How To Set Up A Bee Swarm Trap the Right Way

setting up a bee swarm trap

To set up a bee swarm trap effectively, choose a location that is elevated, about 10-15 feet off the ground, in a shaded area near bee-friendly plants. Use a box of about 40 liters in volume to mimic a natural hive size, and bait it with lemongrass oil or propolis extract to attract scout bees. Ensure the trap is secure and check it regularly for activity.

In the below paragraphs, we will take a more detailed look at this topic.

If you are a beekeeper, you know that capturing a swarm is a great way to grow your apiary. Swarms are a natural process in a bee colony and capturing them can help you expand your beekeeping operation without the need for buying new colonies. In this article, I will explain how to set up a bee swarm trap and guide you through the process of setting up a swarm trap to capture swarms and grow your apiary.

Choosing the Right Location for Your Swarm Trap

Here is a detailed table outlining factors to consider when choosing the right location for a swarm trap:

ElevationThe height at which the swarm trap is placed can significantly affect its attractiveness to bees.Place the trap 10-15 feet above the ground to mimic the height of natural cavities in trees.
Shade and SunlightBees prefer locations that are not exposed to extreme temperatures.Choose a spot with partial shade to protect the trap from direct sunlight, especially during the hottest part of the day, while still allowing some sun exposure in the morning.
VisibilityThe swarm trap needs to be easily visible to scout bees, which are searching for potential new homes.Avoid deep forested areas or thick bushes. A clear line of sight from different directions is ideal.
AccessibilityThe ease with which bees can enter the trap and beekeepers can access the trap for maintenance and monitoring.Ensure there is a clear flight path to the trap entrance without obstructions. The trap should also be easily accessible for you to check and maintain.
Proximity to BeesThe distance from existing bee colonies or known bee activity areas.Ideally, place the trap within a mile of existing colonies or areas of high bee activity, as bees tend to swarm within close proximity to their original hive.
Water SourceAvailability of water near the swarm trap location.Having a water source nearby is beneficial but not crucial. If possible, locate the trap within a reasonable distance from a water source, as bees need water for cooling the hive and food.
Scent AttractionUsing attractants to make the swarm trap more appealing to bees.Bait the trap with lemongrass oil, which mimics the pheromone Nasonov used by bees to signal a good location, or use old comb and propolis to make the trap more enticing.
Wind ExposureThe amount of wind the trap is exposed to can affect its stability and the comfort of the bees.Place the trap in an area protected from strong winds, which can deter bees from entering and can cause the trap to sway or fall.
Natural LandmarksThe presence of natural landmarks can help bees locate and remember the trap location.If possible, place the trap near distinctive natural features such as large trees, rock formations, or water bodies, which can help scout bees navigate.
Human ActivityThe level of human or animal activity around the trap location.Choose a location with minimal human or predatory animal disturbances to avoid deterring bees and to ensure the safety and success of the trap.
Legal ConsiderationsRegulations or permissions required to place swarm traps in certain locations.Check local regulations and obtain necessary permissions before placing traps, especially in public lands or protected areas, to ensure compliance with local laws.

This table combines critical aspects for selecting an optimal location for a bee swarm trap, aiming to maximize the chances of capturing a swarm while ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the bees and convenience for the beekeeper.

The location of your swarm trap is crucial to its effectiveness. You want to choose a location that is appealing to bees, where they are likely to swarm. Bees tend to swarm near their existing hive, so placing the swarm trap away from your apiary is important to avoid confusing the bees. Ideally, you should place the trap at least 50 feet away from your apiary. This helps to prevent the bees from entering the wrong hive and potentially starting a fight with other colonies.

When choosing a location for your swarm trap, also consider the surrounding environment. Bees tend to be attracted to areas that are sheltered such as near a tree line or a building. This can help to protect the bees from wind and rain, which can be harmful to the swarm. However, it is important to ensure that the trap is not completely enclosed, as bees need plenty of sunlight to thrive.

Another factor to consider is the height of the swarm trap. Bees tend to swarm at heights of 10 to 20 feet, so placing the trap at this height increases its effectiveness. Nevertheless, be sure to choose a location that is easily accessible for you to check and maintain the trap.

It is also important to monitor the location over time. The environment can change, and what was once an ideal location may no longer be suitable. Keep an eye on the area for signs of changes, such as new construction or the removal of nearby trees.

Types of Swarm Traps

Swarm traps can be bought from beekeeping supply stores, online, or can be made at home. There are several different types of swarm traps to choose from, with each type having its own pros and cons.

Bait hives are a common type of swarm trap that are easy to make and use. They are usually made from wood and have a small entrance at the bottom. Bait hives work by attracting the swarm with a lure, which is usually made of beeswax or a natural oil like lemongrass or citronella. Once the swarm is inside the hive, they will begin to build their new colony.

Swarm boxes are another type of swarm trap that can be made from a variety of materials, including cardboard, wood, or plastic. They have an opening at the top or bottom and work similarly to bait hives. Swarm boxes are often easier to transport and set up than bait hives, but they may not be as durable or long-lasting.

Commercially made swarm traps are also available for purchase. These traps are often made of durable materials and come with built-in lures to attract swarms. They can be more expensive than DIY traps, but they may offer greater durability and convenience.

Urban Beekeeping - Managing Hives in City Environments
  • Carter, Anthony (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 194 Pages - 02/28/2024 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

When choosing a swarm trap, it is important to consider your personal preferences and needs. Bait hives and swarm boxes are both effective, but some beekeepers may prefer one over the other based on factors like ease of use, cost, and durability. It is also important to consider the materials used in the trap and its suitability for the environment in which it will be used.

Here’s a detailed table outlining various types of swarm traps available for beekeepers.

It highlights their key features, materials, size, baiting method, and suitability based on beekeeper experience levels. This table aims to provide a comprehensive overview to help choose the best option for different beekeeping scenarios.

Type of Swarm TrapMaterialSize (Volume)Baiting MethodEntrance SizePortabilityDurabilitySuitability (Experience Level)
Basic Wooden BoxWood (Pine/Cedar)40 litersLemongrass oil, Propolis extract1 inch diameterModerateHighBeginner to Intermediate
Polystyrene TrapHigh-density Polystyrene35-45 litersLemongrass oil, Synthetic pheromones1-1.5 inches diameterLightModerateBeginner
Bucket TrapPlastic Bucket30 litersLemongrass oil, Bee pheromone lures1 inch diameterHighLow to ModerateBeginner
Frame TrapWood/Plastic40-60 litersFrames with old comb, Lemongrass oil1-1.5 inches diameterModerateHighIntermediate to Advanced
Nuc BoxWood (Pine/Cedar)20-25 litersOld comb, Lemongrass oil1 inch diameterModerateHighIntermediate
Commercial Swarm TrapVarious (Wood, Polystyrene)40 litersPre-baited with synthetic pheromones1 inch diameterVariesVariesBeginner to Intermediate
DIY Modified ContainersVaried (e.g., Old Barrels, Cardboard)30-50 litersLemongrass oil, Propolis extract, Old combCustomizableVariesVariesAdvanced (DIY Enthusiasts)

This table encapsulates a range of swarm trap options, from simple DIY solutions to more sophisticated, commercially available traps. The choice of trap will depend on the beekeeper’s experience, the local bee population, and specific beekeeping goals. Remember, the effectiveness of a swarm trap also greatly depends on its placement, timing, and the local bee forage available.

Setting Up Your Swarm Trap

Setting up a bee swarm trap involves careful planning and execution to mimic the conditions of a natural hive that attract a scout bee. Here is a detailed step-by-step guide to help you establish an effective swarm trap:

1. Gather Materials

  • A durable box or hive body, ideally with a volume of about 40 liters (10 gallons), which research has shown to be an attractive size for swarms.
  • Frames with old comb, if available, to make the trap more enticing.
  • A lid to protect the trap from weather.
  • Lemongrass oil, a natural lure that mimics the pheromones of queen bees.
  • A secure method to mount the trap, such as straps or ropes.
  • Optional: Propolis extract to further entice bees.

2. Choose an Ideal Location

  • Height: Place the trap 10-15 feet above the ground to mimic the height of natural hive locations.
  • Shade: Position the trap in an area with partial shade to avoid overheating.
  • Visibility: Ensure the entrance is visible and not obstructed by branches or leaves.
  • Proximity: Locate the trap near bee-friendly plants to increase its attractiveness.

3. Prepare the Trap

  • Clean the box or hive body to ensure it’s free from pests and diseases.
  • If using frames, install them inside the trap. Using old comb can significantly increase the trap’s attractiveness.
  • Add a few drops of lemongrass oil near the entrance and inside the box. Refresh the scent every few weeks to maintain its strength.

4. Secure the Trap

  • Use straps or ropes to securely attach the trap to a tree or a pole at the chosen height.
  • Ensure the trap is stable and will not swing or fall in windy conditions.
  • Angle the entrance slightly downwards to prevent rainwater from entering.

5. Monitor the Trap

  • Check the trap regularly, ideally every week, to see if it has been successful in attracting a swarm.
  • Be prepared to transfer the swarm to a permanent hive if they have taken residence in the trap to avoid overcrowding and to provide them with the best chance of survival.

6. Maintenance

  • Refresh the lemongrass oil every 2-4 weeks to keep the scent strong.
  • Repair any damage to the trap immediately to keep it functional for the entire swarm season.

7. Swarm Management

  • Once a swarm has been captured, carefully transfer it to a permanent hive location at dusk or early morning when the bees are less active.
  • Provide the new colony with frames of comb, food (sugar syrup), and water to encourage them to stay and establish their new home.

Following these detailed steps will maximize your chances of successfully capturing a bee swarm. Remember, patience and regular monitoring are key to swarm trapping success.

setting up a bee swarm trap

Monitoring the Swarm Trap

Monitoring your swarm trap regularly is crucial to ensure that it is working effectively. Here are some tips on how to monitor the trap:

  • Check the Trap: Check the trap at least once a week to see if there are any bees inside. This can be done by gently tapping the trap to see if there is any activity inside or by looking through the entrance of the trap.
  • Look for Signs of Activity: If the trap is working effectively, you should be able to see bees coming and going from the entrance. Bees may also be seen entering and exiting the trap carrying pollen or propolis.
  • Re-Bait the Trap: If the trap is not working, try re-baiting it with a different type of lure or moving it to a different location. Remember that bees are attracted to the smell of beeswax and propolis, so using these in your lure can be effective. You can also try using a different type of essential oil, like lemongrass or citronella.
  • Inspect the Trap: Regularly inspect the trap for any damage or signs of wear and tear. Repair or replace any damaged parts to ensure the trap remains effective.
  • Clean the Trap: Clean the trap regularly to prevent the buildup of debris or mold. Remove any dead bees or debris from inside the trap and wipe it down with a damp cloth.

Incorporating Captured Swarms into Your Apiary

Once you have successfully captured a swarm, the next step is to properly integrate it into your apiary. Here are some tips for doing this:

  • Isolate the Swarm: It is recommended to isolate the swarm in a separate hive for a few days before integrating it into your existing colonies. This will help the bees acclimate to the new location and prevent any aggressive behavior towards the existing bees. During this time, the bees will also begin building comb and establishing their new colony.
  • Inspect the Swarm: Before integrating the swarm into your existing hives, it is important to inspect the bees for signs of disease or parasites. Look for signs of Varroa mites, hive beetles, and other pests. It is also important to inspect for any signs of disease, such as foulbrood or chalkbrood.
  • Introduce the Swarm: Once the swarm has been isolated for a few days and inspected for pests and diseases, it is time to integrate them into your existing hives. This can be done by simply moving the new hive next to the existing hive and allowing the bees to acclimate to each other. Alternatively, you can use a newspaper method to merge the two hives together.
  • Monitor the Swarm: After integrating the swarm into your apiary, it is important to monitor them regularly for signs of disease or pests. Check the hive for brood patterns and signs of honey production. Also, keep an eye out for any aggressive behavior towards the existing colonies.
  • Manage the Swarm: As with any hive in your apiary, it is important to manage the swarm properly. This includes regular inspections, pest management, and proper feeding. Make sure to provide the new colony with enough food and water to ensure their survival.
setting up a bee swarm trap

How to Set Up a Bee Swarm Trap – Conclusion

Setting up a swarm trap is an effective way to capture swarms and grow your apiary. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can increase your chances of successfully capturing a swarm and incorporating it into your beekeeping operation. Remember to choose the right location, bait the trap properly, and regularly monitor the trap. With these tips, you will be on your way to growing your apiary through swarm capture.


Q: Why should I set up a bee swarm trap?

A: Setting up a bee swarm trap is a great way to obtain a free colony of bees for your apiary or backyard. It is an environmentally friendly method of beekeeping, as it helps to preserve the wild bee population and minimizes the impact on the local ecosystem.

Q: What is the best time to set up a bee swarm trap?

A: The ideal time to set up a bee swarm trap is during the swarm season, which usually occurs between late spring and early summer. This is when honeybee colonies are most likely to produce swarms in search of new nesting sites.

Q: What should I consider when choosing a location for my swarm trap?

A: When choosing a location for your swarm trap, consider placing it in a shaded area with some sun exposure, approximately 6-15 feet off the ground. Ensure that the trap is easily accessible for monitoring and retrieval, and avoid areas with high human or animal traffic.

Q: What materials do I need to build a bee swarm trap?

A: The main materials you will need to build a bee swarm trap are a wooden box or plastic container with a volume of approximately 40 liters, a small entrance hole, and a removable lid. Additionally, you will need wire or rope to suspend the trap, and lemongrass oil or swarm lure to attract the bees.

Q: How do I make my swarm trap more attractive to bees?

A: To make your swarm trap more attractive to bees, add a few drops of lemongrass oil or a commercial swarm lure near the entrance hole. You can also use old brood comb or propolis from a previous hive to make the trap more appealing.

Q: How often should I check my bee swarm trap?

A: It is recommended to check your bee swarm trap every 7-10 days during the swarm season. This will allow you to monitor if a swarm has moved in and to take timely action to transfer the bees to their new hive.

Q: What do I do once I’ve caught a swarm in my trap?

A: Once a swarm has moved into your trap, you should prepare a new hive and carefully transfer the bees from the trap to their new home. Be sure to wear protective gear and use a bee smoker to calm the bees during the transfer process.

Q: Is there a risk of catching aggressive bees in my swarm trap?

A: While it is possible to catch aggressive bees in a swarm trap, the majority of swarms are relatively docile. If you find that the bees you’ve captured are aggressive, you may choose to requeen the colony with a queen from a gentler strain or consult with an experienced beekeeper for guidance.

Q: How can I increase my chances of catching a bee swarm?

A: To increase your chances of catching a bee swarm, you can set up multiple swarm traps in various locations. Additionally, monitor local beekeeping forums or social media groups to stay informed about swarm sightings in your area, and be prepared to move your traps as needed.

Q: Can I use a cardboard box as a temporary bee swarm trap?

A: While a cardboard box can be used as a temporary bee swarm trap, it is not recommended for long-term use due to its lack of durability and weather resistance. A wooden or plastic container would be a better choice for a more effective and lasting swarm trap.

Q: How do I estimate the size of a swarm in my trap?

A: To estimate the size of a bee swarm in your trap, you can use the following guidelines: a softball-sized cluster contains about 3,000-5,000 bees, a football-sized cluster has approximately 10,000-15,000 bees, and a basketball-sized cluster contains around 20,000-30,000 bees.

Q: Can I reuse a bee swarm trap after catching a swarm?

A: Yes, you can reuse a bee swarm trap after catching a swarm. Clean the trap thoroughly, removing any residual beeswax or propolis, and refresh the swarm lure or lemongrass oil before setting it up again.

Q: Is it possible to catch multiple swarms in one swarm trap?

A: It is unlikely to catch multiple swarms in one swarm trap simultaneously, as bees are typically territorial and will not share a nest with another colony. However, you can catch multiple swarms in a single trap over time, as long as you remove and relocate each captured swarm to a new hive.

Q: How do I prevent ants or other pests from invading my bee swarm trap?

A: To prevent ants or other pests from invading your bee swarm trap, you can apply a layer of petroleum jelly or grease around the rope or wire suspending the trap. This will create a barrier that ants and other crawling insects cannot cross. Be sure to regularly inspect and maintain the barrier to ensure its effectiveness.

Beekeeping Disclaimer:

Beekeeping, like any agricultural activity, involves inherent risks. It is important to understand these risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them.

Potential risks associated with beekeeping include:

  1. Bee stings: Honey bees are generally not aggressive but can become defensive if they feel threatened or their hive is disturbed. Bee stings can cause allergic reactions or even anaphylaxis in some individuals, which can be life-threatening. It is important to wear protective clothing and follow best practices when handling bees to minimize the risk of stings.
  2. Diseases and pests: Bees can be vulnerable to various diseases and pests, including mites, viruses, and bacterial infections. These can have significant impacts on bee colonies, leading to reduced honey production or even colony collapse. It is important to monitor hives regularly and take appropriate measures to prevent and treat diseases and pests.
  3. Weather conditions: Extreme weather conditions, such as drought or cold temperatures, can affect the health and productivity of bee colonies. It is important to ensure that hives are appropriately sheltered and provided with adequate food and water.
  4. Environmental hazards: Bees can be affected by environmental hazards such as pesticide exposure, pollution, and habitat loss. It is important to be aware of these hazards and take appropriate measures to protect bee colonies and promote healthy environments for bees.
  5. Legal requirements: Beekeeping may be subject to local, state, or national regulations, such as registration or inspection requirements. It is important to be aware of these requirements and comply with them.

While beekeeping can be a rewarding and enjoyable activity, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them. By following best practices and staying informed about the latest developments in beekeeping, beekeepers can help ensure the health and productivity of their hives and contribute to the well-being of bee populations worldwide.

Last update on 2024-04-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

My new beekeeping log book is now available! "Beekeeping Log Book: 100 Log Sheets for a Complete Record of Your Apiary"

Scroll to Top