I’m using the Swarm Harvester on an out building, and I want to get the queen out--how long will the brood last without bees attending to them?

Q: I’m using the Swarm Harvester on an out building, and I want to get the queen out. Last year at the Field Day, Cleo had said to use uncapped brood to draw the queen out. My question is how long will the brood last without bees attending to them? The building is 45 minutes away; will they make the trip?
Thank you for your time, D. Neubert

A: Cleo Hogan, inventor of the Swarm Harvestor, shared, “If the temperature is 80 degrees F or above, brood on a comb will last for several hours without bees. If it is below 80 degrees F, hang the frame in a nuc or 10-framer, put it in the floorboard of your vehicle and run the heater.

Kelley’s CEO Jane Burgess and Cleo then provided more comprehensive information on this situation.

Jane says: If the Harvester has bees coming and going and it is in close enough proximity to their opening to the hive they should start treating it as an extension of their hive. You may be able to pull a few swarms out before actually going after the queen.

When the hive seems to have less bees coming and going then is the time to add some brood in hopes of drawing the queen out. If you put brood in now and they are using the Harvester as the entrance the bees will care for them. However it is probably too soon to draw out the queen.

Cleo adds: Buildings are the hardest to get the queen (trees are easiest), because, typically, the brood nest is not where the bees enter the building. Queens will not travel long distances, but, if the unsealed brood is close to the brood nest, the queen will come out to investigate. Specifically, she will be looking for the queen that laid those eggs you put in the trap.

Once she comes out, and does not find another queen, she will typically lay a few eggs in any open cells, then return to the primary brood nest. After that, she will move back and forth between the two brood nests, like moving from one deep super to another. If the queen does not come out to investigate, nurse bees will tend the brood until it emerges, then the bees will likely use the trap for honey stores.

Actually you are likely to entice the queen to come out any time you add unsealed brood. I always check within 24 hours of introducing the unsealed brood the first time, and I have found that that is the best chance at getting her. Of course as you diminish the bees in the feral colony she has to make a choice: the trap or the house. More than likely she will choose the trap since it is closer to the outside, and in a house there is typically so much space there may not be enough bees left to tend the comb and it becomes susceptible to small hive beetle and wax worm attack.

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