Swarm Traps

If you would like to be a beekeeper and would like bees for free (freebees) you can make a simple cheap swarm trap from some discarded dresser drawers.

Many people ask me things like how many bees do you need to catch, how many bees do you have, how many bees are in a swarm, there’s bees in my wall would you like them … etc. Well, why don’t we first talk about what a swarm is and why it would give you a complete hive that would produce honey.

You should probably know about the three kinds of bees in a hive as well as why bees swarm. Should you want to see a whole lot more specific bee info I’d go to bushfarms.com and beesource.com. Below is a brief overview of bees and why they swarm. Otherwise you can go to Step one.

Most people know about the one (or sometimes 2) special bee(s) called the queen.

Queen bees

  • Lay all the eggs for worker bees.
  • Lay all the eggs for drone bees.
  • Secrete chemical signals that are fanned throughout the hive.
    • One chemical called queen factor tells the other bees whether or not to begin raising a new queen.

Worker bees

  • When the female worker first comes out of the cell her first job is to raise young bees. She does this with secretions from her mandibles called royal jelly. Also she gathers honey and pollen from near by cells to feed bees.
  • If a bee receives royal jelly it’s entire larvahood it will become a queen.
  • New workers also tidy up the hive.
  • As they get older, workers are then sent away to get nectar and honey.
  • As their wings get weathered and worn the workers end up staying at the hive to fan and evaporate moisture from the nectar and maintain hive temperature.
  • The older workers also guard the entrance.
    • This makes sense because a bee will die after its sting.

Drone bees

  • Drones hatch from unfertilized eggs and are usually found in larger cells.
  • The main job of a drone is to search for a new queen and mate.
  • Drones hang out somewhere outside of the hive in a place called a drone congregation area. Using their eyes and sense of smell they search the skies for a young queen. Once they find one they mate and die.
    • Since drones don’t really do anything honey wise, workers kill them and throw them out in the fall.


  • Why do bees swarm?
    • If they didn’t there would only be one hive in the world!!
    • Seriously though, it’s the way a bee colony reproduces.
  • What is a swarm then?
    • A swarm of bees is usually composed of an older queen and most of the older worker bees from the hive.
    • A young queen is usually due to hatch in the hive right after a swarm leaves.
    • The reduction of the queen factor pheromone makes the other bees raise a new queen and prepare to swarm.
    • Hives can produce multiple swarms.

Mating – after a swarm has left newly hatched queen will mate with several drones and return to the hive. She will then get really fat and swell up with eggs and begin laying.

Catching a swarm!!!
Our goal is to get a queen and her bees to decide that we’ve got a nice place to live and move in. It’s kind of like fishing for bees.

Where do bees like to live??

  • Beehives (yes you can use an old beehive and there has been success by lazy beekeepers keeping an old hive in their yard with bees just moving in).
  • Dark wooden/wood like places (like in a tree where they would naturally live).
  • Places that smell like bees have lived there before (old comb smell).
  • Places that are marked by bee chemical signals (lemongrass oil has 2 of the bee orientation signals that they use for swarming).

Overview of a good swarm trap

  1. Dark and usually but doesn’t have to be wood.
  2. Has a chunk of old comb.
  3. 12 feet off the ground.
  4. A little bit of lemon grass oil (orientation pheromones).
  5. Is 5 gallon size or bigger.
  6. Easy to get apart and put bees into your supers. (using a beehive is probably the easiest)

When do you catch swarms?

  • A swarm in May is worth a cow and a bushel of hay.
  • A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon.
  • A swarm in July is worth a fly.
  • A swarm in April is the shizzle (for rizzle).

Why do they say this?
Because if you catch the bees before July they just might make a surplus of honey that you can harvest. During July or after, you will have to feed your bees to make sure that they stand a chance to survive the winter.

Would you want to get bees out of the walls of a house?
Not unless you are getting paid for construction in my opinion. Think about fixing someone’s dry wall, or roof, while a whole mess of bees are rather upset that you are wrecking their house with honey and young.

Swarms on the other hand have no young or honey to defend so most of the time they are really gentle. If anyone you know sees a swarm in their trees, go and get it. All you need to do is shake them in a box and take them to their new hive. They rarely will sting you. I also suggest you spritz them with some sugar water to keep them full and happy.

(my first swarm trap prototype) (its better to use the drawers)

Step One >>