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Trapping swarms is an age old method of increasing
your apiary with wild bees. It’s an excellent
method for acquiring good genetics of feral bees,
and for profiting from your neighbor’s healthy
bees. You're not actually trapping anything,
just enticing it to occupy the box you've
provided. Swarms come almost invariably from
healthy hives. Swarms should not be avoided,
nor swarmed queens be re-queened unless found objectively to be unacceptable. Despite
what you may have heard, swarms almost always come
from healthy hives of reproductive
capability. Swarms are a good thing.
They are the result of the hive’s reproductive
urge. It should never be stifled or
frustrated, though it can be profitable to
redirect the urge.
I’m told that the optimum size for a swarm trap is
about the volume of a single deep hive body.
If you make your swarm trap out of a deep hive
body, this is perfect, but a deep hive body can be
a cumbersome box to move and to place in a high
spot securely. A five frame nuc will do with
a good lure. In my area, I have caught a
reasonable number of swarms each year with five
frame nucs made of thin plywood or of typical ¾”
lumber construction. On occasion, you may encounter
a swarm too large for a five frame box. Feel
fortunate. But typically they will be a
couple of pounds, able to cover a few deep
frames. At the time of this writing, I have
not yet used medium boxes to catch swarms but as
soon as I have some experience, I will write about
it. A way to block off the entrance and
still maintain ventilation would be very
useful. A disc entrance is an excellent way
to achieve this. The whole purpose is to get
the bees home right?
It is also advisable to place the hive above head
height in a tree or somewhere else where it can be
mounted. I have screwed an 18” 1x2” to the
side of the hive and then screwed the top into the
tree so the hive hangs from the side of the
tree. I find this works quite well.
Swarm lures are
available from most beekeeping supply places and
consist of a little plastic vial of yellow fluid
that smells like Lemon Pledge. You could go
for a more home-brewed approach if you have access
to the following ingredients: lemongrass oil
(available online), queen juice (dead queens
soaked in alcohol), and Q-Tips. Dip one end
in the oil and the other end in the queens.
Place the Q-Tip in the hive box and set it in an
accessible place. If fortune should smile on you, the bees will
eventually decide to move into your box.
Another lure which can work alone or in concert with the lure above is
brood comb. Some beekeepers catch swarms in empty traps and then
cut out the hive and install it in standard equipment later. You
can do this if you like, but I prefer to skip that step by using frames
in my traps. A frame or more of brood comb will release its own
smells and pheromones and it has been found to increase the catch rate
Another thing that has been reported and that I can confirm is that if
you catch a swarm in one spot, chances are high that you will catch a
swarm in the same spot again, whether in the same year or in successive