A Swarming of Bees


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Clusters usually remain stationary for an hour to a few days, depending on weather and the time needed to find a new nest site by scouting bees. When a suitable location for the new colony, such as a hollow tree, is found the cluster breaks up and flies to it. Honey bee swarms are not highly dangerous under most circumstances. Swarming honey bees feed prior to swarming, reducing their ability to sting.

Further, bees away from the vicinity of their nest offspring and food stores are less defensive and are unlikely to sting unless provoked. In most situations when a honey bee swarm is found on a tree, shrub or house you do not need to do anything.

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Swarms are temporary and the bees will move on if you patiently ignore them. You are interacting with nature, not as a commercial entity. In comparison to buying packages or nuc from afar, this is actually a significant advantage of capturing a swarm and not to be underestimated. Compared to a package or a nuc, the primary challenge will be the logistics. So while the perfect location — for us — might be a shoulder-height branch on a tree, the bees might choose the eve of a house. Thankfully, the most common locations are, indeed, quite convenient. The landing place for a swarm, in relation to its original home, is often about 50 feet away.

The height, too, is often reasonably convenient for beekeepers. The most likely times for swarming are from spring to early summer. If you have registered your interest with local beekeeping clubs, you may be busy at this time! The basic equipment you need is simple and includes a large tarp, a box to capture the swarm and a bee brush. Depending on the location of the swarm, some gardening shears may be helpful too.

The box should be contained otherwise your journey home will be quite interesting!

How to capture a bee swarm

You can easily locate videos on the Internet of unprotected beekeepers capturing swarms. But consistent with our philosophy to not invite problems where they need not be invited, wearing protective clothing will allow you to focus on the job at hand. After assessing the location, your challenge is to find a way to get the queen into your box.

Spread out a tarp underneath the swarm, weighing down the corners with rocks if there is a chance of wind blowing it up. Assess whether you think the size of the swarm will allow it to easily fit into the box. If so, you may decide that the majority of the swarm may be compact enough to have it drop into the box. In that situation, you can position the box under the swarm and whack the branch.

The swarm will hopefully fall as a single mass into the box. Your goal here is to get the queen into the box, because the other bees will follow.

Honey Bees Swarming OUT of my Observation Hive Not Much you can Do

Place the box on the tarp, with an open side on the ground so bees can easily access it. Then step back and wait. The swarm will follow the queen, from her pheromones. This provides a simple way to assess whether you have been successful in getting the queen into the box. If the queen is not in the box, the bees will let you know. They will march towards her.

Just try it again.

Why and How Bees Swarm - PerfectBee

The bees might not be on a convenient branch now, but if you can gently find a way to get the queen in the box you are on the right track. If the swarm is not on a conveniently shakable object such as a tree branch then dislodging it into a waiting box may not be an option.

In this situation, you may need to gently brush the bees into the box. The key, again, is to ensure the queen is in the box. If she is, the majority of the swarm will follow. Back at base, it is helpful if you had the foresight to set up a new hive. The box with the swarm can get hot quickly and you want to introduce your bees to their new home as soon as possible.

Why and How Bees Swarm

Being connected in the local beekeeping community greatly increases your chances of finding a swarm. Join local swarm lists like beeallies. Give your contact information to your local fire department and pest control agencies. Also, inform your friends and family that you are interested in catching swarms; before long, your phone may be ringing off the hook on a warm spring day!

We find it helpful to keep our swarm catching gear in our trunks all spring long to be ready at a moment's notice.


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Once you have put out swarm-catching tendrils to your area and communities, it is beneficial to have your tools and equipment ready to go. Use the winter months to sort, clean, and ready your gear. You will discover what you are likely to need for spring, what needs replacing, and it gives you time to swap and share with other local beekeepers. Then ready your gear for the busy season. During swarm season, we can rarely be found without our toolkits in our vehicles! Every swarm-catching toolkit should include:. Lemongrass oil.

Protective gear swarm catching can be a great educational opportunity for the community about honeybees, so if you have it, bring extra gear for interested witnesses who would like to participate. When you arrive at the swarm site:. Determine whether it's safe to get the bees. If the cluster is positioned high-up, use your best judgment to determine if you are able to catch the bees in the box and come back down a ladder. There are other swarms out there, and risking your life to catch a swarm isn't worth it! Move as much of the swarm cluster into the box as you can.

The queen will be near the center of the cluster. If the queen did not make it into the box, you will know within minutes, as the workers will move out of the box and back onto the branch. If that is the case, try again until they stay in the box. If the cluster is on a branch , shake the bees into the box.

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See video below! If the cluster is hanging from small branches or vegetation , you can use pruning shears to cut the vegetation and place it with the bees in the box. This tends to be very gentle, though you will need to remove the vegetation as you transfer your bees into their new hive.

If the cluster is on a fence, wall, mailbox, or other similar structure you will first mist them with a simple solution of sugar water or plain water from a spray bottle. This causes lower liklihood of flight. Use your bee brush to brush them into the box with a quick downward motion.

Try not to break up the cluster as much as possible. If the cluster is on the ground , place lemongrass oil in the box as a lure, and tilt the box sideways to encourage them to move there on their own. Close the box most of the way, leaving a small gap for stragglers and returning scout bees to enter through.

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