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How to capture a swarm?

As a colony of bees grows larger and the hive becomes overcrowded, it produces one or more swarms. These land in clusters on a nearby bush or tree, then, shortly after, they fly away and land again on another tree.

Swarm on a tree
Swarm on a tree
Scout bees then escape to find a suitable site to colonize. It is possible to capture a cluster swarm and introduce it into a hive. The best time to do this is at the end of the day, just before dark. During the heat of the day, bees are more likely to fly away and disturb other people or pets. The equipment needed to capture a swarm is as follows:

  • A rigid basket or an empty box to contain the swarm.
  • An old sheet to wrap around the basket once the swarm has been captured
  • Protective clothing
  • A smoker or a small manual sprayer producing a water mist (make sure that the sprayer is not contaminated with an insecticide)
  • An empty beehive
  • A hand pruner.

The sheet is first spread out on the ground near where the swarm rests, then a few puffs of smoke are given around the swarm or a little water is finely sprayed on the bees. The next step is to cut the surrounding vegetation so that you can place the basket under the swarm. While keeping it in this position, it is then a matter of giving a strong jerk to the branch on which the swarm is resting so that it falls into the basket. You must then immediately reverse it and place it on the sheet. As the bees are still walking upward, the swarm will reform, attaching itself to the highest point inside the basket.
A small stone placed under the edge of the basket to create a bee passage will allow bees still outside to join their swarm. Bees still outside will be more attracted if the queen is inside. When all the bees have entered, the sheet is folded down to wrap around the basket.

how to capture a swarm
Putting an empty box under the swarm
The swarm is then brought to the hive, which has been previously prepared by removing five of the frames, in order to provide space for the swarm. It is first gently smoky through the sides of the basket, then the bees are knocked off by a good slap on the outside bottom of the basket or the box. The basket is then inverted and shaken to make all the bees fall into the hive. As soon as most of the bees are inside, the bars are put back in place and the hive is closed. The bees that remain outside eventually join the others by passing through the entrance to the hive.

How to capture a swarm?
Hive with removed frames

Newly swarms may remain in the hive allocated to them or desert during the first days. It takes some experience to create the optimal conditions and achieve an acceptable success rate. European bees rarely desert, but African bees frequently do when they don't like something. It may be an unpleasant smell or too high a temperature in the hive. Repeated pest intrusions sometimes force bees to desert, but a strong colony is normally able to repel unwanted hosts. However, once the colony is established, it does not leave without having a good reason to do so, such as a lack of flowers, food or water.