Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Swarm Traps





Yes it's that time of year again when I go out and place the swarm traps. I think I am going to reduce the number I put out this year overall however as I have noticed that I really only seem to catch swarms in about four locations. That and frankly I am beginning to think my warranty ran out last year when I hit 50 so I am trying to only place traps where they are easily removed and replaced as needed.

No more 100 yard treks through underbrush carrying a trap full of bees for me.

I have several different varieties of traps anymore. I also use some nuk boxes I built (basically 5 frame mini hives) in a few places and designed a stand that fits over a metal t-post too. I have found that traps a bit smaller than what the experts recommend sometimes work very well in different locations especially built up areas like cities.

Most of my traps however are like the one you see above. A box with a solid attached bottom, a removable top and a back hanger that fits over a tree limb that has been cut off. Typically about the size of a normal brood chamber or large hive box with a 1 inch entrance hole  cut off center to the lower right.




Inside I put a strip of wood on each side to hold a frame or two of drawn comb. I don't worry about proper bee spacing or what have you as the objective here is to make sure the bees are not living in the trap long enough to matter. I have a couple of boxes that are much longer than a frame and just nailed a brace across the box.




I usually use a sheet of the coated outside plywood for the top but in a pinch I have used about anything if needed. Once painted they last several years anyway and besides the traps are typically only exposed to the elements for maybe three months of the year.

Basically the goal here is to make a cavity off the ground that bees find attractive and is about the volume they need to live in. The volume is the tricky part as some swarms are smaller than others and may pass over a trap that is too large. A few other helpful hints seem to be to place the trap so the entrance is facing South or East and in a place where the trap has morning sun and afternoon shade.

As a bonus I have found that once a trap has attracted a swarm into it it seems to work better from that point on due to the smell I assume and that having an extra drawn out frame of comb from a dead out hive is like putting icing on a cake.

The final touch to swarm trap success is.....




Lemongrass oil. This stuff imitates the pheromone smell of a queen I am told. It does it so well that even we humans can smell it and it will make mate happy drones explode in sexual release if they get near a q-tip covered in it. Don't ask me how I know that little fact.

It's strong stuff and I typically will rebait the traps with it about every two weeks or so. I dip a q-tip into the bottle, rub a little outside the trap entrance and then push the q-tip inside.

An interesting observation is that when a trap does catch a swarm all the oil soaked cotton on the end of the q-tip will be gone when you transfer the bees into a hive. The bees literally tear the cotton to shreds.

As I said powerful stuff to bees anyway.

Now as to placement. I mentioned a limb lopped off that puts the trap facing South or East is desirable but you should also try and get it as high off the ground as possible too. The experts recommend 8 foot but ya know I got tired of carrying a ladder around with me and again reference my warranty running out and decided climbing a ladder at night to remove a trap was too much as well. These days I place em where I can reach em and it doesn't seem to matter much to the swarms.

When you catch a swarm, and you can usually tell from the coming and goings although I have been fooled a time or two, wait until nightfall and put a cork in the entrance hole and move the trap. There are also these round disks you can use to block the entrance holes but they are expensive and really just neat bling. I then place the trap full of bees in the location the hive will be and leave em alone for a day or two.

More on transferring the bees from the trap to the hive in a later post.

It really is that simple and I have captured bees in places where others swore they hadn't seen a bee in years. Supposedly the scouts from a swarm will travel for 15 miles or more to find a suitable cavity to move into. In my opinion catching a swarm is infinitely better than buying package bees and seem to have a much much better chance at survival too. I haven't actually purchased bees, other than queens, in several years because of swarm traps and I believe that is the major factor in my lower than average Winter losses and generally pest resistant hives.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!!!!!




16 comments:

  1. I have 15 out now and I will do 5 more next week. My two hives that I started from purchased nucs died out but my two hives from captured swarms survived the winter just fine. I'd like to end up with ten hives going into winter.

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    1. Sd - Ten hives is a good number and if you catch em early this year they should have plenty of time to build up for Winter. I have seen so many package bees die out every year but swarms seem to be real survivors.

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  2. Thanks for the info. I have 2 nucs coming, but would like to try my luck at swarm catching. How far from your hives do you typically put your swarm boxes? I've got friends all over that I can put them...

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    1. 3 Roosters - I have had traps right next to current hives and caught swarms in them but often times I have seen some traps not get occupied when around hives too. I don't think it matters much until you get to three or more hives then the bees want a little more space at least around here. I now place my traps a good 50 yards or more away from hive banks.

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  3. This is really interesting. Swarms are freaky! I like the smell of lemongrass, although I don't think pheromones has anything to do with it.

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    1. Lisa - Ya the lemon smell is kinda nice but I agree I doubt the bees smell it like we do.

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  4. PP,

    I'm with Lisa on swarms being freaky. Lemongrass is used for many reasons, never thought about it for attracting bees.

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    1. Sandy - I love swarms they are generally easy to handle although many claim they don't sting I have come across a few that do.

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  5. Swarm season here starts at the earliest in May.

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    1. MV - I have seen March swarms here but theya re rare. Usually April at the earliest and June being the heaviest swarm times.

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  6. Very timely post for me and I like what you said about height placement! I've been looking at info that says swarms like it 12 to 15 feet up and I'm thinking, "yeah, right." Now I'm motivated to get Honeysuckle situated as a bait hive to see what happens. Nothing will happen if I don't and who knows?!?!?

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    1. Leigh - I really don't think the height thing is as important as they claim. I rarely hang a trap above head height now and I seem to catch just as many swarms. Of course I guess I really don't know how many I don't catch either but I am done lugging a ladder around.

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  7. I just placed a swarm trap for the first time this year. I am curious if you have any tips on placing the trap, i.e. near a field, near water, near apiary, etc. Also, just found your blog thanks to Leigh (5 acres) and was reading your opening feeding post. Any thoughts for or against locating the open feeder near the swarm trap?

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    1. Perry - I don't think the feeder nearby would hurt anything. I believe many forager bees will remember good hive locations they come across and go back to them later. Some think I am crazy but I have seen bees checking out traps even before swarming season gets going. As far as placement goes I try and find a location that has good East and South exposure with late afternoon shade and avoid completely open areas. Bees around here seem to like afternoon shade.

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  8. Lemon grass. Will that work on tractor time chicks too?

    al

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    1. al - Hmmmmm maybe you are on to why so many of them show up here. They are attracted to the lemon grass oil scent because it sure ain't for my getting old self anymore :(

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