Swarm in a Cable Box

August 20, 2020
P. Michael Henderson

I received a call about a swarm that had moved into a cable box in someone's front yard, close to their mailbox, and they wanted the bees removed.  I called Elizabeth and together we picked the bees up in the evening about 7pm so that the foragers would have returned to the hive.  We used the bee vacuum to get the bees out of the cable box.  It was a good-sized group of bees.  We didn't take any pictures of our extraction but here's a couple of pictures of the location I took a few days later.

The bees had moved into the cable box indicated by the yellow arrow.  It was near the mail box and the owners of the house were afraid they'd get stung.

Here's a close-up of the cable TV box.  When we picked the bees up, the top was the opposite way with the hole at the other end.  Looks like they reversed it after we left.  The bees were using that hole as the hive entrance.  There was a small amount of drawn comb in the box, but not enough to use for the hive I put them into.  Finding bees in a cable TV box is pretty common here.  I've extracted a number of hives from boxes like this.  The bee vacuum really works well to collect the bees but can also pick up dirt and small stones.

I notice that the homeowners have not blocked up that hole.  I warmed them that once you have bees in one of these boxes it's very common to have another swarm move in.  I think it's the smell of comb that draws the next swarm.  I suggested they use duct tape or steel wool to block up that hole.  I may get a call from them next year.

We took the bees to my place and put them in a hive of one brood box.  I put in two frames of drawn comb and put a queen excluder between the brood box and the bottom board.

I also made sure there was oil in the stand to keep out the ants, and I fed them some sugar water.  To help avoid robbing, I narrowed the entrance with a piece of wood.

I peeked into the box a few days later and thought I saw some eggs but wasn't sure. 


9/8/2020 - It's now been 19 days since we hived the bees so I decided to take a look.  Worker bees normally take 21 days from egg laid to emergence so there should be lots of capped brood if we have a queen.  The queen wouldn't have started laying immediately but we may see some 16 day old brood.  Judy came with me to take pictures.

Here I am opening the hive - just to show you what I put the bees into.

I had put the two frames with the drawn comb in the center and you can see that the bees are clustered around those frames.

A closer view of the bees and those two frames.

I removed the leftmost of those two frames and it was covered with brood on both sides.  The queen has really gone to town.  Note that the brood has very few empty cells in the middle of the brood field.  This is a good sign, of healthy brood.  I didn't try to find the queen - seeing all that brood is clear evidence that she's there and doing well.

A close-up view of some of the comb showing some larvae.

This is the other frame of drawn comb.  It was covered with brood on both sides.  I expect the bees to make more comb and fill the frame with comb.

I removed one of the frames next to the drawn comb, which has plastic foundation, and the bees are beginning to draw out some comb on it.  A good sign.

Since they have so much brood, I removed the excluder.  Bees will almost never abandon brood so I don't have to block the queen from leaving.

All-in-all the bees look like they're doing very well.  They have a lot of growing to do before I'll need to put any more boxes on the hive but by next year I may be able to harvest some honey from them.