If you recently set up a new hive and added bees, the last thing you want is for your bees to abscond. So how do you keep a swarm from absconding? Is there anything that makes it more or less likely, and are there steps that can be taken to prevent it from happening?
Why Do Bees Abscond?
The main reason bees abscond is that they do not like the home provided to them. There could be an odor that they find unpleasant, or it might be that they are being disturbed too often. In fact, there are lots of different reasons why bees might find a hive unsuitable.
Bees generally don’t like new hives and prefer to live in ones that have previously been occupied by other bees. As your experience in beekeeping grows, you will probably discover that bees are much more likely to abscond from a brand-new hive than one that has been used before.
Can You Prevent Bees from Absconding?
If you are new to beekeeping, the chances are you have purchased a brand-new hive. So is there anything you can do to stop bees from absconding? Fortunately for you, there are certain steps you can take to prevent them from leaving.
One thing that should have been done before you added bees to a new hive is to air out the beehive. New hives, whether made from wood or plastic, are going to have a certain smell. It is important to try to get rid of the smell as much as possible before introducing the bees.
It is best not to paint the inside of the hive, but if this is something that you have already done, you will again have needed to make sure that you aired the hive out completely.
Bees will only leave the hive if the queen leaves, so you can take steps to stop this from happening by adding a queen excluder to the entrance for a few days. This should be enough time to allow the queen to begin laying brood and for the bees to start building comb. Once this has happened, the queen will have a reason to stay. You will need to remember to remove the excluder after a few days because it will also prevent drones from leaving the hive.
Where the hive is placed is also something to consider. For example, ensure that the hive is not placed in direct sunlight. It is okay for the hive to have some morning sun, which is not too strong, but if the hive is getting direct sunshine at midday, for example, conditions inside could become unbearable.
Keep Hive Inspections to a Minimum
In the first few days, it is best to avoid inspecting the hive as too much disturbance could see your bees leaving. Most experienced beekeepers will wait at least a week before an inspection. This gives the bees enough time to get started on building comb and for the queen to start laying eggs.
Try to avoid placing the hive near to any areas where there are loud noises that might disturb it, such as close to the boundary with a busy road. Avoid running loud equipment near the hive, particularly during this first week, as this is when a hive is most likely to abscond.
Absconding occurs when an entire colony of bees leaves a hive because of unsuitable conditions. To prevent this from happening, make the hive as attractive as possible. If you can, use a hive that has already had bees living in it as they tend to prefer this to new hives. However, if you are just starting out and only have a brand-new hive, avoid painting it and make sure to air it out for a few days to get rid of any smells the bees might find unpleasant.
Ensuring the queen remains in the hive is essential and you can do this by using a queen excluder for a few days until comb has been built and eggs have been laid. This will ensure the bees have a reason to stay.