5 Tips To Capture a Swarm

It’s spring! It’s raining! It’s SWARM SEASON!

If you don’t want to be a beekeeper – call a professional immediately  or these bees may find a permanent home in a very inconvenient place. (If you’d like, you can Contact Us) Bees love home siding, soffits, small cavities in brick walls, trees, sheds, or pretty much anywhere you can fit 40,000 or more bees and some honey! If you would like to be a beekeeper – keep reading for some tips on capturing swarms.

Capturing a swarm can be a great way to start off your apiary if you’re interested in starting off in the beekeeping hobby. I would suggest watching some swarm removal videos to get an idea of techniques that may work for your situation. You may also consider bringing an experienced beekeeper, bee removal professional, or mentor with you to help!

There are a few things you may want to keep in mind before you seek out these “free-bees”. Check out these tips and best of luck!

  1. Go quickly! True swarms are very temporary. A swarm is the reproduction of a bee colony, meaning the bees were doing well and wanted to keep their blood line going by leaving behind some bees and a new queen in their old home. They are looking for a new and permanent home and will be sending out “scout bees” to look for suitable locations. Once they find one, they’ll let the rest of the colony know and they’ll head to their new home. (Google “waggle dance” – it’s pretty awesome and represents how bees “vote for their new home” as well as communicate good food sources)
  2.  Bee prepared. Yes, I used the word “bee” incorrectly, but we’re beekeepers – we’re allowed to do that. What you’ll need:
    1. Have a box ready – you can use just about anything that seals up and is breathable. This includes cardboard boxes, buckets, plastic bags (for very quick transport purposes only), nuc boxes, hive boxes. What you use may depend on the size and location of the bees. Use something lighter if you have to truck it up a ladder.
    2. A Queen Clip is always a good thing to have with you – if you happen to see the queen you’re going through it’s nice to be prepared.
    3. Although you may not need a smoker at all, having one handy to gently herd straggler bees into the hive is a helpful way to speed up the process.
    4. A bee brush, spatula, or even just gloved hands can be a good way to transport bees from their cluster and into the box.
    5. Lures and deterrents. Swarm commander and Bee Be Gone are two products that we’ve used regularly. The main ingredients of Swarm Commander mimic the queen’s pheromones and attract the bees into your box. The Bee Be Gone can be used to keep the bees from returning to their original cluster.
    6. Take a ladder if needed.
    7. Have a permanent home ready for your bees.
  3. Getting the bees into the box. 
    1. Shake – this requires a very quick action and requires some planning. You want to make sure you get the bulk of the bees into the container in your first motion. Shaking the bees loose and into their new box will result in bees falling into the box and some flying away. You’ll want to give the stragglers time to find their way in. A queen excluder can be used while you wait for the bees to find their new home.
    2. Scoop – This can be done gently with a queen clip, bee brush or spatula. This should be done slowly so that the bees will stay clumped rather than taking to the air.
    3. Clip them off their roost and set them into the hive box. This works well for swarms balled on a small tree limb or even wire fencing (with permission of course).
    4. Lure them in with the queen. This takes longer but is effective once you’ve got the queen into the box. 
  4. Be Patient. The bees appreciate a calm and slow approach to capturing a swarm. There are certain parts of this process that go very quickly, but overall – be patient and gentle with the bees.
  5. Keeping the Swarm – bees in swarm state are pretty testy so you want to leave them alone for 7-10 days before you disturb them again. I highly recommend putting a queen excluder on the bottom of your hive box or positioned on the entrance of your new hive – this will keep the queen in the box and prevent them from absconding to find a new, new home.

Happy beekeeping!

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