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TFB Episode 34 - Catching Swarms

Posted: Thu Aug 04, 2016 8:12 pm
by Michael K
This was a great episode and has inspired me to stop buying packages and build swarm bait hives.

I've read McCartney's book several times over but I am looking for anecdotal advice. River valleys, mountains and wilderness - I have access to a huge variety of locations. I intend to take a shotgun approach and just put them everywhere I can.

Re: TFB Episode 34 - Catching Swarms

Posted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 10:27 pm
by Brian
Setting out bait hives is a game changer. I made 3 bait hives this year, set them out and caught a swarm on each one. It's a great relief when you realize you never have to buy bees again.


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Re: TFB Episode 34 - Catching Swarms

Posted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 11:54 pm
by Nordak
They are often, from my experience, better than bees money can buy. It seems like around clearings, along wood lines/fence lines with open meadows are good. Just pick a tree that stands out to you for whatever reason. No need to put it 20' high. I put mine as high as I can reach and have had good results. I'm 5'8", so that's not very high. Old brood comb helps tremendously, and just standard LGO. Look out, it's super addictive.

Re: TFB Episode 34 - Catching Swarms

Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 4:25 pm
by Michael K
Wow - that's great feedback thanks. Can't wait for spring! Anyone try fall swarm catching? We get a lot of Goldenrod and Aster.

So I am on board with black comb and Lemon Grass Oil (8 drops) in a baggie on some paper towel.

A few questions:

What size box are you guys using? I am planning to create a square medium using the salvaged long sides of hive boxes I make that aren't quite good enough. This means 19 1/8" on the insides all the way around and works out to 39 liters (McCartney recommended 35 to 40). This way if they draw out a lot of comb I can just drop in my 8 frame mediums.

I don't have a lot of full black medium combs - perhaps I can just cut out sections of it and put those in a baggie to get the smell. Any thoughts on this?

Re: TFB Episode 34 - Catching Swarms

Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 5:54 pm
by Nordak
I think your volume figures are about right. I would make the trap deeper than it is wide, as from my experience the bees prefer that to a wider shallow box. It's also easier to mount to a tree being less wide. If the worry is using medium frames in this set up, don't. If you have good comb guides, the bees will start at the top of the frames and won't build below the frames before you can get to them from my experience. It gives them a sense of the cavity being more open as well. Picture something like a medium double 5 frame nuc with no frames below the top box. If you have a segment of comb, just rubber band it in the middle frame. I often will take old comb and rub it into the inside of the box for smell.

I wouldn't recommend trying to catch a fall swarm unless you just want to try it out. Most likely they would not build up sufficiently to overwinter, even with feeding this time of year.

Re: TFB Episode 34 - Catching Swarms

Posted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 1:51 pm
by lharder
I have 3 swarm traps, 0 takes this year. Man.

I hear there used to be lots of feral bees in this area. Lots of big ponderosa pine trees to provide habitat. A big pine beetle outbreak took out most of the trees and feral bees haven't seemed to make a comeback yet.

My wooden ware is new though. (2 8 frame mediums screwed together), and I may try the trick of taking the frames out of the bottom box. Next year I'll convert them to used boxes and try a few more.

Re: TFB Episode 34 - Catching Swarms

Posted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 3:01 pm
by Michael K
Interesting. I'll make some closer to 6 frame boxes and stack 2 to make roughly 38 liter spaces. I'll rubber band some old comb in there.

2 8 frame mediums comes out closer to 50 liters - significantly more than the recommended 35 to 40. I can't say whether that is terribly significant or not though as I have no experience.

Re: TFB Episode 34 - Catching Swarms

Posted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 3:56 pm
by Nordak
The double 6 framer should work real well. Sounds like you are well on your way, and ready for success.

Regarding lharder's double 8 configuration, I've heard that some northern breeds prefer a larger box due to cluster size, which might be his thinking there. I think the inverse is true as well: with AHB, you can get away with liter volumes as small as 25 liters or smaller I believe I've read. I think the general rule is 1-1.5" in2 for entrance?

Old woodenware helps considerably. Once you attract enough bees, the box begins to take on a smell of its own, and will give you better and better success rates. I do think rubbing the inside with comb makes it smell more attractive to bees.

Re: TFB Episode 34 - Catching Swarms

Posted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 4:09 pm
by Nordak
lharder wrote:I have 3 swarm traps, 0 takes this year. Man.

I hear there used to be lots of feral bees in this area. Lots of big ponderosa pine trees to provide habitat. A big pine beetle outbreak took out most of the trees and feral bees haven't seemed to make a comeback yet.


Regarding the feral population, maybe try something like fusion power did when you are comfortable enough with how your bees are surviving. Just have some hives set aside for swarming purposes. If I didn't live within a city limit, I would be doing the same.

I bet they might be out there though. Keep on putting them out and I bet you'll nab something one of these years.

We should all keep each other updated come Spring on our bait hives. It is one of my favorite aspects of beekeeping. I love it, and look forward to Spring every year in hopes I'll catch more.

Good luck to you both!

Re: TFB Episode 34 - Catching Swarms

Posted: Thu Aug 11, 2016 1:15 am
by lharder
I've been thinking along those lines. Let a good hive swarm at each site. And hopefully doesn't end up in my swarm trap, or somebody else's box.