Getting swarms through winter

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Do224 

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As many of you know, I hived four swarms last summer...three of which have perished in the last few weeks. From what I’ve been told it may or may not be varroa related, but I think I made a few other mistakes with those colonies too. So, to try and prevent making the same mistakes twice...I have a few questions. I’m hoping for ‘rough guide’ answers... I know there are no hard and fast rules and much depends on weather, forage etc.

1. How early in the year do you need to catch a swarm (average size, if there is such a thing) in order for it to be able to build up sufficiently for winter
(a) Prime swarm and only giving them foundation?
(b) Prime swarm and giving them drawn comb?
(c) Cast swarm and only giving them foundation?
(d) Cast swarm and giving them drawn comb?

2. How many days after catching a swarm is it safe to vape them (without causing them to abscond)? Is this the best thing to do, varroa treatment wise?

3. Some people seem to prefer putting a swarm in a nuc and others in a hive. Does it just depend on the size of the swarm?

4. I don’t think I fed my swarms enough initially. I’ve heard that if you feed a swarm 1:1 syrup after you catch them and continue feeding without a break, they’ll use it to draw out a full bb of foundation...and if you put a super of foundation on and continue feeding they’ll draw that out too. Does this really work or will it cause them to become honey bound well before they’ve drawn everything out?
 

Erichalfbee 

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Easiest first.
vaping. You need to vape once, a day or so before brood us sealed. So you need to look in three or four days after you catch them. A prime will have the queen laying. If it’s a cast the new queen needs to be mated so I look in again a week later.
The swarm goes in a box appropriate to its size
Feeding. A little to start has served me well. Most of the time the bees manage themselves. I’ll look in occasionally and make a judgement then.
1. There’s no answer to this. It depends on the size of the swarm.
 

Ian123 

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The size of a swarm and ability to overwinter is irrelevant given normal to even late swarming periods. Some of us make up late Nucs or even winter minis. Size is not an issue, as to other points as dani says above!!
 
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pargyle 

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As many of you know, I hived four swarms last summer...three of which have perished in the last few weeks. From what I’ve been told it may or may not be varroa related, but I think I made a few other mistakes with those colonies too. So, to try and prevent making the same mistakes twice...I have a few questions. I’m hoping for ‘rough guide’ answers... I know there are no hard and fast rules and much depends on weather, forage etc.

1. How early in the year do you need to catch a swarm (average size, if there is such a thing) in order for it to be able to build up sufficiently for winter
(a) Prime swarm and only giving them foundation?
(b) Prime swarm and giving them drawn comb?
(c) Cast swarm and only giving them foundation?
(d) Cast swarm and giving them drawn comb?

2. How many days after catching a swarm is it safe to vape them (without causing them to abscond)? Is this the best thing to do, varroa treatment wise?

3. Some people seem to prefer putting a swarm in a nuc and others in a hive. Does it just depend on the size of the swarm?

4. I don’t think I fed my swarms enough initially. I’ve heard that if you feed a swarm 1:1 syrup after you catch them and continue feeding without a break, they’ll use it to draw out a full bb of foundation...and if you put a super of foundation on and continue feeding they’ll draw that out too. Does this really work or will it cause them to become honey bound well before they’ve drawn everything out?
1. A swarm in May is worth a load of hay, a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon, a swarm in July ain't worth a fly.

A Swarm builds comb at a tremendous rate .. give them a couple of days to disgorge and then a few litres of syrup and they will draw frames out in no time. It matters not whether they are foundation or foundationless. Makes no difference what the swarm is ...

2. As Dani above says.

3. Depends on the size of the swarm ... you can use a full size hive for a small swarm and just dummy it down to an appropriate size and add frames as they develop.

4. You would not put a super on until there were 7 or 8 frame of brood - by which time, if there is a flow of nectar, they won't need feeding to draw out comb in the super. You only need to feed bees when they need it ... adding syrup when there is nectar available is unneccesary - indeed, if you have supers on you could well end up with adulterated honey. They don't draw out a full box, they will draw some frames and then start storing nectar (or sugar syrup) they will only draw comb when they need it.
 

Antipodes 

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All my boxes are the same size for brood and honey supers. A smallish swarm goes in one box (144mm), a good size into two and a really big one into three. Some small ones do seem to need help by way of feeding 1/1. With cast swarms the queen can mate and the colony can get going sooner than others where the queen has taken longer to start laying. It can depend on the season (rainy/ dry/forage etc) and how much/what is flowering at the time the swarm is captured. It can be strange though. This season I had two similar sized swarms placed nearly side by side after capture. Both had mated queens around the same time. Both in a single one of my boxes. . One really took off and the other has floundered. No sign of brood disease in the weak one and of course here, no varroa or small hive beetle.
 

oliver90owner 

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Your question 1) a,b,c and d are pointless. If you get a small colony that needs help to get it going, just provide it. You are a beekeeper, nest pass? (excuse my french)

For a start, prime swarms generally don’t even need foundations to get going - although it helps. There is a mated queen and the bees want her back laying PDQ. They may be short of stores (taken at the time of swarming) if they have been hanging around in a tree, for some days, in poor weather, but Shirley, the beekeeper, would likely think of (and consider) that possibility?

If you have done any research, at all, on the forum, or elsewhere, you would have found that vaping is only effective against phoretic mites. That should partly answer your question.
Would you consider vaping them the same day as homing them? I don’t think so.
Would it be sensible to wait until they are relatively ‘fixed’ in their new home. Dead right, it would.
When do phoretic mites become non-phoretic? I’ll leave you to think about that one.
 
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As many of you know, I hived four swarms last summer...three of which have perished in the last few weeks. From what I’ve been told it may or may not be varroa related, but I think I made a few other mistakes with those colonies too. So, to try and prevent making the same mistakes twice...I have a few questions. I’m hoping for ‘rough guide’ answers... I know there are no hard and fast rules and much depends on weather, forage etc.

1. How early in the year do you need to catch a swarm (average size, if there is such a thing) in order for it to be able to build up sufficiently for winter
(a) Prime swarm and only giving them foundation?
(b) Prime swarm and giving them drawn comb?
(c) Cast swarm and only giving them foundation?
(d) Cast swarm and giving them drawn comb?

2. How many days after catching a swarm is it safe to vape them (without causing them to abscond)? Is this the best thing to do, varroa treatment wise?

3. Some people seem to prefer putting a swarm in a nuc and others in a hive. Does it just depend on the size of the swarm?

4. I don’t think I fed my swarms enough initially. I’ve heard that if you feed a swarm 1:1 syrup after you catch them and continue feeding without a break, they’ll use it to draw out a full bb of foundation...and if you put a super of foundation on and continue feeding they’ll draw that out too. Does this really work or will it cause them to become honey bound well before they’ve drawn everything out?
You’ve received some v good advice on your questions.

Only point I’d emphasise is bees only draw comb when they need it. Swarms draw it well as they’re in a rush to build a nest and get prepared for winter. Once they have the immediate comb they need they will focus on nectar and pollen storage and drawn comb for the queen to lay, until that’s getting full and then they’ll build more. So you have to judge this by observing what is happening and whether there is a nectar flow on. You’ll hear the term ‘reading the bees’!

There comes a point if they are given too much foundation vs their immediate needs, they will either ignore it or may even bite holes in it to use elsewhere. This can make a mess of the foundation.
 
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pargyle 

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Being as this is the Beginners Section we can assume that there is only limited knowledge available at this stage of the OP's beekeeping. There is some very useful advice delivered in this thread which will be exceedingly useful in the coming months.

It is very difficult in the first few years of keeping bees to 'read' the bees - you have very little to compare any given situation with but, it's one of the most important aspects of keeping bees. Collecting swarms can be the easy part - deciding what to do with them afterwards can be a bit daunting for a newbie but the few basics of giving them the right amount of space, a little food to get them started after a couple of days and expanding the space as the colony settles, draws comb and increase in size is not rocket science. Swarms are keen to expand and become established and the bees in the early stages of development are often easy to handle and lack the, occasionally, more aggressive tendencies of a large colony.

It's a fascinating process to watch and a great learning experience for a new beekeeper. No need to overthink it ..
 

Finman 

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As many of you know, I hived four swarms last summer...three of which have perished in the last few weeks. From what I’ve been told it may or may not be varroa related, but I think I made a few other mistakes with those colonies too. So, to try and prevent making the same mistakes twice...I have a few questions. I’m hoping for ‘rough guide’ answers... I know there are no hard and fast rules and much depends on weather, forage etc.

1. How early in the year do you need to catch a swarm (average size, if there is such a thing) in order for it to be able to build up sufficiently for winter
(a) Prime swarm and only giving them foundation?
(b) Prime swarm and giving them drawn comb?
(c) Cast swarm and only giving them foundation?
(d) Cast swarm and giving them drawn comb?

2. How many days after catching a swarm is it safe to vape them (without causing them to abscond)? Is this the best thing to do, varroa treatment wise?

3. Some people seem to prefer putting a swarm in a nuc and others in a hive. Does it just depend on the size of the swarm?

4. I don’t think I fed my swarms enough initially. I’ve heard that if you feed a swarm 1:1 syrup after you catch them and continue feeding without a break, they’ll use it to draw out a full bb of foundation...and if you put a super of foundation on and continue feeding they’ll draw that out too. Does this really work or will it cause them to become honey bound well before they’ve drawn everything out?
You do not need any rules in this.

Swarms must be big enough, that they grow to size of one box hive. To do that often you must join small swarm.

When swarm is 3 weeks old, it has any more half of bees in the colony. First half has died in natural way. That reduced colony has hard time to get bigger and grow enough before Autumn
 

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