HOW TO LURE A SWARM OF BEES

Posted February 28, 2016
by Hilary

swarm flying

 

Every spring bee swarms land in my yard. In fact, this week not one, but three swarms descended upon me within a period of just 5 days! You may be feeling somewhat jealous of my good luck at this point…So, why am I so popular, and what are the best ways to lure a swarm to your yard?

As with everything in beekeeping, it’s best to try to understand things from the bees’ perspective. So, allow me to go into some detail about what is actually happening when bees decide they want to swarm and how they go about choosing their nesting site. Then I will get into the details about the best ways to attract them.

 Timing Is Everything

Depending on your location, swarming can happen spring through fall. However, bees don’t consult a calendar when they are deciding whether or not to swarm. They judge the proper timing by certain conditions that are traditionally found in the spring and summer. They tend to swarm when particularly fine weather coincides with a nectar flow happening.

In 2016, for example, February in Southern California turned out to be a month full perfect summer-like weather. Simultaneously, we experienced a significant nectar flow from winter rains. This combination created a strong swarming urge in almost all of my colonies that year. When you start to see swarm cups in your hives, you know it’s time to put your bait hives and swarm traps out!

An empty swarm cell discovered on comb during a hive inspection..

Scout Bees

Before a swarm actually departs, it will put a lot of energy into finding the perfect new home. Cue the scout bees! These foragers turned house hunters will seek out ideal nesting locations, often spending 30 minutes or more thoroughly evaluating the site. This process can take days, and the more attractive a site is to the swarm, the more scouts will appear.

Having witnessed this behavior many times in my own front yard, it often starts with one to two bees hovering around their potential home. I can always tell when this is happening because the bees seem to be scanning the surface and entrances very carefully. On one occasion, I even witnessed several scout bees who stayed overnight!

If the scouts approve of the site, they will shortly be joined by many more scouts who will all perform the same thorough examination. As the swarm gets closer to “moving day” the number of scouts will surge. I often see as many as a hundred scouts investigating a nesting site the day before the swarm arrives.

Tip: During this site evaluation period, it is important not to disturb anything or you might dissuade the bees from settling there. Scouts from a single swarm will scout as many as 10 different nesting sites, often narrowing the choices down to two or three by the end.

A swarm of bees rests on a missile mounted to a military jet.

 The Trap

Much ado has been made about what kind of cavity a beekeeper, hoping to lure a swarm, should construct. In my experience doing live bee removals, I see swarms move into all kinds of cavities, but they do seem to have favorites. I often joke that swarm catching hopefuls should simply start composting or set up an owl box.

There is some research to suggest that bees prefer cavities of a certain volume and lean towards homes with small entrances. Dr. Thomas Seeley, in his must-read book Honeybee Democracy, went to great lengths to test and study swarm behavior and came up with some figures on a swarm’s preferred dimensions. He found that swarms like nesting cavities that are approximately 40 liters with entrances that are approximately 2 inches.

Seeley also found that height plays a role in the attractiveness of a nesting site (bees like to nest an average of 21 feet from the ground), but I have caught and lured most of my swarms close to the ground. Height makes things more complicated for the beekeeper. So, I am going to advise that you save yourself the extra trouble and set your traps within 10ft of the ground. In case you need any extra convincing, check out this tricky swarm catch I did with my students in 2021.

This brings us to what one should use as their cavity. You can buy light weight swarm traps and mount them high in the trees or even on the side of your house if you want to forgo my advice about height. The light weight quality of these traps is probably their one real advantage. I used one last year and caught two swarms in it: one mounted 20 ft high in a tree, the other mounted to the front of a client’s house, about 15ft up.

Some people prefer to build their own traps to precise dimensions, but I have never understood this. The simplest swarm trap is whatever hive you intend to keep your bees in.

  • If you are using a Langstroth hive, a single deep is conveniently close to 40 liters.
  • If you are using a Top Bar Hive, it might be advisable to create a smaller cavity within it using your follower boards.

Luring a swarm to their permanent home will save you the trouble of having to transfer them, and the bees are less likely to abscond in this scenario since they get to stay in their chosen home.

 

2015-05-27 13.32.00

 The Bait

Purchased & DIY Options

Baiting your hives is critical for luring a swarm, and I have heard of everything from lemon scented Pine Sol to melted slum-gum. I say, go ahead and try them all! Just don’t overdo it. I once had a student who coated the entire inside of her hive box with lemon grass mixed with beeswax. It was a goopy mess with a scent so strong, it overwhelmed my nose! When using the trap I mentioned before, we utilized a pheromone lure in a small vial.

You only need a small amount of bait to attract your bees. If you use too much, it can have the opposite effect.

Old Brood Comb

I catch most swarms just by leaving out empty equipment with old brood comb in it. Bees love living in locations where other bees have lived before, and if theres already comb inside, it’s like finding a furnished apartment!

Don’t worry about how perfect the combs are. I’ve even witnessed swarms who bring in a clean up crew before they move in. Scouts drag out debris, and I’ve even seen them chewing away at moldy combs in the days prior to moving day.

Sugar-Water Feeding Station

Keep in mind scout bees must find your trap before they can decide to move in. Bait helps this along, but if you aren’t seeing any bee activity, you might want to consider putting a sugar water feeding station nearby. Seely discovered in his research that most scout bees start out as foragers. So, if you can attract foragers to your location, there is a chance some of them may scout your swarm trap!

A piece of newly built comb on a Langstroth frame covered in bees.

Success

If you successfully lure a swarm, be careful not to disturb them for the first week. When the bees arrive they will immediately start building comb, and the queen will start to lay eggs, but new comb and eggs aren’t a big enough investment to hold the bees to their location. A disturbance could cause them to abandon the nesting site in favor of another.

If you wait a week, the eggs will have hatched into larvae by then, and this will compel the bees to stay even in the face of a hive inspection. After a week, I do recommend you look in on your new bees. Not all swarms are created equal. Some are queenless or come with a virgin queen. Therefore, it’s important that you inspect them and search for eggs to verify that your colony is queenright and the queen is laying!

Please remember also that bee swarms are always docile at first, but once they get established their temperament can change dramatically (be especially aware of the signs of Africanized bees if you live in the zone).

84 Comments

  1. Thomas Bickerdike

    Lovely Hilary and as we are shivering in our winter here in the UK I can only look forward to me setting my bait hive. I think the scout bees are the best bit of bait hives with increasing numbers and excitement only for it to stop suddenly as you can only guess a local beekeeper has performed an artificial swarm. If the scouts start to dwindle then they have chosen another site over my bait hive, the very cheek of it. I would say for me I get about five good responses from scout bees before I get a swarm and last year managed to catch one arriving on a time laps camera. This swarm had scout bees at the hive for about six days and at one point clearly defending it, perhaps from other scouts. Don’t know if you have seen this activity. Keep up the good work.
    Ps I have linked your post on record keeping to my beekeeping associations news letter.
    Thomas

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Good info. I am not sure if I have seen them be defensive before, but once I had some scouts spend the night in a hive. It was the most bizarre thing. There were 10 of them. They stayed the night, but the swarm did not end up choosing my bait hive. I think it was because I kept opening it up and messing with it. Lesson learned!

      Reply
      • Thomas Bickerdike

        I had a situation once, loads of scout bees extremely excited and it all happened very fast, one morning. I had to go out for a few hours and on my return about twenty bees just sitting at the entrance hardly moving with only occasional flights around the hive. These bees stayed with the hive for over a week and slowly dwindled to nothing. I put this down to a swarm was in a tree close by and as the scouts were at the bait hive a beekeeper collected the swarm very fast probably at the point a decision was made and the scouts were stranded at my bait hive. It was a bit sad to watch them as they looked completely lost.

        Reply
      • Sir Kevin Parr, Baronet Kendal

        I have a six acre garden.My hope is to have wild honey bees nest in boxes in my tall apple trees.They will not be disturbed as they are there to pollinate and live on their own honey in winter. The trade off for this is happiness for the bees and my gardens made healthy and fruitful more so by wild bees attention. If it works this summer will be a great thing to aid Gods tiny creatures.

        Reply
        • Hilary

          Be careful encouraging unmanaged hives on your property. It’s really not like setting up a bird house. The bees can become defensive. If they are high enough they may never bother you, but I have seen owl boxes full of bees come down in storms like a “bee bomb”. I highly discourage this if you are in an Africanized zone. You might instead find a beekeeper in need of land for the hives.

          Reply
      • Benno Singer

        I stay in South Africa and this summer I had 5 swarmes coming into my garage and into an empty box. I was amazed that one came for 3 days only during the day and every night disappeared again. Then he came for good. I was happy

        Reply
        • Belinda

          Hi Benmo, my name is Belinda i live in Pretoria..myself and my husband just bought our first beebox…it has been up for almost a week iam feeding them sugar water, i have alot of bees during the day but around 4pm they all dissapear, my husband says we must be patient but iam considering buying a queen. What advice can you give me..

          Reply
          • Hilary

            Hi, I would not put the feeder inside the bee box. You are just drawing foragers from lots of other hives. Scout bees will not be able to investigate your box as a potential nesting site with t he frenzy of foragers going in. Put the feeder near the box, but not in it. Buy a swarm lure or use some lemon grass in the box. Also, this really only works in spring, not sure what hemisphere you are in.

      • Aaron Hemry

        I just came across your post. I saw a couple days ago in my hive what you called swarm cups. I thought they were queen cells. Is that the same thing or different

        Reply
        • Hilary

          swarm cups are queen cells that are just beginning to be built.

          Reply
    • Jeannette parker

      Though you might investigate South Florida ., to see if you would be interested in helping them to create locations for bees to nest . This idea of creating nest’s that can be hung 20 ft or higher would be I feel , a great idea for any wooded areas of South Florida . As there’s very little to no places for bees to live . That if you were to contact the local governments of South Florida , they might be interested in receiving nest’s .Placing them so that the bees would have less need to nest in people’s yards. They desperately need places to live down here. I will be interested in hearing , if you approach them.

      Reply
      • Hilary

        I would not advocate creating wild nesting boxes in south Florida given that there are Africanized bees there. I think bees should be monitored by a beekeeper when they are in urban areas.

        Reply
        • Ronni Chipps

          Hi Hilary, I have a empty hive that is pretty much full of honey. i found it empty January 21. I would love to attract bees to it and establish a new hive and save the precious honey. Do you think I can lure bees to it without getting moths? Do I need to clean it off old brood or will the bees take care of all that?…Please help. I even have a natural hive close by that must of been there for ever. I live in Ohio.

          Reply
          • Hilary

            I would be worried about using this comb and honey. If bees did not rob the honey, there may be something wrong with it.

      • Juan

        I am a beginner

        Reply
  2. scottsailors

    Thanks for this! In my opinion this is so critical to successful and sustainable beekeeping. Think about it, if you lure and hive a swarm of bees, you have not only obtained free bees, but you have obtained bees that successfully over-wintered in your region! These are the bee genetics we want! We want THESE queens more than we want queens we purchased from a commercial beekeeper, who, in-turn, purchased them from who-knows-where in another part of the country. We want the genetics that THIS queen will produce. We want to successfully keep, and then split, THESE hives. Ultimately, we want to be keeping, and reproducing, bees that are acclimated to our region and successfully over-wintering. Just my 1.5 cents’ worth.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Exactly. 🙂

      Reply
      • Dustin

        unless they’re just swarms from a neighbor beekeeper. 🙂

        Reply
        • Hilary

          I should be so lucky.

          Reply
    • Susan

      Swarming is also a cleansing process for the new colony, so necessary. I am not a fan of beekeepers creating new hives

      Reply
  3. scottsailors

    Oh, I also wanted to say “thanks” for the tip about not disturbing them until they are at least feeding larvae. Excellent point. Without that tip, I would have probably disturbed them too soon. Also, since I use all 8-frame, medium-depth hive boxes, my bait hives are going to be two stacked boxes with frames of resources in the bottom box, and foundationless frames in the top box to give them a sense of space to expand. There will be a 5/8″ hole in each box to provide an entrance for each box. Any thoughts about that design? Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Oh, this highlights something that could be working to my advantage that I hadn’t realized. I use foundationless frames, which is an obvious preference of wild bees. So on the frames that don’t contain comb, there are just empty frames with comb guides. I think if you are using foundation, the volume of the cavity probably isn’t as appealing. I think using two 8 frame mediums is probably enough space, you might event try 3. Too much space seems to be better than too little.

      Reply
  4. scottsailors

    Aha. I just did the math, and two 8-frame, medium-depth boxes have over 50 liters of space inside. So, that might be a good set-up. I have frames of resources to put in the bait hives because I had a hive with lots of resources that swarmed in late October here in south-central Colorado (after my final hive inspection) and I didn’t see that coming. The queen that emerged first must have failed to mate successfully because she never started laying. The remaining bees eventually died of old age. So disappointing. But now I know that late-season swarming is a possibility here and my radar will be up.

    Reply
  5. marvinjordana

    thank you for all the information you share, I only met you once during a backyard beekeeping meeting about 2 years ago with Less Crowder. It was a pretty magical day. Keep up the amazing work and keep on inspiring other beekeepers.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      That wasn’t me. I didn’t go to that class. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Mandy

    If you lure them to a swarm box less than 100 feet from your apiary location, and take them offsite to reset their orientation, how long before they can be safely moved back to the apiary and into a hive without the risk that they will return to the swarm box location (in my case up in a tree)?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      If you want to play it safe, I’d say a week. It might work with less time, but that is what I have done in the past.

      Reply
    • Tea

      Mandy, for the past six yrs I have been making splits and moving hives successfully without having to take them off my property. When I move them I like to close them up after dark. Move them either that same evening or the next day. I take a handful of grass & trim it to about a 1/2 inch length and stuff it into the entrance. I prefer the small opening in the entrance reducer. Stuff the entrance with the grass so the bees have to remove it in order to exit the hive. This seems to reprogram their GPS directions home. I have never had them return to their original location. If they don’t have the grass cleared in 12 hours you might want to intervene. Do not leave the grass longer than about 1/2- 3/4 inches in length.

      Reply
  7. John L

    Hilary….. love your site.

    It’s very warm and comforting. I am 63 years old and have failed at beekeeping a number of times over the years, mostly because I am afraid of making mistakes or because I do things on a whim. You make me want to take it easy and not be so uptight about how to do things EXACTLY right. Plus every time I turn around I’m getting solicitations to spend lots of money on new equipment!

    I look forward to having fun again. I had 2 conventional hives last year, lost one over the winter (dead queen I think) and now this one is wanting to swarm. I got a store-bought swarm trap yesterday – like yours in the 4th photo. I will be putting it out this weekend as well as attempting my first split. Of course I have opinions from a bunch of beekeepers about what to do and what not to do…. all slightly different… LOL.

    Oh well here goes.

    P.S. Good advice:

    “God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference.

    Living one day at a time;
    enjoying one moment at a time;
    accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
    taking, as He did, this sinful world
    as it is, not as I would have it;
    trusting that He will make all things right
    if I surrender to His Will;
    that I may be reasonably happy in this life
    and supremely happy with Him
    forever in the next.

    Amen. ”

    ~ Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971).

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Good luck! 🙂

      Reply
  8. John L

    How can you tell if a swarm has a laying queen since you can’t remove the natural comb to inspect it?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      I don’t understand what you are asking. Do you mean when you catch a swarm in a lure and they build comb? In that case, I would remove the combs and transfer them to frames and I would check for eggs/larvae during the process.

      Reply
  9. The Apiarist

    Hi Hilary
    I populate my bait hives (swarm traps) – which are just a simple brood box – with one old, black, frame against the side wall and then fill the rest of the box with foundationless frames (http://theapiarist.org/bait-hives/). This keeps the space open to meet the optimal criteria that Seeley defined, it gives the bees the opportunity to start drawing comb in the right place immediately, and it doesn’t matter too much when you first go and check them. If you are away, or forget a bait hive, they build the comb on the removable frames anyway. The box needs to be sited so that the drawn comb is perpendicular obviously.
    I don’t think I’ve ever waited a week to inspect them. I usually check for a laying queen early morning or late afternoon a day or two after they arrive. I the queen is mated they’ll have eggs by then. If it’s a cast then checking early or very late won’t disturb a queen returning from a mating flight. I almost always try and treat them for mites before there’s sealed brood. It’s a great opportunity to get them when they’re broodless.
    Best Wishes for 2017
    David

    Reply
  10. Jen

    Caught a swarm using lemon grass oil in a medium 10 frame Langstroth super, with 2 frames full of old comb and the rest foundation-less frames. Reduced entrance to 2 inches. Can’t wait to meet my new hive on inspection day. It’s like opening birthday present. Yay for swarm season!

    Reply
  11. BioBeekeeper

    I caught 12 swarms last year using plastic bags, cotton balls and 10 drops of this pure natural lemongrass oil – https://goo.gl/D3zZHJ

    Reply
  12. Necrosapien

    I had a swarm move into one of my empty nucs stored under my tractor shed. Just happened to see them when they first arrived. Got a wild hair and decided a week later to build a couple of bait hives and see what happens. One hive was 5 frame nuc size, other was 8 frame size, both deeps. That was 3 weeks ago. I just moved my 2nd bait hive captured swarm to another location for reorienting. Both were caught in the 8 frame box, none in the 5 frame. What, me complain? Never. Last year I lost a nuc given to me by my beekeep buddy during the summer. I lost an 8 frame hive to freezing during the maple nectar flow in late February. Had fondant on the hive but the small number of workers left didn’t allow them to make it. That hive was from a nuc I bought last year for $125. Now I have 3 robust hives that didn’t cost me anything but my time to see that they were properly housed after catching the swarms in bait hives.

    Reply
  13. Celine Hutchinson

    I was reading on my roof top then i froze a giant swarm of bees passed right by my face i was terrified at first but the sight was really amazing so i decided to learn more about bee’s.

    Reply
  14. Honey Girl

    Thanks for your blog, please keep with your advice. Question: do bees march upwards? I spotted activity 2 days ago after I forgot to put another super on my hive. They were evicting the drones. There is now a swarm. I have placed a hive on top of the old hive, but it is new. The scouts have been in the house, and inspected the open hive when it was low to the ground. The swarm is 2 days now. Top on, or off? Lemongrass, or leave well alone? Too inexperienced/no protective clothing to intervene. Johannesburg, South Africa where we are in late spring/early summer. For African bees, they are incredibly docile, you can walk right up to them/work around them and I would like to keep these genetics.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      I would put the empty box somewhere else. Not on top of the existing hive. They might not want to move in so close to where the were before. Maybe closer to where the swarm is on its own stand. Lid on. You can put a little lemon grass, but don’t overdo it.

      Reply
  15. HUSEYIN AYDIN

    On April 6, I split my hive. One month later I checked the new hive. I saw the new queen and new larvae. To catch a swarm, I bought a new hive and put it between the former 2 hives. I put some sugar water in it. A week later I found a swarm if bees in my bait hive. They started to draw comb. I put a kilo of cake and some sugar. So happy to have another hive of bees. Hugs from Turkey.

    Reply
  16. Pat

    Hi Hilary, just came across this blog as I was looking advice, I have just received a swarm of honey bees into my old hive, It had 40,000 bees in the summer past it has been fully empty for at least 6 months now. Today around 10’000 bees arrived and are in the hive, it is full of old cone and mouldy to boot.I can’t tell you excited I am as I was just about to buy a new colony of a bee keeper. I have got most of the advice from reading above and just want to say thank you for all the advice, your a star. I live in Wexford Ireland and the sun is blazing away now for the past few weeks and looks good for the next few weeks and loads of farms with rapeseed growing so I am hopeful now. Pat

    Reply
  17. Jenny

    We don’t keep bees yet though I have been learning and studying for the past few years in preparation for having our own hives some day. My question is what should I do with a the start of a hive we just found in our yard. We had a pile of old insulation and black plastic piled up next to our house all winter after repairing some damage in our crawl spaces. My husband finally got around to cleaning it up this week and found a small group of honey bees building comb on the insulation under the plastic. It’s about 6 inches diameter. We were really sad we disturbed them but a week later (and one heavy rainstorm) and they are still working in it. Should we move them to a box or put a cover over them? It’s just sitting on the ground by our garden boxes, though out of the way of foot traffic. (We live in Western Washington.)

    Reply
    • Hilary

      A 6 inch diameter hive is very small and unlikely to survive. How sure are you that these are honey bees? Could they be wasps?

      Reply
  18. Mark Turnbow

    Hi, Enjoy your site and gave you a FB like. I don’t need a swarm, just a couple dozen cutter bees. I have a few miter bees eating my home. This is fine. I purchase a home at Tractor Supply. Small and will probably build another one. Question….Bets way to populate? Lemon Grass Oil?
    Most thanks,

    Mark Turnbow
    North fForida

    Reply
    • Hilary

      What do you mean by cuter bees and miter bees? Are you asking about attracting a swarm of honey bees or did you buy a native bee house and want to populate that?

      Reply
  19. Kim

    Hi Hillary .. I am going to start beekeeping next year 2019 … If I put a new hive up with the lemongrass lure, will a swarm (including the queen bee) go for it? what if I have the hive and I cannot find a swarm … how do I get bees to come to the hive? do I purchase a queen? I really don’t want to purchase everything… please let me know. I have time to learn but would like to get my own bees if at all possible. Oh and I will only have one hive for a while until I know I can handle it then maybe increase to 2 hives … I am not in it for the money just the enjoyment of having and saving bees and having my own honey. Thanks

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Hi Kim, did you read this article? It answers your questions. Do not purchase a queen by herself. She will not attract a swarm, it doesn’t work that way. You may want to consider taking my online class https://vimeo.com/ondemand/gndhoney

      Reply
  20. Ben

    Thanks a lot

    Reply
  21. Albert

    Hi Hilary

    Thanks for sharing so much content about bee keeping, I’m based in South Africa JHB, recently put up a trap to catch a swam in my backyard and to my surprise after three days noticed scout bees checking my trap and the fourth day I watched a swam of bees moving in. Was so excited that I filmed all this on camera.

    Sadly got disappointed today after checking for activity and looks like my trap’s empty. They must have moved out. What are the chances of getting another swam on the same trap ? Do I need to move my trap to different location ?

    It must have been that I was checking my trap too often and have learnt the hard way.

    Thanks a lot.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      There’s a god chance you may get another swarm in the trap because they likely marked that location with pheromones. I would leave it where it is and next time, let them settle for a week or two before bothering them.

      Reply
  22. Shawn Carvalho

    Hi Hilary,

    Sadly my hive has been robbed, I saw the frenzy a couple days ago. I referred to all my books and I’m positive this is what happened. I’m wondering now, should I keep all the empty comb as is in hopes of another hive moving in? Or take all 8 frames of comb out?

    I’m not seeing any info in my books what to do after absconding takes place.

    Any advice would be appreciated. I have learned lots from you and I thank you for that.

    Sincerely,
    Shawn

    Reply
    • Hilary

      If your colony was healthy, then you can save the comb and give it to a new colony in spring or us it to attract a swarm, but the issue is keeping moths out. Most people freeze comb for 24-48 hours to kill moths and then wrap it in plastic until spring. I would not save the comb if you think your colony may have been unhealthy. Just melt it down for the beeswax.

      Reply
  23. Juan C Prado

    Looking for a good beekeeper in California. Any recommendations?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      For what?

      Reply
  24. Anna

    Hi Hilary,
    Thanks for this great blog!

    I am trying to understand, why do we need a bees trap instead of attracting them straight into the new beehive?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Hi, I talk about this in the article: “Some people prefer to build their own traps to precise dimensions, but I have never understood this. The simplest swarm trap is whatever hive you intend to keep your bees in. If you are using a Langstroth hive, a single deep is conveniently close to 40 liters. If you are using a Top Bar Hive, it might be advisable to create a smaller cavity within it using your follower boards. Luring a swarm to their permanent home will save you the trouble of having to transfer them and the bees are less likely to abscond in this scenario since they get to stay in their chosen home.”

      Reply
  25. Bev

    Hi HIlary! I just discovered your site! I have a question about capturing a swarm, near another langstroth hive. Is it OK to try and lure a swarm to an empty hive with some capped honey in it, if I have an active hive close by? Will the bees from the active hive want to take the honey from the empty hive? I obviously want to attrack a swarm, but I just don’t know if my current hive will be going in to take the honey from the empty box!
    (I am a novice and have failed so many times with bees :(…I cant afford to keep buying nucs!)

    Also…are there any ideal areas/locations to try and lure a swarm? We are in the country in southern ON, so I will have to wait a few months to try this, but should I set up near an orchard, or just in our yard? What is your experience with success in terms of location? We have lots of soy and corn fields here, and a bunch of wildflowers where we have our current hive.
    Any advice would be SO appreciated!!

    Reply
    • Hilary

      You do not want to put honey in a swarm lure even if it is not near another hive. Every bee in the area will rob it, making the lure box feel unsafe to any scout bees who might have otherwise considered it. You can put in empty comb, but that’s it. I haven’t noticed any location patterns, really. Full sun is usually what I go with.

      Reply
  26. Gordon Byom

    Thanks for all of the advice. The old comb you gave me worked like catnip for bees. Had scout bees checking it out before I even got the top on the hive/trap. After 2 weeks of progressively more scout bees the main event happened. Very exciting as I watched the last half of the move-in.

    At some point I will need to move the hive to a (not quite yet finished) stand about 20 yards away with challenging topography in between.

    Question 1: I know a new hive like this shouldn’t be disturbed at all for at least a week but a move could be substantially more stressful on a new hive than a quick hive inspection. Should I give it longer than a week to settle in and get more honey and brood going before moving?

    Question 2: I can either move it to a location 6 miles away for a week and then to it’s permanent location or I can do the trick you suggest about locking them in for 3 days and putting an obstruction directly in front of the hive. Which do you suggest?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      I would wait 2 weeks before moving. Either moving method should be OK.

      Reply
  27. Dwight Doskey

    I followed directions on an internet site and built a 40 litre swarm trap, and then put a cotton ball with a few drops of lemongrass oil in a plastic zipock, poked a hole in the ziplock, and used six deep frames in the trap, three of which have drawn comb from old hives, and three of which have simple plastic frames brushed with wax. In the last eight weeks I have caught four swarms. I then transfer the deeps into regular ten deep boxes. My question is whether I should feed the swarms expecially now since the main nectar flow is over here in South Louisiana.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      I usually don’t feed swarms unless I see that they are struggling to build up. Watch them and see how they progress.

      Reply
  28. René

    Hi I am from South Africa, I would really love to start with beekeeping, turns out not much info readily available for us here on anything from catching to keeping to parasite, I am short so would like a long low horizontal box not one stacked to the heavens but that too does not seem available also what do I keep on hand at home in case someone gets stung apparently our bees are quite a nasty bunch

    Reply
  29. Zee

    Hello there
    A dedicated follower and love your advice and expertise ????. I placed a lure box next to a tree with a beehive we are about in swarm season so the next day a whole bunch of bees where all around it and in it . But the next day not much at all. Please advice ???????? Where they all scouts and I should be patient and check in a week or so again . Much respect all the way from West Africa, Sierra Leone , Freetown

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Bees normally like to move further away from their existing hive. I would move it further away from the tree or set up a second lure box that’s further away.

      Reply
      • Zee

        Thank you so much will do that .

        Reply
  30. Per Björkhem

    Thank you for all the good information. I have bought bee hives and equipment and I have been waiting for a month with no luck. My neighbour who lives a couple of kms from me has wild bees living inside two tyres. Would it be a good idea to put my hive next to the tyres and hope that they would move in or is it smarter to open the wild nest and try to find the queen and physically move her and some combs into my hive?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Bees typically like to swarm away from their original colony so moving them too close is not a good idea. If you want to transfer the bees into your hive, take the whole thing and all the comb and get some experienced in this work to help you do it. However, you may weaken the colony by doing this and could end up causing their collapse. If I were you I would be patient. Try the tricks in this article and set up additional swarm traps.

      Reply
  31. Zaina

    Good day
    It’s always great to go through your blog so much to learn when ever things don’t seem right there is always a solution here to seek, thank you for that .
    Am facing some difficulties to attract a swarm in to the lure box here in West Africa the swarm season as I was told is about ending and not much luck , But I noticed some bees around the front light bulb at night and was wondering if I place my box there would it also get their attention some how ?
    Looking forward to your reply . Thank you for your valuable time .

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Bees attracted to lights at night might be sick. They often never make it back to their hives, so I don’t think placing a swarm trap near a light would help.

      Reply
      • Zaina

        Thank you for always replying back truly appreciate that . Will keep trying.

        Reply
  32. Medhelpsis

    This tool can be used for bee removal. Getting bees off of the combs and not in the air is very helpful. Be careful. I have used them with good luck and I have also killed a lot of bees when I didn’t mean to.

    Reply
  33. Martina kearney

    Thanks for all your valuable information. I wanted to set up a bait hive and you have given great advice.
    Im here in Ireland in isolation in these corona times, and my bees have never been as happy.

    Reply
  34. Z

    I have just purchased a hive (entry, brood box, queen screen, super, etc). It’s stay-t-home Covid now in Escondido, so I can’t go perusing around for bees. So, I figured I’m in no rush, and will try to catch a swarm. It’s Spring, and I have a great space in a field, under a large tree, so think it is a good space. In a felled tree, about a year ago, there was a hive for a couple of years. They swarmed last year, but it made me think I could ive it a go!

    Anyway, I was going to put the hive on a platform, but not sure how high in the air I should place it? Also, do I put both the brood box and the super out as a bait box, or just the brood box? I have foundationless frames in the brood box. One more question, should I try to see if the old hive left some comb in the tree, or just leave a big space with the frames?

    Excited to see if I can get some new tenants!

    Thanks in advance of your reply….

    Z

    I have tons more questions, but this is a start.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Hi Z, I highly recommend you watch my online Intro to Beekeeping class. https://girlnextdoorhoney.com/online-classes/ It will help you get started on the right foot here. Also make sure you have comb guides in your foundation less frames. I have an article on that on this blog. You will want to set your hive on a stand that has ant proof legs. Search my articles for the one on how to keep ants out of the hive. You don’t want the stand to be too tall or it will be unstable later as you add more boxes. I would put only the deep brood box out with an entrance reducer on it. I would not try to out old comb from the tree in there.

      Reply
  35. Dan tugwell

    I attracted a swarm about a month ago exactly how you say, you are an inspiration to me, the swarm is doing well expanding fast, I’m in the U.K. people said it’s too early, at first there were a few scout bees then there were about fifty bees for a few days, then the whole colony turned up amazing it is, I wish I had started this before

    Reply
  36. Ade Rowswell

    Thank you for this excellent & informative post. As a wannabe beekeeper, I need all the help I can get! Currently have a swarm trap, like the one pictured, up in a tree, with my fingers firmly crossed. Ade (U.K.)

    Reply
  37. Lazy K

    I just had a “well, DUH” moment. “The simplest swarm trap is whatever hive you intend to keep your bees in.” If the scouts spend so much time looking for the perfect home make the Swarm Trap their Forever Home, the hive they will live in.
    I also like the confirmation of a sugar feeding station close by. That’s what I’ve done. But I’ve learned the hard way that after the swarm moves in and you add food to the hive. you need to add a Robbing screen. My small swarm was robbed within days buy other bees coming to the feeding station. Or be prepared to move the hive some distance away.

    Reply
  38. jakimange

    hello, Hillary
    this is just a brilliant idea .I have always desire to keep bees but I don’t know exactly where to start from, Thanks a lot for sharing this post.
    Am from Kenya. Can I set 20 baits at ones and all get occupied by the bee or setting up many baits course the bee undecided?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      I think setting up many bait hives will just increase your chances of the bees liking one of them. Should be OK.

      Reply
  39. Mduduzi Moyo

    Hie Hilary, am Mduduzi from Zim, great site indeed and I need your advice. I have some few question I bought 20 wooden beehives and I decided to paint them to prevent rain water soaking them. My question is was it necessary for me to paint them and since the paint has some smell can it affect it the bees from settling if Yes what can I do?

    Secondly can I put sugar water next each beehive of just put few in between beehive?

    Reply
  40. Hilary

    If you paint it, it will last longer. However yes, you will want to let it dry before baiting it. I would put the sugar water in the area, but not too close to the hive or it will make it feel unsafe to scout bees.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Proven Bee Stings Techniques That Work - KM089 - […] How to Lure a Swarm of Bees […]
  2. Bee Swarm Trap Maintenance- Carolina Honeybees - […] Some beekeepers prefer to fill their traps with the total number of frames.  That is a perfectly fine way…

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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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