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The Country Enterprise Handbook
Analysing your assets|Land use|Vegetables|Soft fruit|Flower & herb growing|Orchard & vineyard|Woodlands Sheep|Beef|Pigs|Rabbits|Hens|Ducks|Geese|Dairying|Kitchen|Bees|Wool|Water|Home|Contact us

..Siting a hive
...As partners
...Bee hives
...Hive construction
...Smoker,hive tool,feeder
>..Capture a swarm
...Buy a colony or nucleus
...Queens & drones
...The workers
...Ah! Honey
...Propolis,royal jelly,wax

You can get started into beekeeping in three different ways.

The first, and most dramatic, is to capture a swarm. This usually comes about when you have been put in touch with a beekeeper who is aware that his bees are about to swarm and who no longer wishes to enlarge his numbers. The early summer is the most usual time for this awe-inspiring migration of bees. It is all part of the complex nature of the hive. The queen suddenly departs with up to half the adult population of the hive. A watchful beekeeper will have been keeping an eye on the emergence of young queen larvae within the hive. These are identified by the size of cell and the position they occupy within the hive: the cells are bigger than those of worker-bees and instead of lying horizontally they hang vertically. If you have been put in touch with a suitable supplier at this stage, you must be totally prepared to act quickly when called. Your hive should be ready for occupation and the supers should contain wax-filled frames. You also require a feeder as the newly moved bees should be cosseted on their arrival to enable them to establish themselves.

When the call comes you dash off, complete with protective clothing, to capture the swarm. If you cannot bear the excitement of doing it yourself, you should pay the seller an extra fee. It is worth remembering, however, that from now on you are going to be dealing with those bees yourself, so you might as well be in at the beginning. A swarm of bees is an intimidating sight. When they are in flight they emit a booming sound. Fortunately they swarm on to something, often a branch, fairly close to the hive before taking off altogether. This is when you want to effect your capture. Sometimes, of course, you are not swift enough; then the bees are off and wherever they swarm to next - they are there for the bold to take them. Years ago a swarm appeared on our village green. The entire village rushed around like bees disturbed, some wanting to find the beekeeper responsible, some trying to find someone brave enough to capture the swarm. By the time suitable brave souls had materialised the swarm had departed. Nobody saw where they went but the village was supplied with excitement for the day.

When bees are in a swarm they act as a mass and are not very difficult to capture. You advance with a box, place it under the swarm and sharply bang their resting-place. Hopefully the whole swarm will drop into your box which you can hastily cover and make away with, at speed, to your own hive. Once there, you make the opening to the hive as large as possible and place a ramp of wood leading up to it. You then turn the box upside down at the bottom of the ramp and tap it to remove any lingerers. The bees with luck run up the slope and enter the hive. Usually they are quickly installed; you then close the entry to a gap of about three to four inches wide, attach the syrup-filled feeder and retreat, feeling unbelievably bold. Now you can celebrate. When you discover that the number of bees in the hive is decreasing, do not despair. It is simply that it takes a while for the newcomers to multiply and replace the bees that are naturally dying of old age. After a week or two, remove the feeder and in a few weeks you can watch the hive multiply.