Hiving a Swarm – Bee Swarm Removal Tips
Eagerness to hive a bee swarm should be tempered by good judgment. Inaccessible, out-of-season, very small, or established (inside a building, a hollow tree, etc.) swarms should be let alone. Just go for a good one.
There are two kinds of swarms. Prime swarms have the old queen and are usually large; after swarms have a virgin queen and are normally not as big. The latter might be more skittish about accepting your efforts to provide them a home, but are certainly worth a try.
Although a swarm might be more ready to accept your hive in the evening, waiting until then can actually be a big mistake, as they can fly away anytime to a new home not of your choosing. So be prepared in advance, and hive a swarm as soon as you can (unless it is night, in which case wait until early morning). Incidentally, the law regarding ownership of a swarm usually is finders- keepers, unless someone else is in “hot pursuit.”
If the swarm is not near your home, you may decide to attempt to bag or box it, take it home, and hive it there. This can be a good choice if the swarm is hanging on a single branch and you can put the bag (or box) around it (after gently trimming away any branches and stems protruding from the bottom and sides of the swarm), close and tie the top of the bag around the branch before many bees can escape, and cut the branch a foot or so from the bag (this makes a nice handle) with a pair of loppers.
However, you must begin the actual hiving process soon so as not to suffocate the bees, unless you are using a screened bag or box to hold them in. The (hopefully) few bees you don’t capture should disperse in a short amount of time (assuming you got the queen!).
Hiving the Swarm
First, discourage spectators. But if some insist on watching, urge them to keep a safe distance from your activities. Warn them that swarm behavior is not always predictable and that multiple stings are a real possibility. Tell them that is why you are wearing a bee mask. (You are, arena’t you?) This is not the time to tell them how gentle swarms usually are.
Place a beehive super on a bottom board, with 6 or so frames of foundation in the super pushed 3 frames to each side, leaving a gap in the middle of the super. Put this under the swarm (or as close to it as possible). If you have a white sheet, placing this fully spread out under the bottom board can help the bees not get lost in the grass while finding their new home. If the swarm is hanging on a branch, pull down on the branch so as to lower the swarm to a foot or so over the gap in the super, and give the branch one firm shake to dislodge the bees. If the swarm is coating the trunk of a tree or a wall, use a thin flat piece of wood to spoon the bees one scoop at a time into the gap in the super. Do NOT use any smoke to disperse the bees; this could mask the homing scent-fanning of the bees already placed in the super. Keep spooning bees into the super until you are reasonably sure the queen isn’t still outside.
Place a piece of plywood (with a 5” x 7” screened hole in the middle, for ventilation if the hive will be transported) on top of the super, offset so as to leave a one inch gap to allow bees to signal other bees to come in, and with the plywood’s screen (if present) temporarily covered so as not to confuse bees. Now wait patiently until you are reasonably sure the swarm has accepted the hive. While you wait, gently spoon any stray clumps of bees into the top entrance gap, as the queen could be in one of these clumps. Avoid standing near the hive entrances, to keep the bees calm. After 10 minutes or so, gently remove the plywood top (bees will be clinging to it above the gap in the super‘s frames; shake them back into the hive), gently push the frames together, and fill the gap(s) in the super with more foundation frames. Replace the cover.
Bees will have begun foraging immediately after hiving. To get all of them, if the hive is to be transported, you would have to come back after dark . If this is not practicable, close up the hive entrances, remove whatever is covering the screened gap in the cover, secure the hive with a strap, and take it away.
The next morning, give the bees 2:1 sugar syrup. To forestall possible foulbrood diseases, it might be wise to add terramycin; follow proper dosage instructions for syrup use. Do not let the medicated syrup be exposed to light. The bees might not take any sugar syrup if there is an ample nectar flow going on, so if you choose to medicate, you will have to dust.
Reduce all entrance(s) to a reasonable size, so as to allow the bees to protect the entrances but also to adequately ventilate the hive. In a month or so you may wish to replace the queen if you are unsure of her age or wish to introduce a particular race or strain of bees.