How to Use a Nuc as a Swarm Trap


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Swarming is the biological method bee colonies reproduce. Most beekeepers work very hard to prevent swarming.  However, in my experience once a hive decides to swarm, it’s almost impossible to stop them.

While swarming does reduce the numbers of bees in a hive (which reduces honey production).  If you can catch the swarm you end up with a new colony.

Fortunately, that colony is predisposed to producing lots of comb.

My problem lies with my commute to work.  Even if someone noticed one of my colonies swarming; I most likely would not be able to get home in time to catch them.

To deal with this I researched techniques for luring and “trapping” bee swarms.

How I Modified the Nuc Body

The article documents how to use a nuc as a swarm trap. I made a few non-permanent modifications to a nuc hive box and placed it in a tree

There are lots of commercial swarm traps available,  However, they all seemed flimsy and lacking in longevity. The most popular seemed to be a pressed cardboard “flower pot”.  I don’t have any personal experience in using that device.  My thought is that it would not survive year to year.

For my trap I decided on using a wooden nucleus hive. I bought the complete nuc hive from Bon Aqua Springs Woodenware for $25.00.  That is more than double the cardboard trap. I painted and sealed it just as I do all my wooden hive equipment. But to use it as a swarm trap I needed to figure out how to mount it downwind and at least 8 foot above the ground. This took some pondering.

What I ended up doing was using some galvanized steel plates to lock the hive body to the bottom board. I then screwed the entire hive to a section of plywood.

Next, I left enough room that the outer cover could fit on the hive body without having the plywood mounting board interfere.

I also drilled a hole in each end of the mounting board so that I could thread a ½ nylon rope through one end. The hole was small enough that the knotted end of the rope would not pass through it.

Mounting Was Harder Than Construction

As far as construction goes, that’s all it took, but before mounting the new swarm trap in a downwind tree, I put in 5 frames with new foundation in the nuc. I also added some lemongrass oil to the inside of the hive to attract scout bees.

I used pharmaceutical grade essential oil, as it is much purer and stronger than cosmetic grade oil. A few drops on the end of a q-tip were enough to properly scent the hive. I then ran the q-tip in and “X” pattern on the inside walls of the hive body.

I then climbed a ladder and looped the rope a couple times around a suitable tree. By passing the free end of the rope through the other hole in the mounting board and then knotting it, the weight of the swarm trap put enough tension on the rope to hold itself up in the tree. This works just like a prussic knot (which one day I plan on doing a video discussing – as soon as I quit shaking over the rickety ladder experience from today’s video).

My plan is that any scout bees sent from whichever hive of mine is planning on swarming will smell the lemongrass and be attracted to my nucleus hive – finding a brand new hive body with pretty new foundation will cause him to report the swarm trap’s location to the rest of the bees, and they will choose the easy option and move about 20 feet away from their old hive to set up shop in my bait hive. I can then easily (unless the ladder slips in the mud again) climb the ladder, untie the nuc, and lower it to the ground.

Due to the solid construction of my nuc hive, I plan on “forgetting” it in the tree until I notice a swarm has taken up residence.

Basically it’s a $25 gamble to eventually earn a “free” colony – since package’s of bees are $75 and going up, I think it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

If you have a better way, I look forward to hearing how you have done it, but for now, I think this is a pretty good option for getting me what I want. Which is a durable swarm trap that I can forget about until it catches a new colony of bees.

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