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My Bees Are gone! My Thoughts On Bees Absconding

The hive of bees that I removed from under the mobile home are gone!

One of the biggest disappointments any new beekeeper , or old beekeeper for that matter, can go through with their bees is absconding! This year I have been removing swarms and problem beehives from peoples property. This is a great way to increase your bee yard population and has some added benefits.

  1. You get to augment your bees with stronger local genetics
  2. The bees you get this way are cheaper than buying package bees

I have noticed a big problem with doing this however, and from the other beekeepers I talk to, it seems to be a problem they experience as well. I wonder if this could be a side effect of CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder ) of if this has been a problem for many years. But because I am a new beekeeper, I don't have the experience to tell me if this has been a problem of beekeepers for some time. The beekeepers I talk to express the same problems with a large portion of new hives taken from swarms and local "cut outs" seem to have a higher than usual incidence of absconding.

Bees Absconding From New Hives Is Common

I have read that a common problem with the Italian Honeybee is that they sometimes forget where their hive is, and wonder if this may be one reason for this absconding phenomenon. [caption id="attachment_293" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Adding some brood comb to a new hive sometimes helps prevent bees from absconding"]Adding some brood comb to a new hive sometimes helps prevent bees from absconding [/caption] I am told that if you add some brood to a new swarm or package bees you have a better chance of them staying in the hive you put them into, however this is not always the case, and your bees may still decide to abscond. This was the case with the mobile home bees, I removed them from the mobile home with brood, and managed to find the queen during the removal. I placed the queen into a queen clip and put her into the box with the bees and brood during the cut out. When I got the bees home, I then tied the brood into the frames of my top bar beehive and while I was doing this I kept the queen inside the clip and placed it onto the floor of the bee hive . When I finished I then released her into the bee hive, on the floor (Probably my big mistake) and then dumped the remaining bees into the top bar beehive and closed things up. In retrospect, I think perhaps I should have placed the queen bee onto one of the many frames of brood, but I thought that the brood pheromone would entice her onto the comb. I then left the bees alone for several days, During which time I went out on a swarm call to retrieve a basketball sized swarm out of a pine tree in somebody's front yard. The next day, both the swarm and this hive of bees left within minutes of each other in 2 huge clouds of bees! I have had swarms abscond before, but this is only the second time that a hive with brood have decided to abscond shortly after introduction into a hive. These two hives are top bar beehives that I built out of fresh lumber recently, and I wonder if perhaps the smell of green lumber may seem offensive or unattractive to some bees. I did not place lemongrass oil into these two hives right before introducing the bees like I usually do, and perhaps without that extra attractant, the new wood smell is just too overpowering. I only use untreated lumber when I build my beehives, so that I don't have to worry about introducing them to additional potentially harmful chemicals. I am told that swarms will abscond from a new beehive as much as 70% of the time and that bees from cutouts where the brood has been over smoked at nearly the same rate, however with healthy brood the rate of bees absconding drops to somewhere around 10-20%. I am seeing that second rate at about 30% or perhaps a little higher.

What are your thoughts on bees absconding from a new hive?

  1. Do you see the same rate of bees absconding from a new hive as I do?
  2. Do package bees abscond as often as swarms do?
  3. Does adding lemon grass oil seem to reduce the chances of a swarm or new hive absconding?
  4. Does anyone use Queen Excluders to lock a queen into a new beehive until she is actively laying brood in the new hive? If so how does that seem to help?

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