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How to catch a Bee Swarm

My Saturday did not go as planned. The previous week I was finally able to move my bees back to my yard. Last Summer I had to relocate them due to a construction site at my house. Happy to have them in my backyard again, I wanted to split the hive to ensure that they didn't swarm to the neighbor's terrace. You can learn about why bees swarm in this blog post.

My bees had other plans though. I watched them swarm on Saturday, always a wonder of nature. They don't usually go very far from the original hive. I waited about 15 minutes for them to settle. Their hum was so loud it was difficult to hear anything else outside. 

Bee swarm

They chose a small bush in my neighbor's yard. Of course, they always go to the neighbor's instead of staying on the premises. First lesson about catching a swarm is be quick! In the time it took me to put on my bee suit and gather my swarm equipment, they were gone. All that remained were about 20 stragglers where I had just watched them cluster. 

But since it's swarm season, here's what I would have done had they not got away.

If you see a bee swarm, it's important to know that they are most often docile. They take as much honey as possible with them from the hive so their tummies are full of honey and they are "fat and happy". They also have nothing to protect, no hive, no brood, no honey. So they are not interested in stinging you. Leave them be and call your local beekeeping club. They will be more than happy to come remove the swarm.

Bee swarm on a branch

1. Spray the swarm with water. It's ok if they're dripping wet. This will prevent them from flying around so much. 

2. Lay a white sheet on the ground under the swarm. Any bees that fall to the ground during the retrieval can be easily gathered in the sheet. 

3. If the swarm is clustered around a branch, it may be easiest to cut the whole branch. Otherwise, use your swarm basket (or box or what ever you have) and hold it directly under the swarm. With a firm tap to the branch, shake all of the bees into the basket and quickly close the lid. 

Beekeeper catching a bee swarm

4. Get your new hive ready. Ideally, you should add a frame with eggs and uncapped brood from an existing hive. Leave the middle frames out of the hive to have plenty of space to dump in the new bees. It's also a good idea to use used equipment. Bees love the scent of bees. This might make the difference of them wanting to stay in their new home.

5. Firmly knock the bees in the basket to the bottom. Then quickly open it and spray them with water once again (about 5-6 sprays should do the trick). 

6. Dump the swarm into the new hive.

7. Gently add the missing frames to the middle of the hive. Wait a few moments until the bees settle and make some space. 

bees in hive

8. Leave the hive near the swarm spot until dusk. This way any stragglers will head into the hive where the queen is and you will not leave any bees behind. You can also use a smoker to help urge the bees into the new hive. But if the queen is in the hive, they should quickly follow. Close up the hive and bring it home.

9. Do not disturb them for one week. They need time to start building out comb and making new brood. Otherwise, they may simply leave again. 

And good luck! Have you ever spotted a bee swarm?

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