Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Survival Bee Keeping - Part 1

I have touched on survival bee keeping a few times over the years. Whenever I get a couple of people asking questions about getting started in keeping bees I will usually do another post on the subject. Yes a large amount of the subject gets re-hashed over again and again but I have also found that each year I add something new to the overall picture or change my own opinions on things.

Originally I bought the first hive I ever had some years ago. A local who had a few hives was getting out of the hobby and couldn't take care of his hives so I managed to pick one of them up. To date that original hive has been the only bees other than a queen I have ever purchased.

The single most important tool for survival bee keeping is the swarm trap.

This is a picture of one I made with the top off. The best bait to put in one of these traps is old frames of comb taken from a hive that died out over Winter. The next several pictures should give you an idea of how this one was built.
I actually have a new design that allows me to remove the back support brace for storage but the theory is the same.

The string keeps the top from being blown off by the wind. The hole in the top of the brace allows you to hang the trap from a small limb that has been cut off. The offset under the top allows for a removable top to be put in place. My newer design also includes a metal disc over the hole so that I can turn it to close the entrance off for transport. Originally I used a cork to close off the entrance hole and then a simple screen duct taped over it.

I am showing pictures of the trap first because if I had to do it all over again or was starting over from scratch this would be the first thing I would make and use.

If a trap catches a swarm you have right then and there saved yourself a huge chunk of cash with packaged bees going for as much as $125.00 shipped. In many cases you are required to travel for miles to go pick them up as well. One trapped swarm is some serious money in your pocket.

While I could at this point write an entire book simply about trapping bee swarms I will try to be as brief as possible.

Many people may think you should have experience and more gear before attempting to trap your own bees but I kinda feel there isn't any reason to shell out a bunch of time and money until you know you have the single most important ingredient. Namely the Bees. It certainly wouldn't hurt to go ahead and purchase a permanent hive to put your bees in along with the types of frames you are going to use (Unless you want to go with a hand made top bar hive). The trouble is there are so many choices you can make I could never hope to cover them all here.

The truth is with a simple box like you see above and a enough plastic or assembled frames to go in the thing you could almost keep your bees in the trap and never mess with them. If the bees were not perfectly happy to live there they wouldn't move in to begin with.

Generally speaking the only problem I see with keeping bees in a swarm trap is that the sides are just too thin to give the girls good Winter protection. It's the same with regular bee hives which is why I put a Winter wrap on mine. With enough honey any colony can survive Winter but why make them work harder than you have to?

If you build a trap like I show above and fill it will frames for the girls to build on you could in fact capture a swarm and leave it in the trap for several weeks before needing to move it if that was your final choice. The frames are the actual heart of the hive and so you could let the newly captured bees build up why you decide what you want to do with them.

You don't even need any protective clothing or hive tools until you decide to place them into a more permanent home.

Two years ago I had captured all the swarms I had hives built to put them in. I really didn't have time or the money to put together a new hive so I decided to take all my traps down. In the process of making my trap runs I walked up just as another swarm was settling in to one of my traps. I ended up leaving that swarm in the trap for almost a month while I ordered in a new hive then assembled and painted it.

So if your on a budget or just not sure these remarkable insects will fill you with a desire to keep millions of them, why....

Build a swarm trap and see if you can capture your own bees before making the jump. If you capture a swarm at least you know that will be one swarm that won't be taking up residence in your neighbors rafters.

There are all kinds of lures and baits you can buy or make to help encourage the bees into your traps. I will cover these tomorrow.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!


  1. looks simple enough to build. what is the dimensions, or does it matter?


    1. Dan - It doesn't matter as long as you don't leave much space for the bees to go wild with the comb and that only matters if you leave em in there longer than a few days really.

      Generally a big trap will catch big swarms and a smaller trap will catch small swarms. They like to occupy space equal to what they can protect.

  2. I found out that my cousin who has been evolved in Beekeeping for pollinating has wanted to get out of it, but he is partnered with a guy who has some loans tied up in the business. In my option without asking a lot of questions they may have gone too large too fast based on what you have said about getting bees.

    1. Rob - Well in my opinion going large is just too much of an upfront risk and on too far out of a time line to judge the outcome. I am not averse to risk but gambling on the weather and rain amounts a year in advance to me is more like rolling dice than taking intelligent risk.

    2. If I recall they have to move the bees south every winter to TX.

  3. PP,

    Thanks for the insight of starting beekeeping.

  4. Okay this answered my question that I asked on your part 2 post LOL!!!! Thanks for sharing your bee knowledge. I'm going to show the hubs this post and see what he can build me ☺


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