By Bernard Preston

Swarming bee traps

Swarming bee traps explains how to capture a feral colony.

When a colony has outgrown its home, be it in a tree stump, roof, or a proper commercial beehive, the bees start to build queen cells in preparation for swarming. About a week before the queens are due to hatch, scouts start looking for a suitable new place to make a nest.

It's vital to make the bee traps hospitable as possible. What do I mean by that?

  • The bee trap must be about 2-4m above ground for best results. On a water tank, hanging in a tree, on a shed roof... if you are placing several bee traps out, vary the height.
  • The bee trap must have been lived in, and have a "bee smell". Several months before the swarming season, purchase half a dozen new hives, and once they've aired for a month or two, transfer an existing colony to one of the new hives. The old hive makes the perfect bait.

If you have some old, black combs, break them up in a bucket of hot water and then paint the slush onto your new hive, inside and out. It looks terrible but makes the perfect trap hive.

Inside the hive, three types of combs are necessary:

  1. About four frames with a narrow strip of wax foundation, perhaps one to two inches wide. This creates in the middle of the box a space for the new swarm to cluster. Swarming bees don't like full foundation combs throughout the hive.

Another four frames, placed towards the outside with full foundation. Full foundation has two advantages: the bees won't build drone cells, and there is immediately room for the queen to lay eggs for the developing colony.

  • On the outside, or perhaps in the centre, it's not critical, you MUST have a couple of frames of natural dry honey comb. It immediately makes the bees feel right at home, and the queen will probably lay eggs within hours of arriving with her new swarm. In fact, the bees don't particularly like foundation wax. It's too inert and refined. It's we the beekeepers who like it as it makes the hive nice and uniform and easy to manipulate.
  • Done! Now best option: place this box on top of a strong colony for a day or two. They will start to draw out the foundation, but don't leave it too long... you don't want any honey or young brood in your trap. Take a peep every couple days to see how busy they have been.

  • Second best is just to place your prepared swarming bee trap straight up on a roof or tree stump ... Providing there is a honey flow on the go, you should catch swarms within a few weeks. Obviously some areas are better than others for catching swarms. Plant indigenous trees for honey bees too; it will obviously will help with swarming bee traps.
  • Swarming bee traps

    Swarming bee traps shows how to provide a hospitable environment in the new hive for attracting a colony that's migrating past. Make sure they choose your box, rather than go under the roof.

    Raw honey

    Choice grade honey is increasingly difficult to get; it's heated, over processed and adulterated. In addition, because of our desire to have it 'pure' it's passed through many layers of filtering, removing all the pollen granules. The solution is your own swarming bee traps.

    Half the value of honey is the pollen it contains; that is what helps with all our allergies. Hayfever, asthma, sinusitis, and so on.

    If you desire to have raw honey, either start beekeeping as I did, or find a small apiarist in your neck of the woods. Find out when he or she is harvesting the crop, take a long several buckets to provide enough for a whole year. Ask if you can tap it straight from the tank before it's processed in any way.

    Bottle it in glass jars as soon as you get home as most honeys will crystallise, and you don't want the whole bucket on the dining room table.

    Beekeeping has been the chief fascination of my life; I've kept them for over fifty years in a corner of the garden, with the exception of a four year stint in Chicago whilst studying chiropractic. If you have indigenous honeybees, as we do, then traps will become part of your life.


    Permaculture is all about working with nature, rather than against it; and ensuring that our great grandchildren will be able to enjoy a habitable world as we have been privileged to. Swarming bee traps is but one tiny aspect of the whole.

    Increasingly our world is seriously under threat from pollution. Soon scientists tell us there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish; literally.

    One in three mouthfuls that we eat coming directly from plants that have been pollinated by bees. They too are seriously under threat from pollution and insecticides.

    If you are serious about the environment, then one of the best moves you could make would be to keep a beehive or two in your garden; and that means swarming bee traps.

    Of course permaculture goes much further than swarming bee traps; it's all about maintaining a sustainable ecosystem; it's a vast subject.

    For me it's all about growing organic vegetables sans toxic poisons, saving rainwater and building a solar farm that has made us close to going off the grid.

    You will choose other facets of permaculture if you are concerned about our world; those things that fascinate you. But do something because we are destroying the beautiful planet the good Lord provided for us. It's no longer a garden of Eden. Many parts are polluted deathtraps.

    Recycling all your plastic, glass, cans and paper would be a good start.



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    Bernard Preston

    Bernard Preston, that's me! is a semi-retired chiropractor with a passion for better health; that means less medication, better food, and more exercise.

    It's no coincidence that neither Helen nor I take any medication at all, except if the very occasional acute crisis, have regular chiropractic adjustments, grow our own vegetables and relish gardening as our exercise.

    And once a year, I'm putting up swarming bee traps to add a colony or two to our apiary, or helping others get started.

    We never have difficulty with Christmas presents; a few bottles of Bernard Preston's honey always brings a smile of appreciation; no white elephants from our home.


    Chiropractic Help and Bernard Preston send out a joint monthly newsletter full of bits and pieces about better health. Number #46 is about how to prevent chronic lower back pain, important for beekeepers. Chiropractic Help backissues ...

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