How to Set Up a Hive
Once you’ve found and collected a swarm, how do you go about hiving a bee swarm? You should really have done a little preparation before this, you need to obtain a hive with roof, floor and frames containing some wax foundation, or you can build a beehive. Most people like to paint their hive boxes white, do this on the OUTSIDE ONLY. Make sure the paint has thoroughly dry before you try to hive a bee swarm.
Set up the hive wherever you want it to remain, preferably on some sort of stand so the hive is not directly on the ground. Bear in mind that neighbours are often a little nervous of beehives and in many places there will be restrictions on where they can be sited. If no-one ever sees the hive, they will almost certainly never suspect it is there.
Position the hive so that the entrance faces an obstacle if possible. When bees leave the hive, if they encounter a wall, fence or hedge they will fly up over it and maintain that height until they reach wherever they’re going. If people are on the other side of the fence they frequently are completely unaware of the bees flying overhead.
Place a piece of plywood against the front of the hive to make a ramp for the bees to climb up. When hiving a bee swarm simply open up the transit box and shake the bees directly onto the board. They will usually sit on the board in a flattened heap for a few seconds. Then, as if someone has given them a signal, they will turn and begin to walk, even run, up hill into the box. Some bees will take to the wing and it may appear they’re in confusion, but after a few minutes almost all the bees will be inside the box.
Some people like to dump the bees directly into the hive and close the lid. I tend to think that if they run up the ramp into the hive they seem to feel as if they made the decision to make this their new home and are more likely to stay.
I think most people use full sheets of foundation in their brood frames when they’re starting out. I now use just a 1″ or 2″ strip of foundation, glued with melted wax to the top groove of the frame. Swarms have a compulsion to make wax and build comb, by providing them with this narrow strip they are able to cluster together more easily to generate heat necessary to comb building.
If you feed the swarm with light sugar syrup, being careful to make sure ants can’t get in and irritate the bees until the flee, they can build new comb at an amazing pace. In a week or two the queen can start laying eggs in the new comb and start the build up of numbers of workers which is vital for a strong healthy colony.
For me, hiving a bee swarm is one of the most amazing parts of beekeeping. Bees can be purchased as part of a beekeeping equipment starter package which usually consists of about 3 pounds of bees along with a queen bee. Hiving package bees is done in much the same way as a swarm, but of course the queen is introduced to the new hive in her cage.