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Swarm Traps, How Do They Work?

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

As beekeepers, we use swarm traps in several locations close to our apiary and in areas around town to convince honeybees to move in. This makes them easy to move and keeps them from taking up residence in a nearby house.

Honeybee Swarm Trap hung in a Tall Oak Tree in South Carolina
Honeybee Swarm Trap in Tree with Honeybees

Location, Location, Location

A valuable swarm trap location is typically 21 feet off the ground, mounted to a solid tree on the edge a clearing and close to a natural water source. There is an ideal size for swarm traps too! According to Entomologists, it is roughly 40 liters of space. This is the equivalent to two 5-gallon buckets. We use deep size frames which only hang down about halfway in the swarm trap shown above. Beekeepers also use a couple of secret weapons to lure honeybees into the swarm traps. Empty honeycomb that other honeybees have already built out is a sure-fire way to get honeybees to move in. It is a signal that bees have already considered it a good place in the past. This is actually a well intention trick, but the honeybees don't mind. For beekeepers that don't have drawn comb, they can use a product called Swarm Commander. This product is specifically designed by a long-time beekeeper and chemist here is South Carolina that is a replication of the pheromones a queen gives off. To humans, it smells like lemon grass and to honeybees it smells like a sweet new place to live.

New Honeybee Swarm in a Swarm Trap
Close Up Look at Honeybees in a Swarm Trap

What Happens in a Swarm Trap?

Honeybees quickly get to work building out new honeycomb. This honeycomb will allow the honeybees to make space for the queen to quickly start laying the next generation of honeybees. They will also start packing away nectar and pollen, the honeybee food sources. In the photo below, a frame out of a swarm trap is being transferred over to their new permanent home. Freshly made beeswax is actually bright white. It will quickly turn to a yellow color when the pollen covered bees start walking all over it as they store their golden treasure. They will also build new honeycomb from top to bottom and in a horseshoe shape. It won’t be but a couple of days and these honeybees will fill this entire frame with honeycomb. The queen typically lays a large oval pattern of eggs in the center and they will pack rings of pollen around the eggs and pack nectar will fill the corners.

Honeybees that have started to draw out fresh honeycomb, this is always drawn out from the top down in a semi circle fashion.
Honeybee Swarm Drawing out Fresh Beeswax and Making Honeycomb

Moving to their New Home

The swarm trap is designed to make it easier for the honeybees to relocated into their new home in an apiary. The pictures in this article are from last weekend (4/17/21) when we have a swarm move into our swarm trap in our backyard. We currently live in a neighborhood. It makes for some lively calls from the neighbors on occasion. We moved this swarm from the Oak tree in our back yard to Hive 7, pictured just down below. We moved them after dark when the honeybees were inside the swarm trap. The next day we moved them into their new home and had frames of honey in the top box from a colony that didn't make it through the winter. It will give these honeybees a super boost to get them going.

A Baby Blue Beehive and the Number 7
Beehive Number 7

Where Can You See Updates?

Check us out our Instagram for Hilltop Honey Co where you can keep up with this swarm and other things that are happening with our honeybees.

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