Early Spring Swarm Trap Check
As Spring arrives we will see an increase in honey bee swarming. Do you want to catch bees this year? If so, you want to get busy setting up a swarm trap and making sure it is ready to catch bees.
Didn’t know you could catch wild bees? Yes you can and it’s a hoot. Most beekeepers use a special box called a bait hive or swarm trap. Because, who doesn’t love free bees, right ?
Most beekeepers try their hand with a swarm trap at some time in their beekeeping experience. Maybe they will catch a swarm that issues from one of their own hives.
This prevents the bees from getting away, if they catch a wild swarm that is even better !
For some new beekeepers, catching bees in a swarm trap might be the only way they can get started in beekeeping. Buying honey bee colonies and equipment can get rather expensive.
This is especially true because no one can guarantee beekeeping success. The bees may die or even leave. So, any chance to obtain free bees – sets our beekeeper “toes a tingling.”
Setting up a swarm trap or bait hive is a good project for early Spring. A good swarm of bees caught early in the year, may build to be a strong colony before Winter arrives.
My Favorite Swarm Trap Set Up
One of my important early spring activities is checking my swarm traps. I have several bee swarm boxes set up around the area. But one of these is my very favorite.
This one placed about 50 yards north of my bee yard. I chose this location for setting up a swarm trap because it is easy to access. I have lots of hills here.
This bait trap is an easy walk to from the bee yard. The goats usually go along to inspect so its a nice stroll. I continue to keep the trap in place here for another good reason.
I have caught a swarm in this trap every summer. -except one. I don’t see any reason to mess with success so I will continue to have a swarm box here.
Catching My Own Swarms
Sometimes it is a swarm that has left my own hives. I still count this as a win-win situation. If one of my honey production colonies does swarm, I would much rather catch those bees than lose them to the woods.
But, even if they escape – that’s still good right? I am helping the bee repopulate? Well maybe so, but maybe not. Most lines of honey bees can not survive more than a year or two without mite treatments. 🙁
Sometimes – its a swarm from another apiary or a wild colony that enters my swarm trap – that’s free bees folks!
Have More Than 1 Swarm Trap Ready
Old hive bodies (deeps) often make the best bait hives or swarm traps. I nail on a bottom, drill a hole in the side and use a remove-able top.
Don’t have any extra beekeeping equipment? Commercial swarm traps are available for purchase for those beekeepers wanting to put out a bait hive.
They are not inexpensive but if you catch one swarm, you will have recouped your investment.
Check out another one of my posts for more info on learning how to catch your own honey bee swarm.
Setting Up My Favorite Swarm Trap
My swarm trap is made of an old weathered deep hive box with a screwed on top and bottom. The aged wood looks grey and “bark-like”.
It blends in with the colors of the tree. When the tree has leaves, you might not notice the box unless I told you it was there.
A frame of old drawn comb is placed inside the box. It is okay to use the oldest, darkest brood comb that I have. In fact, older honeycomb is a good choice. The smell of the comb will attract scout bees.
And, the old comb will not represent a real loss to me if destroyed. Inside the dark space of the swarm trap, wax moths may destroy my old comb by season’s end. Again, no real loss to me because it is old comb anyway.Blythewood Bee Company Swarm Commander Swarm Lure Vials 5 Vials
If you do not have any old honeycomb to attract a bee swarm, don’t panic. You can use a commercial swarm lure.
I have used several types of bee swarm lures but this one is my favorite. Simply place one of the vials inside the swarm trap. It will slowly release bee attracting odors over the next several months.
Spring Check Up for a Swarm Box
After the cold, windy winter – my box usually needs a bit of housekeeping. Often the box will shift and need some attention.
When setting up my swarm trap, I also try to secure it well. But, hey sometimes things happen. If you hope to catch a swarm of honey bees, trap maintenance is important.
In the past, I filled the box with 10 frames but I have switched to using only 1 or 2 frames. Seriously, I have had better success when placing only a frame or two in the swarm trap instead of 10.
I think maybe swarms like the more open design of the box without frames. But bees constantly do things that we don’t understand.
This does mean that you need to check your swarm traps more often during the swarming season. Once scout bees discover the new home, they will inspect it and if pleased they will dance to tell other bees where the new hive is located.
Swarm Traps Get Heavy
It is rare to get out to this box without being accompanied by the goats. Who would have guessed that they knew so much about setting up a swarm trap ?! They certainly do not like the boxes that are full of bees!
The swarm trap is empty now so it is ok for the goats to participate. A swarm trap (or bait hive) can get very heavy in a hurry.
When you are choosing a place for your swarm trap, think about how you are going to get it down with bees and some honey inside.
I have this box connected to a rope that allows me to raise and lower it with ease. The use of a pulley system is a great idea. Don’t under-estimate how quickly a trap can become too heavy to lift .
Checking Inside To Make Sure Frames Are In Place
Sadie is especially concerned that some of the frames may have too much propolis or (bee glue) on the ends to fit properly in the box. As for me, I feel that old frames are especially attractive to scout bees and they love the smell of propolis.
Scout bees leave the mother colony in advance of a swarm and select possible new home sites. Most swarms have a new location in mind when they first leave the hive. I want them to select mine.
Sadie and I finish putting the box back up in the tree. It is only about 6 ft off the ground but I have to place it low enough that I can get it down later when bees/honey are inside.
Most resources advise setting up a swarm trap higher off the ground. However, that is too high for me to get down by myself! Do what works for you!
A couple of hive traps placed around your area will increase your opportunity to catch a swarm of honey bees. I like to put them in different directions from my hives.
We have just finished and a scout bee is already checking it out ! She must be attracted by the scent – perhaps a bee swarm will move in soon!