HOW TO CATCH A SWARM OF BEES

Posted March 26, 2016
by Hilary

How To Catch a Swarm of Bees

The other day, a child in one of my children’s bee classes asked me if I would run away if I saw a swarm of bees. I smiled and told her, “No, I would run towards them because I’d want to catch them!” In fact, I have done this. I chased a swarm of bees down a residential street in my car and another time on foot! I am often asked by perplexed bystanders and beekeeping hopefuls alike exactly how I “catch” a swarm. You might be surprised to hear that it’s fairly simple. Of course, there are always ways to improve your technique, but I will outline the basics for you and do my best to share some more nuanced tips.

Understanding the Swarm

The word “swarm” is often used incorrectly (in my opinion) to describe any grouping of bees. When in fact a “swarm of bees” refers to a specific biological mechanism the bees employ for the purpose of propagating their species. When a colony of bees becomes large and rich in honey, they divide in two. Roughly 40% of the bees will fill their honey stomachs with honey and leave their hive along with their queen with the intention of setting up a new home. During this phase, the bees are often homeless or have just moved into their new home. Once they have been living in a location for a week or longer, they cease to be a swarm. At this point, they are more properly termed a “hive” or a “colony”.

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Swarm vs. Cut-out

As a beekeeper seeking to catch a swarm, it is important to be aware of the confusion of language between beekeepers and the public. A friend or neighbor may tell you they have a swarm of bees for you to catch. But, once you arrive, you will discover that this “swarm” has been established for over a year. The distinction is a crucial one because a true swarm is very easy to relocate.

A swarm is a group of bees who have not yet built or have just started to build comb.

Even a beginner can catch a swarm, but relocating an established colony of bees (often called a “cut-out”) is not an easy task. To do this, you must transfer comb, find the queen, and deal with spilling honey—all while juggling (probably) angry bees and taking a fair share of bee stings.

If you are a beginner, I urge you to walk away from a situation like this, especially if you are in an Africanized zone. If you don’t know what you are doing, you will likely do more harm to the bees than good. You may be endangering the public, too. If you are interested in relocating an established colony, you should find an experienced beekeeper to help you. If you are local to the San Diego area, I am available to do this, and I also teach a class on the subject.

Make Haste

A swarm of bees is a temporary state, and swarms will often land somewhere for only an hour or only a day before moving on to another location. Part of the reason for this is that the queen bee is a poor flyer. If you’ve ever played my Queenspotting game on social media, you know that she has a large body, but only worker bee sized wings. A swarm will often land to rest, while making their way to their new home. Sometimes they stay for quite a while, if they decide to investigate alternative nesting sites in the area or if weather conditions hinder their journey.

For the beekeeper, this means that when you see or hear about a swarm, it is imperative that you catch them quickly. I’ve often rushed out to capture a swarm only to have it leave in the short window of time it took me to get there.

Temperament

Capturing a swarm of bees is a magical experience. Despite how many calls I get for swarm rescues, I am still filled with child-like glee almost every time.

One of the things that makes the process so enjoyable is that swarms are almost always docile.

Established colonies tend to be defensive. They may sting to protect their home, their brood, their honey, but a swarm of bees has no home, brood or honey stores. Therefore, they have no reason to sting.

It is also said that swarms are less likely to sting because they are typically full of honey. The workers are carrying a full load of honey in their honey stomach and that makes them “fat and happy.”

The Temperment Exception

Occasionally you can run across a defensive swarm. Usually these are what we call a “dry” swarm. Meaning, the workers have used up the honey they were carrying inside their honey stomachs, and this has made them cranky. It should also be noted that while most swarms will start out sweet, they will almost certainly become more defensive once they become established. If you are in an Africanized area, this change can be dramatic. Initially, there is no way to tell if you are catching an Africanized swarm or not. It can take several weeks before the bees reveal their true nature.

Methods

When a swarm of bees lands, the bees form a cluster around their queen. This is called festooning. The bees hang onto one another’s arms and legs like little acrobats. This cluster of bee bodies is an indescribable state of matter. It can wrap itself around branches, wires, or any other obstructions. If you were to stick your bare hand into it, you would feel hundreds of tiny pickings of bee feet, a surprising amount of heat, and the soft beating of wings.

When you try to scoop bees from their swarm cluster, they are reluctant to be parted. Often little chains of bees will stretch from your hand to the cluster. When you attempt to catch a swarm this behavior is advantageous. It will make it easier for you to transfer the bees from wherever they are into your swarm catching container of choice.

What to put them in?
General Considerations

When selecting a container, make sure you have something big enough to accommodate the size of the swarm you are catching. The size of each swarm can vary from something as small as a baseball to something as big as a couple of basketballs. I find most swarms are about the size of a football.

Your container can be anything. I’ve used cardboard boxes, buckets, plastic bags, nuc boxes and full on hive boxes.

High Swarms

If the bees are up high and I need to climb a ladder with my container, I will use something light and easy to carry. Then I will shake them from that temporary vessel into a nuc box or full-size langstroth hive on the ground.

Low Swarms

If the bees are close to the ground, I often put them right into a hive box. If you use a bucket, bag or cardboard box, just know you will need to transfer them quickly into a permanent hive once you get them to their new location.

Energy Saver

If you can put them directly into their permanent home during the catching process, this will save you and the bees some time and effort! This is easy if you are using a Langstroth or Warre hive because it’s a simple thing to seal and move these style hives. I put the bees right into the hive (frames installed), close them up and set them in the back of my Prius.

Top Bar Beekeepers

If you are a Top Bar Hive beekeeper your options are more limited because dragging around a TBH isn’t too practical. Your best options for capture and transport are a cardboard nuc box without frames, a cardboard box, or a TBH nuc box designed to match the dimensions of your TBH.

How to get them in?

The object is to get as many bees into your box on the first try as possible. There are several techniques of doing this, and the best option can vary depending on the specific situation. Once you get the majority of the bees in, it’s likely that you also got the queen in since she is in the center of the swarm. However, if you did not get the queen, she will often follow the rest of the bees into the box if it is positioned in an accommodating way. The reverse is often true too: once you get the queen in, the rest will go to her, but there is no need to dig through a swarm in search of the queen.

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1. Clip & Lower

The best way to get a swarm in your box is to lower them in. This scenario is usually possible when the bees are hanging from a small branch. You simply clip the branch and lower it into your box. If you are using a Langstroth or Warre hive, leave the frames in and place the swarm on top of them. They will run down and hang from the tops of the frames.

If you put them in and then try to put the frames in afterwards, you will have trouble doing it without squishing bees! Lowering the bees in means virtually none of the bees will be separated from the swarm. A few will fly, but most will stay in formation and then regroup in your box. Some believe this method also makes the bees feel like they have chosen to move, which increases the likelihood that they will stay in the box.

2.Shake 

If the bees are on a branch that is too far our of reach to clip or maybe a branch that is too thick to cut, you can shake them off into your box. This method is quick and if your aim is good, it is effective. However, many bees will fly and many more will fall. Basically, bees will go everywhere and then it will take more time for them to regroup in your box. The majority of them and probably the queen will end up in your box though.

3. Scoop 

When the bees are on something that prevents them from being lowered or shaken, they can usually be scooped by hand. Some even prefer this over shaking because it’s easier to keep the bees from flying. Once you scoop several handfuls, the bees will usually start to move of their own accord into the box. If they don’t, just keep scooping.

Did you get the queen?

When the bees start excitedly streaming into the box and fanning at the entrance, there’s a good chance that you got the queen or that they have decided to move into the box and the queen will follow. If the bees exhibit this behavior in a location that is not your box, do some investigating because you might find the queen there!

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Wait For It…

Once you’ve got most of the bees into your box, you’ll need to position it in a way that makes it accessible to the remaining bees. The flying bees will return to the original location of the swarm, so you will want to place your box as close to the original location as possible.

Then you wait. If possible, wait until dusk to close the box and move the bees away. This will ensure that all of the foragers are back, and no bee is left behind.

If you must take it in the middle of the day, many bees will be left behind. They may find their way back to their mother hive, but they might also stay in a confused, hopeless cluster for several weeks before merging with the infinite.

Helpful Tricks

There are a few additional things some people like to do to help aid the process.

  • The first is to spray the swarm lightly with water or sugar water. This keeps the flying down.
  • The second is to herd bees with smoke into the box.
  • The third is to use smells to attract and deter bees. I use a queen pheromone or swarm lure in the box to draw the bees more quickly and Honey-B-Gone to keep them from clustering in the original location. Honey-B-Gone is especially useful if the swarm has gathered up high, and you can’t position your box close enough for the foragers to find.
Do Not Disturb

After catching your new swarm, it is important not to disturb them for one week. This is the amount of time it will take them to build comb and start raising brood. If you bother them before that point, they have nothing to keep them from leaving. They might abscond from your hive. In fact, swarms often abscond even when they haven’t been disturbed!

Some tricks for getting them to stay include: using a hive that bees have lived in before, tacking a queen excluder over the entrance, giving the bees some empty comb, or best of all giving the bees some open brood comb!

Visual Learners

Below are two videos of swarm catches I have done. You will be able to see some of the methods I’ve described employee in real life and see some ways I had to get creative. 

60 Comments

  1. Ellen Drews

    Hi Hilary! I’ve been a fan of your business for about a year and loving your blog entries so far. This one gave my heart an extra buzz because I helped to catch my first swarm on Saturday–the day your posted this! Thank you for all your awesome work to make San Diego a bee-friendly place. –Ellen

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Awesome to hear!

      Reply
  2. Elizabeth Holland

    Love your work! Swarms are so cool. What type of camera are you using? It’s tricky to get good photos and videos of the bees.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Thank you! Mostly my iPhone, but the video was taken with a DSLR Canon Rebel T2i.

      Reply
  3. scottsailors

    Hilary –

    Here’s a question. Let’s say I’m watching a particular hive, in the spring, in order to head-off a swarm by some means. If that colony has not produced any drones yet (i.e., I’m not seeing any drones in that hive), do I still need to be concerned that they could possibly build swarm cells and swarm? In other words, will a colony always start producing drones of its own before it swarms in the spring?

    What do you think?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      I think a colony does not “always” do anything. Bees are very good a breaking these rules we try to make for them. Drones could be a good indicator that swarming season is afoot, but I wouldn’t count on them not to swarm just because you don’t see any drones. Probably it is true for most colonies, but “you never can tell with bees”.

      Reply
  4. Aimee

    Hey Hillary! Thanks for your article! I’ve just captured my 2nd swarm this season from my own bee yard. Both swarm only 20-30 away from the original hive location. The first one, I followed the old 3 ft- 3 miles rule and relocated them over 3 miles away before bringing back to my house. I’ve since heard that you don’t have to do that with a swarm. Can I keep this swarm here? I have 2 areas of my yard where I keep bees. I was thinking I would move this swarm to the other area away from the parent hive.
    Thanks in advance for your help!
    Aimee

    Reply
    • Hilary

      If you move them on the night you catch them to where you want them in the yard, I think they will reorient. However, if you leave them too long after catching them, they will have oriented to that place.

      Reply
      • Aimee

        I moved them first thing this morning. I wanted to wait until everyone was back in the hive. We’ll see I’ve also read that if you place an obstruction at their entrance it forces them to take notice when leaving the hive because it’s a different exit than they remember. Then they will reorient. We’ll see! Thx for your help.

        Reply
  5. Gina

    Hi Hilary you are so inspiring. I have an issue that I’m not sure what to do. I have one hive that I caught from a swarm last summer. It swarmed a few weeks ago so I ordered another that will be here in 5 days. I live in rural Texas. We were able to catch a swarm two days ago and all I had was my super cardboard box so I put the swarm in it hoping my new hive would get here today only to find from the tracking it will not arrive that soon. I added a few empty frames and a queen extractor that had comb and pollen remnants and placed near my established hive. Yesterday the bees were all outside thd box but stayed. Last night we got 2 inches of rain and it’s 58 and rainy the next few days. My question is should I leave them in the cardboard box just transferring once in a few more days or build something and transfer them twice? Also should I feed them? Thanks for being so sharing in your experience. I follow you on instagram too

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Hi Gina, so, you caught a swarm 2 days ago and it is currently in a cardboard nuc box with frames? Does it have 5 frames in the nuc? If so, I would leave them alone in this nuc for 1 week before transferring them. If you disturb them before then, they might abscond.

      Reply
    • Crystal Scovel

      So, will a new swarm be attracted to an abandoned hive that still contains comb?

      Reply
      • Hilary

        Yes.

        Reply
        • Danielle Harrop

          Hi, I’m just on my way out to try and catch a swarm! I have a new hive, and I just waxed heavily the frames, but no bait. Just sugar water and honey b healthy. Should I lightly spray the frames with that? I have to place the box high on a ladder as they’re on a limb that cannot be cut. Thank you!

          Reply
          • Hilary

            Can you reach the swarm cluster to place them in your box? Or are you trying to lure them down?

  6. Gina

    Sorry queen excluder.. big difference

    Reply
  7. D'Anne

    We caught a swarm and want to know how far the new hive should be from the trap placement? As bees have gone back to the trap tree
    Thank you

    Reply
    • Hilary

      You have to move the bees 3ft at a time otherwise they get confused.

      Reply
      • Sancho

        So if they are on the roof of a shed (to get some height) will bringing them off the shed roof cause a problem (about an 8ft drop)?

        Also, how long do you need to leave between each move?

        Reply
        • Hilary

          Yes, it will confuse them. I would leave them a day or two.

          Reply
  8. Kirsten Redlich

    I’m in Australia. I caught a swarm from a feral hive on my property last saturday. I relocated the hive from their swarm position & they appear to have settled in, lots of orientation flights & foraging. My problem is this, I cut the branch off & placed it on top of frames in the hive, my father was ‘helping’ me & decided to remove the branch, but also removed 8 frames. They have 2 frames only. I have to go in to put frames in, but am concerned about disturbing them too soon. We also have had cold wet weather for 3 out of 5 days since collecting & lots of noise because of work being done by the council. I don’t want to cause them to abscond, but am worried about the comb I will have to frame up, & the added disturbance, when I open them. How would you approach this? It’s meant to be sunny & warm tomorrow, followed by several days of cold wet weather.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Tough call, I think I would leave for them alone for another and just deal with framing up the combs. Rather than risk then absconding. They will just be hanging from the roof so when you pull the lid come straight up with it, flip it in the direction the comb is built, cut it and rubber band it into the frames.

      Reply
  9. Tony

    Partner caught swarm in cardboard box 3 days ago and due to not having hive hardware ready they have been in the box for those three days. It was just an empty cardboard box. I was at work when the swarm was captured so was all my partner had at hand.

    The issue is due to rain we placed the box under our front verandah, which is not where we want to have a hive for a number of good reasons.

    Now ready with hive, but not sure what approach to take?

    They seem to have been orientating so wondering if moving the box and leaving the new hive it place would be an approach. I would then be able to move it further away after say a week and then bring it back again.

    Would love to her your thoughts. Yes should have been ready with hive hardware but had homed a swarm the previous weekend so got caught short.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Step 1: Transfer those bees into their permanent hive. You will have to open the box and scoop or shake them into the hive then place the new home exactly where the cardboard box was so the flying bees find it. I would let it sit there for a week. So they can get settled in. There may even be comb in the cardboard box, but it is too small to transfer now. Moving the bees from the cardboard box to the permanent box may also cause them to fly off and abandon the hive completely, but there isn’t much you can do about that now, unless you have another hive? Then you can steal a frame of open brood from that hive and hive it to the swarm. They won’t abandon the brood.

      Step 2: Once the swarm has been settled into the proper hive box for a week, you can move them 3ft at a time to their new location OR move them 3miles away, leave them for a week and then bring them back and place them in the new spot.

      Reply
  10. Rick

    Thanks for all the good information posted by all. I recently had a week with 5-6 swarms and I tried to capture all with limited temporary “homes” for all and some swarms seemed to reform after I had already moved the original group. I captured them and placed them in an unused nuc with frames of comb and they seem to have adapted but they are a very small group. Today I captured another large swarm but again many of the fliers have regrouped back in the tree. Can I capture this smaller group and use it to supplement my other small group in the nuc?Thanks in advance for any help.

    Reply
  11. Rick

    Could someone also explain in detail how to keep new captured swarm/colonies in my same apiary area. I don’t have option of moving 3 miles. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      If it is a swarm, this rule doesn’t really apply in my experience – as long as you move them where you want them on the first night you catch them.

      Reply
  12. Katie

    Hi Hilary! Thank you so much for your informative post. I have an interesting situation going on and I’m not sure what to do. I have two hives and I think I let them become overcrowded this spring because I was worried we would get cold spring weather and the bees would need their honey and each other to stay warm. Anyway, now I *think* there are two swarms very close to the hives because we had a massive snow storm and they couldn’t make it very far. Many bees have died so I want to save the ones I can. I have cardboard nuc boxes but I am worried that will freeze if I just leave them outside. It is supposed to rain and get down to 37 degrees tomorrow night. What do you think I should do? Should I just let them find a safer home in nature?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      I don’t have these problems where I live, but… what if you caught them and them in the nuc boxes and then brought them in for the night. Close up the nucs, make sure they have ventilation and bring them in the house so they are warm.

      Reply
  13. Marcin

    Hi Hilary,
    I installed a bee trap on a tree and yesterday I found a swarm hanging on a side of the trap, just above the entrance. It is my first encounter with swarm and I was expecting they would move inside the trap box overnight (its aprox 35litres). When I checked the trap today bees were still hanged on the same side of the trap above entrance. The center has moved few centimeters down the wall and I could see some bees coming in and out of the trap. It was raining most of the day today, but still bees havent gone inside. Does it mean they are planning to fly off to different location or does it usually takes so long for incoming swarm to go inside the trap? Should I catch it as soon as possible or should I wait until it goes inside and take the trap after aprox 1 week? Thank you

    Reply
    • Hilary

      This is a hard call because if you mess with them you risk them flying off, bit that is a risk either way. If it were me I would probably try to put them into a hive box. Maybe they are too big for your trap.

      Reply
  14. Rafael Solis

    Hey Hilary! I witnessed a tragedy a few days ago when I was at work in Carmel Mountain. Unfortunately, a swarm had gathered in front of a Trader Joe’s off of Carmel Mountain Rd during the day on a tree in the parking lot. When I realized what was happening it was too late, there had been a guy dressed up in a bee suit with gloves and he was spraying them down! It was honestly one of the saddest things I had ever seen in my life knowing how truly special bees are and how significant they are being the most important insect in the world! I’m making it my mission to never let this happen again EVER! I told my parents and they were equally saddened when they found out. Fun fact about my family, we have proudly hosted your hives at our home for going on 5 years or more now, my parents are Ralph and Beneth Solis from South San Diego. Next time you come by to maintain the hives I want you to educate me! All the best! Thank you! Great article and video! r11solis@gmail.com

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Thanks Rafael! I got your donation as well. I will try to remember to call you next time I’m going to check the bees.

      Reply
  15. Annette Exon

    Hi Hilary, we have just discovered a hive of bees in our outdoor stereo speaker! It is an old speaker so happy to donate it as a home for the bees… they have been creating all this white comb inside. The entrance hole on the speaker is about 3 inches across. What should be do now? We have friends across the road who have a ‘flow hive’ and some other neighbours down the road who also have a small bee hive collection….. thanks for any advice.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      You can transfer them into a manageable hive, but it takes some skill. I would try to find a local beekeeper who does live bee removals to help you.

      Reply
  16. Julian

    I’ve also heard that having a frame of drawn comb is like bee gold. If you have that in your swarm box and can get it as close as possible to, even just touching the swarm, they will get a whiff of that and march in on their own.

    Reply
  17. Rebekah

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU for this post! We’re in our second year of beekeeping, and still very new to this art. However, when someone from a neighboring community posted in Nextdoor that they had a swarm of bees, I wanted to help. This post was indispensable. Thanks to you, I was able to transfer the swarm into an old nuc we had, and I used a couple drawn frames to entice them to stay. It was truly magical and not stressful at all! Fingers crossed our new hive stays around!

    Reply
  18. Selka

    I had my first swarm yesterday! They clustered way up in a tree, and it rained, and it was hard! but also magical, and a success. This post was exactly the info I needed with not much time to spare! https://happyharvest.ca/2018/08/15/my-first-swarm/

    Reply
  19. Carly McDonald

    Eeek I would love some help! This is the best site I’ve found about capturing swarming bees =) We found a swarm of bees 2 nights ago around a tree pot. I had nothing to put them in so I got my mum to come over the next morning with a hive. I put cardboard around them so they could keep warm over night. In the morning they ended up on the ground in our long grass (I was at work so couldn’t help). That afternoon she came back over and we managed to scoop most of them into the hive but on the last bit we dug up some grass the bees were attached to which my mum also put in the hive. When can we retrieve the grass clump out? I dont want to disturb/upset them. They’ve been in the hive 1 night and 1 day, tonight is night 2. Any help is much appreciated!

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Wait, a week before trying to take the grass out. It won’t be in there way much, yet.

      Reply
  20. Dan Lynch

    I started beekeeping 48 years ago (Western,Pa.) The most important thing that helped me was getting a mentor And joining a bee club . (the only book available was ABC-XYZ of Beekeeping and No computers 🙂 ) , Without bee vacuums then ; I self learned the Art of Removals INSIDE of buildings using NO SMOKE to prevent sparks/ fires .. I agree 100% with the Information ;that you are sharing with others … and as we go along ; we learn neat tricks …THANKS for a GREAT SITE …Dan Lynch

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Thanks, Dan!

      Reply
  21. Matt

    Hi Hilary. So I had a hive swarm. I caught it and used an 8frm med to house them. I don’t know if this was a mistake or not but I used all drawn foundation frames. As I was getting the bees in the hive it was such a big swarm I actually put on a 2nd med with all drawn frames. Put the top on and went back 1-2 days later and found that almost all thr frames were like filled with uncapped honey. Do you think this is just from their stomachs filled with honey they brought? It seems like a lot of honey. And I wonder why they aren’t leaving room for the queen to lay? I actually put on a 3rd med with just foundation frames, so maybe they can work on building them out. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Wow, that’s interesting. It must be mostly from what they had in their honey stomachs.

      Reply
  22. Dr. Abby Campbell

    Hi Hilary. I left a comment about capturing my first swarm on another one of your articles, but I have a couple questions that I can’t find answers from with natural beekeepers.

    First, should we feed the swarm at all? I certainly don’t want to give my colony sugar water as recommended by conventional beekeepers, but do you think we should give it pollen or honey? I’ve had my swarm for almost four weeks now. My last inspection was almost two weeks ago. At the time, I didn’t see any nectar or honey in the hive so became worried for them. I know Michael Bush doesn’t like sugar water either, but he seems to use it for emergencies. Would you consider this an emergency? It’s mid-July in North Carolina, and we still have clover and other plant sources to gather pollen and nectar, so I’m still confused by what to do with feed (or not to feed).

    Second, when I moved my swarmed colony to their permanent home 25 feet from where they were in a tree, I did this after dusk to be sure I had most of my bees. However, there were still some guard bees (at least, I think that’s what they were) still outside. They clustered on a low branch of the same tree. I felt bad for them being away from their home, so I cut the branch off and placed them on a climbing board to their hive (the new deep). But, they seemed scared and wouldn’t go in. They stayed clustered on that cut branch for an hour. It was getting ready to storm, so I shook them off the branch near the entrance. But, they just acted frozen on the board to the entrance. Later that evening, I went back to check on the hive and found even a smaller cluster back on the bottom of the tree. I don’t know if the new cluster included the original one that I couldn’t get. Because I didn’t know what to do, I just left them. Will guard bees find their way home? What should I do the next time?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Hi, I have an article on feeding bees https://beekeepinglikeagirl.com/should-i-feed-my-bees/ I typically do not feed swarms, but since you are in a climate with real winter and it is late in the season it may be a good idea to feed them so they can get built out enough before winter. The cluster of bees you found in the tree is probably not guard bees, but foragers who had learned to go to the exact spot where the swarm had been. They could not figure out where the new location was since it was moved too far away all in one go. Just keep taking the cluster over where the hive is and shaking them at the entrance like you did. It may have been that they were too cold when you did it the first time? Hard to say.

      Reply
  23. mac

    I live in Colorado, The weather is a challenge for bee keeping I have been bee keeping for 8 years now Every Oct or November my bees take off. I truly believe it is because of the weather conditions. It can be in the 70’s for a few days then temp drops into the teens and snows. I persist in every precaution to keep my bees happy and comfortable to no avail. This year I decided to remove the tons of honey that would have been left for them to live over the winter.
    It has been over three weeks and I swear the bees are back during the warm days then leave in the evening. If we have a cold spell they do not show up until we get into the 50’s again This has been going on for over a month now. They have plenty to eat as I kept several frames of honey ,honey comb and fondant. They seriously look like my bees.. Some black body bees and my gold Italian bees that filled my hive this summer. Is this possible? Could they be my bees and how are they surviving the freezing nights of Colorado? Or am I just in mourning for my lost bees?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      I’m so sorry, but I don’t think I understand what you are describing.

      Reply
  24. Ali

    Just caught a small swarm that was on a wattle tree, we have put it in a nuc with frames. Our new bees are very quiet, this is the third day we have had them. They are still in a ball inside on the lid of the box and dont seem to be moving down onto the frames. Don’t want to disturb them but worried they do not like the new home. Winter is coming and very new to bees and swarms

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Maybe try feeding them.

      Reply
  25. Meg

    Yesterday afternoon i attempted to bush a swarm of been into a bee box with frames. This swarm has been sitting on an avocado branch for 6 days, it appears none of them move and we are starting to see dead ones under the tree. We cut the remainder of the branch that i could not reach down and placed on top of the open bee box, hoping the rest would follow and relocate into the box. We left them for the night , this morning we could see it didn’t work, they are all back on the branch on top of the box. I’ll go for round two this afternoon, I don’t have a smoker, just a brush. Do you think having them out of the tree where it will be easier to reach them will be enough of a game changer? How much handling can I do with out harming? I was told that for a beginner brushing them into the box in the evening when they are sleepy in the best way to go. Is that wrong? I would appericate any advice you can share.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Brushing is not something I would recommend and I would also not attempt to move if you are within the last hour daylight. They get grumpy too close to dark. Use one of the methods described in this article. Cut the branch, scoop the bees, or shake them into the box. Then put the roof on and lift the whole box up to be close to the area where they are clustering.

      Reply
  26. jessica

    Hi Hilary!

    I’m wondering if I can get your thoughts on a swarm that moved into an empty brood box. We left 4 frames in and had been meaning to get the other ones in the freezer when we noticed a few bees going in and out. I thought they were just robber bees so opened the hive to take a look and low and behold, a big swarm had moved in and started making comb on the top board. We had to go out of town so now it’s been two weeks and I’m guessing they have totally built out the empty space with comb (I see lots of activity going in and out). We are in Los Angeles so we’re planning on requeening in case they are Africanized. My first question is should we just cut the comb out and try to squeeze the remaining frames in or put a second box on top and hope they build that out? Second question is how long should we wait before requeening, and that’s only if we even see brood, as is?

    Reply
  27. Geani Tsucuneli

    Very easy!!! use a deep box with 3 frames…put it under tree ,drop few drops of Esential oil Lemon Grass ,do not put no roof on that box . get away!In just few mins.you will see how those bee will come in that Depp box …like crazy ,including the Queen.No shaking trees ,no braking branches,no smoke,no sugar water…. only Esential oil Lemon Grass.If you want to make sure ,they will stay ,second day give them a full frame of cap brood, from another hive,they will never leave.I own more then 2000 hives ,I am doing this game every day.

    Reply
  28. Michael Klein

    Will a dry swarm ever move once it starts building comb? I have one on a branch that is too high up to move. I was told to maybe put a frame of brood in a box under the branch (about 30 feet off the ground). I hate to steal from my other hive if there is a low chance it will move.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      I think it is unlikely they will move after building comb.

      Reply
  29. morgan lancaster

    Hi Hilary, many thanks for your inspiring work.

    I´m wondering…instead of going to catch a swarm, could I just leave my hive near to some other existing hives and hope for the best? Have you tried this ever/ any thoughts?

    Reply

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My name is Hilary Kearney. I’m the author of the book, “Queenspotting” and founder of the urban beekeeping business Girl Next Door Honey in San Diego, California. I’m an artist turned beekeeper on a mission to help new beekeepers succeed and educate the public about the magic of bees!

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