading the hive is unlikely to be needed in your current weather conditions.

    Most likely you could leave the small entrance also. But it's a numbers game, the more often you keep using 3/4 inch entrances, the more often you will get the odd swarm take off.

    The 70L 2inch rule, i have never heard of it, and not sure about rules. The housing should really be taylored to the swarm and the climate at the time
    Last edited by Oldtimer; 04-03-2019 at 01:33 AM.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  19. #18
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    I think you are probably right in all the way you have done it other than the entrance. Shading the hive is unlikely to be needed in your current weather conditions.

    Most likely you could leave the small entrance also. But it's a numbers game, the more often you keep using 3/4 inch entrances, the more often you will get the odd swarm take off.

    The 70L 2inch rule, i have never heard of it, and not sure about rules. The housing should really be taylored to the swarm and the climate at the time
    Hi again; just to clarify:

    If (as I understand the literature to state it) a swarm is most likely to move into a bait box of 1 deep's volume .... and should I successfully snare another big swarm using a deep -- might I then add a medium (with foundationless frames) to that deep? Or would it make any sense to have a deep and medium together as part of the bait hive? If the second scenario makes sense, does the use-only-a-deep rule work just for moderately-sized swarms? In other words, if I want to entice a big swarm, is a 2-box bait hive wiser? But then, maybe moderately-sized swarms are more common? Or ... are there any data to state that swarm sizes vary in frequency? I may be getting a little too deep in this. Maybe it's all a crapshoot?

    Mitch

  20. #19
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    I think you are probably right in all the way you have done it other than the entrance. Shading the hive is unlikely to be needed in your current weather conditions.

    Most likely you could leave the small entrance also. But it's a numbers game, the more often you keep using 3/4 inch entrances, the more often you will get the odd swarm take off.

    The 70L 2inch rule, i have never heard of it, and not sure about rules. The housing should really be taylored to the swarm and the climate at the time
    I believe Tom Seeley wrote the book and completed the study. You can find his book here: https://ecommons.cornell.edu/handle/1813/2653

    And a previous Beesource discussion here: https://www.beesource.com/forums/sho...hing-discussed

  21. #20
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    Default Re: theories as to why my hived swarm flew the coop?!

    Quote Originally Posted by mlanden View Post
    I also used a screened bottom board for the deep; ordinarily, I use a solid one (to imitate darkness and coziness of a tree cavity).
    Mitch
    Per my primitive beekeeping sources - you want your hive to be dark to retain a swarm.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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