Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lesson Seventeen: Selling Honey

Hello Folks! I'm Sheri Burns. David and I are happy to share a little bit about our beekeeping business with you. David asked me to share some things today about selling honey and what I enjoy about our bee business.

I work in the bee yard on occasion, when I'm needed. While the bees did bother me some in the beginning, I quickly got used to them and are not bothered by them at all now. I have never gotten stung by the bees while working with them, but have asked David to sting me at times to help with some occasional joint pain. After the first sting or two, you get used to it! I have learned not to fling my arms around them and never wear perfume or hairspray while working with them. Gentle, purposeful movements are key to working with the bees but no matter how careful you are, you may get stung. Just part of the business!
Regarding selling honey, you have to develop a clientele. There are many ways to develop a clientele, such as posters in area stores, ads in your newspapers, etc. Tell the groups you participate in (community groups, school groups, committees, etc.) that you have honey to sell. Email all your friends about your honey and have them pass it on! We, of course, always have a booth at area festivals and in addition to the honey we sell, we make sure we have magnets for people to put on their refrigerator so they can remember where they got that good honey! We also have small displays we put in some area stores, and most work places allow you to do the same as well. You can also try calling your local newspaper and seeing if they would like to do a newspaper article on your business or farming venture. This will generate a lot of interest.

Another idea is to let scout troops or classes come out for an educational project and make sure you send home literature with them for their folks! If you have teaching abilities, you may wish to consider putting on some "beekeeping" workshops and generate some business at the same time. And of course don't forget to put out a big sign in your yard to advertise so people can stop in and buy!

Mostly we sell our honey from our bee farm, but we do have some displays in area stores. You can also have booths at local fairs. By reading your newspapers, generally you will find articles announcing area events with vendor information. After you are at a festival or fair the first year, the organizing group will typically automatically send you information the following year for vending at their activity again.

It is important to have good presentation by attractively bottling your honey. Bottles can be purchased from any major beekeeping supply house. However, you must take into consideration the price, as well as shipping costs. In addition, many companies will not ship glassware to you but if they do, you will typically take that at your own risk (so in other words, if it breaks the company will not replace it). Plastic can be pricey, especially with the lids so a better idea may be to go with glass canning jars you can buy at your local hardware or Big Lots stores. You can get pint and quart jars which hold 1.5lb and 3lb respectively for sometimes half the cost of the jars you buy in the catalogs and you don't have to pay any shipping! Most customers seem to really like the canning jar look as well.

Labels can be bought from the local beekeeping companies. Make sure the labels will fit the jars you have purchased. And they should say "American Honey" or "made in the USA". You can also tell the company what you want printed on the label, such as the name of your company, your family name, address, phone and website (if applicable). Some companies now provide the ability to purchase a blank back label where you can add information on your business and some personable information about your operation. Labels usually run around ten cents each.

Other products can be made from the hive, such as beeswax and propolis by products. These other products can help to sell your honey as well and are good for customers who may not like honey but would enjoy a different honey product. Research how to make soap --it can be far too pricey to buy the materials to make decorative soap from the hobby store. But making the old fashioned lye soap can be pretty tricky, if not even dangerous thing to do if you don't know how to do it. Better yet, take a class on soap making. Watch your local newspaper or call your local museums and you can find someone teaching a class. Soap made with beeswax can help your honey sales too.

You should also read up and research candle making. There are many good books easily available at the library. You can make candles from either the wax foundation sheets (candles are then called "rolled") or you can melt beeswax to pour into a mold or glass votive for solid "pillar" candles. These projects can be easy and fun to do, but be careful! Hot beeswax can be tricky to handle.

Being part of a family bee business is interesting. It can be very rewarding having your own family business. We homeschool our children, and so our family is home together all day. We can enjoy the time together and also the ability to take off and do whatever else we want to do because we do own our own business. Watching the children learn new skills is a pleasure and I especially enjoy having my husband around during the day!
Be sure and visit our Ebay store and our website shown at the top right side of this blog! Or give us a call if you are interested in starting a beehive.  Our phone is: 217-427-2678

See you at the next lesson and remember...BEE-HAVE yourself!

Davd & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lesson Sixteen: Honey Production

Hi, I'm David Burns, and thank you for joining me today for lesson sixteen of our online beekeeping lessons. Our family loves the bee business. My wife, Sheri, handles some of the administration details, produces parts for our frames and hives and oversees our honey bottling process. Our children all work in various areas of the operation too. It's a blast! My father-in-law, Bill Henness is retired and helps keeps our operation going smoothly too, by volunteering his time working the bees, building hives, building our bee-vacs and selling honey.

I've had a busy beekeeping week. Saturday I attended the Illinois State Beekeepers Association in Springfield, Illinois. A few days prior to that, on Thursday, I visited with Gene Killion. Anyone who has been in beekeeping for a while knows the name of Carl and Gene Killion. He holds the world record for the most comb honey produced from a single hive. In the glory days of his work, he had over 1,000 hives with 8 supers on each hive! The Killion family was recently featured in the American Bee Journal. The Killion's have had remarkable success in beekeeping!

While visiting with Gene, he showed me around his place where they processed comb honey and prepared their supers for the next year. Not only that, but he gave me one of his famous 8 frame comb honey supers that he and his dad made and used.
Lots of our customers request comb honey. Some customers are convinced that comb honey helps their arthritis, citing the Bible verse that says, "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones" (Proverbs 16:24). So this Spring, we are gearing up now to produce much more comb honey, which is almost a lost and dying art among beekeepers. It's not easy to do, and some have concluded it is not worth the bother. Liquid honey sells just fine, so many beekeepers no longer produce comb honey.
When I talk to other beekeepers, they too tell me that more and more people are turning to pure, raw honey including honey comb. We find it impossible to produce enough honey to keep up with the demand from our customers. Our comb honey sells out within a few weeks after we harvest it, and our honey sells out in the fall. So, we are constantly considering how to produce more honey.
It is a great joy to any beekeeper to place frames full of honey into the extractor and watch the honey start flowing out. Take a look at the video below and you'll hear our excitement!

video

Honey bees produce honey and in a good year, they produce lots of it, more than they will need, so the beekeeper can remove the excess. This is why most of us keep bees--for the honey. Although, truth be told, we just love keeping bees!
Let me share with you, two things: First, how to manage a new hive to produce the most honey, and secondly, how to manage established hives to produce the most honey. Also, let me say that sometimes, even after all the right management techniques are followed, bees are insects, and might disappoint you in doing something contrary to what you want them to do. However, bee management is effective for the most part.
HOW TO PRODUCE THE MOST HONEY FROM A NEW HIVE
If you are starting with a package of bees, then you should be happy if the bees only produce enough honey for themselves. This is good and par for the course. However, I always work my packages to produce honey for me my first year, and most do. My success comes from placing my packaged hives on drawn comb. In my opinion drawn comb is the beekeeper's third best friend! The hive tool is first, and a bee-vac is second.
Obviously, a new package or nuc will have to build up their hive. This means they will need to produce a huge amount of new comb on the frames. They need ample amounts of comb for the queen to lay eggs and for the workers to store nectar and pollen. Comb building requires a huge amount of consumed nectar. The bees need a large amount of incoming nectar for their glands to produce wax. In fact, it takes 8 pounds of nectar for the bees to produce 1 pound of wax.
Not only must they produce a significant amount of wax to build their new hive, they also need to increase their population. Typically a package contains 3 pounds of bees, which is roughly estimated to be about 10,000 bees. An established hive will usually have between 40,000-80,000 bees. The difficulty with packages and nucs is that before they develop a large number of foraging bees, some key nectar flows may have come and gone. This is why it can be difficult for a new hive to produce extra honey. They are using the incoming nectar to build comb and feed their growing population and they do not have enough bees of foraging age to get the job done.
To accelerate a package hive, drawn foundation is a huge push. Less wax production is needed and more nectar can be immediately stored. However, rarely does a beginning beekeeper have access to drawn comb. And special care must be taken to ensure that drawn comb is free of any disease, especially American Foul Brood. AFB spores can live in comb for more than 50 years. So, just because a retiring beekeeper gave you all of his equipment, including drawn comb, doesn't mean that you've got usable draw comb. If you have access to clean drawn comb, this is one way to help your package produce honey their first year.
Another way to produce honey from a new hive is to capture swarms and add the bees to the hive. Again, you must be sure that the bees you are adding are free of pests and disease. You will need to lay down newspaper between the two groups so that they can become familiar with one another and not fight. Many beekeepers capture swarms for the single purpose of using them to draw comb. Then, the drawn comb is placed into new hives. Swarms are geared to build comb.
If drawn comb isn't an option, and no one calls you to remove a swarm, what else can be done on a first year hive to produce excess honey to be taken off? Crowd! This is the opposite of what most people will tell you, because crowded and congested hives are more likely to swarm. And, if you are not an experienced beekeeper, purposely crowding a hive can backfire. In the Spring of 2006 I took a brand new 3 pound package of bees and installed them into a 10 frame deep hive body. Accidentally, I failed to monitor the hive as often as I should have--about every two weeks. A month later, I noticed some unusual signs that the hive was crowded, so I inspected. When I did, I noticed that all 10 frames were completely pulled out and excess comb was being built on the top of the inner cover, which is always a sign that you've waited too long. However, in my case, this seemed to work to my advantage. I placed a second deep with foundation on at this time, and it too was drawn out in record time, as if the bees were desperate for the extra space. I waited until the second deep was as packed as the first, then I started placing on supers. They began filling up supers.
Traditionally, and rightfully so, we are told to place the second deep on when about 5-7 frames are drawn out on the first deep. This does prevent overcrowding and swarming. Yet, I have found that if I can keep the hive VERY TIGHT, the bees seem to expand faster and work more productively. I'm not sure why. I suspect that since bees are social, that they are more efficient in tighter quarters. Perhaps the queen's presence and pheromone is more saturable. This was not just a one hive deal. As I practiced it this Spring again, I had the same results. Always better production by keeping the first deep hive packed before adding the second.
In doing this, I did have one package swarm on me, so again, there is a thin line between running at full capacity and for the congestion to produce a swarm.
PRODUCING THE MOST HONEY FROM OVERWINTERED HIVES
TIMING! HEALTHY BEES! A GOOD QUEEN! SUPERS!
It takes 40 days from when an egg is laid for that bee to emerge from her cell, serve in her housekeeping role and finally be old enough to fly out and forage for nectar. Just because you have lots of bees does not mean you have lots of foragers. To gather nectar you need to have a full squadron of foraging age bees PRIOR to the nectar flow. Therefore, beekeepers could produce more honey if they simply counted 40 days backward from when the nectar flow starts, and begin to prepare ahead of time for that flow. Most beekeepers do very little to prepare for the flow other than make sure their bees are alive.
Here in Central Illinois, weather permitting, I usually have a nectar flow as early as May 10th. This means that for me to take advantage of this early flow, I must have a huge number of foragers, 19 days or older, ready to fly out and bring in that flow. Therefore, I need lots of eggs to be laid before April 1st. This means that I need my queens to lay heavily in March. My challenge is that March is still a cold month for me, and my bees are still mostly clustering over very little brood that is being laid. The older workers decide how much the queen should be fed to stimulate her to lay eggs. If these older workers do not see enough nectar or pollen in the hive they hold the queen back from laying.
During the month of February, I will do two things. First, I place pollen patties just above the cluster, usually on the inner cover since the cluster is up high coming out of winter. And I place sugar water just above the cluster as well, one part water, one part sugar. These two food sources are just enough to prove to the older workers that a steady flow of nectar and pollen are available, so that they will stimulate the queen into laying more than she normally would at this time of the year. This helps the hive overall as well, because most hives that starve do so in February and March. The idea is to expand the population of nurse bees so that more eggs can be laid and cared for than what is normally found this time of the year, thus increasing the amount of foragers prior to May 10th.
This is a "common sense" technique. Farmers know when their crops will need harvested, and they prepare in advance to have all of their equipment and workers ready. Beekeepers do this very poorly. Beekeepers must prepare their workers (the foragers) to bring in the harvest! A terrible mistake beekeepers make is that they do not monitor the various ages of their bees. They view all of their bees as foragers. But they are not. Only one fifth of the bees in an entire hive are at foraging age.
You must also make sure your bees are healthy. They need nutrition. They need fattened up so they can remain strong and fight off various diseases. Mite control is essential in keeping healthy bees. The healthier the hive, the better the honey production.
Having a good queen is important as well. It is optimal to replace your queen every couple of years. You certainly don't have to, and often the hive will replace a faltering queen. However, for maximum honey production, you should replace your queen in September. Then, by the time you start stimulating the hive in February with sugar water and pollen patties, this new, young queen can really begin laying. You must see your honey production season as starting in September!

Finally, you need lots of supers! Research has shown that bees with plenty of supers on the hive at one time do better than supering a hive as needed. I always have at least 3 medium supers on all my hives prior to the nectar flow. If some of those supers have been saved from the previous year and have drawn comb, then you're that much closer to an excellent honey producing year.

One final note on honey production. Monitor the location of the queen. Keep the queen down. She moves up as she lays. Therefore, you may have to reverse your brood bodies many times in the Spring. However, be careful while it is still cold in the Spring not to divide the brood nest when rotating the bottom two deeps. But, they will need rotated. Get her down, so that she will see plenty of open cells to lay in. This will help prevent swarming as well.
In our next lesson, my wife Sheri will be sharing about selling honey. I can't wait for her to share her ideas with you. I'll see if I can have her share about the other products she makes from the hive too, such as soaps, candles, lip balm and more.
Be sure to get all of your equipment ready before Spring, and check out our website and our ebay store and auctions for great pricing on beekeeping equipment. You'll see links to our sites on the right hand side of this blog.

See you next time and BEE-Have yourself!

David & Sheri Burns

Friday, November 9, 2007

Lesson Fifteen: Making Spring Splits

Hi, Sheri and I would like to welcome all of our new subscribers and tell you just a bit about ourselves. We are David and Sheri Burns, sharing various aspects of our family beekeeping business with you, like these online beekeeping lessons. Many people just drive out to our bee farm here in central Illinois and visit, and many others call and ask questions. Many more email us. It is our passion to encourage others to become beekeepers. We're glad you could join us for today's lesson on making splits.

ADVANCE BEEKEEPING COURSE JUNE 11, 2014 9am-3pm Central Illinois!!

Have you considered the importance of taking our one day Advance Beekeeping Course?  I'll be joined by my good friend and fellow certified master beekeeper Jon Zawislak. Jon and I have written a book on queen rearing and we recently authored a two part articled published in the American Bee Journal on the difference between Northern and Southern bees. Jon and I will be teaching our Advance Beekeeping course June 11, 2014 here in Fairmount, Illinois and we have around 6 seats available. You don't want to miss this opportunity to be around me and Jon and learn about bees for a whole day. Click here for more information.


Welcome to Long Lane Honey Bee Farms Online Lessons! Visit our MAIN WEBSITE AT: http://www.honeybeesonline.com We have a complete line of hives that we build right here in Illinois. We offer classes, sell queens and much more. Give us a call at: 217-427-2678. Our hours are: M-Th 10am-4pm, Fri 10-Noon Central Time.


Once your hives become strong and good honey producers, and you begin to sell your honey, wax, pollen and propolis, you'll reason that if you had more hives, you could make more money. It really does work this way! If one hive makes $400 a year, then 10 hives will make $4,000 and 100 hives $40,000.00...that's in a near perfect world of course :) And, if you really want to make bees your business, there are other aspects of income from your hives such as raising and selling your own special line of queen bees or package bees, wax and wax products such as lip balm, pure beeswax candles, hand cream etc. You can also sell nucs from your hives. A nuc (short for nucleus) is when you pull out 4 or 5 frames from a strong hive and sell those frames for $100-$150. Queens sell for around $15-$25 and on up.

This sounds exciting and fun and it is and to make bees your business, you'll have to learn how to successfully split your hives. This is how you can multiply our hives without spending money on buying packages every year. Or you can do both, split some of your hives and buy a few packages too. It is the most cost effective way to add additional hives each year. Normally, a certain percentage of hives die each year. We expect a 20% loss over winter. Sometimes there is no loss, and sometimes more than 20%. I have around 40 hives going into winter, and I know that 10 are pretty small and light and will probably not make it. It's not the cold. Bees can survive cold weather just fine. It is because they never built up to be a full size hive before winter arrived; they didn't store up enough food for winter. Some of them were hives I removed from residential areas late in the year. I could replace these by purchasing new packages, and sometimes I do. However, at $50 a package, that gets expensive each year. Splitting a hive only cost time and maybe a new queen, unless you raise your own.

There are several advantages and reasons why you will want to split your hives:

To increase the number of you hives.
To prevent swarming.
To produce nucs.

MAKING SPLITS IN OVERWINTERED HIVES

It is important to realize that splits should only be made from overwintered hives, or what we refer to as second year hives. A first year hive usually will not expand enough to split.

Of course, how soon you start to split your hives will depend upon where you live. You will have to wait until the evening temperature is warm enough so that the transferred brood will not become chilled. It is a gamble for me, here in Central Illinois, to make splits prior to the month of May. A thoroughly populated hive can keep their brood warm on a cold night, but not a small split.

Although there are many variations in making splits, let me give you the simplest explanation, then I will expand upon the variations.

In its simplest form, a split is nothing more than several frames of brood, bees and food sources taken from a strong hive, and placed in an empty hive. You might think of it as a controlled swarm, although a natural swarm only consist of bees and not brood or comb. But, when making a split, we also add brood, nectar and pollen to the split. Thus, making a split can discourage swarming.

When I make splits, I simply pull our 4 or 5 frames of brood in various stages of development, along with the bees on those frames, and place them in an empty box. I also add a frame or two of nectar and pollen from the strong hive. And, I feed my new split 1:1 sugar water as well.

If you know that your transferred brood has eggs that are less than three days old, you do not have to add a queen as the split hive will realize they are queenless and begin to raise their own from the fertilized eggs in the brood. This is preferred when I wish to retain the qualities of the queen from the strong hive.

This is convenient for me, because it doesn't matter to me where the queen is, either in the old hive, or perhaps I moved her over to the new split. As long as both hives have 1-3 day old eggs, the queenless hive will raise their own queen.

CHALLENGES IN MAKING SPLITS: ADDING VARIATION TO INCREASE SUCCESS

Since I have lots of hives in small areas, I have found that my stronger hives have a tendency to rob my small splits of their honey. Therefore, if you find this to be a challenge, simply move the split at least 2 miles a way, keeping it there until it can become large enough to defend itself. Then you can bring it back and place it where you want.

Also, sometimes I fail to supply enough bees, especially nurse bees, to care for the amount of brood I have transferred into the new split. Therefore, it is helpful to shake frames of young bees into your split hive. It is best to shake them from the hive the split was made from to prevent fighting.

Another challenge may be that one of the hives may not raise their own queen. In this case, it is important to check within a few days to see if a queen cell is being formed. If not, you will need to call us up and order a queen.

Another slight variation is to add the variation of a screen. In this case, the split is on top of the established hive. The split is placed on top of the hive they were removed from, with only a screen to separate the old hive from the split on top. The heat from the old hive keeps the split warm above. This is successful but the entrance of the split on top should face the opposite direction than that of the hive below. Eventually, the split can be taken off the hive and moved to it's autonomous location.

Some beekeepers claim to make 16 splits from one hive each year. Generally you can always make one split but sometimes 2, 3 even 4!

Make you splits as early as you can, as the split will need time to prepare for winter. There are many who are practicing splits in the fall. This is possible, however, if you live in a region with hard winters, you will have to place the split on top of an established hive, divided by a screen, and the split must be fed or have plenty of nectar and pollen.

I have also made splits with just two frames of brood and bees. So, you'll have to experiment and see what number works for you.

Making splits is really pretty easy! And think of the savings of not having to buy a package or a new queen.

I have fun doing the math with splits, like this. Say you have 2 hives and in 2008 you make a conservative single split from each hive. Now you have 4 hives. In 2009 you get brave and split your 4 hives, but this time you make 2 splits from each hive. Now you have 12 hives.

12 split twice = 36 hives by 2010
36 split twice = 108 hives in 2011
108 split twice = 324 hives in 2012
324 split twice = 972 hives in 2013

In 5 years 2 hives could increase to nearly 1000!

In our next lesson, I'll be sharing how to get the most honey from you hives. Then, I'll share how to market your honey, such as bottling and labeling and were to go to sell your honey.

Remember, it is never too late to order your equipment for the 2008 bee season! You can place your hive order by giving us a call at 217-427-2678. This way, you can get all of your hives ready for Spring! Our prices will increase after the first of the year, so take advantage of this year's pricing!

Also, check out our website at: www.honeybeesonline.com

See you next time and remember to BEE-have yourself!

David & Sheri Burns

Friday, November 2, 2007

Lesson Fourteen: Swarm Capture & Prevention


Hi, and welcome to another online beekeeping lesson from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. Please feel free to submit your beekeeping questions and I will answer them in future lessons! Email me at: david@honeybeesonline.com

I thought I'd take a break from the bee lessons today and tell you about how we removed a honeybee hive from a diesel engine yesterday. But then I decided this would make a good lesson on swarms, although the hive in the engine was not a swarm, but an active hive with comb.

I received a call on Wednesday night from a man who noticed bees coming and going out of a small hole in the oil pan of one of his Cummins Diesel engines.

Wanting to sell the engine for scrap metal, he needed the bees removed first. For most bee removals I am assisted by my father-in-law, Bill Henness of Paris, Illinois. Bill makes our bee-vac that we sell and works in our hive production as well. Our bee-vacs are wonderful. It sucks the bees into a screen cage and the air suction can be adjusted so that it does not injure the bee. Then the cage can be pulled out of the vac so that the bees can be transported safely to their new location.

At 8:00 a.m., Bill and I met the man and his father, the owner of the engine and the unwanted bees. He used a sledge hammer to break open the aluminum oil pan, and sure enough, there the bees were, on a cold November morning, clustered together over their comb.

We take a lot of calls like this, almost one per day in the spring and early summer when swarms are more common. You will too, when people learn that you are a beekeeper. Since it was around 40 degrees, the bees were very calm and on the comb. I started sucking them into the cage, peeling back the comb and revealing more bees along the way. Finally after about an hour, I had removed all the comb and captured all the bees. And as part of the course, we spend the next half hour answering honeybee questions.

This was the wrong time to remove a hive. There was only about 2 lbs of bees and they had very little honey in their comb. But the engine had to go for scrap the next day. It is normally best to remove a hive in the Spring, so they can have time to build up their new home with comb and gather enough nectar throughout the year to carry them through winter. This hive could never get ready for winter now. So, I combined them with another hive.



On site, back at the engine, I tested the hive for American Foul Brood, sacbrood and chalk brood and saw no signs. I inspected many bees for mites and found none. No deformed wings, so that's why I decided to add them to one of my other hives.

When combining bees like this, it is best to place a piece of newspaper between the two different sets of bees. Otherwise, they will fight each other because the main hive will view the new bees as robbers. But by placing a newspaper barrier between the bees with a few holes in it, the bees will eat through the paper and by time they meet, they will live happily ever after (or at least for 30 days, the normal lifespan of a worker bee).


Swarms are easier to capture than removing an existing hive. Swarms usually have no comb, and are just a huge pile of bees hanging from a tree, car bumper, fence post, bird house or as in this picture, a porch on a beautiful house. A swarm is the natural way hives multiply. This happens predominately in late April, May and throughout the month of June.

In our bee yards it's RED ALERT during the months of May and June. We try to capture our own swarms. Swarms are not aggressive; they usually don't sting because they are full of honey for their journey and they have no honey or brood in a comb to protect. They are simply out shopping for a new house.

When I experimented with Russian queens, I found that they have a greater propensity to swarm. In fact, I had one hive swarm several times in two days. Sound impossible? A swarm is when the old queen leaves with half the hive. However, after the main swarm, there can be "afterswarms." This is when virgin queens swarm with smaller amounts of bees from the hive.

You might be wondering why a swarm would hang from a tree, and just sit there doing nothing. The main reason is that the scouts are out, looking for a nice place to make their final home. That's the beekeeper's tricky job, to capture the swarm before the scouts return and to make sure the scouts cannot find the newly captured hive.

It is common for a beekeeper to capture a swarm by shaking the swarm into a hive, and then leave the hive below the tree until dark. The problem is, the scouts can find their hive, enter it, convince the swarm there is a better place, and soon they will leave the hive. So, capture and move it once they are all in.

In this picture, notice the swarm hanging just above the deep hive body sitting on a bottom board? Now, all I do is give the branch a hard shake and all the bees and queen drop in the box. If they don't? Just do it again, only harder!

Keeping a swarm in their new hive box is tricky too. Here's what I do. I save drawn comb just for the capture. Drawn comb is another best friend of a beekeeper. Swarms will stay better if there is drawn comb, and a lot better if you can add a frame of brood from another hive. I spray the foundation with sugar water too. What bee would leave a sugar coated comb? I also restrict the opening down to only a small, small opening where only one or two bees can get through at a time. It's hard to swarm again if everyone has to go single file through the door. Keep it this way for at least 24 hours. My son will keep his captured swarm hives completely closed the rest of the day, and through the night.

Some tips on capturing a swarm:

1) When you get a call, ask good questions. Ask how large the swarm is, by having the caller compare it to a soft ball size, foot ball size, bowling ball size or beach ball size. This will help you know what to take. Also, ask how high the swarm is off the ground.
2) Have equipment ready like a fireman. You'll need a spare hive! Please don't call us and ask us to send you a hive in 2 hours! Have an extra one on hand. It's an extra expense, but you save by not having to buy bees! You'll also need sugar water to spray the new frames. Have the sugar water already mixed and in a spray bottle. You'll also need ropes to possibly tie off limbs, a nice limb saw, gloves because some tree sap is sticky when you cut the limbs and a secure way to tie down the hive box you are transporting home. You don't want the hive bouncing apart in the back of your truck, only to find all the bees are gone when you get home with your captured swarm. I keep my swarm supplies in a big army ammo container so that I can grab it and run. I also keep my ladder in my truck from late April through May. It takes too long to load it and strap it down.
3) Warn Bystanders. The home owner or bystanders will gather to watch. Although swarms are not aggressive and usually do not sting, they are bees with stingers. I always warn bystanders to back away or watch from their car or bedroom window. Your work will most certainly draw a crowd.
4) Be Careful. Don't try to climb the highest tree or put yourself in danger. Some swarms are way up in the tops of trees. The most dangerous aspect of swarm capture is the climb! Be careful!
5) Work fast, but not hurried. The bees are waiting for scouts to take them to a better home. Or the queen may have become too tired on their way to the better home and they may just be taking a break, a quick break!
6) Retrieval. Shake, cut or vac? You'll have to make important decisions once you see how the swarm is positioned. You'll have to decide whether to climb into the tree, or use a ladder or you may be fortunate enough to simply have the swarm at waist level. Then, you'll have to decide if you can shake the branch or cut it. If the swarm will fall directly into the box without having to fall through other branches, then by all means shake! If not, and they are on a small branch, cut the branch and carry it down to the box. This is really dangerous and takes a lot of balance and strength. Some swarms can be very heavy. This is where your ropes come in handy. Before cutting someone else's tree, ask permission. Explain the size of the branch so they will not be surprised when their beautifully shaped tree now looks like the cookie monster took a bite out of it.


When swarms are on buildings, cars and permanent structures, you have to use a bee-vac. You will never scrape them all off or get the queen. I've tried! It's like pushing a chain uphill. But, with a bee-vac, you simply vacuum them safely into a cage. A bee-vac is the second most important tool to the beekeeper, second to the hive tool, in my opinion.
7) Place the captured swarm box in its new location ASAP. Though you must allow adequate time for the swarm to work its way into the box, you must move it to its new location as soon as possible. There is a good chance that the swarm has a plan, a planned place to go. You've got your work cut out to disrupt that and convince them to go where you want them to go and to stay.
8) The white sheet approach. Using a white sheet works! It seems to help the bees notice the dark entrance to the hive box you are using. I rarely use a white sheet. Once I removed a swarm from garden. I placed a hive box on the ground very close to the hive. They began walking in. It took around 30 minutes for the swarm to finally walk into the hive, and at the end of the 30 minutes, I observed the queen walking in.
How to prevent swarms in your own hives
Swarm prevention is vital for a good honey production year. Swarming is a natural instinctive behavior and is how a mature hive multiplies into two hives. Attempting to prevent a swarm is a challenge, and sometimes after doing everything to prevent a swarm, they still swarm. If a hive swarms and 50% of the hive leaves, then it will unlikely be able to produce a good honey crop that same year due to the reduction in bees. If you are fortunate enough to capture the swarm, the good news is that you now have two hives, but the bad news is, neither will provide a honey crop that year. You can usually place the swarm back into the hive it came from, and the swarming instinct will have been satisfied.


So, the best honey crop comes from operating a hive slightly below the swarm congested level, while preventing a swarm.
Congestion vs. Crowded --you need open cells!
Many beekeepers have been taught to provide more space in the hive to prevent swarms but this is only partially true. Placing a super of undrawn foundation on the hive will not help if you've waited too long. Hives swarm because of congestion and overcrowding and more so from congestion. Congestion means that there is incoming nectar and pollen in large quantities, and the queen is laying well, thus there are not enough empty cells to accommodate the need. This is why undrawn foundation (more space) does not always help. They need drawn comb with open cells, not just more space. Sometimes, you can pull out a frame or two of brood from the brood nest area and add two frames of either drawn or undrawn foundation, and this might be a temporary solution. But by this time, you may have waited too long.
Remove swarm queen cells. The obvious swarm sign is the presence of queen swarm cells. These queen cells are called swarm cells because the are usually located on the lower section of a frame in the brood chamber. You can tilt back a deep hive body and look for these swarm queen cells hanging from the bottom of the frames. Another type of queen cell is the superseding queen cell, which is located higher up on the drawn comb. A superseding queen cell means that the old queen is being replaced because she is not productive or injured or dead. Leave these superseding cells alone! The bees know what they are doing, and why they need this replacement. But, if you want to try and prevent swarms, remove the swarm queen cells from the bottom of the frames.
What do queen cells look like? They are shaped like peanuts and hang out either from the foundation, as with superseding cells, or they hang from the bottom of a frame, as with swarm cells. They are about the size of the first joint on your little finger.
I usually save the cells in a mason jar with air holes in the lid, keeping them in a warm spot in the house, just in case I need a queen. I also have several small hives (nucs) that I store these queens in. It's cheaper than buying queens. Sometimes, I'll have two or three jars full of queen cells on the kitchen table. I'll wake up and while eating breakfast, watch a queen emerge, then take her to her nuc box using a queen cage, slow introduction method.
In closing, I've got to tell you about my swarm capture stocking cap! I got the idea from reading what Langstroth did in his bee yards. He would hang dark woolly items from trees, so that a swarm would light where he had placed the item, instead of high up in the tree. I use a black stocking cap, fill it full of cloth, and hand them around my bee yards. It may not work every time, but when it does, it sure makes the capture much easier. To the bee, the dark, swarm shaped stocking cap looks like the place where other bees have landed.
In our next lesson, I'll explain how to split or divide a hive in the Spring to prevent swarming as well.
Here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, we enjoy providing these free online beekeeping lessons to all who wish to learn more about keeping bees. We are a family operated business that has a passion to see more people enjoy the art of keeping bees. We also believe that to offset the dwindling honeybee population, that more people need to start keeping bees. Feel free to contact us at: 217-427-2678.

We manufacture all hive parts, and we also carry a complete line of everything you need in keeping bees.

Our website is: www.honeybeesoneline.com
Share this with your friends and maybe you can get others to become beekeepers too!
See you next time!

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms