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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 17th year of beekeeping in April 2022. 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. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a
Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Swift Swarm Catching

At the community garden, our bees in one hive didn't make it. They actually dwindled and died before winter. I neglected them with my injured shoulder and they were a swarm that I installed last summer.

They probably came from a yard where the bees were treated and I don't treat my bees, so these bees may have not been able to survive without treatment. In addition, you never know about swarms. Since they didn't come from my bee yard, I can't rely on their genetics. Often swarms don't make it.

But that meant that I was one hive short at the community garden where like in all of my bee yards, I want to have two hives so one can serve as a resource if the other needs it.

So I was DELIGHTED when I got a swarm call from my bee club's swarm list. The swarm was in the yard of a beekeeper who did not have the equipment to keep them. They were described as being six feet off the ground and easy to get.

Now, the call came in at 2:15. The bees were 25 minutes from my house. I had to drive there, get the swarm, drive back to the community garden (25 minutes), install the bees, and get myself to a 4:15 doctor's appointment that is also 25 minutes away (more with the current state of Atlanta traffic due to the I-85 collapse). I had at least 1 1/2 hours of driving with little time to spare to collect the swarm or to install the swarm.

Everything had to run smoothly.

I arrived to find that the swarm was indeed just about six feet up or so.

I had brought my swarm catcher. Here's a photo of it from an earlier swarm catch in 2016.

For this swarm, described as six feet up, I didn't bring the painter's pole in the photo above, but rather brought a mop stick to screw into the swarm catcher. I didn't even use it - instead, I used the swarm catcher on its own. 

I spread the sheet I had brought under the swarm as quickly as possible. I took the swarm catcher and while the man whose bees these were bent the tree branch down, I jerked up on the swarm catcher and the bees fell into it. One more jab at the tree and I had the bees in the box I had brought.

Here you can see the bees in the box under the ventilated hive cover, the swarm catcher to the right, the bottle of sugar syrup which I had used to spray the swarm, my bee brush, and the yellow bungee cord set to secure the ventilated cover to the plastic box. The bees on the upper edge of the box are sending out Nasonov, letting me know that I have the queen.

The whole thing took ten minutes. There were many bees on the outside of the box, but I didn't have time to wait for them to find Mama. I wrapped the box, bees on the outside and all, in the sheet and raced for my car.

I drove the 25 minutes to the community garden. By the time I got there, at least 100 bees were gathered on my back window. I jumped out of the car, put on my veil and jacket, grabbed the bees and my bee brush and carried all of it up the hill to the hive. When I arrived, I could not pry the top off of the box!

I went in my veil to the car where there was no hive tool. What had I done? Cleaned out the car and moved the resident hive tool? ARGHHH. Leaving the bees, I jumped into the car and drove in my veil to my house about two blocks away. I ran into the house in my veil and down the stairs to the basement. As I headed for my bee kit to get the hive tool, I tripped over a box in my way that I couldn't see for the veil and landed smack on my hands and knees on the concrete floor. 

Note to self: Next time, take off the veil before going inside.

Hive tool in hand, I raced back to the garden, opened the hive and dumped in the bees. I grabbed the hive top, put it on solidly, and ran to the car. I got to the 4:15 appointment at 4:13 (with many bees still in the car). 

I didn't have a long doctor's appointment, but right after it I had to go babysit grandkids, so I hadn't been back in my neighborhood since I installed the swarm about 3:30. I was leaving town the next morning, so I stopped by the hive that evening just after dark around 9 PM. I could see bees on the entrance and felt good about it.

I came back to town on Monday and stopped by the other day to check on the hive. While there are bees flying in and out, the numbers don't compare to the overwintered hive which is booming (I know, I know, the robber screen is off and needs restapling. I'll do it when I'm over there on Sunday).

This was done in such haste and today I stopped back by to see how they had survived today's rain and horrors! I noticed that the hive is barely supported on one side. That's something to fix this weekend as well!

Don't know how it is barely on the corner of the cinder block, but that obviously will not do and both hives need entrance reducers.


  1. Great story! Are there still bees in your car? :-)

  2. There are always bees in my car! Funny thing when I went back that night apparently the bees who had been in my car were hanging around the area. So when I got out of the car at night to go look at the hive, those bees flew back into the car!

  3. This is so interesting! I have two top bar hives, and one of the colonies died due to incessant yellow jacket attacks. When we bought a new package, the company gave us the wrong kind of queen cage (?) that only had an askew cork closing her off from the workers. We removed it, thinking that there was candy beneath, but no, there wasn't. She flew out. Nuts! We got on the phone with the company that sold us the bees and they admitted to their mistake, which was a good thing, but didn't help us at the moment! Then, I heard a loud buzzing at the top of our cherry tree. There she was, and the workers were finding her! We cut off the branch she was on and shook it into the hive and... et voila... we had a new, viable colony in our top bar hive! It's blogs like yours that have taught us how to do these kind of things. Thank you!

  4. Linda, do you have instructions anywhere for making your swarm catcher? If you could share those, I'd sure appreciate it!


  5. Linda you are absolutely amazing! What took me 8 hours with your assistance (thanks for answering my texts) you did in no time flat. Your blog rocks!

    - Ryan

  6. I didn't make my swarm catcher, but here is the original post. It's a plastic water cooler bottle with the bottom cut off. The original maker inserted whatever you call the part that will take a screw in handle into the mouth of the jar. When my son in law built one when he couldn't get into my house to get ours, he just duct-taped the handle to the jar. I have a painter's pole (purchased) that extends 17 feet that can be screwed into it or a mop handle.
    Here are two posts that may help:
    It's a simple concept and has helped me catch many swarms. Often I just use the water bottle because most that I get are close to the ground. It's so large that it is easy to get the whole swarm in one thrust.

  7. Is that an industrial size water bottle on the swarm pole?

  8. Is that an industrial size water bottle on the swarm pole. The kind on a water cooler?


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