This will describe, step by step, how to do it. I shall post illustrations on the BBKA facebook page as I don’t know how to put them here (although other people manage, so there must be a way!).
- Prepare equipment. The one in the pictures is a 4 frame nucleus in which I have drilled a couple of extra entrances (exits) in the far end; holes about the size of those in the top of Porter bee escapes. Gimp pins are inserted and bent so that Porter escapes can be placed over them without further banging. I have another nucleus on which I have put small box on the side with the same arrangement. Which one to use depends on the location and accessability of the entrance the bees are using.
- Place the nucleus against the wall, covering the entrance the bees are using. This is easier written than done! On two occasions scaffolding has been necessary, on another a platform was built on a beam over the entrance to an old barn. Last time, builders made a platform about head height. They’re all different. The current one looks as if it will be easy (it’s difficult to type with your fingers crossed!).
- Seal around the edges of the box to prevent the bees finding alternative entrances. On this occasion I’m using duct tape but sponge is sometimes handy or expanding foam. Leave the entrance holes open for the time being until the bees are used to using them. On this occasion I have put a Porter escape over the lower one so you can see how they fit.
- Next day, when the bees have got used to using that entrance, put the lid on the box until they have found and are using the entrance at the far end.
- Add the second Porter escape so bees that get out of the wall can’t get back in. Add frames with starter strips or a footprint of old comb for the bees to cluster on and start drawing and storing.
- No more food or drink will be going into the wall so the queen will soon stop laying; however, if it is an established colony rather than a recent swarm, it will take up to 24 days for all the brood to emerge. Sometimes the queen comes out earlier than that, sometimes not. To give the bees something to focus on and to produce homely brood nest pheromones to attract the queen out, you could try adding a frame of older brood from elsewhere. Repeat after a while if the queen hasn’t emerged.
- If, after about 3 weeks, the queen hasn’t come out and joined the family then assume she isn’t going to, so add a frame of young brood from which the bees can raise a new queen.
- Eventually you will have a viable colony in the nucleus. There may be stores still in the wall cavity so you could remove the Porter escapes and replace with queen excluder to enable the bees to recover their stores without the queen going back in. Then seal up the nucleus and move it more than two miles away, transferring it to a proper hive once they’ve got used to their new location.
- Bees always go where bees have been before! Tell the owner of the property to squirt expanding foam into the cavity the bees were occupying and seal the entrance or the exercise will have to be repeated in a year or two.