Swarm Traps and Bait Hives


If you are like me, you want to increase your apiary for free.  Or maybe just replace winter losses as cheap as possible. That is where swarm traps excel, swarms come to you. Better, you never have to chase down a swarm and then have the pain of seeing them abscond the next day.  I enjoy swarm trapping so much that I wrote a book about it. I think every beekeeper should keep swarm traps.


Spring is great for using swarm traps to capture free bees. Strong colonies that build up fast in early spring swarm earlier than the rest. In Texas, that can be the first week of March in the hill country. If you can catch some feral swarms, you can add great disease resistant stock to your apiary. Swarm Trap e-bookTemperament, however, is a gamble. Treat all new feral stock with caution plus veil and gloves. If any new swarm shows signs of undue aggression without cause, don’t tolerate it, requeen.

Cornell University put out a paper on swarm traps. It is out of date, and the traps are not as good as the ones shown you in the video below, but still worth a read.

Bait Hives for Honey Bees.


Here’s the low down on swarming and how to build swarm boxes:



How to build Swarm Traps




A Swarm Capture and a Honey Raid



Swarm trapping is fun, simple, easy, and rewarding.  I’m so into swarm trapping, I now have 30 traps and am making a DVD instructional video about it soon. Give me till Fall, and it should be out, plus I’ve put out an instruction ebook about swarm trapping.


All you need to do, is build a box that takes 6-10 frames, contains about 40 liters (10 gal.) in volume and has a single entrance hole of 15 cm^2 (1-2 inches). This box could double as a nuc, later in the year. Once built, the box is baited with a drop or two of lemon grass oil and about 8 drops on a napkin sealed in a zip lock bag. This holds the aroma for many months. The smell is needed to attract scout bees, who consider the lemon scent as a ‘come here’ navasov pheromone.

Swarm trap insides with frames for easy removal of a swarm

You can cheat, too. Just buy a 8 frame hive body and screw a board to the side with a hole at the top to hang it on a nail.Swarm Trap that hangs.


Don’t use the paper conical style swarm traps. They cost >$20 after shipping and they are terrible if you don’t get the swarm out quickly. Swarms are comb building monsters, once they start they will build comb fast. You often have to cutout comb from the conical style traps. I have a video that shows the power of using a frame based trap.


Don’t forget I wrote a book on swarm traps and bait hives that is now available.





18 Responses to “Swarm Traps and Bait Hives”

  1. man, you don’t mess around.
    i am impressed with your no nonsense approach. your frames don’t even have foundation. i think i could save a lot of money with your approach. thanks.
    how do you catch bees in your top bar hives?
    where can i get lemon grass oil?
    your videos are great!

  2. mccartney says:

    I catch swarms then dump them into a TBH and put in a dish of sugar water with straw (to keep bees from drowning).
    Also, I use swarm trap boxes that have Top Bars instead of the normal lid.
    LGO is found in grocery stores these days, else look on eBay.

  3. rick says:

    Hi McCartney,

    Met you at the Gardening Volunteers of South Texas last fall. I have your Swarm trap book, thank you for writing it!!

    Do you build your swarm traps differently if you plan on putting the bees into a top bar hive?

    Is there a schedule of your upcoming talks?


  4. Chris M says:

    Great video. where where the bees that built in the wall? Did they abandone this hive? Or did you catch them also?

  5. Bud Neptune says:

    Enjoyed your videos! New to beekeeping. Got my first hive in the mail last week. Bees to arrive in May. Live on a farm in northcentral Missouri with lots of timber and hayland. Lots of blackberry and rasberry bushes, wild plum thickets, and clover and alfafa fields. Going to build your bait traps this week sometime and hope to have it up next weekend.

    Had an old house with bees for years. Went to see it today and the roof had fallen in and lost the hive. Rain seeped in bees must have froze last winter. Made me sick but seen bees on wild peach trees nearby so and going to put a trap near the “old house”. Appreciate your help. E-mail me when your video is out. God bless!

  6. Stephen D. says:

    Hey, Thankyou. I bought the book, bought some of the “recipe” , built a trap, put it in a tree, caught a swarm of bee’s the first week! And i mean they are a much of bee’s. Thankyou, Thankyou, Thankyou! I showed them to a friend who has been keeping bee’s for a few years and he was really impressed.

  7. Tracy L says:

    Wow! Got your book last week, built and hung a swarm trap this past Sunday. 48 hours later, I have a massive swarm! Thanks for the great info!

  8. g.kuehne says:

    hey…thanx for the intelligent tips !

  9. James Craven says:

    Hi,I got your book today.(4-9-13) I don’t have a hive yet,but plan to build a top bar hive.
    I would like more information on a top bar swarm trap design.
    Thanks for your videos and book.

  10. Hello, I bought your book and watched quite a few of videos and have made two traps out of new 1×10 lumber, since then I have read that new lumber is a bad choice, do you agree? Any way they have been up over two weeks, lemon grass oil and all, and no activity.Thanks

  11. Jave Hughes says:

    Blip took down the first of your videos. They said they removed your video November 2013, because they didn’t think it was important enough, or some stupid thing.
    Tried to view the rest but they wouldn’t start? (The later could be because I’m reading your book on my nook, and it’s not very fast on the web.)

  12. Mark Rose says:

    Well, I am very happy at the moment, after listening to your audio book, and watching your YouTube videos, I decided to try a few bait hives this year (my 3rd beekeeping).
    In ten days I have picked up three swarms, and there seems no letting up!! I have been making a few videos as I go, so if you need any just drop me a line. I’m in Australia by the way.

    All the best, and much respect,

  13. AuntBee says:

    I caught one last year, they survived and I plan on catching another this year, I am using a hive to catch a swarm. Is it okay to set one up near a occupied hive?

  14. mccartney says:

    Yes, you can put one near an occupied hive, but the chances are low near a hive.

  15. MIKER says:

    This is the first time I have used your traps and I am happy to see how well they work. I built 13 boxes and have, so far, caught 14 swarms.
    I do have some questions to ask. First, when I put the trap back out in the same location will the bees left behind from the first removal cause problems?
    Second, will their be any benefit in putting extra frames of foundation in the box along with the pulled frame? It seems like I can’t get to them before they draw comb everywhere.

  16. Tara says:

    How far away from a hive would u recommend placing one from an occupied hive? We live on approx. 40acres and have an occupied hive. Would there be a good chance of catching a swarm on our land or would it be too close proximity to our current occupied hive if we placed it somewhere within the 40acres?

  17. presh17th says:

    I am in Nigeria, when is the right time for me to trap the swarm

  18. T.Middleton says:

    Yes Bait hives are very effective, Wax coated top bars are simplest, however if it is very old comb this can be discarded in favour of just rubbing beeswax on the insider walls of the hive.
    War’e hives being smaller are ideal for this method.

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