New Swarm Trap and Swarm Trapping The LetMBee Way
A month or so ago, Jason from LetMBee mailed me one of his swarm traps to try out. It all started when Jason went on a beekeeping rant on his blog which covered many of his grievances on current beekeeping practices. While I agree with most of the things he said, I disagreed on his stance to “NEVER” feed honey bees and just “Let M Bee”. This was part of my response,
” While I do agree in general feeding can cause more problems than it’s worth, I have to disagree with your “Never Feed” stance. There are a lot of backyard beekeepers who have only one or two hives and have put a lot of money and effort into trying to become beekeepers. If feeding their bees is necessary to keep them from starving I think for these type of hobby beekeepers it is okay to feed. Losing bee colonies is very discouraging when you only have one or two.
Also while catching swarms is best, it is not practical for everyone and since bee packages are completely unnatural they need to be fed to help them get going. Letting the bees just die is not a good answer for every beekeeper.
No one wants “welfare bees”, but all bee colonies are different and sometimes bees may need a little help. Feeding only to help them get through a tough winter or whatever is much cheaper than buying new bees. I think there is not one answer for every person everywhere who keeps bees. There are no wrong ways to keep bees, just different ways, for different people who have different reasons.”
Jason replied with a challenge to me. He offered to send me one of his swarm traps. Every swarm I caught with it had to be treated the LetMBee way. Jason stated among other things,
“I have a couple of conditions.
1) When you get this thing don’t hang it in your apiary. Think of a friend that lives in a place close to a large drainage out in the country and hang it.
2) If you catch bees in there you can’t feed them no matter what. Fear not.
3) After you hive the bees as they fill the combs and build up I would ask that you place empty boxes underneath it allowing the bees to build DOWN.
4) If you have enough equipment you allow them to build up to three deeps before you put honey supers on.
5) You can’t feed them…
That’s it. I will send you everything you need to get going and will be here to answer any questions you may have.”
To read the full exchange please visit the comment section of Jason’s post Thoughts on Beekeeping- A Friday Rant.
I’m always ready for a good experiment so I accepted his challenge. After all, perhaps he is right. The trap arrived a few weeks later. This is what it looked like after I took the cover off.
The trap had 5 wired foundationless frames which look like this.
It also had one old frame with a small amount of old comb. Jason mentioned a larger amount of old comb would be better, but this amount would work fine. The old comb is used to entice the bees to make this swarm box their home.
If you would like to make your own swarm trap to try out, Jason has instructions on how to assemble a swarm trap. He also has a helpful do it yourself link.
Before I could hang the swarm trap I needed to bait it with Lemon Grass Oil (LGO). This is a bee attractant and is used to draw bees to the trap. Jason was kind enough to send that as well, so I dabbed a little on the paper towel with the dropper and put it inside the Ziploc snack bag. Then I zipped it part of the way, leaving about a one inch gap for the LGO smell to escape. The Ziploc is used to help prevent the LGO from evaporating away. To read more on loading swarm traps see Jason’s post How I Load a Swarm Trap.
After the bag was baited I placed it on the top bars. Then I closed up the hive and applied silicon caulk to the screw heads to prevent water from seeping into the box. Here is the swarm trap loaded and ready to be closed up.
Now I needed to find just the right spot to hang the trap. After reading Jason’s advice on Looking for Spots. I decided on a spot 4 miles from my house. It was on a friend’s property that used to be an old farm. This spot had fields of wild flowers as well as dozens of old apple and cherry trees. Everywhere I looked there were bumble bees and native bees yet honeybees were nowhere to be found. I spotted an old willow tree that got plenty of sun and had large holes in it perfect for nesting bees. The tree was along the outskirts of the field with a small stream nearby. Although the tree was not at all straight, and the bark was falling off, it seemed to be a perfect bee tree.
Brian and I hung the trap on the tree, using a chain and ratchet strap, per Jason’s New Method of Hanging Traps. You can see more detailed information on hanging swarm traps in How I Hang A Swarm Trap. Since the tree was not straight, we had to dork up the swarm trap with a few extra pieces of wood to make it level. Here is the swarm trap after it was hung up.
The last thing I did was rotate the metal piece on front to open the trap’s entrance hole and bait the outside of the trap with LGO by dabbing some on my finger and rubbing it on the front of the trap and inside the opening. Every two weeks I need to go out and rebait the outside of the trap with LGO. Now I just wait. Here is a close up picture of the trap. I assure you it is level, although it’s hard to tell from this picture.
Jason has a wonderful blog talking about his experiments with beekeeping and swarm catching. I highly recommend subscribing to it and reading along with his adventures. He has a lot of interesting ideas and also has an excellent you tube channel with videos on swarm trapping which you can find here. Here is a picture of the back of the swarm trap.
Thanks for the trap, Jason! I can’t wait to try raising bees the LetMBee way. I hope I catch some honeybee swarms soon.