What to Do if you Find a Swarm
What's on this page?
do I do with a swarm?
What to do with a swarm if you know nothing about
Hopefully, youíre reading this page for one of two
Firstly, you are some random citizen who has a
swarm landed in the tree in the back yard and
decided to look on the internet to see what to
do. For you, I have an answer. You can
do one of two things with a clean
You can call someone you know or whose number
you can find quickly to remove the swarm and
place it in a hive in a humane manner...
...or you can set up a lawn chair and watch the
swarm until it leaves. Thatís all you have
If this hive is in a wall or hole somewhere and
has comb and lives there, it is not a swarm and
this is not the page for you. You can leave
it where it is if it's not bothering you or you
can have it removed humanely by a beekeeper who
does cutouts. DO NOT destroy the hive
with hornet spray and plug the hole. All
you will get is a rotten mess and you will be
paying to replace a section of your wall in a
Thereís nothing to be afraid of, even if you are
allergic to bee stings. Swarming bees have
no desire to sting, and since they are loaded up
with honey, oftentimes they donít really have the
ability. Most likely what will happen is
that the bees will take a few hours to find a new
home and then move on.
Please donít attempt to coerce money from
beekeepers for the privilege of collecting the
swarm in your yard. None who is worth his
salt will do it. Youíll only make them angry
and frustrated with people who know nothing about
beekeeping. A better idea would be to insist
that you be able to watch and learn and ask
questions. You might even want to become a
beekeeper yourself one day and bees are one of the
most interesting creatures on the planet.
What to do with a swarm if you are or want to
be a beekeeper.
Firstly, you want to be prepared.
The first thing to have is a box with which to
catch the swarm. The best kind would
probably be a five or ten frame nuc (nucleus
hive). It would be a good idea to have at
least a single frame of drawn brood comb and the
rest could be foundation. However, drawn
comb is not necessary, and truthfully, frames
arenít necessary either. But, if you catch a
swarm in something other than a beehive, youíll be
looking at a mess when it comes time to transfer
them to a bee hive as they will build comb in any
direction they want. You want this nuc to
have its bottom attached and for its top to be
attachable. This may be accomplished with
wood screws or cargo straps or nails or however
you want to do it.
Youíll also want to be prepared with your
protective beekeeping equipment though this is
also optional. Iíve only been stung once
recovering swarms. Swarms are usually quite
docile. Smoke should not be necessary unless
the bees have been disturbed. Inquire about
the conditions of the swarm from the person who
called you. Sometimes people will douse them
with water or do other naughty things to try to
get rid of them. Be aware.
If the hive is up in a tree, you will want a
ladder, or if you donít feel like falling out of a
tree that day, you could attempt to entice them
down with a pheromone lure. These 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 with the following
ingredients: Lemongrass oil, paper towel, sanwich
bag. Put about ten drops of lemongrass oil
on the paper towel after you've folded it and
placed it in the bag. Then you can seal the
bag. The oil will permeate the plastic and
lure the bees. If you're making this up on
the fly and don't have time for the oil to soak
through, leave the bag open a little.
Another option for catching a swarm in a tree is
to attach a bucket to a pole. Then you can
stick the bucket up under the cluster and
hopefully jar the branch a little, causing the
bees to fall into the bucket. Then you can
gently dump them into your swarm box.
There are other more complex methods such as
vacuums and whatnot, but Iím here to keep it
simple. At some point in the future, I plan
to build a bee-vac, but not yet. Also, I
have no experience with other methods, so I cannot
attest to their veracity. The above are well
known and proven techniques which should yield
success most of the time. Remember, you
canít count on a swarm to do anything. They
are wild animals. Feel privileged if you
catch swarms. Learn from your mistakes if it
doesnít work out.
See the Swarm
The first advice I'd give about actively
preventing swarms is to not.
I know, that sounds so counter intuitive, so
wrong, especially if you've read a lot of
beekeeping books, especially beginner's beekeeping
books. But much can be done that can be
harmful and counter productive in prevention of
swarming that is not necessary. Like I said
above, swarming is natural, normal, and a sign of
a healthy hive.
I'm putting that in there as important because you
need to realized that without the proper mentality
toward swarming management, you're just going to
cause yourself problems. You never really
know if the swarm cell is actually a swarm cell or
a supersedure cell, though you can sort of tell,
mostly. Swarm cells are often at the bottom
edges of the comb, supersedure cells are usually
in the middle of the brood. The original queen may
have already left and now you squished the only
opportunity for a new queen. If you find a
queen cell, you should approach carefully and
either use it for a nuc or leave it alone.
For more information, check out my Queens page.
- Squish swarm cells (they could be
- Squish swarm cells (get this, it's
- Squish...you get it.
I use two methods in concert to prevent swarming,
though the prevention of swarming is more or less
a side issue rather than the main focus of the
action. The first thing I do is keep quite
large hives. My typical hive size is 4-5
deeps which in truth is probably more space than
all but the most extraordinary hive needs in this
area. But it seems to work well and I see
few downsides. Secondly, I often place new
frames of foundation or foundationless frames in
my hives in the center of the brood nest in the
spring. I have done this for a long time to
build up the amount of comb that I have and to get
the most of my small cell foundation as bees tend
to build good worker brood cells early in the
spring. But I can't help but tie my success
in lack of swarming to this practice. It
gives the bees something to do and they seem to be
less likely to cause the broodnest to become honey
bound early on in the season.
As a secondary argument, I have split hives in the
past in a way that still allows honey production
and prevents swarming. Just about any
splitting method will prevent swarming, but you
may have more hives in the end than you
want. The other downside is that you may be
preventing swarming by making the hive less
productive, which is not a goal of
beekeeping. My method is to take the queen
and the five frames of brood, mostly capped and
start a new hive. It also helps to shake
several frames of nurse bees in as well.
Then allow the old hive to make a new queen.
If your original queen is worth her salt, she and
the rest of the bees will build up quite rapidly
even to produce some honey. The old hive
without the burden of raising new brood for about
a month will devote more energy to honey
production and produce a crop as well.
There are also methods such as checkerboarding,
and I have tried them somewhat. You are free
to go look them up if you are interested.
This is just about what I know works for me.
Do not checkerboard the broodnest, that's not how
the method works.