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Picture of Simple Honeybee Swarm Trap

Honeybees naturally swarm when the weather is nice, there is nectar and pollen available and their current hive gets crowded. Swarming is the way a honeybee colony reproduces. A swarm usually includes the queen and about half the worker bees from the existing colony. The existing colony raises a new queen and carries on while the swarm sets up housekeeping in a new place.

A swarm trap is not really a "trap". A swarm trap is a baited hive box that is made as attractive as possible for a swarm to move into. Since the bees can choose to move in (or not) and can choose to move back out (or not) some beekeepers prefer to call a swarm trap a "bait hive".

Honeybee swarms usually form a temporary loose clump (a bivouac) hanging from a branch, fence or post for a day or so. Scout bees from the bivouac search for a new home for the swarm to move into and that is what we want to provide with our baited trap.

Honeybee swarms move into all kinds of places. They have been found in upturned 5 gallon pails, water meter boxes, flower pots, cavities in buildings, etc. and (of course) natural hollows in trees.

Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

For our simple bait hive we will need the following things:

A Sterilite black plastic waste basket* (Walmart ~$4)

A top* (scrap plywood or Coroplast political sign)

7' of cord or light rope (UHaul tie-down rope ~$3)

A 6" piece of an old branch cut in half for the porch

2 deck screws to hold on the porch

A wine cork

4 cotton swabs

A bottle of lemon grass oil (Walmart ~$6)

2 small pieces of old honeycomb (If you have some) or some small rotting wood chunks

A medium sized nail or 3" lag screw

A 2" piece of fat plastic straw

*See step 11 for the 3 size choices

Honeybees do not need a high-precision trap construction. Go ahead and change any part or location to suit what you have on hand.

ncdodave4 months ago
this is illegal to use because of bee keeping regulations to protect honey bees. You must use a frame hive box to keep bees in. the use of any other shape other than a square box or rectangular box that holds comb frames is not legal in the U.S. your bee hive MUST use removable comb frames. This type of box protects the colony of bees and does not harm the colony vs. using any container that does not have removable comb frames. I am a commercial bee keeper with over 1,000 colonies. Not only can I not recommend this "trap" I can not support the use of this trap.
omichael5304 months ago
This is a excellent tutorial on a swarm trap or bait trap simple and cheap, there are only two things that i would like to mention go for the 10 gallon bin because swarms like a home that is at least 10 gallon in size even if it is only a small swarm, the other thing is if you trap a swarm don't use the trap as a hive for two long you don't want to put a swarm into a hive in the Autumm when there is no nectar or pollen around .
JesperE24 months ago
Hi, nice tutorial. I'd love to keep bees some day (not in the immediate future though) and to attract a swarm seem like a good way to start. But I wonder - if you need to move the swarm to a proper hive after a while, why not start out with one from the beginning? Wouldn't that be as attractive to the swarm?
PaulH515 JesperE24 months ago
These will usually be 10' up in the air stuck to the side of a tree. A Langstroth hive (what bees would usually be held in) would require that you build a platform at that height and is fairly heavy when it goes up. If it's a couple of days until you see it has bee's coming in and out it could have another 3 pounds of bees in it plus 5-10 pounds of wax and nectar. The set up he had is light weight and should be easy to put up or take down.
JesperE2 PaulH5154 months ago
Ah, ok, I see. Thanks.
jwhyman4 months ago
Why use black plastic? Bees hate the color black. Also why not use wood for insulation so they can survive winter.
PaulH515 jwhyman4 months ago
This is a trap not a permanent home. The bee's should only be in there 1-3 days tops before a good beekeeper takes them and transplants them into a proper Langstroth hive. This is a pretty cheap and easy trap, I myself use a Lowe's bucket with lid.
igggy17 jwhyman4 months ago
GregS2784 months ago
Thanks for posting this and I wish you would have more pictures on baiting the trap!
I'm entrusted in trying to attract a swarm of bee's it would be a good hobby that might
pay for itself and give me lots of nice honey to enjoy!!
malijai5 months ago
Very simple system, welll explained.
We had a swarn 2 years ago but it was too high in a tree to be rescued, may be if we had a system like yours we would be able to rescue them...
We have 2 hives in the garden (in Montréal Canada) and they have survived our so bizare winter, we have removed the protections yesterday as the forzen time seems to be finished.
audreyobscura5 months ago
This was super informative! I live in a big city, but I dream of beekeeping some day!
bikeframe (author)  audreyobscura5 months ago
Thanks. I am working to put small honeybee hives in urban settings. Please check out my Web site at for some ideas along those lines. If you are not trying to produce honey to sell then a small in-town hive is one answer for bee conservation. Plus, honeybees are fascinating!