The other night I was rung by a local who had a swarm of bees just outside his house in a newly planted Hawthorne Tree. Trouble was that I was going up to London half an hour later! So I only had about 15 minutes to catch the swarm. But I gave it a go.
When I arrived, the swarm was beautiful – quite large and very settled! Here is a picture of it:
It was about 17.00 when I started this. If it had been 20.00 it might not have been as effective.
I put a large sheet on the ground under the tree and then held a nucleus box made from plywood with four frames of foundation under the bottom of the swarm. I sprayed the bees with water and with my right hand I gently swept the hanging bees into the box. About half fell in – including, I suspect, the Queen. There were a few bees on the ground which I gently put into the box. The lid then went on the box.
I asked the owner for a chair and put the box on the chair with the sheet between the box and chair so that the bees could climb up the sheet into the box.
I finally shook the tree about twice to get the final bees off the tree and into the air.
Whole process took 15 minutes. When I rang the owner of the tree at 18.00 and most of the swarm was in the box.
At 08.00 the next morning, I picked up the box and took it back to the apiary. Very successful! Five swarms in May with still a few more days of sun that might produce another one or two!
I find the most useful equipment for catching a swarm is:
a) a plywood nucleus box with about 4 frames (not six) so there is a bit more space if you are going to knock the bees into the box
b) a sheet from a double bed that can go on the ground so you can see where the bees have dropped – as well as giving the bees something to climb up into the box if they are too weak to fly.
c) a chair or stool to put the swarm on (if you can’t put the box back on top of where the bees where originally)
d) a water sprayer (optional) – I used water this time and liked it as the bees get less stressed with water than if you use smoke.