This spring we had several friends catch honey bee swarms. We were intrigued by this but didn’t know how to go about actually finding a swarm to catch. There are already several beekeepers who post ads on the local Craigslist looking for honey bee swarms to capture. The usual time for honey bees to swarm is spring and early summer. Well that time passed us by with no swarm to capture. Then two weeks ago our luck changed!
We were picking cherries at our neighbor’s house when she just happened to go looking in her apple tree to see how many apples they had this year. She noticed a lot of bees and thought it was a hornets’ nest. My husband and I stepped in for a closer look and were thrilled when we realized what we were looking at was a swarm of honey bees! They were all clustered around one of the branches of the apple tree. Our neighbor gave her consent for us to capture the swarm and take it back to our property to be placed into a hive. We of course promised them lots of honey in the fall!
My husband ran home to get his bee suit (we invested in this beekeeping suit after getting stung a bunch last year with a cheaper suit!) some tools and cardboard boxes. Once he came back and suited up, he got to work. The branch the bees were clustered on was small enough and easily accessible so my husband decided that the easiest way to caputre the swarm would be to cut the branch off. Once the branch was sawed off, my husband carefully placed it into a large cardboard box.
We were pretty sure the queen was inside the cluster of bees so we didn’t want to disturb it too much. Luckily it was evening and the temperatures were cooling off so most of the bees were already back with the colony. Once the branch with the cluster of bees was placed in a cardboard box, my husband closed it up and taped it closed so they couldn’t escape.
The box was then carefully taken back to our property where my husband poked some small air holes in it. We didn’t have a hive and frames ready so my husband decided to keep the bees in the cardboard box overnight while he worked in his shop to build them a hive and frames.
The next morning once it warmed up, my husband took the new hive and frames out to where our other bee hives are. Since it is already half way through the season and this new colony of bees doesn’t have any food in their hive, my husband put in a frame of honey from another bee hive. He also put in the feeder like this one with some sugar water to make sure they had ample food available. We wanted to do everything possible to make them happy and stay in their new home!
He took the cardboard box full of honey bees out to the hive and had a spray bottle of sugar water ready to spray the bees down as he slowly opened the box. Once the bees were sprayed down (and slowed down!), he carefully poured the box of bees into the new hive. Some of the bees needed to be brushed into the hive off the branch. The cardboard box was left sitting next to the new hive for a day to make sure all the honey bees had a chance to migrate into their new hive.
We didn’t want to disturb the honey bees too much and make them swarm again, so we’ve been watching them from the house with our binoculars. We can see them coming and going so it appears they like their new home!
When we first saw this swarm at our neighbor’s property, we wondered if it might have been from one of our hives. My husband did a thorough hive inspection of all our hives and none of them appear to have swarmed. These honeybees may have come from someone else’s hives in the area or they could have been a “wild” hive having made their home in nature somewhere prior to swarming.
Capturing a honey bee swarm was an amazing experience. It is also a cost effective way to increase our hives since new packages of bees cost over $100. After this experience, next spring I plan to spread the word to friends and neighbors to keep us posted about any honey bee swarms they see that we can capture!
Have you ever captured a honey bee swarm?