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Swarm in a barrel


Today I got a call- a swarm in an umbrella :open_umbrella:… hmm. It was only 1k from my house so I set off. By the time I got there the swarm had moved into a large wood barrel… apparently they has been there for less than one hour…

Channeling my inner MacGyver, I quickly set up a rig with a vacuum hose that channeled the bees through my Nuc box. Then I drilled a hole in the barrel and smoked it like crazy, and banged and banged on it with a brick and smoked some more, banged and banged. Poor bees inside…:frowning:

After time the returning bees largely stopped trying to get in the barrel and started entering into the Nuc.

I had to leave her for the day as the storm was coming in, and there was nothing else I could do…

The bees in the barrel are trapped in there now, unless they go through the hose, do you think I will go through the hose @JeffH ?

I will go and have a look and see what’s going on tomorrow, my only concern is that the queen will not travel through the hose. I’ll see what I can see, and then maybe add a frame of brood with eggs. I might get a shorter clear tube to so I can see what’s happening. I’m worried the hose was very dusty and long and the bees will hate it… I might also turn the barrel on it’s side. :crazy_face:

(And no- that isn’t me in the background for those curious)


You’re outrageously inventive. Didn’t use a clean hose? Hmm.
Good luck, hope it works. Love those adventures.


The inner mcguyver can only use what is immediately at hand- roll of tape- an old vacuum tube. The greatest part was how the vacuum tube perfectly plugged into the barrel like it was made for it. I really hope I can coax them all out tomorrow.


It’s been a few hours- and as I’ve pondered this situation- the inner Sherlock Holmes sprung into action:

this ‘one hour old swarm’ had a few odd attributes:

  1. There were many drones visible. I don’t recall seeing many (any?) drones in swarms…
  2. as I was there many bees were flying back in- not like scouts- or swarming bees- but as if they were foragers returning from the fields. Some had pollen…

Other Clues and the plot thickens::

  1. The yard looked dilapidated and overgrown: but there was evidence of freshly cleared areas of garden…
  2. The home owner mentioned that he had just been doing some gardening and ‘clearing up’…

Deduction: it is an established colony NOT a swarm. The home owners had not noticed it - as they have neglected their yard. The moment they saw the bees coming and going they assumed it was some entirely new phenomenon.

This despite the fact that I questioned them closely and they absolutely stated that the bees had only just arrived one hour before in a large cloud and were definitely not there yesterday. I questioned them again to make certain- and they were adamant. I had no reason not to believe them… but now- thinking about- I bet there is extensive comb in that barrel. That was no swarm at all. I am guessing my only chance to get the majority of the bees will be to lure them with a frame of eggs.


Ha, funny Jack. The cloud of bees may have been swarming from the barrel. :wink:


Mr Holmes, Sir, I agree with you process of logical deduction and you conclusion.


Hi Jack, I’ve put this video up on the forum before. It kind of resembles your situation. I found out that “smoking them out” doesn’t seem to work. I ended up getting them out with a trap-out. You’ll see that at the end of the video. Definitely use a frame of brood like I dd in the video. I hope this helps. cheers

Don’t be overly concerned about getting the queen. In this case, she didn’t come out. The final result was that I did finish up getting two colonies out of it.

PS Jack, look for a stain of the comings & goings at the entrance will indicate an established colony. Also you might want to turn the barrel to it’s original position, however I’m not sure if you actually changed it’s position.


I’ve watched the bees in a barrel video before Jeff…

Now: I am thinking- what have I gotten myself into? I didn’t sign up for this. I really don’yt want to be doing an extended trap out at all. The only hive I have to take a frame of brood from easily is a small swarm I am building up- I don’t even really want to take a frame from it- and I don’t want to do multiple trips either. I also don’t want to kill the bees that never come out of the barrel… I have never killed bees before. I leave the difficult jobs to other people.


I asked for $50 to catch the swarm- these guys paid- but they are clearly not wealthy and it was all in gold coins…

I am going to have to do it now- I suppose. Alsi I am super busy at the moment- and don’t really want to spend much time on this.


Hi Jeff and Wilma great video. Question if the queen didn’t come out and all the comb remains inside the cable drum I assume she will die as most of the bees are gone. Did the drum have to be destroyed or opened up?
The queen cells on the outside of the frames aren’t they typically swarm cells as apposed to emergency cells in the middle of the frame or is that not always the case.
As an electrician we used to get all our used cable drums picked up by a guy for cash which was then our social club money 10 to 50 dollarss a drum depending on the size. He would then sell them back to the cable suppliers.


That one of yours is a piece of cake Jack. We did lots of trips to the cable & it appears more difficult than yours. You can setup a trap-out & watch the bees exit as they slowly populate your lure box. The cable drum was a lot more than 1k away, about a 12 minute drive. Also it was more difficult for us to get the lure box right up close to the trap-out.

Believe me, that one frame of brood WILL pay dividends.

You have an added advantage in that you don’t have SHBs. The bees will keep exiting the barrel until there are none left. That could take about 6 weeks. If it is a strong colony, you could keep the lure box the same size while you keep taking nucs from it.

I did a tree trap-out last year which resulted in 3 nucs with young queens. Plus 1/2 a nuc that needed some assistance.

SHB would have prevented me from getting more bees out. I aborted the trap-out after only a couple of weeks because I figured that the beetle would have slimed the hive out with all of the defenders gone.


Hello Jeff,

the owners said they don’t mind if the barrel is destroyed- and just now I talked to a local swarm catcher who said he would cut the barrel in half- flip it upside down and cut out the comb. Which does seem a lot more straight forward. Only thing is: he charges $90- and I already took the $50 and spent it on dinner last night… but I could see if the home owners were willing to chip in another $40 - I could give the other chap my $50- and let him deal with it.

i really don’t want to deal with the poisoning- or multiple trips and multiple frames of brood. And over the next few weeks I can probably catch as many easy swarms as I’ll ever need.

decisions, decisions.

another issue is that I only live about 1500 meters away- so probably cant safely move the hive to my house after a cut-out or trap-out?


Hi Gaz, they were cable drums owned by Energex sitting on trailers. I don’t know how they work it.

The swarm had only been there for a week. I guess the queen died. The bees make emergency queens wherever the fertile eggs are available. They choose eggs where the least amount of other eggs get destroyed during the process of reconstructing the worker cell into a queen cell. That’s my theory anyway.


jeff- did you have a one-way gizmo on your trap out? I just have the vacuum hose with no wire cone.


Yes I did Jack, it’s easy to make. Save your money. It’s only 1500m away. Don’t worry if some bees go back, leave a small nuc there to catch them. You wont need to use any poison or kill bees. When it’s all over, cut the barrel in 1/2, then retrieve any honey. Give some to the owner, he’ll be thrilled.


I jut spoke to another swarm catcher who has a cordless saw- he is happy to help- so I think we might end up doing a cut-out and be done with it all in one fell swoop. The barrel will then make two good planter boxes which my swarm man can have as payment- along with the bees… at least- that’s the plan for now. Either that or he says we will roll the barrel onto a trailer and he will deal with at his pleasure at home…

thanks everyone.


It’s a shame you haven’t got time to deal with it yourself. I just see it as a golden opportunity to get more bees, possibly many more bees if you did it like I did out of the tree. The tree was no walk in the park either. It was hard to access, mozzies were bad. I just saw the opportunity to get a few more easy colonies from it.

I’d relish an opportunity like you have there.

Another way to look at it is the knowledge gained from the experience.


I agree- I’d like to do it too. But I really have to prioritize other things at the moment- at the least I’ll get the experience of a cut out


Too bad, was going to compliment you on your rad leg wear :jeans::zap:


ended up getting a hand from another swarm catcher who took the entire barrel away to be dealt with. The odd thing was: I disconnected my contraption d left the Nuc box on top for the barrel for a day- when I went back there were bees covering two frames int he Nuc box- and bees still in the barrel. Anyhow- they should all be right now.

Meanwhile today Adelaide is SWARM CITY. I have had five calls about swarms today and caught one yesterday- and hives I have pollinating an avacado tree swarmed this morning: I went to look- and there were two swarms on a fence 6 feet apart. I was only ready to catch one. I am curious as to whether they were two swarms with a queen each- or one that had somehow gotten split into two. I am hoping they will all enter my Box by the end of today but doubt it as I think they’ll have a queen apiece.


It is wise to work on each swarm having a queen as a part of the swarm Jack.
It is ok to go catching swarms but not at the expense of your own hives swarming.