Here I am going to try and explain how to build a very cheap and easy and effective catch hive for catching a swarm of honey bees for free, and further down, a more elaborate plywood construction.
At this time of year, the end of April, in the UK at least, the honey bee queen may fly out of the hive with a lot of the flying bees to find a new home. A load of new Queens, young bees, larvae, eggs and pupae are left behind in the old Hive to keep the old Colony going.
It is possible to catch Bee swarms by creating a nice looking home for them and incorporating some kind of lure to fool them into thinking that bees had previously occupied the structure.
*we caught bees in this box in may this year (2014).
If you want to build my more elaborate plywood version, please CLICK HERE.
Step 1: Materials
A swarm of bees will choose a structure that they consider to be suitable for a new home. One of the most important considerations is the size, this is why I have chosen a cardboard box of size 18" x 18" x 20", which should be attractive to them. Obviously a cardboard box itself would get wet and fall apart if left outside in the rain, so I have used a high strength pallet wrap polythene film to protect it from the elements. The packaging tape is used to secure the very end of the pallot wrap to stop it blowing away in the wind and for general extra protection.
Step 2: Construction
The cardboard box comes flat packed, so unfold it and assemble it except for the top side. Now turn it 90° and secure the lure in place near the top of the box with two screws going through the side of the box. The lure itself is simply an old frame from another beehive that has previously had brood in it. This bee frame now needs to be kept upright during the next few stages of construction.
Step 3: Wrap It All Up
Now the cardboard box can be wrapped up. Follow a sequence that makes sure that the top of the box is totally waterproof. This involves going criss-cross in three different planes, if that makes sense? Now finish off with a bit of parcel tape around the top edge and more parcel tape securing the final edge of the pallet wrap for security against the wind.
Step 4: Entry Hole and Breather Holes
Now trill a 12 mm hole near the bottom of the box for the bees to come and go through. They like a small hole so they can protect it. Carefully drill a load more holes, much smaller, about 4 mm, in the bottom of the box for ventilation.
Step 5: Finished Catch-Box
Now we have a finished box, it just looks like a cardboard box does it not? Now I am going to put it up on a roof to attract the bees. They like to create a home up high for protection against badgers etc.
Step 6: Location Location Location.
I have put the catch-up on top of a roof where in the previous year we actually caught a swarm, so I know that this is a very good location. Now I need to keep a check on this to see if any bees start to take up residence, especially in the next coming months as the weather warms up.
A couple of useful things to note:
Ensure that the lure frame is from a disease free hive.
If you catch a swarm, check to see if the queen is marked with a coloured dot as it might actually belong to another beekeeper.
Have a plan of action in place for the eventuality that you do catch a swarm of bees. Consider making contact with a local experienced bee keeper or joining a local association.