Swarm Trapping requires time and patience, but the nice thing is, swarm traps work around the clock. All the beekeeper needs to do is bait the trap, hang it up, and check it.
Swarm trapping is a great way to get free bees. Not only are swarms free, but they are also a source for good genetic stock. Any beekeeper who wishes to increase their hives should try swarm trapping.
Types of Swarm Traps
There are a lot of things you can use to catch a swarm. Some people use peat pots, some use nuc boxes, and some use standard 10 frame Langstroth boxes for swarm traps. You can literally use anything that you want for a bee trap. I would stay away from anything plastic. I have not had much luck with 5 gallon buckets. Below is a list of things I have used as swarm traps that actually work.
1. Regular 10 Frame Hives:
I have had the best luck using old 10 frame hives. The bees love them, especially if they have had bees in them before. The reason is, the box already smells like a beehive and they are the perfect size.
According to a Cornell university publication, European honey bees prefer to build their hives in a cavity that is 40 liters in volume. A ten frame hive is 42.75 liters. As far as the bees are concerned, this is perfect.
Another advantage of using regular equipment is, once the bees are in the hive, all you need to do is take them down and place them on a hive stand. Using regular equipment allows you to use removable frames which is important. You don’t want to have to cut the combs out.
2. Flower Pot Swarm Traps
The bottom line is, flower pot swarm traps work and they are cheap. There are many individuals who use them and swear by them. Below is a video showing how effective flower pot swarm traps can be. I have also provided a link to Amazon where I buy my flower pots to make swarm traps.
Flower pot swarm traps are ideal if you don’t have extra equipment laying around. This means they are perfect for new beekeepers. It is cheap to set out a lot of them. Best of all, you won’t need to hoist your best hive boxes into a tree, where they can get damaged or stolen.
The only downside to flower pot swarm traps is that, if you neglect them, you may have to cut the combs out of them. This is only a problem if you don’t check your traps often enough. To avoid doing a cut out, make sure you check your swarm traps often, and you won’t have an issue.
If you set out enough flower pot traps, it won’t take long before you have more hives than you know what to do with. Check out the video below to see how effective these pots can be.
3. Cardboard Box
In my early days of swarm trapping I would use cardboard boxes. I would use any box I could get my hands on. My favorite were old apple boxes and Bankers Boxes.
The only problem with using boxes is that water damages them easily. This means you need to prepare them properly. It is best to use boxes during prime swarming season.
Catchings swarms is a numbers game. The more hives you set out, the greater the chance you’ll get a swarm. Boxes are a very inexpensive way to increase your numbers.
Here is a video that I found of a guy putting some boxes together. One thing he doesn’t do, that I do with most of my boxes, is wrap them in plastic. Plastic will increase their life significantly.
How to Bait Swarm Traps
Bees Wax/Used Beehives
There are a few things you can do attract bees to your swarm trap. The best way is to take a beehive that has already been used. The box will have propolis, beeswax, and other smells that let the scout bees know your box is a suitable home. If you don’t have an old beehive, take beeswax and rub it or melt it all over the interior of your swarm trap.
These are lures that you can buy from most bee supply companies. The best one on the market right now is Swarm Commander. Where lemongrass mimics the Nasonov pheromone, Swarm commander uses the actual Nasonov pheromone to attract bees to your trap.
The awesome thing about swarm lure is that it is formulated to more closely match the Queens Pheromones. It is also easier to apply to the hive and seems to attract scout bees a lot quicker than lemongrass. There are several different brands available on the market, but I am most familiar with the Swarm Commander brand.
Lemongrass oil is an awesome lure, and works extremely well when added to old beehives. I usually take a plastic bag, put a few small holes in it, and add a drop or two of oil. I then place this in the hive where it will attract bees for days. I also apply it on the outside of the beehive near the entrance.
A few drops of lemongrass oil in a swarm trap will have scout bees flying around them in hours. I have had best luck with the Young Living brand essential oils and have also tried the DoTERRA brand with similiar results.
Queen Juice is a homemade lure. It is made by taking old queens and placing them in alcohol. You need a lot of queens for this to be effective, so it isn’t ideal for the beginner. The reason this works is the Queen Mandibular Pheromone becomes concentrated in the alcohol solution. I have never tried this method, but it is worth considering if you have a lot of queens. Using a combination of Queen Juice and Lemongrass oil will yield the best results.
Finding a Location
The most important part of swarm trapping is finding the perfect spot to put the trap. It is important that you place your swarm trap where you know there are bees. Ideal places to put your swarm traps are near lazy beekeepers, or close to feral honey bee colony.
Once you find the perfect spot, it is best to hang your swarm trap at least 10-15 feet off the ground. Ideally, you want the hive in the flight path and easily found by scout bees.
Height isn’t extremely important. I have personally witnessed a hive that was built underground. Most swarm trappers will agree, however, that higher hives are more enticing to the scout bees. A good rule is to place your swarm traps as high as you can, while still being able to take them down safely.
You will soon find that there are places you always catch swarms and places you never catch swarms. Having several swarm traps out increases your odds, so get as many traps out as possible. If you have a hive box laying around, put some frames in it and bait it with lemongrass oil. You might catch a swarm.
Swarm trapping is a great way to get started in beekeeping. It isn’t the easiest way to get bees but the knowledge attained while doing it is worth the extra effort. Besides, who doesn’t like free bees?