Two weeks ago I got a call to capture a swarm. It was an easey capture and I installed it in one of our topbars. After about a week they started eating from the feeder and now they are building good comb. We had attached a piece of comb that was sacrificed from cross comb in our langstroth to a bar. I don’t know if that helped. A week ago I got another call to remove three swarms from a yard. I believe there were only two swarms about 20 feet apart. One was an easy catch. The other (I curse myself for not taking pictures) was two small clumps of bees about four inches apart. They were in a bush growing through a cyclone fence. It was a hard catch and I just put both in the same box. I was able to get most of them. I sprayed them with sugar water first so there were only about 10 to 15% flying. I don’t know the odds that they are swarms from the same hive. My problem is I had only one empty topbar hive. So we set up a duplex hive with a swarm at each end separated by the dividers. We have a little time to figure out what to do. I’m thinking on merging them because the smaller one seems to only be about a pound or a little more. I know how to merge langstroth hives so there should be a way to merge topbars. I got a call yesterday to capture another swarm but I had to decline.
The tiny swarms you saw are likely cast (secondary) swarms from the same hive. One hive may swarm 2, 3, 4 or more times. Each swarm tends to get subsequently smaller, until they do need to be combined with other hives/swarms to be viable. I’d combine the little ones you caught straight away. To do so, I’d smoke both sides of the hive and then move the smaller bunch (bars and all) into the larger side.
Thanks Matt. I didn’t get back to the forum to read your advice. That would have worked. I suspected they were from the same hive. The good news is the bees fixed the problem themselves. Because they could squeeze by the block boards there was some interaction but there was no sign of conflict so we just fed and observed them. Yesterday my daughter called me and said the small swarm had moved to the other side. So she moved the comb and bars over.