What Is Absconding in Beekeeping?

It is crucial for beekeepers to acknowledge that even though bees are incredibly resilient and adaptable, they are also sensitive and will leave when unhappy. Although foraging and swarming are natural behaviors that involve bees leaving the hive and are good signs for beekeepers, absconding is not standard or a good thing in beekeeping. In a sense, it is abandoning the existing hive without any intention of returning. Absconding is scary for beekeepers because they have failed the colony in some respect with what they were able to provide.

Contrary to foraging, which is when bees leave a hive to collect what they need, absconding is a scary experience for novice and seasoned beekeepers. Absconding in beekeeping means that every bee has left the hive without the typical preparations that come before swarming. Swarming is preceded by a new queen being born and tended to as workers stay behind until a new location is determined for the hive. Absconding is the entire colony leaving a hive with no intention of returning. No new queen. No worker bees staying back. Every bee leaves.

Absconding is rare, but if bees are not happy, they will leave to find a better life. Bees are out for themselves and will leave if they do not like the hive set up for them or feel unsafe. Beekeeping carries many responsibilities, and providing a comfortable environment for bees is one of them. The good news is that there are known reasons that bees abscond, so understanding what those are and how to avoid them may help beekeepers prevent this scary situation altogether.

New Colonies at Greatest Risk of Absconding

It makes sense that new colonies would be at the most significant risk of absconding because there are more unknowns in new colony establishment than established ones. Bees getting to know their new home may decide it is not good enough, and sadly, one of the reasons they reject a hive is that it is too new.

The Nose Knows

Wood, when new, has a strong smell, and bees are highly sensitive to scents. Bees' olfactory senses are incredibly sensitive, which allows them to sense water and food sources from great distances. Brand new hives may still wreak of plastic and paint smells that make bees unhappy in their new home. Oils can be applied to new hives to encourage bees to stay. Anything new should be left outdoors for a few days before being installed so it can naturally release unnatural smells.

Keep It Down Out There!

Another turn-off for bees to new colonies is the disturbance level, which has to do with busy beekeepers keeping their hands off for a few days once bees are in their new hive. Opening up hives too early may make bees feel threatened, and since they are new and don't have much invested yet, they will be more likely to leave. Beekeepers should use caution and keep noise levels to a minimum immediately following hive setup. In other words, don’t mow the lawn or whack the weeds within the first day or two of bees being in their new home. Allow bees to get comfortable, and one way to do this is to have some comb in a frame inside the hive. This step may encourage bees to stay, store, and lay eggs sooner. The smell of the comb encourages bees to stay as well since it is one of their favorite scents. Adding some sugar syrup also sends the message that food is plentiful, which is a strong encouragement for them to stay put.

Location, Location, Location

The location of a new hive can contribute to the likelihood of absconding. Bees are sensitive to temperature, so when and how much sun they get is something to consider when choosing a location for your new hive. In the summer months, if a hive gets too much direct sun in the afternoon, the hive may become too hot. Additionally, objects in front of the hive entrance can confuse bees in a new spot, so keep the flight path clear, including proximity to fencing and large trees that may be intentionally to provide shade. Elevating beehives to deter other animals from sniffing the hive entrance and keeping ants off the hives is always a good idea. Animals near the hive entrance make bees feel unsafe and may lead to them leaving the hive and not returning.

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Making Bees Happy Helps Avoid Absconding

Beekeepers must be sensitive to established hives because any drastic changes may disturb them, so finding a balance to make your new colony feel welcome without disrupting your existing hives is incredibly important. If you have questions about bees or beekeeping or have a bee concern, contact D-Tek for a prompt response to your request. D-Tek is led by an experienced beekeeper with highly skilled live and humane bee removal technicians who complete all their own repair work and guarantee it.

Contact D-Tek today, call 760-224-3040 OR 951-265-8292.