If you’re looking to increase the number of bees you keep, a swarm box is an inexpensive way to collect additional colonies. All you need is some scrap plywood, 4 to 5 frames and some essential oil.
What is a swarm used box for?
A swarm box is an inviting home which is attractive to wild swarms looking for a place to live.
Why are these wild bees homeless?
Wild bee swarms can be looking for a potential home for a variety of reasons. Hive damage is one reason, but a more common reason is that the original colony grew too big for the hive. In this case, the colony will make a new queen and split the colony in two.
The swarm will take off and find a temporary home often on the side of a barn, in a tree branch or other less convenient places like under a picnic table. The swarm gathers as a giant ball of bees clinging to each other with the queen safely in the middle, being tended by her workers. From here, the swarm will send out scout bees to look for a new home. A swarm box is a perfect location for searching scouts.
What you will need:
1/2 inch ply wood cut into the measurements shown in the photo
an additional piece of wood cut 3 inches by 24 inches for the hanger
screws or nails
1/2 inch wire mesh
roofing nails or screws with washers
lemon grass essential oil
several hive frames (It’s better if they are from an active hive with honey and comb on at least one)
Begin by cutting the lid, sides and bottom piece as shown in the photo.
Run a bead of wood glue against each adjoining side screw together the bottom and sides.
The frame hanger pieces can be glues and screwed about 1 inch from the top of the box. The frame ledge will rest on this shelf.
Cut an additional piece 3 inches by 24 inches for the hanger. Drill a 1 inch hole using a hole saw near the end of the board. This hole will be used as the hanger. The large circumference makes it quick and easy to remove the swarm box once it’s full of bees.
Attach this to the center of the back board.
Drill a 1 inch hole using the hole saw, in the center of the front of the box about an inch from the bottom. This is the entrance hole.
Cut a piece of wire mesh large enough to cover the entrance hole. Using roofing nails or screws with washers attach the wire over the hole. The nails with the large head help keep the mesh in place. The mesh allows the bees to enter the box but stops birds and rodents from making the swarm box their home.
The lid can be attached by screwing a screw with a washer in one of the back corners. This allows the lid to pivot open.
We decided to paint our box camouflage to disguise it along the wood-line along the back of our property. You can paint it any color you like. The paint will offer the wood some additional protection against the elements.
We rubbed our swarm box with beeswax as an added attractant.
Put a few drops of lemon grass oil at the entrance of the hive. Bees love lemon grass and this will attract scout bees.
Then we added our frames. The frame system makes it easy to transfer the swarm to your hive box.
Hang the box by drilling a long screw into the tree or pole half way.
Simply loop the hole of the hanger over the screw.
Ideally, your best chance of catching a swarm is at 30 feet high, with a south facing entrance, along a wood clearing. But these conditions are not necessary. Hang the swarm box in a tree or pole as high as you can. Swarm boxes have a usual success rate of about 1 in 3. It should be checked at least twice a week.