With a mild winter, swarms can come early to the South Carolina Midlands- around February 15th. That sounds like a long time from now but it will get here sooner than you think and swarms are unforgiving with beekeeper tardiness. Building and getting ready for swarm trapping is something that you should consider doing during these off months of winter. Remember, once swarm season starts you’ll probably be caught up in preparing your own hives for the primary nectar flow and have a limited amount of time to prepare traps. However, for those who are prepared there will be free bees. Here are a few sites I recommend:
And multiple videos by outofabluesky:
I promote swarm traps as another part of good beekeeping. Swarm management starts within your own hives and can go a long way to reducing the number of swarms that issue from your apiary. Intensive management can come close to eliminating swarms. However, life happens and you will experience the occasional swarm. Some thoughts on the matter:
1) The swarms you catch in a trap will typically perform better than the ones you knock out of a tree.
2) You’ll lose a portion of the swarms that issue for various reasons like too high in a tree, etc. It’s really nice when that swarm you had to leave in the tree shows up in your trap the next day.
3) Coupled with good swarm management in the hive, and capture of those swarms easy to gather, adding traps is good stewardship. Dr. Lawrence Connor in his book, Increase Essentials, says only 1 in 6 swarms survive their first winter. By capturing them you’re increasing their chances of survival.
4) Swarm captures makes better neighbors. Some neighbors will be as fascinated as you are at the miracle of swarming; others won’t. Capturing your own swarms may prevent you some heartache.
And finally, here’s an excellent, free, eight page article on the biology on swarming and nest selection with excellent advice on swarm trapping: Bait Hives for Honey Bees by Thomas D. Seeley, Roger Morse, and Richard Nowogrodzki
Swarm trapping can be fun. For beekeepers it satisfies the same urge fishing does for fishermen. A lot of care goes into choosing and selecting the equipment and bait in hopes of finding the right combination which will most closely match the criteria the bees are looking for in a new home. Have some fun this year preparing your bait hives and catching a big swarm. You’ll not only get more bees, you’ll have a story to tell. And take a few pictures and send them in to us to share.