Last Updated on April 7, 2022
In this article, we look at how to make a honey bee trap. I have trapped thousands of swarms in my life, and we have tested many different methods. There is a simple tried and tested method that will cost you nearly nothing, and which works really well.
Let’s first have a look at what a swarm of bees wants. They basically have to land somewhere, and send out scouts. The scouts look for an “ideal” spot. One of the things about bees is they have eyes that are great for finding flowers, but really useless for finding cavities to nest in. This is why they often end up nesting in really stupid places.
Bees have a neural network decision-making system for evaluating nesting spots. Scouts go out and find a nesting site and come back and recruit other scouts to go and take a look. These other scouts must find the site and then have a look. Unlike flowers that have a scent, bees have to actually be able to follow the other scouts’ directions, find a hole that has no smell somewhere and have a look. This is much like a government making a decision – it is messy and there is a lot of broken telephone.
What If The Cavity Had Bees In It Before?
If bees find a cavity that had bees in before, it is just so much easier for them to communicate to other bees what to look for. The cavity has a propolis/wax smell that the other bees find easily. If the cavity has a human added scented bait, such as lemongrass, in it, this also helps.
This is why if we want to catch bees, we try to use a trap box that has some sort of scent.
How To Make A Honey Bee Trap Box
The best honey bee trap box you can find is actually just an old beehive that has had bees in it before. This can be either a nucleus or a full beehive box. Nucleus boxes are useful as they are light and you can place them high up in trees. Bees like to look for nesting sites in trees, and you will find a high level of success if the nucleus boxes are placed high up in trees during a strong nectar flow.
Brood boxes are heavy and difficult to carry up trees – remember what goes up empty comes down full of bees. A brood box full of bees and a ladder, at night, is just a set of disasters waiting to happen. I only use nucleus boxes in trees. How to make a honey bee trap box out of a brood box is easy – just place it on the garage and outbuilding rooves.
If you have a place where you can place boxes that is easy to reach, empty brood boxes that have had bees in them are an excellent bait box. I personally enjoy placing these on the rooves of farm buildings, water towers, supermarkets, and golf course water stations. Once years back I even bolted a few rafter planks between trees and placed ten of these boxes onto the planks. This worked well and because of the planks, it was easy to access the boxes, unlike on a tree.
Read more about: How To Move A Bee Nest?
What’s The Best Homemade Bee Trap?
I personally prefer to just use nucleus boxes. When you start with a new box, you can paint the inside with a mixture of old beeswax and propolis. If you go to a big beekeeper and ask them for their “slum gum” from their wax rendering system, this gunk is an amazing bait to paint inside a hive. Just warm it up in a double boiler (never warm wax, propolis, or mixes of these without using a double boiler – beeswax catches alight if you heat it directly).
I use a cheap paintbrush to paint the area near the entrance of the hive and the landing board with a few daps of this gunk. If you want to you can also put a bit of lemongrass lure in the hive.
How Do You Catch A Wild Beehive?
Here we will work on the assumption that this means we are catching a swarm. The easiest way is to put the hive in a place where the chances of a swarm finding it are good. Near a grove of trees in an area with a strong honey flow.
I have had incredible luck catching swarms near Eucalyptus trees, citrus trees, canola fields, and sunflower fields.
Learn more about: Beekeeping What Is Swarming?
How Long Does It Take To Trap Bees?
My personal best was a swarm moving into the box as I carried it up a ladder. Sometimes, for instance when Eucalyptus trees flower, the bees get a level of insanity trying to find nesting sites that are beyond belief. I have no idea how they knew there was a box, or moved in, or if it was just a fluke and the queen flew into the box as I walked up the ladder. But that set a precedent! The bees moved into my catch box before I had nailed it to the tree!
Generally, if you place catch boxes in spring, and they are near a place that has a relatively high population of bees, check the hives every two weeks. You will find that catch boxes fill up very fast in spring if there are a lot of swarms around. This will depend on the quality of beekeepers in your area too. Good beekeepers limit swarming, bad beekeepers do not.
I hope this article has helped you see how to trap bees and how to make a honey bee trap. Once you know how to catch a wild beehive it becomes a useful skill to increase your hive numbers. If you enjoyed it, please share.
How to make a honey bee trap?
The easiest way to make a honeybee trap is to use a nucleus box that has already had bees live in it. The second easiest is to take a new nucleus box and paint this inside with wax and propolis. You can also bait it with lemongrass baits.
What’s the best homemade bee trap?
It is a nucleus box that has had bees in it, or a new nucleus box painted with wax and propolis.
How do you catch a wild bee hive?
You place catch boxes, as discussed earlier, high up in trees or on top of the roof of a building. Bees find these and move into them.
How long does it take to trap bees?
This depends on where you place the traps, what is flowering and how many beehives are around. Catch boxes can fill up within minutes of placing to hours to days to years. It is much like prime real estate - location location location. That house with a nice view of the sea, close to school in a good neighborhood will sell fast to a savvy investor. The beehive near an orchard, in a safe neighborhood, with lots of flowers will fill fast with a savvy swarm. That house next to an industrial area, in a swamp, with a highway going past may sell to a poor investor. That hive in the shade, in a dry area with no flowers, may catch a swarm. The swarm will be a bad swarm.
Dr. Garth A. Cambray is a Canadian/South African entrepreneur and beekeeper with 28 years of experience in apiculture and specializes in adding value to honey. His Ph.D. research developed a new advanced continuous fermentation method for making mead that has resulted in a number of companies globally being able to access markets for mead. His company, Makana Meadery, exports honey mead to the USA where it is available to discerning connoisseurs. He has also developed technologies to commercially manufacture organic honey vinegar in Zambia for export globally. He holds a few patents globally in the ethanol industry and believes in technology and knowledge transfer for human development and environmental sustainability. One of his proudest achievements is the fact that the wind farm he started at one of his old apiary sites has essentially made his hometown carbon neutral.