Last year I had the most exciting thing happen. I prayed for a swarm and it arrived right at the end of my front sidewalk! If you missed my exciting bee swarm capture last Spring, see it here.
Here in North Texas Winter has been more like a long Fall complete with a few brisk days, but mostly sunny cool and wonderful! With all this warm weather there is a good chance swarming will happen early this year. Now is the time to make some swarm traps so you can have a group of fascinating ladies to look after. The swarm trap I made is cheap, easy and takes no wood working skills at all.
I started by ordering some pressed paper plant pots from Greenhouse Megastore.com (I got 12″ x 13″) . I searched all over town but didn’t find a local source for them. They were very inexpensive at $3.50 a piece, however the shipping cost was as much as the total price of the pots. “grrrr” So if you can find a local source the total price for the swarm traps would probably be less. The project is still pretty reasonable at $20.00 for 2 swarm traps.
After I got my pots I painted them with a water sealer, so that they will hopefully last for several seasons. Let the pots dry for 24 hours. While you are waiting you can start wiring your top bars or frames to go in your trap. I have a top bar hive so I drilled a hole in the top of each bar and wove the wire through. String the bars together, cross the wire over the top and fashion a loop to hang the trap from. Frames with foundation in them would be easy to wire up also for a Langstroth hive. I used 3 top bars, don’t forget to rub bees wax on them before putting them in the trap. If you have some old brood comb or any drawn out bee comb the bees will be much more likely to set up shop in your trap.
Now that your pots are dry it is time to plug up all those holes in the bottom. Wine corks work for this beautifully. Warning: if you don’t have a collection of wine corks, don’t use this as an excuse to drink all that wine by yourself. I am impatient, but not that impatient.
However it might be a great time to have a bee swarm party complete with tapas and lots of wine! Seven bottles of wine to be exact. Who ever said gardening wasn’t exciting and fun? It might be a good time to introduce the concept of bees to your neighbors! Once you have had fun acquiring your 7 corks, wedge them in the holes in the bottom of your pots. Leave one hole open for the entrance. If you don’t drink wine, than expanding foam can work well too, but sounds like a lot less fun to me.
Lemon grass essential oil is what we are going to use for bait because it smells a bit like a queen, apparently. Last year I put it on Q tips in small zip lock bags, but I have a different approach this year. I purchased 2 Glade scents refills, which I emptied promptly. Put a bit in your car, maybe your teens clothes hamper, where ever there is a horrible stench of a life well lived! I then removed the wicks out of the refill and soaked it in rubbing alcohol to remove the scent. The empty container was then ready to be filled with a bit of Lemon Grass oil. I taped it to the outside of the trap to waft it’s bee attracting scent into the breeze! Really hope this works! I will be sure to let you know!
It is time to seal up your swarm trap and hang it up in a tree. Position your top bars or frame in the trap, leaving the wire loop coming out in between both pots. Use 1 inch dry wall screws to attach the two pots together around the rims. There you have it; a cheap, easy and fun(depending on the wine drinking party) way to attract free bees!
One last thing to do before you hang your hive. We found that the seam in the middle was, well, to put it in my boy’s words “sketchy.” A thin line of Gorilla Glue did the trick. Expanding foam would probably work also. Gorilla Glue expands as it dries to fill the gap between the pots nicely. I am not sure how hard it will be to get apart once bees are in it, but I am thinking a sharp knife along the seam will do the trick. Here is hoping that I get some bees and get to try it out. The screws would have to come out also, before the bees can be installed in their permanent home; my hive.
Last year I was a little late in putting out my swarm traps. You have that one shot in early Spring. This year my traps will be ready and waiting. Get your traps ready. Stay tuned, in the next post I will tell you the ideal place to hang your swarm trap. Order a deep box with frames, a bee suit, smoker and get ready to be a backyard bee keeper!