How to capture a swarm

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I am very interested in the problem of hunting the swarm, but the literature on the matter is not available. Please tell me about the most popular traps for catching swarms, which are used by beginners.

O. Sverchkov
Mikhailovka town
Volgogradskaya region

Journal "Apiary" has already published some materials how to catch a vagrant swarm (see "Apiary" N6, 1996 and N3,4 1997), but we decided to return to this problem because this is not the only letter in our editorial mail.

Success in catching bees depends not only whether a beekeeper is experienced but also on the number bees in the region, the technology of beekeeping and also on the abundance of natural places for settling vagrant bees.

As the places suitable for settling vagrant bees are much fewer than vagrant swarms, it can be used in catching them, by making traps and hanging them near the places of honey collection. In household shops there are sometimes small cylindrical barrels made of pressed paper used for friable products. Their diameter (35cm) and height (60-70cm) suit perfectly. The most important thing is that these barrels shouldn’t have any strong unpleasant smell. Bees don’t like strange pungent odours. Cylindrical barrels suit perfectly. Having bought 3-4 barrels make veneer bottoms 5-8mm thick that firmly go into barrels and near the bottom cut a slot 7cm long and 1-1,5 cm thick- a bee entrance. It is advisable that you should cover the barrels from outside with not very bright paint, or with drying oil. Rub walls of the cylindrical barrel with balm or linen saturated by propolis (you can take it from any experienced beekeeper). It would be good if you could get some old comb frames (not spoilt by mice), 2-3 frames in each barrel. Attach them on the ceiling of the barrels at 37mm distance from each other. If there are no old frames you can take new ones but before using them it is necessary to rub them by linen saturated with propolis and to polish them with wax foundation. After having attached near upper and lower hoops pieces of rope, 3 meters long, go to the forest and find a tall tree with thick crown near a meadow or a glade and attach a barrel with a bee entrance downward at a height of 5 meters (no less than 3 meters). If it is possible put the trap on a firm bough. Try to make it inconspicuous for other people’s eyes. It’s better to hang it with a bee entrance eastward.

You can also take a cardboard or plywood box (the latter is preferable) or to make it from veneer or acrylic plastic. A box should be also painted. A transverse section should be square, with sides 30-35cmx100cm.

Having hung the traps at a distance 3-4km from one another you should examine them every week. If bees flow into the trap you’ll see some of them flying in and out the bee entrance. Swarming season usually begins in the middle of May and in southern regions 1,5-2 weeks earlier.

As soon as you find out that bees have settled in your trap, get a hive ready for new “residents”. Supply a hive with frames with wax foundation on the basis of 4 frames a kilo of swarm weight. And go to the trap as soon as possible. Close a bee entrance with piece of net with holes no bigger than 3x3cm, and carefully take it down on the ground (it is advisable to do it with a helper) and take it home without shaking and jolting it, put it on a hive till the next morning and open a bee entrance beforehand.

Bees will calm down during the night and the next day (if the weather permits) transplantation will cause any trouble neither to you nor to your neighbours. The next day at 10-11 o’clock open a trap and carry comb frames to a hive, if they have been put, then shake out all the bees on the frames.

As the swarm doesn’t have any broodnest and settles on new wax foundation, it is high time to take preventive measures against possible bee diseases. It is recommended that you should buy bipin against tick, and against askospherosis -one of the following remedies: unisan, askotsin, dicobin, or PAGP. I hope you’ll escape other rare bee diseases, but it would not be out of place to inquire about the diseases that have attacked the local bee gardens and accordingly take preventive measures. I’d like to note again that it is more effective and easier to carry out prophylactic measures with swarms without broodnest because diseases and parasites are on bees and are not hidden in larvae, where they are difficult to affect and preventive measures are less effective. Medicines should be used according the instruction, which is usually enclosed (if not, ask for it!). And if possible invite a beekeeper or a vetenary specialist to help.

Take a trap to the former place for further use. As a rule the first swarms fly away with the old propagating queen, the second and the third- with new non-propagating. That’s why while observing central comb frames a week later there should appear a partially sealed broodnest, if it has been the first swarm. This family won’t make you life difficult later on. In families with non-propagating queen a broodnest may appear a month later. You shouldn’t wait more and give a queen (either propagating or non-propagating) or put a frame with an unsealed broodnest with larvae no more than 3 days old. You can also join this family with a successful family with every precaution.

You can ask for help and consultation a local beekeeper. It is advisable to add late swarms (especially august) to other families as they don’t survive winter: they fail to grow the necessary number of young bees, that’s why it is better to take traps away till the next year. In years rich in swarms some beekeepers can catch about 10 swarms of different biotic potential. Venture- this is the cheapest way to make your own bee garden. Good luck!

Efimov V.

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English translation © Irina Yelsukova