A Natural Colony Transfer is the process through which honey bees are transferred from their hive to a bee box. It is important to carry out this process early in the morning when there is not much sunlight and the climate is cooler.
We were informed of an Apis Cerana Indica colony that was hidden under a bush. After digging through the mud we found a small colony with 3 hives! Apis Cerana Indica usually makes multiple hives in dark and hidden places. They do not like light or a lot of noise.
Our Master Trainer, Daulat Singh, removed the hives to be attached to the frames of a bee box.
The bee hives were then attached to a wooden frame that goes into a bee box. It is important to perform this process with clean hands. The hive should also be tied tightly to avoid it from moving when the bees start to work on them. If proper care is not taken, the bees won’t work on that hive.
While the frames were being readied, the bees were transferred to a swarm bag. It is important to hold them gently. If in the process the queen bee’s abdomen is pressed, her ability to lay eggs is lost. If this happens, the colony will slowly start to reduce in number as the worker bees keep dying. (The life cycle of a worker bee is only 45 days because she works 24 hours a day 7 days a week!)
Sanju Yaduvanshi, another Master Trainer, then looked into the swarm bag to make sure the queen bee was present. He spotted it within seconds! Sanju is an expert at spotting the queen bee. In case the queen bee was not to be found in the swarm bag, we would have searched for it in the hole where the hive was present. The queen bee is bigger in size than all the other bees. All the other bees usually form a swarm around the queen bee.
The swarm bag was then carefully attached on to the bee box that had frames with their hives. With a slight twitch on the swarm bag, the bees, along with their queen, moved inside the box.
The box was then closed. Cracks in the box were reinforced with mud to protect them from ants! It is important to leave the box at the place of the Natural Colony Transfer till evening. This is done so that all the worker bees that are away from the hive for collecting pollen and nectar can come back to find their colony’s new home! Any bees that are not transferred to the swarm bag start searching for their queen bee through her smell.