How to Capture a Honeybee Swarm

Be prepared this spring and summer and capture free honeybees in the form of a honeybee swarm.

| May/June 2016

A lot of homesteaders and do-it-yourselfers are getting into beekeeping these days – and why not? There are lots of benefits, from the ultimate taste in local honey to better crop production through pollination; plus working a hive can be a surprisingly effective stress reliever. Then you have the numerous by-products associated with beeswax, propolis and more. Like most hobbies, however, there are startup costs to consider.

You can expect to spend as much as $500 to get started with one hive; less if you are thrifty and have some do-it-yourself chops. About half of that $500 estimate is safety equipment and tools, so a second hive, which many experienced beekeepers recommend, will add another $250 to $300 per hive. The bees themselves will cost $100 to $150 a colony.

Suppose there was a way you could get your bees for free? I’m not talking about inheriting established hives, which can also mean inheriting problems like parasites and diseases. No, I’m talking about catching honeybee swarms.

Spring swarms

Honeybee colonies reproduce by swarming. When a colony runs out of room in its hive, it will split in two, each with its own queen. A colony that’s strong enough to swarm is a sign of good health and vigor.

Swarming season can begin as early as March in the Deep South, and usually starts in mid-May across the northern states. It continues through June and into July, although July swarms often cannot establish themselves in time to survive the coming winter. An old saw claims: “A swarm in May is worth a load of hay, a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon, but a swarm in July ain’t worth a fly.”

July and even August swarms are still worth catching – if you’re prepared to give them a little more attention. Use a nucleus hive instead of a full-size hive. Give them a head start by feeding syrup and providing them with drawn comb instead of plain foundation, or feed them syrup through the winter.

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