Saturday, July 5, 2014

LESSON 156: Tips On How To Catch A Swarm 217-427-2678


We are still in swarm season, a time when bees multiply by sending out 60% of their colony with the old queen to establish a new colony. Back home, the colony raises a new queen to build back up the population. Today, I want to share some tips on how to catch and retain a swarm.

Hi, we are David and Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in central Illinois. Next year will mark our 10 year anniversary in the beekeeping business. Some of you reading this lesson have been loyal customers since way back then. Thank you. For those of you joining us fairly recent, welcome.

Last week we just finished up another queen rearing class. Our students were from the Chicago area, North Carolina, Ohio, and Indiana.

I’ll be speaking at the Heartland Apicultural Society (HAS) Conference July 10-12, 2014, at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL. This conference is open to everyone interested in beekeeping, including beginners. Regional & national vendors, as well as experts in the field of beekeeping, will be present. Hope to see you there. Click here for  more information.  Then July 28-Aug. 1 I’ll be at the Eastern Apicultural Society meeting at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky assisting with the testing of future master beekeepers. The EAS is a great conference. Consider attending by clicking here.

We are keeping busy on the farm, teaching classes, attending conferences, removing bees from houses, speaking about bees and building equipment. I’ve heard from several states that a summer dearth has set in. A dearth is a period during the season when there is no longer a strong nectar flow. Bees usually get by on floral sources here and there. But large colonies with a large amount of young larvae will begin to suffer from the lack of incoming nectar and pollen. Nurse bees must consume pollen and nectar in order to produce royal jelly which is fed to all larvae for the first 3 days. Without royal jelly, larvae die from starvation. Therefore we are busying making our Burns Bees Feeding System to help bees receive sufficient protein and carbohydrates during a dearth.

Good nutrition is an essential part of keeping bees healthy. Bees deal with many challenges today and better nutrition in the summer and fall can give a colony a better chance this winter. By the way, I am offering a class on how to prepare your hives for winter. Click here for more information or go to: We still 6 seats available.

NYPhoto5 A quick word about our classes. Recently, someone told us that they attended a bee class in another state but they were unable to really learn as much due to the overwhelming size of the class. We purposely keep our classes small for a better learning environment. Our class sizes are limited and kept small so each student can be well trained. For example, that’s why we offer multiple classes on the same subject throughout the year rather than just offering one big class per year. Our students have told us how much they enjoy the smaller, more personable classes. If our Overwinter Class reaches capacity soon, we will offer an additional class in September. Imagine spending the entire day learning about fall preparation, mouse protection, mite reduction, wind blocks, wrapping hives, heating lamps, winter feeding, insulation, moving hives into buildings or shelters, the biology of fat bodies, the timing of a new fall queen, pros and cons of double walled hives, dynamics of both Langstroth and top bar hives in the winter, the winter cluster and more.To see our full list of 2014 classes still remaining click here.

Classes The weather has been really nice around the farm. We’ve had great “bee” weather. Our bees are foraging heavy every single day and expanding rapidly. Here in central Illinois our Dutch clover (Trifolium repens) has really popped this year. I do not remember seeing this much yard clover, not only at our farm, but in towns and other areas. Bees love yard clover. It makes it very difficult for me to keep our area mowed because I hate to mow clover with bees on it. But, for clover to bloom again, it does need mowed every few weeks. So I try to mow after foraging hours.

Honey Super I see rookie beekeepers making a big mistake this time of the year…NOT KEEPING ENOUGH HONEY SUPERS ON! Put more honey supers on. If your hive is strong, you should have two or three honey supers on this time of the year. Give them space and encourage them to fill up supers. To order more honey supers click here. Our honey supers come completely assembled and painted with wooden frames and foundation. Don’t miss this year’s honey crop!

Finally, we have a special Hive Talk Show coming up this Tuesday at 10 a.m. central time. Jon Zawislak and myself will be on the air to take your calls and answer your questions. Or you just might want to tune in and listen. Here’s how.

Call in to ask your questions. The number to call is: 1-724-444-7444. When you call in you'll be asked to enter our SHOW ID which is: 129777 followed by the # sign. Then the automated system will ask you for your Pin number which is 1 followed by the # sign. At that point, you'll be on the show with us so you can ask your questions. You will be muted unless you press * 8 on your phone and that will allow us to unmute you so you can ask your question. Call in around 10 minutes prior to broadcast, at 9:50 a.m. central time. The show starts this coming Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. central time. If you want to just listen from your computer, go to:

If you use a smart phone you can add the Podcast App and have our shows sent to your mobile device every time we produce a new one. Just go to iTunes and search for Hive Talk, scroll down to podcast and you'll find us there.

Or listen to our past episodes by clicking here or by copying the link below and pasting it into  your internet browser.

LESSON 157: Tips On How To Catch A Swarm

Swarm on ladder Hives are still swarming in our area. Catching a swarm seems simple enough. Take some empty equipment and set it under the branch where the bees are hanging from and shake them into the hive and go home. Well, sometimes it does go that well. But most of the time it involves more than I just described. So let me share some tips on how to hive a swarm.

First, make sure you have equipment on hand to put the swarm in. Every week someone calls in needing equipment yesterday because they caught a swarm. They didn’t have a hive to put it in so they put it in some sort of unacceptable container, like a 5 gallon bucket or a cardboard box. When you put swarm in a lacking container there is a good probability the colony will leave soon. It is either too hot, or they need more room.

5 Frame Nuc1One of our hottest selling items is a 5 frame nuc. We’ve sold so many of these this year. These make a very nice way to capture a swarm. They are small enough to conveniently lift and carry.  I’ve learned to always have one in my car or truck. I’ve actually noticed swarms hanging from roads signs while traveling. If you have equipment with you, you can stop and retrieve the swarm.  Our 5 frame nuc box is made up of a real screen bottom board which provides ventilation to your captured swarm while you drive them home. It’s also made of real 1” pine (3/4 inch actual size). Also includes an inner cover and telescoping top cover with metal. It’s just like a real hive only made for 5 frames which are included. It measures 9” across. It is also perfect to take for presentations instead of a full size hive. This nuc is painted and fully assembled and includes 5 frames and foundation. Click here for more information.


EmergencySwarm If your swarm is gigantic, you may want to consider our Emergency Swarm Hive. This is a screen bottom board, 1 Deep Hive Body, 10 frames and foundation, inner cover and top cover. Also comes with a tie down strap to keep the top on securely and a piece of screen to hold the bees in during the transportation.

Having available equipment is essential in being able to retain a swarm. I spray the frames with sugar water mixed with Honey-B-Healthy. The lemongrass odor helps attracts the swarm into the new hive.

Secondly, be very careful when climbing trees or ladders. Sometimes it is not worth the risk. But when you can safely retrieve the swarm wear a hat and veil and any other necessary protective clothing. Most swarms are not very defensive but bees are bees.

Thirdly, shake!  When you shake the branch, the bees will fall and fly. Most of the bees will fall into your hive, hopefully including the queen, but others will take flight and land back on the branch near where the queen still is or where she was. So you may have to shake the branch several more times. Once the majority of the bees are in the nuc or hive, place the lid on and carry the hive to your new location.

Swarm1 Thirdly, do not be surprised if the swarm swarms again. Sometimes scouts from the swarm have already picked out a new place to direct the swarm to. As soon as they get organized, they can swarm again. Here’s a few things you can do to help keep the swarm. If you have another colony, pull out a frame of open brood with bees on it and place it into the swarm box. The frame of brood might help the swarm to feel obligated to feed and care for the brood and not leave. I do not worry about transferring the bees on the frame from one hive into another. Usually the bees on the open brood are 6-12 day old bees carrying for the open brood and get along fine in a different hive.

Do not be disappointed if your swarm colony replaces their queen. This is not uncommon for colonies that have recently swarmed. You’ll have to decide if you want them to take 30 days to raise a new laying queen or order a mated queen. If it is later in the season it might be helpful to feed the new swarm colony to build them up heading into winter. Continue to monitor mite levels. Hopefully this swarm will make you proud and become one of the best hives in your apiary.

Swarm2 What happens when bees are still swarming in the air but will not land. A technique I use that is helps is to take a dark sock and place lemon grass extract on it, and tie it somewhere in the air near the swarming bees. The bees are sometimes fooled to think the sock are other bees that have landed.

Another helpful hint is considering how to get a swarm on the ground into a hive. I take a sheet or something white and place it between the hive and the swarm on the ground. Watch my video of bees being shaken off the sock and then walking into the hive. The bees always walk across the white sheet and into the dark hive. The queen is not always the first one to go in.  

Remember if you catch a swarm you’ll need a hive to put them in. Consider our fully painted, and assembled hive.

Thanks for joining us and have a great 4th of July weekend.

David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

No comments: