First swarm catch gone wrong

Well i attempted my first swarm catching the other day. I thought i was doing well but when i went to pick the hive up that night i noticed that some bees were dying and i thought i must of crushed some when putting in the frames (the swarm could have easily fit in a full size box)

i left it for 2 days as i had to go down south and when i got home i checked the hive and it was quiet. I was devastated.

I think opened up the Nuc i put them in and what i saw was a lot of posioned bees. the box was half full of bees too.

I was trying to figure out what i did wrong. i prrtty much shook them in then i used a smoker to try and get the last few off. The only thing that i did differently was i used a bit of cardboard inside the smoker to get my Hessian sack lit. thats all i can think of maybe posioned them? cant believe it such a waste and a shame this happened.

I guess its a good learning point.

Im saying they were poisoned as they were wet with their tongues out?

Hi John that’s a shame. Did they have enough space and air flow?
The heat has been incredible the last few weeks and pour ponds and have been teaming with bees. Maybe they got too hot?
I am sure some of our more experienced bee keepers will have some answers.
Good luck.

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Hi John, sad to hear and a terrible feeling I’m sure. It’s my understanding that there isn’t really a need to use a smoker with a swarm, as the purpose of it is to calm agitated bees/more for inspection…but I doubt that the smoke is what killed them. Unless there was something toxic on the cardboard? Anyway, I wondered if you had the nuc closed all the way up, or was there an entrance/exit for them?

I’m thinking it was heat-related, like Gary said…again, sorry for a sad experience! But a learning one :pensive:

Maybe the swarm was poisoned by somebody else. It happened to me last year. :cry:

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John, I would think that the glue used in the making of the cardboard could be the issue. It could be heat related but my thinking is towards the cardboard and the smoker.
But when you try for a swarm next time just suit up and leave the smoker on standby, as you shouldn’t need to use it. Rather than shake a cluster into a box if they are on a branch I would cut the branch and lay it next to the hive entrance after shaking just a few bees into the hive or placing the branch onto the top of the frames with the roof off to the side. Nice to watch the parade once it gets into full swing of bees willingly and calmly going into the hive.

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I think you a right Peter. Unfortunately i just used it to try and get the last few moving down from the branch and into the hive a bit quicker. i only used a few puffs of smoke and unfortunately trying to like the smoker easily i grabbed some cardboard and put it in.

i definitely will take that out into account for next one. i think i will give it a shake and let the rest walk in. It was a good lesson learnt. im glad i didnt use that bit of cardboard in my smoker on my good hives. from now on straw and hessian is my only fuel.

It was definitely not heat related as it was done at 6pm and then the rains came so didnt get over 25deg and lots of ventilation. such a shame.

I think Peter is right that cardboard can release some toxic fumes when burned (depends how it was manufactured) but I doubt:

… will kill the amount of bees that you experienced.

Unfortunately, we probably can never find out what the culprit is, but I also suspect someone else poisoned them. To be safe though, don’t use cardboard again.

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I’ll often use a coil of cardboard at the bottom of the smoker with pine needles above with no apparent ill effects.
I use the cardboard from the Flow hive packing. Definately wouldn’t use the coated or printed cardboard though.
I’ve never used the smoker when housing a swarm though, just a frame of brood.

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This was my thought… you were gone for a few days. Or they could have been already poisoned. Sad to hear.

I’m still waiting to catch my first swarm…


I catch a lot of swarms and know that many times people spray them with hoses to try and make them go away- and even sometime people spray them with aerosol fly sprays :disappointed_relieved:. Personally I would be surprised if it was anything in the smoke that could kill them all. Where was the swarm located? Is it possible someone had already sprayed them? Or even after you housed them could someone have tried to kill them? Then there is also the chance that just by chance they have foraged where someone has sprayed recently.


I think i just figured out why it went wrong and how they got poisoned. found this on the bottom of my smoker… Yes i must of sat it on the blue tarp i used under the hive box and this melted plastic put off fumes.

Thanks for the update John, I’m thinking you have nailed the issue and a lesson learnt the hard way, now it is time to regroup and at it again.

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That’s a tough realization John, one of those simple things we wish we’d been aware of but can only learn from after the fact. Happens to everyone somehow. Thanks for the update and a helpful caution to all regarding hot smokers in general.

@Peter48 hi Peter, today I was looking into the forum a few discussions for the first time in quite some time… I saw a documentary on Tv last week showing a person catching a swarm out in the field … Now… sorry I surely ask you a stupid question but I was thinking…
1-That guy put the bees inside his brood box and put the frames back in … OK
2- He left it on the floor as quite some bees where still flying around till next day that he went to check thing out … OK…
3- question… If you use a brood box to put the swarm inside and you are far away from the house how do you take the brood box home if it does not have a bottom ? All the bees will come out in the car…Or you use a special closed box to do that ?

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Hello Helene, no question is a stupid question in trying to expand your knowledge.
My answer might sound a bit long but I’m just wanting to give you a complete and clear answer.
Catching a swarm in a brood box, the brood box can be any size from a nuc 4 frame box up to a 10 frame box, depending in what you have available but it will always have a base board and a roof and either frames fitted or ready to be added depending on how you are transferring the swarm into the hive.
So the term of ‘catching a swarm into a brood box’ is often used but it is misleading as it is actually a hive when the bees are in it. It is a brood hive as it is a single depth hive even though there is no brood in it at that time.
I don’t do a lot of swarm catches which I pass on to others who have the time to do them, JeffH is an expert at it. I’m very busy so to increase my hive numbers I do a split and there is no risk of bringing a disease into my apiary.
Moving a hive in a car the bees have to be locked into the hive as the bees will be very confused, stressed and defensive, they will be in a stinging mode.
Hope that explains it to you.
Keep safe and cheers

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Hi Helene, nice to see your post & hope you’re keeping your chin up in this strange time. Last year I devised swarm bait boxes out of two styro brood boxes that had been in use the previous season. I cut green foam board insulation to fit the tops and bottoms and duct-taped them on, then carved a small opening in the bottom boards. They were very light and easy to rig up into the trees!

…unfortunately no bees moved in. I’m going to try this again tho & will let you know what happens :+1:

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@Eva – Ciao Eva, don’t never give up… let me know how your next experience will go… we need to make many things wrong to learn, so… I am waiting for new photos !
Hope you are ok and safe ! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: :honeybee: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: :honeybee:

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Well turns out i had the chance to redeem myself.

Neighbour called me saying the was a bee swarm in the tree about 10m from my house.

So out i went and gave her a beesuit to give me a helping hand. A quick shake of the branch while i held the box nice and close and a heap of bees fell in.

I then put it on the ground and in they all walked. later that night i took it out to my 2nd apiary about 30km away.

I did however start to think… was that some of my bees from 10m away? i didnt notice anything different and last inspection about 4 weeks ago i didnt see anything to be concerned about.

I did an inspection today checking for my queen and numbers.

2 of the hives i found my queen. 1 actually somehow made it into the super through the metal qx. i couldnt find any bends or anything. so i grabbed her out and moved her back into the brood box. numbers looked really good too.

my 3rd hive i didnt find the queen. but i did find capped brood. larvae at all ages and eggs. so to me she is in there somewhere? none of the hives had swarms cells or anything like that. so maybe i was just really lucky have a swarm land so close.

Anyways they look very happy. going to give them a week and have a little check of them and see if i can move them into a full size brood box.


Well i had a quick peak inside the nuc to see how they were going and to see if i could find the queen. ( i will add a frame of honey and fully drawn frame) i only had frames left over from when i cycled them out to cut the drone brood off them. anyways i found the queen.

She is pretty small. im hoping thats how they look when swarming and not because she is a ?virgin? queen?. pretty interesting and you dont really hear a whole lot after swarm catching of how long until you should see eggs and what not.

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You should see eggs from a mated queen after about 3 or 4 days. A virgin queen could take 10 or 12 days. I always give a swarm a frame with open brood. That will help to hold the swarm in the box, plus it’s insurance in case the swarm is queenless.