Feeding a new swarm
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  1. #1
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    Question Feeding a new swarm

    Two weeks ago I caught a swarm and placed it in a 7-frame hive box.

    For a swarm, which has absolutely nothing (comb or honey) in the hive, I'm wondering what are some recommendations for getting the hive going? (Do nothing is a valid recommendation.) Pollen is plentiful right now, so the bees would not be starving. But since this hive has nothing, I have been feeding it 1:1 sugar water (with a tsp of HoneyBHealthy per quart) in hopes of helping them get necessary comb drawn. Am I helping? The bees have been gobbling one to two qts a day (the top feeder is empty when I check, so they would possibly take more). If feeding is helping, how long should the feeding go on?

    I've noticed in the last day or two that the hive has been quite noisy. They're doing something in there.

    Thanks.

    - djb
    The best things in life aren't things.
    2 hives, started 2018

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    Do you mean an 8 frame box? Regardless, yes feed them until they won't take it. Pollen may be coming in but they need sugar to survive. Not sure of your nectar situation where you are, but if they are taking it keep giving it. They need it to make comb which is the best thing about a swarm. They are comb making machines. Ditch the Honey B Healthy. Studies have shown that it may harm the gut and it could cause robbing. Opinions will differ, but that's what I would do. J

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    I'd also ditch the HBH and would sure go in and inspect that hive, 2 weeks with a swarm, you may be surprised what they have built out in that time.

    I just came thru ETX, down 20 to Shreveport, down to Lafayette, LA, far more blooming flowers than I see here just NW of cowtown.
    “Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the Ark, professionals built the Titanic”

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    Quote Originally Posted by Western View Post
    I'd also ditch the HBH and would sure go in and inspect that hive, 2 weeks with a swarm, you may be surprised what they have built out in that time.

    I just came thru ETX, down 20 to Shreveport, down to Lafayette, LA, far more blooming flowers than I see here just NW of cowtown.
    I did just that this afternoon, and I was pleasantly surprised. Not only comb drawn but making honey and capping off cells, and dark cells (I hope) are brood. They are well on their way, I'm going to start weaning them off the sugar. Guess I missed the memo on HBH, I thought it was da'Bomb.

    You're right, there's plenty of nectar available right now. Saturday I harvested four frames off my other hive (which I'm fairly certain this swarm came from). This was my first real harvest, I got one frame from it last fall. Also my first rodeo with an extractor. I hated the idea of destroying comb to harvest honey. This thing filled the ticket.

    - djb
    The best things in life aren't things.
    2 hives, started 2018

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    Quote Originally Posted by Fivej View Post
    Do you mean an 8 frame box? Regardless, yes feed them until they won't take it. Pollen may be coming in but they need sugar to survive. Not sure of your nectar situation where you are, but if they are taking it keep giving it. They need it to make comb which is the best thing about a swarm. They are comb making machines. Ditch the Honey B Healthy. Studies have shown that it may harm the gut and it could cause robbing. Opinions will differ, but that's what I would do. J
    Yes, that would be an 8 frame box.

    So apparently bees are not critters that follow the path of least resistance...otherwise it seems they would continue to gobble sugar water as long as it is available...

    - djb
    The best things in life aren't things.
    2 hives, started 2018

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    Nobody can accuse bees of being lazy. We humans would just suck down syrup forever if someone delivered it to us, but bees seem to be hard wired to go get it from nature if its available. While sugar is sugar, I'm sure there are other nutrients in nectar and the environment that they know they want/need. J

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    Quote Originally Posted by genusCastor View Post
    I did just that this afternoon, and I was pleasantly surprised. Not only comb drawn but making honey and capping off cells, and dark cells (I hope) are brood. They are well on their way, I'm going to start weaning them off the sugar. Guess I missed the memo on HBH, I thought it was da'Bomb.

    You're right, there's plenty of nectar available right now. Saturday I harvested four frames off my other hive (which I'm fairly certain this swarm came from). This was my first real harvest, I got one frame from it last fall. Also my first rodeo with an extractor. I hated the idea of destroying comb to harvest honey. This thing filled the ticket.

    - djb
    I have heard "rumors" of HBH possibly being a problem, I do know it draws un-needed attention to hives that have it in it for other bugs that are attracted to the smell ( robbers and wasp)
    “Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the Ark, professionals built the Titanic”

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    Western where in Wise county are you located. I'm due north of Decatur aprox 7 miles. and the wildflowers out here are pretty decent.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    Quote Originally Posted by mcr View Post
    Western where in Wise county are you located. I'm due north of Decatur aprox 7 miles. and the wildflowers out here are pretty decent.
    SW corner, right on the Parker /Wise line almost. Some blooming here as well, best spring rains in several years that I recall. Know a new beek in Sunset and his dewberries just started blooming about 5 days ago, mine already have some berries.

    The drive thru Shreveport to Lafayette was nice except it was "work", but the roadside ditches had immense blooming. Where I am, much of the open farm country has been taken over by trees.
    “Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the Ark, professionals built the Titanic”

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    Too many farmers in my area used weed killer on their pastures ( me included) and killed all the wildflowers. as they eat the flowers first then the hay.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    When I drive 51 north from Decatur, I see tons of wildflowers in all that open space, much less in the tree bands near the creeks tho, see quite a few mesquites as well in some places. Much more open than where I am by a lot. It is good my bees can travel a bit to scrounge.
    “Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the Ark, professionals built the Titanic”

  13. #12

    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    On the original topic…feeding a swarm. In the mid 1970s Tom Seeley followed a number of feral swarms. This was in the days before varroa and all of their vectored plagues. He found that by the following spring less than 25% had survived. Without exception they had starved. Building and provisioning a nest from scratch is a Herculean task. Imagine what the success rate would be today with all of the additional parasitic pressures. So…if you are ok with a less than 25% survival…don’t feed. Otherwise…
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    On the original topic…feeding a swarm. In the mid 1970s Tom Seeley followed a number of feral swarms. This was in the days before varroa and all of their vectored plagues. He found that by the following spring less than 25% had survived. Without exception they had starved. Building and provisioning a nest from scratch is a Herculean task. Imagine what the success rate would be today with all of the additional parasitic pressures. So…if you are ok with a less than 25% survival…don’t feed. Otherwise…
    Interesting. It makes sense [to me] that with absolutely nothing, they could use some help getting a hive started.

    I'm still feeding, but have backed off on the frequency of filling the feeder (holds maybe 2 qt). I have a top enclosed feeder, and the caged access to the feeder pan is typically packed with bees, even though the feeder is empty. I've read both philosophies that bees are (a) not lazy and will quit taking sugar water on their own when they don't need it anymore, and (b) a constant supply of sugar water will condition the bees and hinder their natural instinct to get pollen/nectar.

    This is in no way aimed at anyone, but as a novice, I'm finding opinions on beekeeping are as numerous as beekeepers. It would seem even contradictory opinions on many topics are held by various folks; one person may have one opinion on a given topic, while another has a contradictory opinion, and both are experienced beekeepers. I've read that some topics may be location specific, which would account for some opposing opinions.

    All that to say, it's quite difficult for a newbie to make informed decisions when they get such variant opinions. I'm still researching and reading of course, and I value all the discussion between experienced beekeepers. But in the end I have this feeling that my beekeeping experience will be likened to attendance of the School Of Hard Knocks - I'll have successes and failures and come up with my own opinions on what works and what doesn't.

    - djb <- also a bee man "Dan"
    The best things in life aren't things.
    2 hives, started 2018

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    Quote Originally Posted by genusCastor View Post
    This is in no way aimed at anyone, but as a novice, I'm finding opinions on beekeeping are as numerous as beekeepers. It would seem even contradictory opinions on many topics are held by various folks; one person may have one opinion on a given topic, while another has a contradictory opinion.....
    Ha!
    I often have multiple, contradictory opinions!

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    Quote Originally Posted by Greeny View Post
    Ha!
    I often have multiple, contradictory opinions!
    LOL

    - djb
    The best things in life aren't things.
    2 hives, started 2018

  17. #16

    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    Quote Originally Posted by genusCastor View Post
    . I've read both philosophies that bees are (a) not lazy and will quit taking sugar water on their own when they don't need it anymore, and (b) a constant supply of sugar water will condition the bees and hinder their natural instinct to get pollen/nectar.
    As long as we are on the topic of contradictory opinions….I’ll express mine on this subject.
    I do not believe that one spring of feeding will alter the hoarding instincts honed over the eons.
    On the other hand I also do not believe that feeding until they quit taking it is a good practice either. I advise people to do an inside inspection regularly. As long as the bees are drawing new comb and expanding their nest and taking syrup…I advocate feeding. Once the new comb drawing has slowed significantly and the syrup is mostly being stored…continue feeding until such time as they have stored enough to get through the winter….leaving empty comb for brood rearing.
    The key is opening the hive regularly and inspecting. Way too many ‘beekeepers’ try to evaluate their hives without looking inside…in my opinion.
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    As long as we are on the topic of contradictory opinions….I’ll express mine on this subject.
    I do not believe that one spring of feeding will alter the hoarding instincts honed over the eons.
    On the other hand I also do not believe that feeding until they quit taking it is a good practice either. I advise people to do an inside inspection regularly. As long as the bees are drawing new comb and expanding their nest and taking syrup…I advocate feeding. Once the new comb drawing has slowed significantly and the syrup is mostly being stored…continue feeding until such time as they have stored enough to get through the winter….leaving empty comb for brood rearing.
    The key is opening the hive regularly and inspecting. Way too many ‘beekeepers’ try to evaluate their hives without looking inside…in my opinion.
    I think you're right. There's no way I would know how the swarm hive was faring unless I opened it up and looked. So I did. But from a novice's perspective, I have been hesitant to open a hive for fear of harming (killing) the queen. "What's the point of disrupting a hive just to look around?" (was my thought). But I am now understanding the value in seeing what's going on in the hive, so fear of opening a hive is something I'll have to get over.

    - djb
    The best things in life aren't things.
    2 hives, started 2018

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    My 2 cents worth... they need sugar for energy to forage and they need it to draw comb. If there is a small flow, if there is NO comb, if you want growth then you need to feed but you need to consider the brood nest. If you over-feed they will fill the cells and the Q will not have place to lay and you will not grow the hive. Feed in moderation and remember location, weather, plants blooming, time to first frost all make a difference. Do your own research, CONSIDER opinions, know what is happening in YOUR LOCATION, join a bee club and get a mentor.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    Quote Originally Posted by Murdock View Post
    Do your own research, CONSIDER opinions, know what is happening in YOUR LOCATION, join a bee club and get a mentor.
    Good advice. I'm doing (or trying to do) all but the bee club thing, there's one that meets kind of close to me, others are far. My mentor - and close friend - lost his battle with cancer a few months ago. But he fought the good fight and kept the faith. I'll see him again, but miss him in the meantime. So y'all here are my mentor for now.

    - djb
    The best things in life aren't things.
    2 hives, started 2018

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Feeding a new swarm

    Quote Originally Posted by mcr View Post
    Too many farmers in my area used weed killer on their pastures ( me included) and killed all the wildflowers. as they eat the flowers first then the hay.
    In the 90's when we had more land, I did the same thing in my coastal fields. Usually used liquid fertilizer with a pnt or two of 2,4d for the 1st application. Found it helped a lot to try and burn them off each year as well which resulted in less needed herbicide. Back then tho, it was hay production I needed from those fields for my cows and to sell, All our native grass areas where left alone except a burn off every 3-4 years.
    “Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the Ark, professionals built the Titanic”

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