In today’s post, I want to reveal how I turned pallets into the swarm traps you see to the left. First, I want to fill you in on why I am doing this.
About a year ago, I wanted to know if anyone was building swarm traps, or other beekeeping equipment, using pallets. I decided to take my curiosity to the beekeeping forums. On one of the forums, I found a thread where someone asked the question “Is anyone building swarm traps using pallets?”
As I read the multitude of responses from forum members, one of the replies stood out among the rest. The forum member wrote, “start with junk end with junk” and “I wouldn’t bother.” At that moment, I was determined to prove them wrong.
Armed with annoyance and frustration, and the desire to prove a point, I made swarm traps out of pallets. As you can see from the post picture, they are not the prettiest swarm traps in the world. They are also not the “junk” the forum member said they would be. I expect to get good use out of these swarm traps. If you are interested to see how I constructed them…
Building swarm boxes this way is not easy. Because every pallet is different, there is no quick way to make them. As long as you have a circular saw or table saw, a basic understanding of bee-space along, and some hive dimensions, things should go smoothly. Here is how I made these swarm traps.
In order to start this project you need to get your hands on some pallets. Ask local businesses in your area if they will give them away. Some businesses will say no, but there is a good chance you will find one happy to get rid of them.
The pallets in the picture are the ones I used in this project. I got these pallets free from a local business. The only components not made from pallets are the top and bottom boards. I used scavenged ¾” plywood recovered from a burn pile.
I screws I had lying around and Tightbond II glue to complete the project. Nails would be cheaper, but screws make the joints tighter.
In order to encourage more beekeepers to build their own equipment, I want to show that minimal tools are required to make these swarm traps. The only tools I will be using are a Black & Decker Corded Drill and a Skil-Circular Saw. I would normally use a table saw on a project like this, but a $50 dollar circular saw is more than capable of making the necessary cuts.
Dismantling The Pallets
There are a couple ways to dismantle a pallet. You can cut the slats with a circular saw or you can use the caveman method.
Using the circular saw is the easiest way. The downside to using the saw is it creates a lot of waste. I could not use the saw on these pallets because the boards would be too short. I had to use the caveman method.
The caveman method is very tedious, but it makes better use of the pallet. To dismantle the pallet using this method, place a support board under a slat, and hit the runner board to loosen the nails.
The slat will split if not supported. For best results, place the support board as close to the rail as possible. Hit the rail with a hammer and the slat will pop up, usually with no damage to the board.
Cutting The Pieces
The internal dimensions of this hive will be 18 3/8″ x 7 1/2″ x 10.” The height of these boxes is larger than a normal deep hive. The reason for this is I am using a flat piece of plywood as the bottom. There will be a hole cut in the front of the box as an entrance.
1. Sides: 20-1/8″
2. Ends: 7-1/2″
3. Supports for the ends: 10″
One thing to keep in mind when building swarm traps from pallets, is the boards are all different thicknesses. The boards I was using were all 1″. If you are using butt joints, you need to accommodate and make sure your internal dimensions are accurate.
I do not worry about the width of the each part. The hive will have a slight overhang at the bottom. After assembly, I cut the box to the correct height using the circular saw.
Assembling The Hive
*** TIP: If you use screws, drill a pilot hole. Pallet wood splits easily. ***
The ends, or the frame rest sides of the hive, need to be put together first. This is done by attaching each of the slats to the supports. Make sure to get things as square as possible. Then fasten each slat to the support with glue and screws.
Once the end boards are assembled it is time to cut the rabbet for the frame rest. This is done with the a circular saw.
To do this, the circular saw will need to be set to cut at a depth of 3/8″. The first cut will need to start 3/4″ from the top of the board. To finish the rabbet, multiple cuts need to be made. Once the bulk of the wood is removed, the saw can be moved side to side to remove the burs, and smooth the cut.
The next step is to attach the sides to the frame rest/ends. Attach the first board on both sides with one screw, this allows for two things. First, we can check the box to see if the frames fit. Second, it allows the box to move so that it can be squared. Once the box is square you can start adding the rest of the boards.
The final step is to cut the sides of the swarm trap to the correct depth. Remember, each slat was not cut to the correct width and there is an overhang at the bottom of the box. Measure 10 inches from the top of the box, and cut off the over hang.
Building swarm traps from pallets is a great way to get a few extra hives at a reduced cost. Pallet wood is a good option for nucs as well. Swarm trapping is a numbers game. The more swarm traps you have, the greater the odds of catching a swarm.