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Swarm Traps and Bait Hives

Use swarm traps to capture feral bees for beekeeping.

Trapping a swarm of bees can help you increase the size of your apiary, and give you a strong bee colony. Swarm traps, also called bait hives or bait boxes, are used to capture feral bees. Learn all about how to make your own swarm traps and bait hives.

How to Build a Swarm Trap

Swarm Traps and Bait Hives
Catch your own bees for your beehive with swarm traps. Learn how to make a swarm trap, hang it and catch feral bees.

There are a few different designs and ways to build a swarm trap. Ultimately, you want the swarm trap to look like an apiary beehive. Scout bees go searching for a hive for the rest of the swarm. Swarm traps need to be big enough for the bees to get in and start building comb.

If you want to make a bait box yourself, make sure it has enough volume. Your swarm trap needs to have at least 10 gallons of volume. The box also needs to fit six to 10  beekeeping frames inside. The entrance hole should be 1″ so the bees can easily get in and out of the hive. Attach a board with a hole for hanging on the back of the box.

If you don’t want to make a bait box, you can just buy an eight or ten frame beehive. Attach a board with a hole on the back of the beehive so you can hang it.

To attract the bees to the swarm trap, you’ll need to use some kind of pheromone. You can buy navasov pheromone. Navasov is a pheromone released by worker bees to get foraging bees back to their hive. If you don’t want to buy the expensive pheromone, you can bait the box with lemon grass oil. Just add a few drops to the inside of the box.

Where to Place Swarm Traps

Swarm traps need to resemble a real hive. It’s best to hang them anywhere from 12 to 15 feet in a tree or on a post. It needs to be off the ground. Make the swarm traps highly visible so the scouts can easily see them. Nail the swarm traps up in the location you choose.

How to Take Down a Swarm Trap

Taking down a swarm trap can be tricky. The box will be full of bees, and possibly honey and honeycomb, weighing it down. The combination of the heavy swarm trap and being up on a ladder can be hard to maneuver. You also have to deal with guard bees that become aggressive because of the intrusive ladder.

Before removing the swarm trap, use a smoker to smoke the trap’s entrance. Once you have quickly smoked the entrance, it’s time to take down the swarm trap. Use a rope to secure the trap to a tree limb above it, and tie to the ladder. Remove the nails holding up the hive. Untie the rope from the ladder and slowly lower it to the ground. Be very careful to gently lower the hive. The new comb is weak and can easily break inside the trap.

Whenever you’re making swarm traps, remember you’re dealing with feral bees. It’s important to wear beekeeping clothing, including a beekeeping veil and gloves. The bees’ temperament can be unpredictable. The last thing you want is an aggressive swarm of bees after you. If the bees are aggressive without cause, don’t keep that swarm. Requeen your colony.

For more information about the care and keeping of your honey bees, visit our beekeeping blog.


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