Our swarm season has officially begun here in the Midlands of South Carolina. Beekeepers, old and new, enjoy the thrill of the chase which kicks in the excitement factor associated with gathering a swarm.
So what does it take to catch a swarm? I was doing a quick search this morning to determine the ideal swarm catchers equipment list and I was struck by a web page I stumbled upon which detailed the swarm catching of a young sixteen year old making a few bucks while providing a valuable community service during the spring swarm season. What impressed me the most was the young man’s minimalist approach to necessary gear. Basically he had a cardboard office supplies box reinforced with duct tape with a makeshift screen for ventilation on the lid. His second piece of equipment is a plant mister/sprayer with some sugar water. Otherwise he wings it.
I have been caught out without any equipment while driving around and responded to a phone call unprepared, yet the property owner and I have found a box, a ladder, and a pruning shear to successfully capture a swarm. Once home it’s easy enough to put them into a proper box.
But let’s say you really want to gather a swarm this year and would feel more comfortable having a few items in your car or truck ready to make short work of almost any situation. What items are in the swarm catcher’s essentials bag? Well, probably a standard Langstroth box with frames on a ventilated bottom board. If space in your car or truck is a concern a five frame nucleus box (wooden or cardboard) will suffice. You’ll want to be able to keep them enclosed for the drive back so use some screen or otherwise completely block the entrance. Next is a mister bottle of sugar water to wet the cluster down prior to shaking them or moving to your box. Sugar water isn’t essential but the bees will stay together nicely and it gives them something to occupy themselves with while you work with them. Other items which the homeowner may not have available: ladder, pruning shears or loppers, small handsaw, bee suit, gloves. That’s pretty much all that’s needed to handle most situations. An extra suit is nice if the homeowner wants to get involved. Often they are interested and it’s a good time to do some community education.
Here are a couple links if you’re interested in gathering swarms. And also, if you think you’d be interested join one of the online swarm call lists to have your name out there for people in your community to call. Warning: It’s addicting!