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Building Your Own Swarm Traps

Hi everyone, I hope the beginning of the bee season has gone well for you so far.
I’m excited to hang some swarm traps in some trees in my backyard.
Quick review of what’s going on:

  • I got a Carniolan nuc with an Italian queen in early April (the new queen should have hatched by now)
  • They built up so quickly they swarmed last week (April 30th maybe?)

Since it’s been over a week now since they swarmed, I highly doubt that I actually catch the half of my colony that I just ‘lost’. They’re probably up in a tree somewhere, or another beekeeper around the area caught it.
I want to build swarm traps anyway, in case there are feral bees around or another beekeeper had the same misfortune I did (I live in MD, there haven’t been any Africanized feral bees recorded here yet).
After doing some research, I’ve seen that the biodegradable pots are very efficient at catching swarms. They evidently mimic a hole in a tree. To get to the point (I kind of get the idea on how to make them), how do you make them weather-proof and water-proof? I’m guessing they tend to ‘melt’ when wet. I saw some people recommended some type of water-proof sealer, a paint or other liquid like it…
Others recommend covering the entire swarm trap with beeswax; it smells better for the bees, and it’s safer for them than the chemical stuff.The problem is, I just started beekeeping last year, and I don’t have a ton of beeswax to coat the trap. I guess I could take a paintbrush, melt the little beeswax I have, and work on it. I could buy beeswax, but I would like to get this done before the nectar flow is over (probably in the next week or two) Have you had any experience with these types of swarm traps? Thanks is advance, and I apologize for the long post.

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Hiya Kat, the problem with the traps you’re talking about is that if a swarm does use it as a hive then when you rehive it you need to treat it as a cut out. It needs to be monitored frequently as a swarm can build a lot of comb in a few days.
Ideally using a used box with a couple of frames of old brood comb and a smidge of attractant works well. Bees like used equipment and spare boxes always come in handy :wink:
If you are going to use up your wax to coat a trap, a new box would be a better use for it IMO.
How is your current colony going? Are you able to remove an old brood frame and use that?


Thanks for the reply! I do plan on monitoring the traps regularly (partly because I’m kind of excited about the possibility of catching anything :wink: )
I have a few old frames and boxes, but tying up the heavy boxes up on our poison oak-ridden trees would be kind of a hassle. I might try it though!
I did an inspection earlier this week on my current colony, and to my surprise, they were still an incredibly strong colony even after swarming! That’s a bit comforting. They already made several queen cells, with two already capped. A queen should be hatching within the next few days or so, if she hasn’t already…
I guess I could use an old brood frame; thanks so much for your suggestions!

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With queen cells perhaps splitting may be an idea. If your colony has swarmed there’s a chance, once the new queens have hatched, there may be after swarms.
Although near everything read says to put the traps up high, with a well used, baited hive the scout bees will find it and make their decision based on many things, height being just one which I don’t think is really that important, but then, I’m not a bee…
The reason I’m trying to sway you from the trap you have in mind is that on another forum recently I saw a similar trap used, successfully, however when transferring to a standard box, what a mess. :flushed:

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Yeah, good idea. I don’t know if I should split the original hive right after they just swarmed, but I’ll definitely consider it if they build up just as fast when they get going again.
Next time I see signs of swarming, I hope to be better prepared by recognizing the signs and splitting them :slight_smile:

I have to ask is chasing swarms the smart way to manage you hives, my advise would do “walk away splits” as a way better option. That is explained several times already in this site and on You Tube or just Google it. If you do splits at the right time that really heavily reduces the chance of swarming. Cheers


chasing swarms is a lot of fun Peter- though I always rembers Jeff’s advice ‘don’t go chasing swarms when your own hives are about to swarm’. I learned that lesson the hard way in my first year. Swarms can be very easy to catch- and early spring swarms can be highly productive and build out combs very rapidly. Smaller swarms are also a good resouce for getting frames of eggs and brood from.

I wouldn’t use any type of swarm trap that would require me to do a cut-out afterwards though. I would always try and use boxes with frames in them. At a pinch styrofoam vegetable boxes would be good for traps.


Hi Skeggley, my view on the bees choosing & placing importance on height would be to keep the colony away from predators. I believe that is in their DNA to do so, seeing as bears & honey badgers are 2 natural predators that I can think of.

I saw strong evidence of this behaviour with two of the cut-outs I did. The bees made it more difficult for the field bees to bring stores back to the nest, however the nest would have been more difficult for their natural predators to reach.

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Hiya Jeff, sure I agree that being high up a tree would mitigate preditatory attacks from most land dwelling animals but they would still be susceptible to other animals that climb trees, fly by wing or balloon. I see a lot of swarms attracted to areas lower than 2M, water meters and cable drums for example so don’t see height being high on priority.
Certainly safety must be considered when choosing a hive for a colony for a successful future but many other factors would also need to be considered also, cavity size, shape and entrance area just a couple I’d consider more important which was my point. Ease of transfer being high on my priority, especially if was encouraging a swarm to a bait hive.
Keeping in mind I’m not, nor ever have been, a bee, so there’s a good chance I may be entirely mistaken…

Did the bees actually make it more difficult for the field bees or was it just difficult to begin with? :thinking: Did they choose that as a hive because of the access difficulty or height of the entrance?

I tend to think that height to the scout bees is just as important as internal dimensions & volume. Lets not take it to extremes when placing bait hives. Maybe 3 or 4 meters.

It was on 2 occasions that the bees accessed a hammer hole in fibro to make a nest in the wall cavity. On both occasions, there was a large space above the hammer hole between two studs. To my mind, I expected to find the nest above the hammer hole, starting at the top plate & building between the studs. One the first occasion, the bees went through the hammer hole, then through a tiny gap made when the builders did a sloppy job when fitting a diagonal brace to the frame. The bees built their nest between the studs nest to the studs where the hammer hole was, making the job of bringing stores to the nest a WHOLE lot harder. The second one was a different circumstance, however with a similar result. Those two jobs coincidentally were concurrent. I concluded that the bees were making their nest harder for predators to access.

That is certainly what Seeley found. Yes bee swarms will settle anywhere there is a sweet spot in terms of the hive space, entrance size and height from ground. It is worth having a read of his work.

Bait hives https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/handle/1813/2653/Bait%20Hives%20for%20Honey%20Bees.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

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Hello everyone, my first post as I just joined the forum.
I have kept bees for over 30 yrs I have made every mistake possible but learnt from them mostly the hard way lol.
Learningwiththebees yr 2 dot points sent up a flag to me wow a nuc built up in about a month to swarming?? Im thinking maybe the queen that was supplied was not a young queen or she just failed/died, the cells you think are swarm cells are possibly/actually emergency cells. There is a difference plenty of people here to show this to you.


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Welcome to the forum! That’s a good point; the queen that came with the nuc wasn’t marked, so I didn’t really have an idea of how old she was (you know, the color coding…). I believe the difference between swarm cells and emergency cells are their location on the frame, right? I saw queen cells both on the center of frames as well as on/near the bottom. There is a possibility that my queen died of old age/failed, but why did I have a sudden drop in population since last week (when I thought they swarmed)? Thanks in advance for any advice (30+ years of experience is incredible :slight_smile: ).

I second that, welcome to the forum Glen. I’ve also kept bees for 30+ years & like you, I’ve made every mistake possible AND learnt by them. I tell new beekeepers that anything that can possibly go wrong with bees has happened to me, so I’m well equipped to answer any of your questions.

Still with human nature being the way it is, you can give people good sound advice, based on experience, they’ll still question it.

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Who supplied the nuc and what month? A nuc split from a hive too early in the season would have a large amount of old worker bees that have over wintered and near the end of their life, possibly this is the reason for yr drop in population and yr queen failing as well, this demoralizes the bees.
Always buy from a reputable breeder.


A swarm cell is normally vertical and is produced from a cup that the bees make specifically for swarming in spring They can be found almost anywhere in a brood box. These cups can be found all yr round but a queen will normally only lay in them in swarming season. Emergency cells normally are in the middle of a brood comb or where there is the right age brood for the bees to make a new queen. Hope this helps :slight_smile:

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Thanks, this helped a lot! :slight_smile:

Quick question: Has anyone ever used Honey B Healthy as a swarm lure with any success? I looked up its ingredients, and there is lemongrass oil in it; I was wondering if it could be used in case I don’t have lemongrass oil on hand in the future.

I havn’t used an swarm lures so cannot say- but as a swarm catcher several times I have caught swarms that were located immediately above lemongrass patches in trees and bushes. I am fairly confident it does attract swarms. When I catch a swarm I always place a single drop of lemongrass oil on a frame in the Nuc box- and I have only ever had one swarm abscond (and that was before I started using the drop of oil). A tiny bottle of oil will possibly last a lifteime.

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If using a 5 frame nuc for swarm trap do you put all 5 frames in or just 4? Also I was gonna build my own and put a 1 inch hole about 2 in up from bottom like I’ve read other places. It doesn’t say if your suppose to have frames just above hole or if there’s just a space between frames at entrance. New to this cool stuff.

Thanks Eric