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Catching bees

You can buy bees, catch bees or if you are very lucky bees will adopt you! I got my bees by catching a swarm. Something for nothing is always the best way!You’ve got the gear, now you need to find productive residents for your empty beehive. In this post, Janet explains how to catch a swarm of bees.

Photo by Harlequeen via Flickr

You can buy bees, catch bees or if you are very lucky bees will adopt you!

I got my bees by catching a swarm. Something for free is always the best way! Indeed, with a top bar hive this is probably the best way to acquire new bees. Bought bees come on conventional frames which don’t fit in a top bar hive. Catching a swarm is actually very easy and lots of fun. Bees swarm in response to their natural instinct to reproduce, mostly in spring and summer. A new queen is produced and the old queen will leave the hive with half of the workers to make a new home elsewhere.

A swarm of bees is an impressive sight. They will fly from the hive into the sky and form a large dark cloud, slowly contracting before they land. Hopefully they choose to land  on a branch of a tree within your reach.Then it is just a matter of holding a large box or basket under the swarm and cutting off the branch, letting the football-like cluster fall into the container. Place a sheet or light cover over and wait for any stragglers to get in. Bees are less likely to sting when swarming as their tummies are filled with honey in preparation for the flight. But don’t be a hero, wear your bee suit and if you have never done this before get a beekeeper friend to help.  Get on the list for new swarms by contacting your local beekeeping club.

A swarm of bees is an impressive sight. They will fly from the hive into the sky and form a large dark cloud, slowly contracting before they land. Hopefully they choose to land  on a branch of a tree within your reach.

To get the swarm into the top bar hive, remove the middle section of the top bars and pour, shake or sweep the bees into the hive. I smear a little honey inside the hive to entice them to stay. When the large cluster is in, gently replace the top bars. Allow around 8 bars and then use the follower boards either side to surround the cluster of bees. Close the hive and let them get on with settling in. You may see bees fanning their wings around the outside of the hive entrance. They are telling any stragglers where their new home is.

If it is a small swarm, say the size of a large tennis ball, as opposed to a soccer ball, block two of the round entrance holes with cork or a rag. This makes it easier for a small colony to protect and guard itself. Within three weeks when the new brood is hatching you can open these holes.

You may be lucky enough to entice a passing swarm into your hive on their own accord. Rub the inside of a new hive with beeswax, lemon balm herb, a stalk of lemon grass or a few drops of citronella oil. Apparently bees are quite partial to these smells!

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