Swarm Traps – baiting and staging

swarm traps

Hanging Traps

All but 6 traps have been baited and staged, out of the way. You might be wondering, “why so early?” Bees won’t be swarming yet in Indiana.  To that I’d say, you are right, but there are TWO good reasons to get traps baited and staged a little early. Much of what you read today recommends beekeepers be reactionary as if the sky was always falling.  Beekeeping is more fun when you formulate a logical plan and see it through to a successful end. Understanding biology and having a logical plan is a strategy that is working for me and I think it will help you as well. So here’s what’s going on, and how it contributes to the PLAN.

Bait comb and LGO added

The first reason and main motivation for baiting now is because, THERE ARE MANY TRAPS and it’s going to take  several weeks to take them from storage to deployment. When baiting/loading traps (See – Load a Swarm Trap) the easiest method is to set up an assembly line and get into a rhythm. This type of repetitive task makes it easy to forget to put in a lure or to apply 100% silicone to screw heads. Opening all the traps and completing each step once on all of them increases efficiency. I am budgeting at least two to three weeks to get them all out on my normal trips to and from work.  You can check in on my progress on the LetMBee.com Facebook Page. Deployment will start in my proven SPOTS first, then prospecting for new locations will begin.

Ground Traps

The second reason for staging early is to help understand the swarming progress of honeybees living nearby. I am aware of at least 2 other beekeepers that live within 3 miles of this staging area. There are also feral colonies living close, in the small patches of woods around my place as well as one in a house about a mile away.  Staged traps are a very important to interpreting what bees are doing in your area.  By observing traps in the staging area I gain feedback of scouting activity intensity throughout the summer.  Scouting levels fluctuate as a result of nectar flows and weather conditions.  As conditions become more favorable for swarming it will increase, then subside.

Staging area tips:

HIT in the staging area 2016

The concentration of all of the traps together baited with old comb and Lemon Grass Oil is a draw on scouts for miles around.  Even if they don’t hit the traps, the interest generated is indicative of potential swarming activity where you live.  After deploying most of your traps, keep a few in reserve in  staging. These empties are used to replace those that are occupied by swarms through the season.  When the colonies are transferred from the trap to their new hive the trap is re-baited and placed in the staging area.  The best staging locations are in the shade.  On the NORTH side of buildings (in the northern hemisphere), or between two buildings have shown the best results here.  Traps in mid-day shade catch more swarms.  Staging next to light colored buildings makes activity easier to see from a distance.  Holly can keep an eye on things from the kitchen window.

The Ground Traps above are in the shade on the North side of a building.  Below is a video from 2016 in the same SPOT where the hanging traps are staged this year.

Staging area: feedback

Honeybees begin showing interest in baited traps days to weeks before swarming begins. When scouting is observed it’s important to get your traps deployed quickly.  All ferals in the area will be at similar stages of progression.  For now there has been NO scouting interest here, but that will change and when it does I will be aware. By monitoring the traps in staging, on a daily basis, greater understanding is gained. This is a form of feedback that most beekeepers are not utilizing.   It’s not only good for trapping, but as a way of bench-marking your kept colonies.  When scouting interest is high, your colonies should be showing great activity and curing honey at night.  Now that staging is done I can focus on getting production colonies supered.  The weather has not been cooperating with me.  More on that soon.

Good luck this year.  Hopefully you have your traps and a good plan ready for 2017!  Let the good times ROLL!

How many traps are you going to deploy?
Have you seen scouting activity yet?

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10 Responses to Swarm Traps – baiting and staging

  1. Pingback: Swarm Traps – baiting and staging | Beekeeping365

  2. Mark Fletter says:

    Scouting has been heavy here in Southern Illinois for the past week. Kept bees have been swarming for 2 weeks. Collected my first feral swarm a couple of days ago. 20 traps deployed… 2 left in the staging area. Looking forward to a great season!
    Peace and thanks for all of the info Jason.

    • Mark Fletter says:

      Jason, I’ve got a question for you…
      Do you move traps… or do you commit to that location for the entire season? I’ve got a few traps, some close to wild bees… that don’t seem to be attracting much attention. Possibly too much sun… Is that reason enough to make a move?

      • Jason says:

        This is another parallel with fishing! When something isn’t working for you at some point you need to switch it up. Something as simple as using a different tree can influence their selection. In proven locations I oftentimes will places several traps in one person’s yard. Swarms consistently pick specific trees/spots over others. If you know you have habitat nearby, see scouting activity, and don’t get HITs try a different presentation. Just like fishing….

        One location about 1.5 miles from my house caught 4 swarms last year. Two traps, two different trees. All 4 swarms hit the same tree. Why? I HAVE NO IDEA, but they do because they pick that tree consistently. Good luck Mark and thanks for the comments.

    • Jason says:

      Mark I’m wishing ya luck. Things are about to start happening here too. I have several that still need to be placed, but over 40 of them out already. Scouts are showing interest and NEWBIE trap hosts are beginning to call reporting scouting activity. Now all that needs to happen is the proper weather pattern. I’m getting excited…

  3. Mark Fletter says:

    Hey Jason,

    Thanks for your good advice. I hope that your fun has bee-gun.

    Here in Southern Illinois, the swarms have been taking flight slowly throughout the month. I’ve been watching closer than ever this year and I wanted to run a couple of observations by you. I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

    The first wave of local swarms popped out in early April. They seemed to be more so out of beekeeper’s kept hives.These swarms don’t get me too excited as, who knows what is coming with them? I’ve always got to wonder what they are being fed… ie, pollen substitute for early season build up (HFCS).. And of course, what have they been treated with? I am much more interested in feral swarms.

    I was watching about 20 bee trees last year… And I was sad to see 5 of them die over the mild winter. During the second week of swarming, I saw wild hives moving rapidly into vacant and “furnished” homes… 4 out of 5 hives that had died were re-filled with bees during this time. I’m not even sure if these swarms ever clustered… They may have made a premeditated move toward the available prime real estate!
    Watching this… It really clicked for me. Any given area has to have a carrying capacity. The weaker colonies in that area (for whatever reason) are outcompeted and eventually fail. The following year, the strong hives that beat out the weaker ones in the previous year, swarm/reproduce to fill the vacant space that has been left. And the cycle continues. This is true for all organisms in any ecosystem… Fish, deer, soil microbes, etc. Observing this natural “survival of the fittest” dynamic in wild honey bee populations reassures me that the bees themselves, not us, hold the answer to all of the current and future pressures that they are up against.

    Last week, on April 23rd, following a rainy spell… we launched into full fledged swarm season in Southern Illinois. I collected 6 swarms by hand in 2 days! Some were primary and some were secondary swarms. It’s always a blast to leave the farm to scoop up a quick swarm and return a couple of hours later with 3 boxes of bees!

    This week the bees are finally hitting the traps. Here in the Shawnee National Forest, there are a lot of tree cavities to compete with… And I’m looking forward to getting my brand new traps all gunked up with wax and propolis.

    Who was it that said “Honey flows make good beekeepers.”? Let’s enjoy the bounty of the season… And be best prepared for the difficulties ahead.


    • Jason says:

      I have been wondering for several years if some swarms come without clustering. Oftentimes we will have cool weather, then at the first available rain/warmup cycle a swarm will show up almost immediately after the sun comes out. I’ve just never seen it. I have been lucky enough to see 3 or 4 come in this year. No matter how many times I see it, I’ll never tire of it.

      I have totally shifted my mindset this year. I believe that swarm trapping is a tool to build a SELECTION BASED APIARY. I have been doing videos on it on my “You-Tube” Channel. Staffing an Apiary takes time and an opportunity for Selection to remove the poor performers. Once a hive-stand is staffed with colonies that are a couple years old, they just live. I also agree that beekeepers approach is wrong because they look at this as “THEIR BEEHIVE”, when what’s needed is a breeding population. Bees become well fitted to their local niche. We know that over time they are prone to forming races. The carrying capacity process you described above is what I call The Feral Reserve. Not every colony can survive, only the luckiest, not only genetically, but in the location they construct their nests. A population of interbreeding individual colonies is what I see here in Eastern Indiana. There are pockets of bees distributed across the region where habitat is available. Colonies that successfully overwinter and become very large will naturally begin making large numbers of drones, that can then go and breed the virgin queens that emerge from other successfully overwintered colonies. Amazingly complex and simple at the same time.

      I have been posting my exploits this on the LetMBee.com Facebook Page With all that has been going on I have not had a chance to set down and flesh out Posts here on LetMBee.com . I’ve made several videos this Spring with the amazing things I have been lucky enough to witness.

      It’s really crazy. I have been looking for you on Facebook after I heard your TFB interview. Haven’t even logged into the website for several weeks. One other observation I have made is that the “swarm season” as it is called, is much longer than most believe. I capture extremely well performing stock in June and July. They have a high failure rate because some will just not build up enough, BUT most of my oldest colonies are from July-captures. My theory is that these late swarmers are colonies that are becoming more efficiently suited to the niche. I believe the queens that arrive in these late swarms were bred the same year because these colonies swarm with the initial groups in April and May. Later swarming colonies are able to find ways to gather enough in order to back-fill the brood-nest when less well fitted lines cannot. Just a theory.

      Good day.

      • Melissa says:

        Jason, I’m in western Oregon. Rain and more rain thru June for sure! I’m wondering if swarm traps should be out end of May??

        Thnx! I’ve only caught two swarms, one of my own…. But it sure was exciting!!

        • Jason says:

          Sorry for the delayed response. The best advice I can say is to have the traps out when swarming conditions are present. I put mine out early and leave them out until the beginning of August. I have caught swarms from April until August.

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