One of my typical 80 year old friends introduced me to catch boxes on a swarm call in 2015. For years I had strapped hive bodies to bottom-boards for swarm retrievals. It was always a pain. New equipment was slick, things wouldn’t stay lined up, the bottom boards moved sometimes… That’s a thing of the past. Swarms stay in them better, and that’s only the start of the benefits of Catch Boxes.
Gordon had a weathered deep that was sound, but NOT good enough to be out on a hive. He screwed an old bottom board to the deep. Now it’s one piece and easy to handle. I place 1 old brood comb and 9 foundation-less frames along with a baggie treated with LGO, (my standard swarm bait) in it. This BOX is a multi-purpose tool for beekeeping. Every beekeeper should have one in their vehicle for swarm runs as well as covertly attempting to catch bees anywhere you park. See: Trapping on the DL When you roll up to a swarm with this box you have old comb on hand. In my experience old comb in a swarm magnet. It can mean the difference in one staying and leaving. I have these stashed at different hive sites and trapping locations using them as Swarm Traps on the ground. If I get a swarm call and don’t have a box with me, I can pick one up in route.
Use old ratty inner and outer covers for catch boxes. Every older beekeeper I know has many of these squirreled away. If you know any such keepers, ASK THEM ABOUT THEIR OLD JUNK. Go through all your stockpiled “worthless” equipment and find GOLD! After this season I am going to paint them all one color so they are easily distinguishable from other equipment. Now they are easy to spot because they’re all so UGLY. You will be seeing pictures of them I’m sure. I am still using a ratchet strap to hold the lids on while on the move, but searching for an alternative, just haven’t decided on one yet. When deployed as a swarm trap I use a brick or rock to keep the lid on.
They aren’t pretty, but they’re as nice as they need to be. Beekeeping equipment can be expensive. The more you can safely re-purpose and recycle discarded or second hand equipment through your apiary the easier it is to keep your expenses low. Go through your equipment. Do you have the materials to scrape some of these together? Before you make em research how to limit spread of diseases when using old bee equipment. There are plenty other places on the internet that discuss charring as well as other methods. GET OUT THERE… and get something going.
Do you have questions?
I heard you on the Treatment free beekeeping podcast. Thanks for all this great information. It’s really helpful for us newbies.
I’m wondering what are your thoughts on using two medium boxes fastened together (temporarily somehow, perhaps with latches or something….) with a bottom? I don’t have any deep equipment, and would prefer to avoid it. Do you think this method with empty frames in both boxes along with a few drawn comb frames and some LGO would be a good bet?
Thanks. I’ll be reading your blog often.
I believe that would work. Experiment with it and don’t give up if you have small failures initially. It has taken me some time to find success. Don’t get discouraged… I’d stick with 1 drawn comb because the moths are less likely to want to set up shop. I also think LGO is the way to go.
I hope to be posting regularly again soon. Busy time of year. After work tonight I have to pick up 5 full traps. I put up little snippets at https://www.facebook.com/LetMBee/ when things get busy like this.
Thanks for reading and commenting. If you have questions let me know…
Hi Jason – love the podcast episode you did and love your blog!
I had never thought of taking people’s ratty old equipment and making traps – I was planning to do it out of new wood! This is much better.
One question though – do I need to be concerned about sanitizing their equipment and if so what are some good ways?
First off…. Thanks for the kinds words.
I know that there is much concern over used equipment. However, I have never had problems with anything I have purchased or been given. I’ve even purchased old deeps at the local “sale-barn”. I haven’t known the history of any of it. I look at it, scrape out anything that isn’t wood and make traps out of them.
Where do you live? IF you live in a location with a known Feral Reserve I’d clean it up a little by scraping and make Traps or CatchBoxes with them. Natural cavities would not be sanitized except by wax worms. If you were using used drawn comb from an unknown(untrusted) source that would be one thing, but we’re talking boxes here.
I have heard of people charring the inside of boxes using a small torch. If you are concerned because of previous experience with disease that could have come from woodenware let me know. I just have never been able to attribute a failed colony to that. I’m not going to tell anyone to increase their workload, when I don’t, but then again it’s because I’ve never had a problem. I don’t think it’s just luck. I have had plenty “learning experiences” in beekeeping and changed my practices as a result.
If you were very concerned perhaps char half the USED wooden-ware you get, keep track of things like- TRAP# / LOCATION SOURCED / AND OVERWINTERING %. See if after using them if any trends emerge. I don’t think that my practices are the same as those that advocate for sanitizing everything. I’m targeting FERAL populations and attempting to mimic natural processes in my management. Some colonies must fail in the Feral Reserve every year. THIS MUST HAPPEN or there will be no un-populated cavities for swarms to occupy the following year. Those cavities are re-populated by swarms of bees and never sanitized.
When you get your traps done send me a picture. Some day I would like to compile a gallery of all the traps readers have made. When they get occupied, send me a pic of that too! Good luck with whatever you decide to do. If you do experiment with any processes to “sanitize” them be scientific about it and don’t forget to have control boxes that don’t get sanitized. If you see trends get back with me so I can give better advice… 🙂
I found I was wasting time coating foundation-less frames with wax by having control boxes. Those just had brand new foundationless frames in them. My observations showed that they used foundation-less frames BETTER when I didn’t coat the top bars with wax. Another unnecessary time waster was running wire in my deep frames to support comb.
Good luck and thanks for reading.
Thanks for the thorough response!
I am in Western NC. Lots of feral bees. Endless trees. I even discovered bees flocking to our rivers and streams which are being taken over by the “invasive” Japanese Knotweed taking over our riparian areas which it turns out blooms voraciously during our late summer dearth when everything else is dry. But so far I’ve only purchased treated bees and they have all died. Not giving up though.
I asked the previous owner of the equipment and he says no death due to obvious disease so I’ll just take my chances. Do you freeze out the wax moth eggs? He left wax in the boxes and I am cleaning out mountains of wax moth waste.
All the free old equipment I got is 10 frame deeps, 10 frame mediums, and 10 frame shallows all in good shape. So the deeps are 43 liters, mediums 29 liters, shallows 25 liters. So the deeps are good on their own for a trap. Are mediums and shallows too small? Would bees prefer a deeper box rather than a big flat pancake of a box or will this be good enough?
Do you freeze out the wax moth eggs? Yes. I place them in contractor grade 3 mil trash bags and zip-tie them shut. Freeze for 48 hours and they will store indefinitely. Make sure they are dry before they go in or mold will be everywhere. One of the reasons I like foundationless frames so much is that it’s easy to clean them out. I normally just leave it to our chickens. When I walk over towards the coop with frames in my hand they know what’s going on.
Before you go to the trouble to make all hanging traps I would only make about 1/4 of em that way to start out. If you have a bunch of old equipment take the rattiest boxes, bottom boards, inner & outer covers and use them to make CatchBoxes. I’ve discussed their use a couple time on the blog. They can be placed anywhere and I think they work just about as well as the hanging traps without many of the drawbacks. Build some that you can hang too, but make sure they need them in the trees before you put all your effort into them. See what works best for you where you live and adjust from there.
I like deeps for traps. I don’t know what bees will prefer there. They are pretty versatile and I’ve seen them in many different situations. Here they are primarily in the trees when I find them. They build big tall, wide planar combs. A deep seems to fit that, at least a little more. It’s why I use them. You never know what they are going to prefer unless you give them the chance to tell ya.
I’d not use the shallows and mediums for traps though. Get them ready and use them for honey in the future. Do some searching about people keeping bees in 3 deep colonies.
Get the idea in your head of how many bees you would like to keep and produce honey for you. Get enough equipment together to trap and hive double that, at least the first couple years. With trapping colonies will fail. You are just mimicking nature and allowing selection to show you the individuals best suited to the niche. Over the course of 2 or 3 years you will get to your goal. Generally once they make it through the first winter, they will continue on, provided the beekeeper doesn’t do anything. I’ve learned of many things that will set colonies back after I have done them.
Good luck, have a good evening. Thanks for reading.