As a company that provides one the best apiary management apps on the market today, we also strive to educate beekeepers about honeybees. Although it might seem daunting having to catch a swarm of bees, rest assured, we’ve created this complete guide to help you get through it safely and successfully.
Catching a swarm of bees is a great way of getting free bees! So, whether you’re just starting off as a beekeeper or you’re simply on a tight budget, capturing a bee swarm might be the best and cheapest solution for you.
Before going into details, we ought to caution you: it’s absolutely necessary to prepare beforehand! You see, catching a swarm is in no way a spur-of-the-moment type of activity. Instead, make sure you at least have the following toolkit ready: protective gear, nuc box, a spray bottle with sugar water (1:1 ratio), a bucket with telescopic handle, bee brush, lemongrass oil as a swarm attractor, pruning shears. To make the nuc box homey for the swarm, we recommend that you add a few frames inside, one with some honey and one with newly hatched brood, if possible.
When can you expect to find a bee swarm?
Swarm season generally occurs between spring, sometimes as soon as February in warm climates, and early summer. Most swarms settle temporarily on the branch of a tree, in a hedge, or on a fence and stay there for a few days until the scout bees can find a new home. It’s in this stage that swarms can be captured and used to populate an empty hive. If you are not quick enough and they find a permanent home though, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to remove them. Time is of the essence!
You should also know that honeybees are at their most docile when swarming. They do not have a hive with honey and brood to protect, and their honey-guts are full of honey stores from the original hive, which makes it difficult for them to sting you. Still, not all swarms behave similarly, so please take safety precautions and proceed with care.
I identified a swarm, what do I do now?
Once you’ve arrived at the swarm spot, the first thing you need to do is determine if the swarm can be collected safely with your current toolkit. If the cluster is up on tree branch, out of your reach, you might need to bring a ladder and ask someone to hold it in place for you.
The next step is for you to put on the protective gear – make sure to wear at least gloves and a hat veil. Depending on where the swarm is located, we’ve identified 4 possible scenarios and ways to deal with each:
- If your swarm is close to the ground, like on a fence, a wall or similar structure, you need to spray the bees with some sugar water and then use the bee brush to gently brush them down into the nuc box.
- To catch a swarm of bees that is hanging from small branches or vegetation, consider using the pruning shears to cut the branch or vegetation and move the swarm directly into the box.
- If, however, your bee cluster is on a high branch, then you should use your bucket with telescopic handle or climb a ladder to get as close as possible. Then with one quick movement, shake the swarm into the bucket, bring it down and move it gently into the box.
- When the swarm is on the ground, you will use lemongrass essential oil to lure the bees into the box. Place only a few drops inside and tilt the box sideways to encourage the bees. This oil works so well because it mimics the pheromone that bee scouts use to direct the bees into a new hive.
If you see the bees flying back to their original spot and the swarm is becoming larger after 15 minutes, the queen is not in the box. Which means you could try again, this time making sure you also get the queen inside it.
Once you’ve captured the bees and their queen, you can close the box and leave a small gap for all the other bees that didn’t fall inside and the returning scout bees to get through. You should leave the box in this position until sundown and close it up entirely after nightfall.
When you have your new hive ready, remember to also create a new hive in your Apiary Book account so that keeping track of it is easier and faster!
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