This swarm capture involved a huge swarm which decided to collect on a trash can. It looked fairly large until I removed the lid and found as many bees inside the trash can as on the outside. This was truly a huge bee swarm, possible as many as 25,000 bees. Before bees swarm they gorge themselves on honey to last them until they are able to find a new home and begin collecting fresh supplies. This usually makes them fairly docile.
They will often remain like this for just a few hours, sometimes a few days. When the scouts find somewhere permanent they all take to the wing and head for the new location. Quite a sight! Honey bee swarm capture is perhaps the most exciting part of beekeeping. To remove a swarm I usually brush them into a box, or if they are on a branch I can sometimes put a box underneath and shake them into it. To me this is so much more satisfactory and satisfying than other forms of swarm pest control people sometimes employ.
Sometimes, when swarm catching, it’s easier to carefully cut off the branch on which they’ve collected and put the whole thing into a box. The box can be wrapped in an old sheet to stop bees escaping during transit. Remember bees have to breath, they can be transported a short distance in this way, but if they have to be inside the box for some time make sure you provide them with ventilation. A swarm can easily overheat and perish in transit which is a very sorry sight. A fine mesh bag with a draw string is ideal, these are available from beekeeping suppliers to help transport bee hives. Misting them during transit with plain water in a spray bottle can help to keep them cool.
Disturbing them in this way, of course, makes many take to the wing. I put the box on the ground with the opening underneath. The bees inside the box tend to collect together on the inside of the ‘roof’ of the box.
Some will stand near the entrance to the box, face the opening and produce a pheromone from their Koschevnikov gland, near the sting shaft. The fan their wings which drives this ‘scent’ upwards and away from the entrance to attract the remaining bees back to the main cluster.
It’s usually best, if possible’ to leave the box in position until after sunset to allow as many bee as possible to find their way in. Some bees are usually left behind, these will return to their original bee hive within a day or two.
Okay now I have my swarm of bees,what do I do now?