What to Do After Catching a Swarm of Bees

Is there any other animal that man keeps that is given for free? Let’s set aside the wandering cat, dog, and chicken for a second. I’m talking about waking up and finding a herd of cattle, just looking for a home, or a flock of chickens invading an empty coop. Yet, a beekeeper can buy a hive, mount the brood box on a tree and capture a swarm for free. It sure is a blessing if you know how to do it right.

In this article, we'll cover the steps involved in housing a swarm in a new hive and ensuring their safety. From assessing the size of the swarm to monitoring their behavior, this guide will help you successfully add new bees to your apiary.

Find a Suitable Location

When choosing where to place your beehive, consider the following:

  • Sunlight: The beehive should receive direct sunlight, especially in the early morning to benefit from the sun’s warmth but be protected from the afternoon sun that can overheat the hive.
  • Wind protection: A sheltered location helps the bees maintain a stable internal hive temperature and prevents the hive from being damaged.
  • Water access: Bees need a nearby water source to drink and cool their hive. Ensure there’s a natural source, like a pond, or provide a shallow container filled with water and some stones or marbles for the bees to stand on while drinking.
  • Safety: Choose an area away from foot traffic, pets, and children to avoid accidental stings or disturbances to the hive.

Prepare a Hive

Once you’ve found the perfect spot, it’s time to set up a hive. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Choose a hive type: There are several types of bee hives available, such as Langstroth, top bar, and Warre hives. Research the pros and cons of each type and select the one that best suits your needs and experience level.
  • Assemble and clean the hive: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to assemble your hive. Clean it thoroughly to ensure there are no contaminants or residues that could harm your bees.
  • Install frames and foundation: Install frames with wax or plastic foundation in the hive, giving your bees a structure on to build their comb on. Ensure there is enough space for them to work and expand.

Introduce the Swarm to the Hive

Place the swarm gently: If you caught the swarm in a container or a catcher box, place it close to the hive entrance. Gently shake the bees onto the landing board, allowing them to enter the hive. If the swarm is on a branch, position the branch over the hive and gently shake the bees inside.

Feed the bees: If the swarm needs an energy boost, provide them with a feeder filled with sugar syrup (1:1 sugar to water ratio). This helps them get started on building their comb. This may not be necessary if nectar-bearing flowers are in bloom in your area.

Monitor the queen: The success of your bee colony depends on the queen. Observe the swarm to ensure she enters the hive. You may also mark her with a dot of paint for easier identification later.

How Long Do Queen Bees Live

Caring for Your Bees

Once your bees are settled in their new home, ongoing care is essential. Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy colony:

  • Regular inspections: Conduct regular hive inspections, ideally every 7-10 days during the active season, to monitor the health of your bees, check for pests or diseases, and ensure the queen is laying eggs. Once you’ve established that the queen is laying and the bees are generally healthy, you can reduce the frequency to twice a month. 
  • Prevent swarming: Bees may swarm if they feel overcrowded. Add extra boxes and frames when needed to provide more space and prevent swarming.
  • Manage pests and diseases: Monitor your hive for pests and diseases such as varroa mites and American foulbrood. Treat any issues promptly to maintain the health of your colony.
  • Winter preparation: Prepare your bees for winter by providing extra food, reducing the entrance size to prevent drafts, and adding insulation.

By following these steps and giving your bees the proper care and attention they need, you’ll be well on your way to establishing a thriving colony. Remember, a successful beekeeping journey requires patience, dedication, and a willingness to learn from your bees.

How to Keep a Newly Caught Swarm from Leaving

After catching a swarm of bees and introducing them to their new hive, there’s a risk that they might decide to leave in search of a more suitable home. This is called absconding. To minimize the chances of your swarm absconding, follow these tips:

Ensure Hive Cleanliness

A clean hive environment is crucial to keeping your bees from leaving. Keep the hive free of contaminants, residues, or mold, which could harm your bees or deter them from staying. If you’re using a second-hand or previously occupied hive, thoroughly clean and sanitize it before introducing the new swarm.

Provide Food and Water

Providing some artificial nectar to help the colony get started is a way to bribe the bees to stay. Set up a feeder filled with sugar syrup (1:1 sugar to water ratio) in the hive. This encourages them to build comb and settle in. Also, ensure they have access to a clean water source close to the hive.

Maintain Optimal Hive Conditions

Provide proper ventilation to prevent overheating and maintain a stable internal temperature.

The hive should be well-insulated to protect the bees from extreme temperatures and weather conditions.

Position the entrance in a way that prevents rain or drafts from entering the hive.

Observe and Monitor

Keep a close eye on your newly caught swarm during the first few days. If you notice any unusual behavior, such as clustering around the entrance or excessive flying in and out, address any potential issues or disturbances that might be causing their discontent.

Give them brood

Bees don’t abandon their young. The brood releases a pheromone that guarantees the workers care for them. Unlike other insects where the larvae move around at will, bee larva depends on room service, so nature found a way to compel the servers to keep working. If you have another strong colony in your apiary, borrow a frame of uncapped brood and place it in the new hive. It will motivate the workers to stay put. The queen will likely start laying before all the larvae pupate, and by then, they’ll think of the hive as home sweet home.

Place A Queen Excluder under the brood box above the entrance

If you’re worried, you can physically keep the queen from leaving the hive. If she can’t leave, the worker bees won’t. They will try, and you will see them take to the air, but once they notice the queen isn’t with them, they’ll return to the hive.

By taking these steps to make your new hive as appealing as possible, you’ll increase the likelihood that your newly caught swarm of bees will decide to stay and make your hive their permanent home. 

Enjoy the Fruits of Their Labor

As your bee colony grows and becomes more established, it will produce honey, beeswax, propolis, and other valuable products. Harvest these resources responsibly so you don’t deplete the colony of its food for the winter.

  • Honey: Harvest honey once a year, typically in late summer or early fall. Make sure to leave enough honey stores for your bees to survive the winter. 
  • Beeswax: Beeswax is a natural product of the honeycomb-building process. When you remove the honeycomb, you can melt and filter the beeswax for various uses, such as candles, cosmetics, and food wraps.
  • Propolis: Bees collect propolis, a resin-like substance, from trees and use it to seal cracks and gaps in the hive. You can harvest propolis for its antimicrobial properties and infuse it in tinctures, balms, and salves.


Homing a swarm seems more intimidating than it is. A swarm in search of a home is very suggestible. They are vulnerable out in the open and need to find a suitable cavity quickly. 

In some cases, if the bees are low enough, beekeepers will put a hive immediately below them and provide one frame as a bridge into the hive. The bees walk themselves into it. If you need things to move a little quicker, shake them into the hive, and close it up, but leave the entrance open for returning scouts. In a few hours, you’ll have yourself a free colony of bees, and your beekeeping adventure can begin.

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