Swarm Trap Construction
- An old ratty Langstroth deep (9-5/8″ Hive Body).
- 4 – 2” x 2”s cut to 9-5/8 inches long
- 2 – pieces 3/8 inch plywood cut to the dimensions 19-7/8 inches x 16-1/4 inches
- 1 – 1” x 4” x ~16 inches long
- 24 – 2” screws
- 3 – ¼-20 – 2” bolts or machine screws
- 3 – ¼” washers
- 3 – ¼” nuts
- 8 pieces of screen wire cut to about 2” x 2”
- As an entrance closure you can use 1 of 2 methods. A used canning lid or an entrance disc that used to be on the Walter Kelley website. I ordered them off of the phone last time. They still have them, they just aren’t in the online store. If ordering by phone ask for #279-disc in the hive accessories section.
- 1 – #8 x 1/2 inch Sheet Metal Screw
- 1” hole-saw
- ¼” drill bit
- 3/16” Drill Bit
- 1/2” drill bit
- 5/64″ drill bit.
- Tape measure
- 2 wood clamps of any type.
- Screw Driver
- Something similar to an :Arrow Fastener T50 Heavy Duty Staple Gun and 3/8” staples.
- Not necessary but will give better result: Small Speed Square or a Framing Square(Seriously…. if you are getting into beekeeping all of these items are on your NEED TO GET List. So if you have some extra cash purchase the highest quality versions of each tool. I have just pointed you to “entry level” products that are of quality. There are cheaper and more expensive versions. Or do what I do and go to garage sales and flea markets and marvel at the bargains.
My first traps were made from old scrap lumber which takes longer and does not seem to have as good a trapping rate. I have caught bees in them, but probably won’t make anymore. It is my opinion that I have a better trapping rate when I start with an old deep hive body that has bad corners or some other defect and make it into a trap. I get these free a lot of times from other beekeepers who just have them stored and know they will never use them again.
Step 1: Take a look at the Deep and figure out if it needs any initial structural attention.
Try to patch them up as much as possible. You will be moving bees in this thing so make sure you can keep them in once they’re occupy the trap. Pull any nails that are loose or have backed themselves out. Put screws into the holes. Then use a paint scraper, sander, and/or sandpaper on the outside surfaces to remove as much loose paint as possible.
Step 2: Drill 8 ventilation holes and the main entrance in each of the traps.
When they are not being used as traps I use these boxes as Warre “like” Quilt Boxes and the ventilation holes help to get rid of excess moisture during winter. Also I don’t want the new colony to overheat in transit after I have caught them. I don’t know if it is necessary, but I do it. Initially I was covering these holes with tape while the traps were deployed. I forgot tape one day and put several traps up. The boxes were occupied within a short time so I don’t bother covering them anymore. I caught more bees last summer in traps that had the vent holes uncovered.
Determine which end of the box is top and bottom..
On each end (the 16-1/4” faces) measure down 2.5 inches from the TOP and 3.5 inches from EACH side. You can eyeball it or use a square to standardize everything and make it look good. The Bees won’t care either way. Make a mark at those points.
On each of the sides (the 19-7/8” faces) measure down 2.5 inches from the top and 4 inches from each side. Make a mark at those points.
Once you have 8 marks Drill a hole using the 1inch hole saw at a slight angle so that water will run down and out of each hole rather than setting there causing rot or running into the box.
After all of the ventilation holes are drilled mark where your entrance needs to be. That is unless there is already a hole in one end of the box. Many of my old deeps have already have holes drilled in them. In that case you can skip this step.
I put the entrance in the 16-1/4” face so that when you have the trap loaded the frames are right behind the entrance, making it a less likely for birds to build nests in the traps. I have not had a bird take up residence yet. Many of the other swarm traps I have seen described on the internet require that nails be placed across the opening, I don’t feel this is necessary.
Across what I call the front (one of the 16-1/4” faces) of your deep measure across to 8-1/8 inches. Using the square draw a line at that mark from the bottom of the box to the top.
You will need to make the final decision where you want the hole on this one. I PREFER TO HAVE MINE IN THE BOTTOM HALF OF THE TRAP. Exact placement will also depend on the type of the closure device you are going to use either canning lid or disc closure. So place your closure device on the box and determine where you want to locate your entrance.
Mark the spot where you want your entrance. Mark the spot where you want to drill the hole for the screw that secures your disc or canning lid. At the mark representing the closure screw, drill a hole with a 5/64″ drill bit.
Drill the entrance hole using the 1 inch hole saw at a slight downward angle so that water will run out of the box.
Then line up your closure device.
Attach the closure device to your trap using a #8 x 1/2 inch Sheet Metal Screw. When using a canning lid an extra screw may be needed to hold the closure flush against the side of the box when it is in the closed position.
Now remove the screw and closure device, set it aside until after your are done with weatherproofing (Step 6). You can then re-attach the closure device prior to deployment.
Step 3: Put one 9-5/8 inch 2″x2″s in each corner.
2 x 2 in each corner.
Primarily this is to add structural integrity to these old boxes. In some used deeps the joints move and are loose. I have had full traps weigh 30-40 pounds one week after picking up a swarm. I never want to check a trap to find that the box failed after a large swarm had taken up occupancy. Also the 2×2’s are used as attachment points for both the top and the bottom of the trap.
Measure in from each end 1.5 inches and make 2 marks near each joint, one towards the top and one towards the bottom. It is not important exactly where you put them only that they be at least 1-5/8” away from the top and bottom so that you don’t hit the screws holding the top and bottom on later. Be sure to place your marks such that your screws will miss the nails or screws in the box as well. Lastly stagger the marks so that the screws you put in the 2 x 2’s miss each other.
Drill holes using a 3/16” drill bit where your marks are. These will be your pilot holes.
Use clamps to hold the 2 x 2 in place while you sink the first 2 screws. Then remove the clamps and sink the second two screws. If done in this way everything will be nice and tight.
Repeat this step for all four corners.
Step 4: Attaching the hanging board on the side.
I use a 1″ x 4″ that is about 16 inches long for this, and opt to bolt it to the box using stainless steel – two inch ¼-20 bolts or machine screws. Once again to decrease the chance of structural failure.
Determine the center of the 19-7/8” side, by making a mark at 9-15/16” You want your hanging board centered on this point. If you can figure out how to do that skip ahead.
Make another mark at 11-11/16. This is where having a square comes in handy. From this mark draw a line from the top of the box to the bottom.
Place your 1″ x 4″ right next to this line. And it will be centered on the box.
Clamp the board to the side of the box.
Drill three, ¼” holes through the board and the box.
Use ¼ inch washers on the inside of the box. Then put the ¼ inch nuts on and tighten them up. You want them tight, but not tight enough to split your board.
Next place the trap on the floor
You need to make a hole to hang the trap. Measure about 2.5 inches from the end of the board furthest from the box and mark with pencil. Determine where the center of the board is (1-3/4 inches) and mark that. Then drill a ½ inch hole at the point where the two lines cross.
Step 5: Making the lid and the bottom.
I use 2 pieces of 3/8-inch plywood each cut to 19-7/8” x 16-1/4. If you have something else available or free use it.
Select one for the top and label (what will be the inside) with a pencil TOP. Do the Same for the Bottom. Draw an arrow to point toward the entrance hole. That way in the event you remove the top or bottom you will be able to quickly put things back together using the same holes.
Place the piece you have selected for the bottom under your trap and align all the corners.
Once aligned, trace the 2 x 2’s in each corner with a pencil.
Repeat this process for the top.
Utilize the marks to pre-drill the attachment holes for both the top and bottom. Drill a 3/16 inch hole so that they will be roughly in the center of the 2″ x 2″s. Use your previous tracings as a guide.
Flip the deep over on its top. Place bottom on, align the corners. Put one – 2 inch screw in each corner using your pre-drilled holes as guides. Be careful not to over-tighten. Since you are using thin plywood it is easy to overdraw your screw. Repeat this process for the top.
Step 6: Weatherproofing.
Now either paint them or apply something else to protect your trap from weather, or leave it natural. I know some beekeepers don’t believe in painting, but I do it. Paint or don’t I don’t care either way. It is not worth fighting over. The plywood will get ratty pretty quickly if you don’t do something.
Step 7: Covering your vent holes with screen wire.
After weatherproofing is complete remove the top. Cut small square pieces of screen wire that will adequately cover your 1” vent holes (approximately 2 inch x 2 inch. Affix the wire to the inside of the box, covering the ventilation holes using a Staple Gun. I usually put about 8 – 3/8” staples around each hole.
Now get some traps made. If something is unclear either ask in the comments or e-mail me. If clarification is needed I will update these plans.
Next Step, Loading your Swarm Trap
I noticed on your blog that the swarm traps you appear to be using are slightly different then the plans you post. Have you made so changes?
Very perceptive!!! I was keeping it simple for people because I didn’t want to have anyone think they were too much trouble to make. The only two differences really are that the hanging boards on many of my traps have a hinge. This hinge allows me to flop the board over in the winter. In the winter my traps are turned into Warre “like” quilt boxes. The hinge allows me to put an inner cover as well as a telescoping lid on top without removing the hanging board. All I need to do is remove the lid and the bottom. Also I wrap these traps with 1×4’s at the base to keep the wind from coming in.
One other thing. I have 9 traps that were my initial group, they only hold six frames. They only have one vent hole in the front and rear. They work fine, I just like the 8 frame traps better. (The 8 framers are made out of an old 10 frame lang deep.)
Were you talking about those differences or did I missing something? I can up some pictures if you would like a more visual explanation.
Thanks for reading.
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I found some good ideas in the prints that I do not have in my swarm boxes. I will make the changes.
Good deal. Also If you have any suggestions I am always open to them.
This is really a nice post. The process described here with photos are useful and helpful to understand in better way. Surely will bookmark and utilize this post. Like to share with G+ followers. Thank a lot for sharing.
I believe in swarm trapping. If you construct traps like that and there are feral bees in an area you will catch em. For the activities outlined on your web page you could probably utilize traps like those as a preventative measure against swarms moving into people’s structures. Once I get a swarm call anywhere a trap goes in the truck with me. IF the homeowner seems interested I offer to hang a trap in their yard. “That way when bees return they go to the trap……” The homeowner calls me and I go pick them up a couple days after occupation.
I had a little boy in April and we have been building a new house this summer so posting has been very sparse. I hope 2014 allows me to put up more content. Thanks for reading.
Congratulations on the little boy. I’m here revisiting the info. as I prepare for 2014 myself. Caught one swarm in a trap last year but it was a big one. Hopefully more this year!
I would look for other spots in your area that have similar habitat to the place you caught the swarm. That is what works here. You get better and better over time.
Now that you have a known location you can focus more on that spot next year. If you can remove the big primary swarm within a day or two, sometimes you can catch another one right away.
If you can find some old deeps use this winter to get more traps built. In the Spring go through your dead-outs early removing dead bees before they get moldy. Use that old black comb for trap bait. I am already trying to make predictions on which ones will make it here.
Be careful with those big swarms. All the more reason to never use a ladder. I have had them get pretty heavy. You know you have something when all of the bees cant fit in the trap at dark. 🙂
Good luck in 2014.
Thanks for the tips. I’ve got them back in the trees again already this year. Also, have two addition locations further out in countryside. Good luck to you this year!
Would you address the method of removing the swarm from it’s capture place?
I have a link HERE. If you have specific questions let me know. I have never done a video this step because it is always done after dark. I’ve tried it and it just wasn’t something I wanted to put out there.
Pictures have looked bad to. I will try to get something better out there next spring.
Those are some good links. I like a lot of his presentations. Maybe I was being too obtuse I guess, but I was wondering how you proceeded to get the box out of the tree or down from the height I’m imaging it should be hung and never use a ladder. I have a sense of that ladder issue and may have to give up some of those second story removals. Just wondering… rope and pulley, then lower it?
I just hang them in a location I can easily reach from the ground. Ropes, pulleys and the like probably would work.
I just havent used them. I try to remove calamity from my life before it gets a chance…. 🙂
Thank you for your post on swarm traps, what swarm lures have you had the best luck with? Many are available from manufactures , what’s your choice of the swarm lures available?
I have only bought swarm-lures 1 time and I only bought 2 of them back in 2010. Since 2011 all I have used is Lemon Grass Oil, a paper towel, and a sandwich bag.
My choice for the future is LGO. You can purchase it from a lot of different places on the internet from an ounce to a quart for pretty cheap compared to swarm lures. If you use it by the drop it will last a long time.
Good luck and send me picks of full swarm traps this summer! 🙂
Thanks for your return post,
hope to have many swarm calls and hopefully some trap luck.
I will be using your design for the traps. Thanks for your trouble and time putting together the post on traps
You are welcome. Trapping is exciting to me and I want others to discover it because it makes beekeeping a lot more fun AND ECONOMICAL. Local stock will have better survivability. It just makes everything easier. One last thing… Remember to keep those traps up until 7/31 or so. Some of my most productive colonies are HIGH-NUMBER which means they come late in the summer. They normally have virgin queens and are freshly bred. As long as the winter isn’t too bad and they fail due to lack of stores they HIT THE GROUND RUNNING the following Spring. That old saying about a swarm in July not being worth a fly is BS.
I prefer them over those huge first-swarm-of-the-Spring swarm because those old queens sometimes peter out later in the summer. At least in my operation they tend to fail during winter.
Good luck and keep me posted on your success this summer.
Very useful information! I put it on my calendar to build several swarm traps in mid February, as I understand the warm months are best for catching swarms? I’m putting it on my to do list for this weekend to hunt for beekeepers with useless deeps to donate to the cause! I’m glad I found this and a few other sites to go off of, because I was concerned about the complexity of what I had commonly read was the best way to keep bees. Costly equipment, frequent hive inspections and chemicals, Oh My! My suspicion was first aroused when a book I was reading suggested that I needed to put the bee hive in full sun, with nothing around it for a few feet in each direction. I thought to myself “Hold on a tic. Haven’t you watched Winnie the Pooh? Bees make their homes in trees. In the woods. In the shade. Why would it be a good plan to NOT mimic nature?” I’m so happy that I followed that little spec of doubt and did more thorough research! Hopefully I’ll be joining you in natural beekeeping this summer!
I’ve caught swarms in April, May, June, July, and August. May and June are the HOT months here.
I will say that full sun / shade positioning probably does play a role in how bees combat Small Hive Beetle. From my records dealing with SHB, bees seem to have an easier time handeling them in full sun than in shade. That being said I keep bees in conditions ranging from full sun, to almost full shade. Mimic nature and just try a bunch of different locations. You will see trends over time. I know this sounds nutty, but “Bees will tell(show) you where survivability is better”.
You get those traps made and up sometime by mid to late April and you will get to totally hooked on beekeeping.
One other thing…..
Check out some of the books on books.google.com about beekeeping. There is some old stuff on there that is really intersting.
I like the design and will try it this season. Before I get started, can a medium be used or does it absolutely need to be a deep (i use all mediums in my hives so don’t have any deeps around).
In beekeeping you are going to find a lot of people who are going to say either
THIS WILL WORK AND NOTHING ELSE WILL
THAT WON’T WORK UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
Bees don’t follow the hard/fast rules of humans. The reason I use deeps is because they are relatively close in size to the 35 LITER volume that bees supposedly look for when they are seeking out a new cavity. And I had access to a bunch of them a couple years ago.
Mediums will likely work, but the volume of 1 medium will be slightly more than half of the 35 liter DESIRED volume. There was a time when I was considering the ALL MEDIUM transition. If I would have done that, I would make the traps a little different. I would have made the trap using 2 mediums that would be held together by sevral CASE / toggle / or similar LATCHES. Something like this. Instead of putting just 8 frames in there I would double-decker things and put 16 frames in there (1 or 2 with old black comb and the rest foundationless). I’ve never done it, but that’s what I’d do. I have seen bees occupy cavities with less volume in them, and they survive year in year out…
Basically, try it both ways…. If you can catch them in a single medium and not have to mess around with latches all the better. Make more traps with single mediums, but put your double traps in the locations you are more likely to catch bees.
Let me know either way what you get into.
Thank you for the response. Have you ever tried using nuc size boxes for swarm traps or do you always use full boxes?
The smallest boxes I have used are some that that hold 6 deep frames (they would hold 8 frames if I didn’t have 2 x 2’s in each corner) HERE is a pic.
I have plans on the site for 5 frame traps. They were submitted by a good friend and neighbor. This was in response to the an observation that your average person starting out in beekeeping doesn’t have a bunch of old equipment laying around. It is still my belief that bees prefer a larger cavity than what a normal size nuc box will accommodate. At least in my region. Other’s have had success with nuc size boxes, I just think you might miss out on some of the bigger swarms.
You’ll find out that in beekeeping there are a lot of opinions that go around. Most of it is total BS. The best advice I can give you is to get some traps up of whatever kind available to you. As time goes on try traps of different sizes. The bees will let you know what works best. It’s just like fishing… find the patern, then repeat, repeat, repeat.
I’m going to give this a shot this year. I had my last hive abscond at the end of the Summer. I was planning on trying to catch some swarms instead, and your interview on the Treatment Free Beekeeping podcast gave me some great tips.
Now for the questions. I use all mediums and black plastic frames. Would you recommend that I put a drawn plastic frame in there and the rest wood? I haven’t had much luck with combining plastic and wood frames. The bees do fine on the plastic unless there’s wood frames to draw out.
Never used drawn plastic comb. What I am using as bait is old brood comb. I really have little experience with wood frames. If the drawn comb frames you have are black and old from having bees reared in them use em. If not i’d look for some combs from deadouts.
If I didn’t answer your question let me know. I think I understand the question.
Jason, In your recycled traps you have vent holes in the top corners. There are no vent holes in Jeff’s plans. Should there be vent holes? The plans are very good and I just finished my trap. New to this and ready to get started.
I did that initially because I used to put those on as Warre style attic boxes in the winter time. They were attic boxes before they got turned into swarm traps. Now that I have them I have those holes in all of my traps because it is my “belief” that when I am moving the traps during the heat of the summer that it is good to have the added ventilation. I don’t know for sure if those vent holes are needed or not. There are a lot of opinionated bee keepers out there I have had good luck catching swarms, and having them make it to their new locations with vent holes so I have stuck with it. It is an extra step as well as extra supplies. I know of people who have used similar traps to what Jeff submitted and they have had good success.
In extremely humid hot conditions they may help, but I am not certain they are 100% needed. When you catch some swarms this year take some pictures. I’d love to see them.
Jason, I just got done reading all the post. I’m very impressed. I’m new to beekeeping. Last year I bought 4-packages of bees and 1-nuc. Unfortunately, I am learning by the trial and error method, and reading lots of books and watching YouTube videos. All my hives made it through the winter with flying colors. In fact, I may need to split 2 or 3 of them this spring.
This spring I want to try my hand at trapping swarms, if possible. Again I don’t have a clue how to do it. I have read books and watched videos on YouTube. I called a large local commercial beekeeper to see if he had any old used 10 frame deeps that I could buy from him to use as swarm traps. He said he did, but the price he quoted me was almost as much as buying a new hive body. So I decided to build some from old used pallets I got from work. It took some work, but I made 4 10-frame deep hive bodies from those pallets that didn’t cost me anything other than some time to take them apart so that I can build the traps. Since I don’t have a clue on what I’m doing, I was wondering if it’s a good idea to coat the side of the new swarm boxes with some melted wax that I have collected from my bees last year, to make it more appealing to the bees? Is that a stupid idea? Any help, or ideas would be appreciated.
Thank you so much,
In beekeeping you can only learn so much by reading. It really is just the baseline for your education in beekeeping. This may sounds strange but an old box is worth quite a bit if you are going to turn it into a swarm trap. Don’t let the word get out. I pick them up any time I can. I have noticed that success on catches has been greater in old boxes vs. new construction. Old boxes tend to hold bees longer and turn into CATCHES as opposed to just getting HITS. I attribute it to all of the smells in that old equipment. That being said I think you are on the right track with coating the inside of your new construction traps. Not a stupid idea at all. I don’t know if I would melt wax in there though. In my experience bees that find wax in large enough quantities in undesirable locations tend to start drawing it out… If it is in a good location for burr comb they will make it.
What I have done in the past (and I believe it works) is save burr comb from hives when I check them. That stuff normally has a lot of propolis in it and isn’t “clean wax” the darker the better. I form a ball of out it and rub the inside surfaces new boxes. Then the first nice sunny you get set that thing out in the sun to warm up. If you have time to watch it you will see it attracting bees. After that load it up and hang it in a tree somewhere.
Good luck Steve…. Be sure to send me pics of your catches. I love to see them.
Thank you very much for your advice.
I will stop being cheep and buy some of the used boxes. I will also coat/rub burr comb in the new ones as well.
Thank you again for the advice, and yes, if I’m lucky enough to catch a swarm this year, I’ll send pictures.
Don’t let it break you up. Maybe buy a couple and see if they catch more than your home-made boxes. You would have to try to be more “cheap” than me. You might be able to find another source for old boxes. Again good luck. I am pretty sure that if you catch any swarms in boxes you will be addicted…. I know it got me. I will await a progress report from you later this summer.
Do you put frames in the super?
Bait them in this way….
Hi, is anybody here interested in online job? It’s simple survey filling.
Even $10 per survey (10 minutes duration). If you are interested,
send me e-mail to hans.orloski[@]gmail.com