8 Simple Steps to Capture a Swarm of Bees

When spring arrives, you’ll see a lot of swarms around. To capture a swarm of bees is one of the best parts of beekeeping and an easy way of acquiring yourself a colony! Whether it’s your first time or not, capturing a swarm of bees will leave you excited with an ongoing learning journey about bees. 

Honey bees swarm to grow their populations. Essentially, it is like splitting a colony into two. Additionally, swarms are easy to capture for beekeepers because they usually haven’t built a comb and are just a cluster of bees. 

Tools you need: 

First, you’ll need somewhere to transfer the bees in. The most commonly used is a NUC box. Most swarms you’ll find are small that wouldn’t take up as much space as an established beehive would. 

A basic toolkit you would need will include: 

  1. NUC box or breathable box (made of wood or cardboard)
  2. Beekeeping Suit (complete with veil and gloves)
  3. Pruning shears
  4. Ladder
  5. Bee Brush

To capture a swarm of bees, it will require a range of tools to be used. For example, if it’s high up, you may need a ladder to access them. If they are around bushes, you may need plant clippers. Hence, assess the area first before proceeding so you know which tools you’ll need ahead!

Things to Consider When Capturing a Swarm of Bees: 

  1. Capture a swarm as soon as you’ve located one. A swarm of bees is not an established colony and will not stay put in one area if they don’t like it.
  2. Usually swarms are tame and docile. That’s why you will find most experienced beekeepers catch a swarm without wearing a beekeeping suit. However, this is not recommended especially if you’re a beginner! Some swarms can be very defensive and you there is a high risk of getting stung. 
  3. If you aren’t sure if you are allergic to bee venom, it’s best to be prepared for the worst. You can have allergy testing conducted before proceeding. Better to be safe in advance!
  4. If you want to find a swarm, keep connected to your local beekeeping clubs or groups. There are plenty of local ones that you can find on Facebook!
Swarm of bees o n a branch

How to Capture A Swarm of Bees: 

  1. Assess the area where the swarm is located. This first step will help you identify how to access the bees safely. If they are high up on a tree branch, you may or may not need a ladder. 
  2. If the swarm is on a branch, lowering them down towards the NUC or box will make it easy to transfer them in. You will find it common to find the swarm stuck together like a cluster. This will help to make them feel as if they chose to move. Additionally, you can also cut the branch off if that makes it easier. Note: Make sure your NUC has frames already before putting the bees in! This will avoid squishing any of them. 
  3. Find the queen. You will usually find the queen in the centre of the cluster. If the queen is not in the box, you’ll know as the workers will start moving out of the box and back to its original position. However, if the bees started fanning at the entrance, there is a good chance that the queen is inside the box. 
  4. If the bees are from a branch, shake the bees in. You can do so by shaking the branches gently causing some bees to fall in. However, this can trigger some of them to fly. However, some of them will return and will eventually regroup. 
  5. If the bees are on the ground or a wall, you can easily scoop them by hand. Many experienced beekeepers do this, confidently! This way they don’t get triggered to fly. 
  6. Once the bees are settled in the box, position it in a way that will make it accessible for the other bees. Position the box as close to the original area as possible. If possible, wait until sunset to make time for scout bees to return. 
  7. After nightfall, close the box entirely and secure it with tape. Transport the swarm gently as possible and place them in a safe location overnight. 
  8. Give the swarm at least a week to start building combs and raising brood. It is important that you do not disturb them at this crucial time as they may become annoyed. This may cause them to leave or to abscond. 

Few things to remember: 

If it’s your first time catching a swarm, best to do it with an experienced beekeeper. It’s so much easier to say it in theory but so much different in actual practice! 

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