Catching A Swarm of Bees
Beekeepers Love Catching Swarms
Nothing is more exciting to a beekeeper than catching a swarm of bees. This is especially true if you are new to beekeeping.
However, even those of us with years of experience must admit that a large honey bee swarm gets our heart beating – just a little bit faster.
A mass of thousands of stinging insects in a tree. Sounds like fun right ?
If you are a beekeeper, the answer to that is YES. We have to catch a swarm of bees whenever the opportunity presents itself – don’t we? Yes, of course we do.
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After emerging from a hive, the swarm of honey bees will sit down in a nearby location. This is the beekeeper’s moment of opportunity to catch the bees easily. This can be an easy job if the swarm is on a low limb of a tree or in a bush. However, my bee swarms sometimes go way up in a tree. I can not always get them.
Timing Matters – Don’t Wait Too Long to Catch The Swarm
In a few hours, the swarm usually leaves to journey to their new home. The beekeeper knows time is of the essence and we must hurry. You would think I would be calm after all these years when catching a swarm of bees. I am not ! But how will we catch this bee swarm made up of thousands of individuals?
We have a couple of options & a secret. (You only have to catch 1 bee.)
The Easiest Ways of Catching A Swarm of Bees
1. Shake a swarm that is in transition from a tree or bush near the hive
2. Place Bait Hives near your bee yard & use a swarm lure inside
Shake It Out – Bee Swarms In Trees
The lucky beekeeper will have a swarm land at a low height – in a nearby tree or bush. My honey bee swarms tend to go to the top of a Sweet Gum tree- about 40 feet off the ground. But sometimes a swarm will be just 6 or 8 feet off the ground.
Low hanging swarms are the delight of any beekeeper. You can place an empty hive under the swarm. Give the limb a sharp shake and the bees will fall in or near the box. If the queen bee falls in the box, the other bees will join her. ( Yes, that is the 1 bee you need to catch.)
Catching A Bee Swarm-Protecting Your Harvest
Swarming is reproduction on a colony level and results in more colonies of honey bees. This is a natural occurrence for the bees. The honey bee colony wants to swarm and the beekeeper does not want this to happen. A beehive that swarms will produce much less honey.
Catching the swarm of honey bees is a way to save the harvest or reduce the loss. Perhaps the colony can be recombined in a larger hive or at least the new swarm add another hive to your apiary.
From a personal point of view, I know these new swarm colonies will most likely perish without the help of a beekeeper. Most feral “wild” colonies will succumb to mites, disease or starvation within 2 years. Swarm capture also prevents the beekeeper from having to buy honeybees to go in a new hive.
Face it, you will not catch every swarm. Try to be a good sport and wish them well as they fly away.
Bait Hives A Smart Way To Catch Bee Swarms
My Bait Hive Bee Tree
This is a simple tree that sits on the edge of my pasture. It is located over the hill (it’s all hills here folks) from my bee yard. But it is a nice walk out to check the box.
If you look closely, you will see a little wooden box located near the trunk of this tree. It is about 6 feet off the ground and supported by a wooden arm.
This is my swarm trap (also called a bait hive)! A swarm trap can be made of different materials but my favorite is an old beehive box.
Use A Swarm Lure to Aid in Catching A Swarm of Bees
When a honey bee colony is getting ready to “swarm”, they will send some bees out to look for a new home. These bee scouts are attracted to the smells associated with a regular bee colony.
Sometimes, I will include some Swarm Commander) Swarm Commander lure was used in the box that captured the swarm pictured below. If the majority of the scouts like my bait hive, the swarm might decide to move in! How cool is that!
So here I go – to check the swarm trap. Oh, I think I see Scout bees! Will the scouts pick this box or will they choose to move on? Only time will tell, catching a swarm of honey bees can be nerve wracking.
SUCCESS – I Caught A Swarm In My Bait Hive!
Guess what lovelies, that bait hive did catch a swarm! I did not see the swarm move in but I see a steady stream of foragers going in and out of the hive entrance. Now I need to complete the capture by moving them to a permanent beehive.
The box is gently lowered to the ground and the top removed. WOW! Look at that swarm of bees! Now I must get them out of the temporary bait hive and into the standard hive.
If I can get the queen in there the others will follow but how can you find the queen in this mess of bees? Often you can’t – you just shake them into the new box and hope!
I like to move the swarm into a permanent beehive during the afternoon. I leave the hive sitting beside the tree until after dark. Once it is dark (and all foragers inside), I transport the new swarm hive back to the apiary.
I place some obstructions in front of the hive entrance. This may be something as simple as some tree limbs with leaves. (Anything, a desperate beekeeper comes up with.)
My reasoning is that as the bees leave the hive the next morning, they will stop and investigate. Hopefully, this triggers some reorientation and helps them return to the proper location.
Catching A Bee Swarm – Sometimes Its A Surprise
Sometimes you will have new tenants ( a bee swarm) move into a bait hive unnoticed. It is important to move the bee swarm to a permanent location as soon as possible. They will build honeycomb very fast. Enjoy this video I made of one of my bait hives that was successful.
Why Beekeepers Want to Catch Bee Swarms.
Why do beekeepers like me spend time catching a swarm of honey bees ? If the honeybee swarm came from my bee yard, I will be preventing them from leaving and probably dying. If the swarm came from somewhere else. YOO HOO – free bees.
Catching a swarm of bees is hard work but it is a lot of fun also! –
Bee Swarm Accessories – Just in case!