This is a long post. I just wanted to share our first experience as newbie beekeepers trying to capture a hive. No doubt we made mistakes and were naive in some of our assumptions. We did the best we could based on our situation and what we had learned over a short period of time. Helpful, corrective comments would certainly be appreciated.
We set up our 4 hives on 7 acres and 6-7 weeks into our foray into beekeeping, we discovered bees has moved into a tree next to where we commonly parked to service our hives. So we know about when they moved to the tree. No clue as to whether they came from one of our own hives or off property. The problem was that they were robbing the heck out of our other hives, two in particular. We could literally see the trail of bees through the air between the hives. So we put an empty hive box next to the tree hive and put feeders on the box to slow the raiding of our other hives. We consulted various online sources, my wife's bee mentors, and came up with a plan to try a forced abscond. Now I realize in reading a lot of the posts here on the forum that this is pretty routine stuff for experienced beekeepers, but we are new, still learning, and these are some very exciting times for us.
Checking with the mentors, we figured Texas still has enough warm weather left that we aren't too late in the season to do this. We built a bee vacuum. We took one frame of honey from each of our other hives (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta)as a starter resource for the "new" hive (Echo) just before moving the hive box about 100 feet away to its permanent home. The last frame of honey we tried to take was from Alpha resulted in some very upset bees that decided to defend their honey. That was very exciting and would have been terrifying had my suit not done its job. The first three frame removals from the other hives went off without any real problem, no more disturbance than doing a hive inspection. When we pulled Alpha's frame, the response from the bees sounded about like a leaf blower spinning up.
Then we tried to move Echo's new hive box home that had been feeding the tree bees to its new location and the tree bees were not pleased at all. They did not respond as aggressively as Alpha, but were quite agitated, and so we started our forced abscond with an upset hive.
We had prepped the tree hive the 2 days before by drilling 2 3/4" holes into the back of the tree (high and low) that seemed to go into cavities into the tree. We checked the day before and found bees using the high hole as a new entrance, but the low hole was not in use. So on the day of the abscond, with my wife sucking up as many bees as possible, I drilled another hole slightly above the low hole and it penetrated the bee chamber. From there I pumped in smoke to drive the bees out of the tree, alternatively using the high and low hole. They did not come out en masse toward my wife as I had seen in some videos, but instead trickled out over a prolonged period of time. I think that part of the problem was that the winds were not favorable, meaning the large hole where I expected smoke and bees to exit had the wind blowing directly into it and out the back to where I was.
My wife and I switched out vacuuming and blowing smoke into the tree when I managed to spot the queen coming out. I called for my wife to grab the queen catcher but about as fast as I said that, the queen turned and headed back into the tree, so I sucked up as quickly as I could. The plan was NOT to suck her into the vacuum, but in the heat of the moment, that is exactly what I did. As we thought we had the queen, and several hundred bees, we transported them to their new home and poured them inside. We returned to the tree and managed to collect a few hundred more and added them to the their new home. We then sealed up the tree with window screen cloth.
The abscond occurred this morning (Sunday). What I thought might take an hour or maybe and hour and a half to accomplish took closer to three hours including recovery of all our gear. I had grossly underestimated how long things might take based on seeing others perform the task on extremely short YouTube videos.
We checked Echo hive this evening and their old tree home. Echo had consumed more than a quart of supplemented sugar water over the course of the day and had settled down considerably compared to when we had left them. Bees were flying in and out of the hive. The tree hive former home had a few dozen bees on the screen mesh. I am afraid they had been away we when moved the rest of their group.
During the course of the event, my wife and I experienced a few stings, all from bees that managed to get inside our suits which we determined was from improperly secured leg cuffs. My wife got a little upset when she discovered a bee under her veil, flying around her head. She particularly didn't like it when the bee crashed into her face. As I was running the vacuum, I had her come over to me, partially unzipped her veil and inserted the hose and sucked to bee out in short order. She thought that was pretty hilarious.
We did get some video and I will try to post some of what we did when I can get it edited. All in all, it wasn't pretty, only sort of when as planned, but it looks promising that we have captured our first hive and put it into a new home.