New colony in the Thermosolar Hive

I was called out to a swarm (thanks Georgia!) at Arlington Reservoir yesterday evening: handy as I needed a swarm for the vacant Thermosolar hive about 500 yards away as the bee flies – in fact I did think there was a possibility that they could be a swarm from the occupied Thermosolar. The other possibility was that they were from a colony living in the roof of the house owned by Cuckmere Community Solar’s chair which would be quite serendipitous.

The swarm had been there since that morning and seemed to be pretty settled. It was starting to cool down and the cluster was calm and quiet so I was hopeful that we’d be able to take them straightaway. Normally with a swarm you have to wait for all the foragers to return and collect them in the evening, but I was confident that in any case these bees were local so any stragglers would simply return to their parent colony, and it was sufficiently far from the footpath and late in the day to not matter if there were a few rather puzzled bees.

There were about 10 bees left on the twigs, so we took the bees over to the solar farm and popped them in the hive.

The hive has frames with some combs already made by the bees that were in there briefly in 2019. This swarm is a prime swarm, so the first exodus of bees from an established colony. They have their original queen (so, mum basically…) with them and they tend to be larger and more settled as the pheromone is strong and the queen is less flighty than an unmated queen; casts are secondary swarms and they have a virgin queen with them. These unmated queens are more able to fly, and the pheromone is less pronounced (egg-laying and producing a strong, regulating pheromone to enable the colony to function effectively as a unit are the two main roles of the queen bee) so the swarms tend to be less settled. Here you can see the bees gathering at the entrance:

Having hived these bees, we then spotted a small swarm on the fence behind the hives. Ah. I collected it in the now empty skep and bundled them up in a sheet to take back to my apiary! See my Patreon for that little jaunt.

The weather is cool and rainy today which is perfect post-swarm conditions as it allows the bees to tuckle up and settle in to their new home. They will have gorged themselves on honey before leaving and as soon as the rain stops (later this morning) they will be able to go and find forage, which as they are so local will be easy for them to do as they know the area.

I will pop down over the weekend and see how they are getting on. I am hoping they won’t be quite so mean as their neighbours!

3 thoughts on “New colony in the Thermosolar Hive

  1. Nice! There’s a great little channel called Swarmstead and he’s the best at spotting queens in swarms I’ve ever seen—he’ll spot 4 or 5 in a swarm instantly sometimes, all on film—he’s like the ‘Pinball Wizard’ hehe! I’ve ‘rescued’ a huge feral colony before that had 5+ queens in it, yet I always read there’s only 1 queen per colony. If I hadn’t seen it now multiple times with my own eyes I’d still believe that, I suppose.
    Is it only by the size and temperament that you can tell a prime swarm from a cast?

    1. It’s a combination of factors really and you kind of get a bit of a ‘feel’ but it’s mainly the settled aspect combined with the size and time of year. And you’re right, I’ve had 3 queens in a swarm before but that tends to be in casts 🙂

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