When you see a swarm of bees like this, over 12 feet in a tree, what to do? I’ve lost several very large swarms of Honey Bees, only because they where so high up in a tree (15 to 22 feet), that I had no chance of getting them back. It’s heart breaking to just stand there and look at them, knowing you aren’t going to be able to catch them. They might stay there for a day or two, but that’s about it. Therefore, I came up with a serious plan for being able to catch them back. If you’ll pay close attention to how we go about this, I’m certain you’ll benefit from these tips.
Get your gear together, and setup. The pole and bucket that you see, is PRICELESS! The pole is a paint pole, that extends. The bucket us called a Hipps Swarm Bucket. Yes, you can figure out how to make your own if you’d like.
You might need a helping hand in order to get this job done. Bees that have swarmed, are heavy with honey. Once the main swarm of bees hits the bottom of the bucket, you can’t just TIP the pole over and dump it into the hive….the aluminum pole will just snap. After the bees hit the bottom of the bucket, one person holds the pole upright, while the other person screws the black handle lose, and let the pole slide down into itself, and THEN you can dump them into a hive.
Get the bucket positioned under the swarm and give a solid push. Make certain that the swarm itself is even inside the bucket, before you thump them off the limb. You’ll feel the weight hit the bottom of the bucket, and then it’s up to you and your helper to get the pole upright, and keep it that way. Once the swarm hits the bottom of the bucket, pull the chord hard and close the lid on top of the bucket. Before I put the bucket up in the tree, I spritz inside with some sugar water.
Once the pole is under control, losen the handle and let the bucket come down to a managable level. Then you can walk over and dump them into a hive body. Be sure to take out several frames in order for the bees to have plenty of room to make it into the box.
You may even have to go back up with the bucket in order to get another shot at the remainder of the bees. You may do this several times, at least. The point here is; once the initial swarm has been in the bucket, that BEE SMELL from the Queen becomes your “bee lure”. Use it to your advantage. The bees will come down into the bucket in order to find the Queen. You should have gotten the Queen in the first grab.
You might even leave the pole and bucket up against the tree for a few minutes, in order to the bees to settle in the bucket. You might even put in a few old, black brood frames if you have some extra. Bees love these black frames!
Have your helper take off the hive lid, and dump in more bees. This is repeated about 4 times, or more.
Notice on the hive above, the porch entrance is blocked with a towel. I have placed sugar water on them. I left the hole in the box OPEN. Once the bees get oriented inside this box, they’ll start coming out for a look.
You can go back up for more bees.
Dump them in the box. Each time, you must COLLAPSE the pole.
Leave the pole against the tree for a few minutes. Bees that are flying around, will settle down, and find their way into the bucket to have a look around. You can close the lid again, and bring them down. They’re a bit confused and lost. Help them find their new home!
Letting them settle into their new home.
Let the bucket lure in more bees.
Be patient. Let the smell in the bucket do it’s magic. The bees will look for their Queen BY SMELL. They’ll smell her in the bucket and go down to investigate.
Collapse the pole, bring down more bees.
Dump into hive body. Put the lid back on top of the hive body, but upside down…which makes it easier to remove and put back on. We want this lid to stay on while we work the bucket. I want the bees to come back out of the hole, and begin to fan. They’ll “pooch and fan”, telling their sisters to “Come home! Come home! The food is here, and the Queen is here! Come home!” This is what you’re looking for, so watch the bees closely.
Once most all of the bees are in the box, put the lid back on properly.
Give the hole a squirt of sugar water. Let them get oriented to the front of this box.
When you bring your bucket back down, with more bees in it, just set the bucket facing the front of the hive, or tap the bucket off upside down in front of the hive. They’ll quickly figure out where their new home is located.
All of these bees got up and made their way into their new home. After about an hour, these bees where all settled down in their new home. We left the hive in this wagon over night, giving the Scout bees a chance to make it back into their new home also. Later that night, well after sundown, I came out and plugged the hole with Cotton. Early the next morning, I gently moved this wagon to where I wanted to place them on my property. Sadly, within a week, we had a bad cold snap, and temps got well below freezing and we lost all of these bees. I was heart broken, after having done all that work. We fed them properly, but to no avail. They don’t always grab food that is close by. On the flip side, this was our first big catch with our Pole & Bucket system. We learned a lot, and felt much more confident about our abilities to catch HIGH SWARMS. If there are swarms that are over 22 feet up in a tree, we’ll just let them go. By doing so, I populate the surrounding area with “wild bees”, in hopes of a KICK BACK swarm in the next few years.
Get you a pole at Atwoods and a make you up a bucket or buy one from Brushy Mountain. You’re sure to need one, if you’re going to keep bees!! Otherwise, you’ll be standing there just like I did for 2 years, wondering what to do.
Source: Little Creek Bee Ranch
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