Catching a swarm

I got my first swarm call yesterday. Since I paid $70 each for a 3 lb package, I decided to go after it. The bee truck was in the field lab, so I drove my own car to Lansing, with two visiting scientists, Dr. R.W.K. Punchihewa (Sri Lanka) and Toan van Tran (Vietnam).

it was about 10 miles from my office. I asked my students to give me bee equipment, but decided to use a paper box to catch the swarm first. A paper box has 2 advantages: 1. it is much lighter so it is easier to handle and 2. it is easier to be sealed to be bee-proof.

We arrived around 6:30 pm and called the owner. The nice coupled observed on their deck. The swarm, originally said to be 3 ft long, was now about 1 ft long, but on a small apple tree so it was very easy to get.

1. Punchi has a veil and holds the box

2. Tran is ready to give a good shake to drop the bees into the box.

3. about 3 good shakes, most bees went into the box, the box lid was placed back and taped up. I was taking photos…a few bees flew around my head, but nobody got stung

4. Punchi cutting the tape to transfer the bees to the hivebody

5. Shaking the bees to the new home.

6. Basically done…I thought I took a few after this….but they are not on my computer…

Two things made this an easy swarm to catch: 1). the height is about the max we can get without a ladder or chair. Ladder or chair both increase instability and the risk of one falling. 2). the small size of the branch. if too large, it is impossible to bent and shake. Brushing or scooping bees into the box will lose many more bees. We left about 500 bees on the branch. For more swarm harvesting photos, visit

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Author: Zachary Huang

6 thoughts on “Catching a swarm

  1. Dear Zach,
    Your interesting swarm catching makes me to miss the bees of MSU! Is there still some queens (worker is impossible) know me?
    Sorry for that I hadnot contacted with you for a long time.

    Submitted on 2010/05/19 at 9:56am

    Alex, yes, a few queens are still piping “aleeeex” each spring :) :) I will be in China June 6-26th.


  2. P.S. for the swarm:

    1. about one week later, I checked the swarm and found it has no eggs/larvae, so it means we did not get the queen.

    2. I brought in one frame with eggs/larvae to it.

    3. I checked recently and it is thriving, time to add supers.

    4. Added 2 suppers + 1 queen excluder 2 days ago.

  3. Is it possible that the queen was one of the bees that was left on the tree branch? While I’m aware that honey bees a usually quite gentle, its apparent that the man without the beekeeping suit is a brave man.

  4. Nice capture from a good location, it’s always great to get free bees. I know that bees are least likely to sting when they swarm but like Punchi I’d still be wearing a beekeepers hat.

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