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what is the reasons for bees to abscond

3121 Views 13 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  txbeek
I caught my first 2014 swarm today by hand in 2 medium 10 frame lang. I used 3 frames of drawn comb, the rest of the frames was without foundation, the bottom board was a screened bottom board that was closed and an entrance reducer on front. The swarm was probably 4lb of bees and only 6 ft of ground. I thought this could not get any better. I placed 2 saw horses under the swarm a piece of plywood and my 2 mediums pulled the small tree over and shook. 85 -90% of bees went directly into the box and within 5 min. the rest of the bees were going in. I placed the inner cover and top on the box. I was excited to say the least. The home owner called about an hour later and said everything looked great bees still in the box. I thought man this was as easy as it gets; but then, about 2 hrs later home owner calls and says they have absconded and was in anouther tree 12 ft up. I picked up a deep that I had out as a trap and set off to get them again. I got to the location and thought I can do this. so I cleared all the under brush and placed the other hive body under the tree. I was placing a bucket on a pole that I had to reach the swarm and then I looked up and saw the swarm had a few bees starting to fly. Within 45 seconds all that was left was me and the home owner with sad faces. I have no reason to complain I have placed 6 swarm traps out in the last 2 weeks and already have already got 3 swarms from these traps. I have only caught one other swarm by hand and could use some advise. I have read about placing a frame of brood and I would have liked to but I didn't really have time. Has anyone had this experience with the screened bottom boards or was this just me? THANKS
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It could have been the screend bottom board not allowing the queen pharamone to permiate the hive good, or it could have been too much room for them in the double medium right off the bat. A colony will abscond for many reasons, I find that the most reliable method to use is once the bees are in the box, throw a queen excluder under the hive body and above the bottom board. They won't leave without the queen and she can't get out at that point.
The most common reason new swarms abscond is heat. It takes the bees a few days to get their ventilation system sorted, mean time, if the sun shines on the lid it can get like an oven in there, the swarm leaves.

To solve this put some cardboard or something over the lid to keep the sun off & give the bees plenty ventilation.

You were right to block the screen of the bottom board, leaving it open is confusing for a new swarm bees do not understand mesh. But restricting the entrance was a mistake.
I have never used the mediums before. They were given to be by a former bee keeper. I thought with the size of the swarm this looked right. but obviously I know very little since this is only my 2nd year as bee keeper. The queen excluder would have helped thanks for the advise.
Can you explain why reducing the entrance a mistake? This is what I have done for the traps and they seem to like. Is this not giving them the ventilation they need? Thanks for the help.
Yes it restricts ventilation.

Far as using small entrances for traps, you may get lucky, you may not, and you may never know. The only time you do know a swarm absconded is when you hived it yourself.

Just to give you an idea, I have been hiving maybe 30 or 40 or more swarms each year. Some would always abscond. One day I found one absconding as I watched and in the process of attempting to re catch them noticed the metal lid was almost burny hot, there is no way a new swarm would have wanted to stay in there. Since then I have protected new swarms from the sun & ensured good ventilation. Abscondings since then? Nil.
Not the bottom board it was the reducer.Caused them to overheat.Don't use an entrance reducer #8 hardware cloth the width of the entrance 12 inches long folded in half to make it 6 inches long(length doesn't matter just my preference)shove it in the entrance so bees can't get out.Move hive where you want(get the job done and get it out of there)give them some shade or keep them cool(not freezing)or set them up where they're going to be.Open them up once dark out.That will improve the odds of them staying.Usually they won't leave if you set them up right.
From the situation you described, most likely you were undone by scout bees with a better location. Once a swarm settles, scout bees are sent out on hive location missions. They report back to the swarm location and lobby for their results. Then, according to the scout activity the swarm will go to that location or stay put until a better location is reported. If the swarm is located in the later evening hours (after 4pm or so) they most likely will be staying put for the night and letting them do their thing until dark is pretty safe. But, if you locate the swarm in mid morning through the afternoon, shake and remove once you know you have the queen. Especially if they march into the box. Why, because the scouts are out hunting locations and once they report back they may move again.

Once you've got them all in the box (which sounds like you did according to the report from the home owner) you should have removed the box from the location and placed them in their permanent location. Slip them an open frame of brood to "anchor" them. Some will cage the queen as well until the swarm has settled. Swarm collecting is a bit different than trapping because when trapping you've convinced the scouts that your trap is the best location for them to make their permanent abode. Good luck with the rest of your swarming season, sounds like you're a pretty good trapper!
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Sounds like to me you are on track. For me, I make sure the box I want them to stay in is not too big or too small for the swarm. I do feed them sugar mix 1:1. I also keep the reducer rotated to the small opening until they get about 6 - 7 of the frames completely drawn out - this helps the bees protect the hive. By that time you should have brood of all stages present and the population growing fast.
2 Medium boxes = 1 deep box - which should be just the right size for a swarm.

I would venture to guess that they absconded for 2 reasons.

1. The hive was in the sun and they got too hot so swarmed to the branch.
2. The scouts ended up finding a better location - and once they found where their swarm went, went inside and convinced everyone they had found a better location. So they came out and formed a cluster for the 2nd time, and then decided the new location was where to be - and flew to it.

You have to remember, while bees will swarm into a hive just sitting on the ground - their favorite hive location is up off the ground - no skunks or other animals to have to mess with. And perhaps the scouts had found a deadout and decided it was alot easier to clean out and renovate rather than starting from new.
Since then I have protected new swarms from the sun & ensured good ventilation. Abscondings since then? Nil.
x 2

Found this to be true also.
x 2

Found this to be true also.
I just put the inner cover on and leave the outer cover off until dark.
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my question. You all have been a tremendous help and hopefully I can prevent this from happening again in the future!! I'm still learning and appreciate advise from all the veteran beekeepers. Good luck to all of you this swarm season!
But then again, you are dealing with thousands of females;)

Sometimes they just don't like the situation for some reason known only to them. When catching swarms, you can do everything right and some will leave, even after several days. With others, you can make a ton of mistakes (speaking from experience) and you just cant get rid of them. Thats why i think we are more managers than keepers!
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