Not all swarms that you catch will accept your accommodations. In my experience, about 30% of the swarms I catch want to find their own home in the forest or in someone’s house. They might start to enter your hive and then, for no apparent reason just fly away. More likely, they’ll reassemble in a new cluster, either on the site of the original cluster, or if you hive them some distance away, in a new spot.
Bees are expensive and you want to keep these bees, especially if you’ve driven some distance for them. Here are two strategies for persuading bees to stay put:
1. Bees, like people, can’t resist babies. Put a frame of open brood in the hive. This always
works. Well, almost always. I have seen bees abscond, leaving only enough workers behind to cover the brood. I believe at this point, the scout bees have located a suitable site and have communicated that site’s position to the rest of the bees. Nothing will keep them unless you:
- Move the swarm and their hive to a new location out of range (2—4 miles) of their chosen home. If you know the direction of their home (you can learn to read their dance language and take them in the opposite direction) you can move them to a temporary site 2—5 miles away. If you don’t know the direction of their new site, you have to drive far enough to ensure that they can’t find it again. Once the queen is laying eggs, you can move the bees to their permanent site.
2. Remember that some bees are simply Born to be Wild. Let them go. Maybe next year they will swarm and move into one of your bait hives.
The moral of this story is: make lots of friends several miles away to the North, South, East, and West who will let you put temporary hives on their property.
Enjoy the swarm season.