Capturing a Swarm of Bees

2012 July 24
by Chris Vernon

We’ve only been ‘beekeepers’ for a few months so imagine our surprise when we get a call from someone at our local association informing us of a reported swarm and inviting us to go and collect it! Sure, we’ve read the books, watched the videos and have the equipment and insurance but neither of us has actually taken any part in a swarm capture before. So, of course we said yes!

Here’s the swarm as we found it on the morning of Sunday 22nd July 2012:


Small swarm of bees

According to Wikipedia, there’s an old English poem that goes:

A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July isn’t worth a fly.

(Or possibly for the last line, “A swarm of bees in July, let them fly.“)

On top of that, this is by all accounts a small swarm. But this is the swarm in front of us and at the very least we owe it to the lady whose garden it’s in to remove it. Fortunately the bees were only about a foot off the ground, with the only difficulties being the cramped conditions behind the greenhouse and the fact they had settled through a trellis fence. With a little water spray to calm them it wasn’t too hard to sweep the majority off the fence and into the box. I had already made a another nuc (similar in design to this one I described earlier) so they went straight in there with the crown board leaving a small gap.


Most of the bees in the nuc

Within seconds it was clear that we’d captured the queen as many bees positioned themselves by the entrance and started fanning pheromones from the Nasonov gland on their abdomens.


Within seconds bees are fanning at the entrance

It was clear that not all the bees would enter the nuc until dusk so we explained the situation and said our good-byes until the evening. Returning at dusk all was quiet and every single bee seemed to be in the nuc, at least there were none on the fence or anywhere else we could see. Result! Without further ado we sealed the box and drove them home.

Only time will tell whether a swarm this size, at this time of year, most likely with a virgin queen will be able to build itself up in time for winter, especially given the variable weather this year. However, this has been another interesting experience on our beekeeping journey!

3 Responses leave one →
  1. August 22, 2012

    Do you have any photo updates on how the nuc hive is doing now? Having visited your bees the other day, I am more and more amazed by them!

  2. January 5, 2013

    Hi Chris,

    How are the bees doing? I will be applying oxalic acid soon.

    And, I am writing to you to find out how the beekeeper in you is doing?? I took up beekeeping to try and regain my sanity, so I was surprised when I discovered, how many beekeepers were frustrated and fed up with it.

    So, with this in mind I thought it would be interesting to run a Beekeeper Attitude Survey to see how people are feeling about beekeeping.

    Please vote. It will only take a few seconds. I’ll write up some conclusions when I have the results.

    Many, many thanks for your input.

  3. Chris Vernon permalink*
    January 7, 2013

    The bees above have sadly died. The queen didn’t manage to mate successfully.

    However, our first hive is going great. Here’s a video of them flying at the weekend:

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