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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here.Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Swarm Catching - Iwo Jima Style!

(Title thanks to my friend and fellow swarm catcher, Curt B)

Curt's bees all died over the winter, so our friend and beekeeper, Bunny, called Curt when her bees swarmed and offered him the swarm.  He asked me to help him and I jumped at the chance.

The swarm was really high up in a hemlock tree - I mean like 25 - 30 feet up.  We gained some height by working from the neighbor's yard.  You can see it in the tree top below in the center of the photo.

Curt borrowed an extending pole from George (this was a real team effort!).  George's pole extends much farther than mine.  Tom, Bunny's husband and fellow beekeeper, holds mine up and it is still about 15 feet short of the swarm.  Of course, at this point we hadn't thought of the neighbor's yard.

The first aspect of successful swarm removal is to follow the Scout motto:  Be Prepared.  I was woefully unsuccessful at this part, as you'll see.  However, the first thing we did was to position the hive box into which we planned to dump the swarm.

We set the hive box on a sheet in case we missed the box altogether and the bees would still be accessible.  We also put bungee cords under the box, ready to secure it and had a piece of screen wire ready to block the entrance.

Then Curt did a practice run to see how he would move the water jug mounted pole after he got the swarm.  There were so many tree branches - it was really like maneuvering through a maze.  Don't the two of us look tiny in comparison to the length of that pole and the height of the trees!

Curt was operating this incredibly long pole and the hive was high up a tree and across a fence from where we stood.  He positioned the water jug under the swarm and did the prerequisite quick movement upward to capture the swarm........and half the swarm went into the water jug and half fell 30 feet to the ground below, covered with leaves.

OK, remember how I said the thing about the Scout be prepared.....well, we missed thinking about a very important thing.  I put a sheet under the hive box, but did NOT have one on the ground under the tree.

We still had to get the swarm into the hive box.  Curt's caption for the photo below is:
"Swarm Catching:  Iwo Jima Style".  His second choice was  "Moby Bee."

The water jug was surprisingly heavy and the tip of the pole bent and swayed awkwardly.  To put the swarm into the box, we had to turn 180 degrees from how we are standing in the photo and lower it.  What a challenge!  We both felt like circus acrobats trying to manage poles on a tight rope - what a hoot and what an adventure!

We returned to Bunny's yard where Curt gathered up as many bees as he could from the ground below the tree and also dumped those into the hive - if we had spread a sheet under the tree it would have been so much better......live and learn.  He was quite the trooper with bees crawling up his pant legs and stinging him left and right.

In the end we put the hive right beside the dropped bees on the ground so that perhaps they would join the queen *hopefully* in the hive box.

We left the hive until morning.  I drove over to Rosedale Road the next day and the good news is that the bees were still in the box.  I added frames to the box and Curt will go by to pick up the whole thing to take it to his yard.....

so thanks Curt, Bunny and Tom for a great time and a good story!

Note:  Bunny took all of these great pictures - thanks for letting me use them.


  1. What an adventure!

    I've put my name on the local swarm list this year, and I can't wait for a swarm capturing adventure myself!

    Hearing some of your stories, and knowing that it doesn't have to be executed perfectly for the swarm to be captured is entertaining, and also gives me confidence that I could capture a swarm myself too.

  2. To get prepared to collect a swarm, be sure to read this post: http://beekeeperlinda.blogspot.com/2010/03/cindy-bee-speaks-on-how-to-collect.html I try to be prepared, but it's different every time and some of the adventures - like this one - turn out OK despite clumsiness on the part of the collecting beekeeper! Curt went back and the bees are doing well. He's moving them to his house this weekend.

  3. What an adventure!!!!

  4. You used to have a link (I think) to show how to make this bucket. I can't find it. Do you know where it is?

  5. http://stonemountaingeorgiabeediary.blogspot.com/2011/04/swarm-catching-made-easy.html


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