Attracting Swarms

Since bee packages cost money to purchase, many beekeepers set out swarm boxes to attract any swarms that might have left their originating hives. Bees swarm from a healthy hive. So, it’s nothing to worry about if your hives swarm. It’s free bees after all. Typically, a queen (or swarm) cell is drawn down when the hive gets too big and the new queen takes half the hive and leaves. Scout bees go out to find a suitable tree or if we’re lucky, a swarm box.

We like to use a nuc box which is essentially a five-frame hive. Less expensive options are available, but we thought wooden nuc boxes would be stronger and last longer than the other types of swarm boxes we can purchase and they work well. We add swarm lure to the underside of the lid and spray it on the entrance if we’re using spray.

Swarms like to hang out in trees so we decided to put a couple of nuc boxes in some trees at the top of our property. We also put one on top of the entrance to the medicinal herb garden and a couple in some trees in our backyard. The existing hives are in another area of the property and when they swarm, they usually attach to a tree branch that’s close to the hive. So, we’re not trying to get our own swarms, but those that might be from other hives.

We began with the two boxes at the top of the property. Jerry loosened the ratchet strap that he’s using to keep them tied to the tree and lifted the lid and sprayed on some swarm lure. You can also use swarm lure that comes in a vial inside an envelope. That option you simply staple to the inside of the lid and it works well.

After baiting both hives, we moved to the hive above the entrance to the medicinal herb garden. There we discovered that wax moths had invaded and we quickly got another nuc box and replaced the mothy one with the clean box, baiting it with swarm lure before putting it up on the entrance.

Wax moths are a problem that beekeepers experience. They prefer used comb and love comb with brood areas. They lay their eggs and when they hatch, they feed on comb, and debris in the hive. But in this case, we had put some old comb in the nuc to give any swarms that might move in something to lay brood on without having to draw down any comb. So, that’s why they moved in. We’ll clean it out and then the nuc should be usable again, but right now, it’s pretty gross. Some beekeepers find Para-Moth to be useful if things get out of control.

And now we wait. We’ll re-bait the nucs a couple of more times, at the end of May and during mid-June. That should cover swarm season and with any luck, we might capture some swarms! I’ll update if we do, complete with pictures. And if you’re interested in obtaining beekeeping supplies, I’d love you to check out my beekeeping section, For the Love of Bees, at A Witch in Store, my Amazon-affiliate storefront!

Bee-witching Blessings!

Originally published at on May 13, 2019.



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