Frequently Asked Questions

Everything you wanted to know about Catching swarms from The Swarm King.

Select question below.

1. What is the best size box to use to catch swarms?
  • After much research it appears that a size of about 40 liters is ideal, 1 liter = 1.06 quarts.
  • This is a little larger than a 10 frame deep box but smaller than my Honey Bee Haven and the honey bees appear to prefer the vertical orientation.
  • I have heard bees like the open area below the frames, it looks bigger.
2. When do you start putting the swarm boxes out?
  • I usually start hanging swarm boxes around the end of February or beginning of March.
  • I would rather have it up early than late.
3. Where is the best place to hang the Honey Bee Haven?
  • I prefer the west side of a field or tree line so the Honey Bee Haven gets morning sun and evening shade. This really helps during the summer if it gets really hot because I have had bees leave when it was too hot.
  • This is also why I drill several small holes near the top.
  • I also add another ½” entrance hole on the back top of the Honey Bee Haven.
  • Old neighborhoods are a very good place to put up a Honey Bee Haven.
  • Many people think the country is the best place to catch swarms but not always, it depends on the resources.
4. How do I improve my chances of catching a swarm?
  • Frame Setup – I use one frame of old/dark drawn out comb.
  • Bait – Use a zip lock bag and a paper towel with several drops of lemongrass oil on it. Zip the bag until it’s almost closed then put a stick in the opening. This prevents the bag from closing up completely.
  • I am foundation-less because I have found that the bees prefer to build their own comb and will avoid foundation until it’s the only thing left.
  • I have experimented with one frame of comb, 4 foundation-less frames and 1 frame with foundation.
  • I have placed the 1 frame of foundation in each position and the bees will avoid it every time.
  • In my opinion: do not use foundation to catch swarms, after the swarm moves in it's your choice.
5. How high do you hang the Honey Bee Haven?
  • It doesn’t really matter but nine feet seems to be good. I have had a swarm move into a Honey Bee Haven sitting on the ground under a car port.
  • I stopped going too high because of safety reasons while trying to remove a heavy box. The heaviest box I have removed was 58.4 lbs and that was difficult.
6. I have hung the Honey Bee Haven, now what?
  • If possible I like to check the Honey Bee Haven as often as I can because I like to record when the swarm moves in, plus it’s just exciting to know I have saved the bees by giving them a new home.
  • Your chance of catching a swarm is greater early in the season. Although honey bees will swarm all season, the number of swarms will decrease as the season passes.
  • If bees have not moved in to the Honey Bee Haven after about two weeks I like to freshen up the paper towel with more lemongrass oil.
  • It is also a good idea to check the frame of comb for wax moths. Unguarded comb is an attractant for wax moths that will decimate the comb and the wax moth pupae/cocoon will create divots in the wood. Cocoon divots are not a problem it just looks bad.
7. How long do I leave the Honey Bee Haven hanging after a swarm moves in?
  • This is a personal choice but you basically have two options depending on how close your Honey Bee Haven is to your Apiary. See below.
8. Hanging the Honey Bee Haven less than 2-3 miles from your Apiary.
  • If you hang the Honey Bee Haven near your Apiary you have several options after the swarm moves in but it requires extra attention, more than if you had it hanging approximately 3 miles or more away from your Apiary.
  • If you actually see the swarm move in you can move the Honey Bee Haven immediately to where their hive will be placed or move it the next morning just seal the box before sun up.
  • In both situations I would put some queen excluder material over the entrance for about a week or two.
  • If you move the Honey Bee Haven the next morning I would also place a stick with several branches or leaves in the ground in front of the entrance to cause the bees to take notice that something has changed with their location.
  • Once the swarm has established the Honey Bee Haven as their new hive you should NOT move it more than about 1-2 feet at a time because the worker bees will go back to where the Honey Bee Haven was, not where it is. The bees will probably, eventually find the hive but until they do they will probably be a little upset with their home not being where it was. They may not find the new location and die.
  • Another option is to move the Honey Bee Haven more than 3 miles away from it's current location, leave them there for about two weeks and then move them back to your Apiary.
9. Hanging the Honey Bee Haven 3 miles or more from your Apiary.
  • As in #7 you can move them immediately and not worry about the location but I would still use queen excluder material because the swarm is not yet established.
  • Because the swarm is familiar with the area and its resources I like to leave it there as long as it takes for the bees to get established, build comb or the queen is laying eggs.
  • Queen excluder material is not necessary if you are going to leave the box hanging because the bees chose that location and moved in on their own.
  • I usually check the box about every week or so and look for eggs just to make sure the queen is laying.
  • Once I have about 4 frames of drawn out comb I will remove the box.
  • If you wait too long the bees will start drawing out comb on the bottom of the frames.
  • This is usually not a problem just a little more work unless the bees cross comb.
  • I usually just remove the comb and place it inside another frame.
  • NOTE: I have never lost a swarm by doing it this way.
10. How do you remove the Honey Bee Haven from a tree?
  • I usually show up before first light and staple a piece of wire over the entrance.
  • If there are a lot of bees you might need to use your smoker to get the bees inside.
  • If just a few bees I spray orange oil on a bee brush and hold it in front of the entrance.
  • Then wait until light and remove the Honey Bee Haven from the tree as follows:
  • The best way for me is to use two ratcheting straps and a single handle from a ski rope.
  • Put the two straps around the Honey Bee Haven; place one hook in one hole of the handle and the other hook in the hole of the hook that you placed in the handle; do the same with the other strap.
  • Place the ladder above the swarm box and strap the ladder to the tree.
  • Make sure the two cleats are not stuck together.
  • Hold onto the ladder with one hand and lift the box off the hanger with the other, being very careful descending the ladder.
  • Now take the Honey Bee Haven to its new location.
11. When do you move the frames from the Honey Bee Haven to a deep hive box?
  • Place the Honey Bee Haven next to the deep hive box that you intend to move the bees into.
  • I like to release the bees but leave them in the Honey Bee Haven for a day or so.
  • I feel this reduces the stress on the bees.
  • After a day or two remove the frames from the Honey Bee Haven and place them into the new hive in the same order in the center of the hive body.
  • If comb is removed from the bottom of the frames place it on the outside of the other frames.
  • Make sure any comb removed (if the bees built on the bottom of the frames) is touching the top of the frame even if you need to prop the comb up. The bees will have it reattached the next day.
12. When do you take the Honey Bee Haven down at the end of season if there are no bees inside?
  • I have left mine up as late as October or November depending on the weather.
  • A late season swarm requires lots of attention but without the box if a hive swarms, they would probable die on their own due to lack of resources.
  • With bees inside the Honey Bee Haven I can take care of them until spring.
13. Do you use swarm boxes in your Apiary?
  • Every beekeeper should have at least one Honey Bee Haven in their Apiary.
  • It gives your bees a place to go just in case one of your hives decides to swarm.
  • I catch swarms every year from hives in my area that are not from my hives. (FreeBees)
  • Honey bees will move into a Honey Bee Haven before a regular hive any day.
14. Do you ever leave bees in the Honey Bee Haven?
  • The Honey Bee Haven is best for catching swarms and temporary use only.
  • It’s always best to move a swarm into a regular hive body.
  • The only time I leave a swarm in the Honey Bee Haven is if it is a late season swarm.
  • There are two types of late season swarms, those that need attention and those that don’t.
  • Typically a late season swarm is not going to build comb or store up a lot of resources but I can put fondant in the Honey Bee Haven and if it’s too cold I can bring the bees inside the house.
  • I believe the bees can more easily maintain a proper temperature in a swarm box.
  • If a late season swarm completely fills the Honey Bee Haven I will leave the bees alone.
  • A swarm box is not good for routine maintenance like a regular hive.
15. Precautions & other Uses.
  • If the hanger cleat and the cleat on the box are painted use a piece of wax paper to keep the two pieces from sticking together.
  • Another option would be to stain the cleats where they make contact rather than painting them.
  • I also use the Honey Bee Haven for Trap-outs all the time.

Natural beekeeping: Short version.

  • I attended a class once where the speaker said there is no such thing as natural beekeeping.
  • I completely disagree with the above statement.
  • The speaker made it sound like if it weren’t for beekeepers bees wouldn’t survive.
  • I believe it’s the other way around; if it wasn’t for commercial beekeepers bees would be doing better.
  • I believe the main problem with Varroa mites is foundation.
  • If you look at natural comb the worker cell size and drone cell size are different, drone cells are much larger.
  • The fact is bees do not like foundation and when given the opportunity the bees will always build their own comb.
  • Most people use worker cell foundation forcing the bees to build drones in a worker size cell.
  • Have you ever noticed that there is more echo in a large room than in a small room?
  • I believe the bees can better detect a mite in the larger cell than in a small cell.
  • All of my brood boxes are foundation-less, I don’t have a mite problem and I have never treated.
  • I have even witnessed two worker bees de-capping a drone cell, removing a larva with a mite and disposing of the larva.
  • I believe as long as we tell the bees how to do their job, force them to build on foundation and indiscriminately treat for mites we will continue to have a mite problem.

What to know before hiring a real beekeeper to remove bees from a structure.

  • The beekeeper should be registered with the State.
  • Ask about the beekeepers experience.
  • Ask if the beekeeper will be doing the repairs.
  • If the beekeeper is “not” doing the repairs ask for a referral.
  • Ask the beekeeper if they are safely removing all the comb, the bees & the queen.
  • Ask if the beekeeper is keeping the bees and where the bees will be taken.
  • Ask how many hives the beekeeper has.
  • You would think the more experience a beekeeper has the more hives they would have. If not ask why.
  • The beekeeper should have an Infrared (IR) camera that will usually show where the bees are and approximately how large the hive is.
  • Request documentation such as pictures taken throughout the removal.
  • Many scammers will not document their work.

Safely removing honey bees from a structure.

  • Most of the time properly removing honey bees will require cutting into the structure.
  • If you are not doing the repairs at least do a good job removing the material.
  • Make sure all bees and comb are removed, especially the comb with honey.
  • Once honey bees are removed from a structure other swarms like to come back and not always in the same spot therefore it is recommended that the entire structure be sealed.
  • The best way to seal a structure is with fiberglass insulation, steel wool and a silicone based caulk. “Spray foam is “not” a deterrent for honey bees”.
  • After a removal I personally like to leave the hive on-site for a few days to allow the bee’s time to clean up any honey spilled and to make repairs to their comb in the new hive.
  • I then return before sun up, seal the hive and leave with all the bees.
  • It’s okay to leave the structure open for several days; you will probably see other local honey bees for days doing further clean up.

Trap-outs vs forced absconsion.

  • In my opinion a forced absconsion (FA) is the worst and most intrusive way to try to remove established honey bees from a tree or other structure
  • Rarely in a forced absconsion (FA) is the queen and entire hive completely removed.
  • Too many times I have seen a so called beekeeper using a FA method to vacuum out a few bees, only to seal the tree killing all of the bees still left inside.
  • People call a beekeeper in order to save honey bees, not kill them.
  • I exclusively do trap-outs and have an approximate 98% success rate on getting all bees and the queen.

What is a Trap-out?

  • A trap-out is a procedure used to remove honey bees from a cavity that cannot be access by opening the cavity and vacuuming the bees out. This procedure is particularly useful when dealing with a tree or brick column not part of the inside wall of a structure.
  • A trap-out removes the bees but leaves the comb behind.
  • A trap-out can require several weeks to accomplish with the goal being the queen.
  • I check the trap-out once a week and look for eggs ensuring the queen has left the hive.
  • A trap-out takes longer but is more successful and less stressful on the bees.

What is a forced absconsion?

  • Again in my opinion a forced absconsion is the worst and most intrusive way to remove honey bees from a tree or other structure.
  • Many times a forced absconsion requires drilling holes in the tree below and sometimes above the suspected cavity, a cavity of unknown size and shape.
  • Smoke is then forced into the area containing the bees in hopes all the bees will leave the tree.
  • This is a long process using smoke and sometimes a repellant like Honeybgone.
  • Since the cavity of the tree is “not” known you can never be sure how many bees including the queen are left behind.
  • The only way to be sure is if you actually see the queen or she flies into a nearby area and all the other bees follow.
  • Most of the time a few bees are removed, the tree is sealed and the remaining bees are left to die trapped inside the tree.
  • You never want to do a forced absconsion leaving comb behind if the hive is in a structure if there is a possibly of comb melting and honey running into an unwanted area.

Are honey bees swarms aggressive?

  • Most of the time swarms are not aggressive.
  • A swarm is about 60% of the original hive that have packed up as much honey as they can carry and are just looking for a new home.
  • They usually don’t sting for two reasons, there is no hive to protect and they die after they sting.

What happens if I just exterminate the honey bees?

  • The worst thing about exterminating a honey bee hive is killing the bees.
  • If you kill a hive you are leaving behind thousands of dead bees and comb possible full of honey.
  • Imagine the smell of thousands of dead bees in the wall, melting comb and honey running down your walls.
  • Dead bees and honey will attract more bees, ants, wax moths, mice and other unwanted critters.
  • Exterminating a hive will probably cost you more in the future than if you had just hired a beekeeper to do it right the first time.
  • Bees do not damage your home, leaving comb behind “will” because of the insect infestation, especially from wax moths and possible oozing honey.

Will a beekeeper remove honey bees for free?

  • I will usually pick up a swarm for free but if the customer asks I will give them the opportunity to make a donation to help with gas or to help me help others.
  • If it is an established hive the amount of time, labor and cost of materials far out way any value of the bees alone but it will usually be less than exterminating with its future cost.

Reasons not to do late season or winter removals.

    If you have bees in your house, business or a tree on your property please do not try to have them removed late season or during the winter unless it is an emergency or just absolutely necessary, AND please do not kill them. Honey bees are the most important pollinator God gave us.

  • There are a lot of bees.
  • The bees are usually a little more aggressive because they have been working all spring and summer to store up honey and pollen to get them through the winter.
  • Because of all the honey it can be very messy. (does not apply to Trap-outs)
  • You can’t always give the bees back all their honey and they may not have enough to survive the winter. The beekeeper will try to help by feeding them if they can.
  • It’s just better for all, including the bees.
  • If you wait until the New Year, around March you can expect the following:

  • A lot less bees.
  • The bees are usually much less aggressive.
  • The bees will have consumed most of the honey so it’s a cleaner removal.
  • It’s the start of a new season and the bees are ready to find new resources.

Winterizing your Bees.

  • There are two main concerns for all beekeepers going into the winter months. That’s why I focus on these two steps to help provide both food and warmth for the bees to be successful.
  • FOOD: During the cold temperatures providing a food source close is crucial. Going into winter with a single deep box will almost necessitate providing the bees with extra food to help them get through the winter. During this time, I’ve witnessed hives within a few weeks go from appearing strong with lots of bees and plenty of honey to loosing numbers and consuming most of their honey. Therefore, I always give my single deeps a plate of fondant on top of the inner cover with a spacer (plans for the spacer can be found on this website). I’ve found doing this not only provides immediate food but also can “kick-start” a weaker hive to explode early in spring.

    WARMTH: The most difficult job for bees during the winter is staying warm. During the bad Texas winter of 2021 every hive I lost had the same 1/1 set-up (single deep full of bees/medium on top full of honey). The bees died on the brood in the bottom deep box while all my single deeps survived. I believe the issue is the bees elect to die trying to keep the brood warm then to move up on the honey where it’s naturally warmer. For all my 1/1 hives I’ve started placing an inner cover between the bottom super and the medium top. I’ve either pulled the inner cover from the top and moved it in between the two boxes, or simply added another and left the top inner cover in place. The key here is the inner cover creates a more closed “pocket” of warmth to help the bees maintain the heat necessary for the brood and them to survive. Also, If I have a 2/1 hive setup (two super deeps/one medium) and the top medium is full of honey, I simply move the inner cover down over the brood. Moving forward for all my 1/1 hives, when it’s time to add another super deep I make sure that I’m adding it at the bottom which raises the “full” box up, instead of simply adding a new box on top. Thus far, I’ve been checking this theory with my IR camera with great success.

How to contact a local beekeeper?