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Here in Denver we just had the stock show. For many reasons I visit the stock show each year but this year I hoped to find someone that does bees.

Turns out that the Boulder County Bee Association has been there for years!

Anyway, I got to talking to the woman that was manning the booth. I told her that I was a beginner and that I was having a hard time finding shippers of packages. I was wondering if there was someone local to which she put me on to a person that drives to CA and loads up for Assoc. members.

Anyway, she told me that swarms are a great way to start. All of the books I read put this at the bottom of the choices for beginners. She told me to contact my city and tell them that I will catch swarms and that I would probably end up really busy. She told me that last spring she caught 9 in the Longmont (smallish town) area and that she just gives them away to whomever wants then. (I put me in line!) I asked if she would take me along to which she replied "sure!"

So, swarms for beginners? Good, idea or bad?

If she is giving it to me it seems that it IS a package, just might be a big package.
 

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{She told me to contact my city and tell them that I will catch swarms and that I would probably end up really busy}

Notify your 911 center, they will take most of the calls. Have plenty of equipment ready. With the mild winter swarms will be thick as pearls on a-well you get the idea! They are pretty easy and fun to catch as long as they are not more than 6 or 7 feet of the ground. You can even combine them by the newspaper method if you run out of equipment and make super 2 queen units producing copious amounts of Columbine Honey.
 

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I have gotten one call from 911 and about 30 from the local exterminators. Mostly, the exterminator calls are for extractions, but a number of them have been for swarms.

If you really want to become experienced fast, do a few extractions. It will educate you or eradicate you, one or the other. :eek: :D
 

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Now, in all seriousness, here in NC the exterminators acted like a long lost child had came home when I called them and said I removed bees. This is Jan.,"I think", but I got a call from go-forth today. There was a hive discovered in an oak tree in the yard of a catholic school.
They want it removed, but not killed.
 

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John,
Swarms are a fun way to get started. They seem to be in "build up" overdrive and they'll get a productive colony established very quickly. If you're putting them on foundation its fun to track their progress. I picked up several swarms last spring from local exterminators who had me on their list. You will usually draw a croud of mesmorized spectators and you'll give them a once in a lifetime performance. I had a blast.
 

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I'm on some swarmlists, and hope to catch my first this spring. John, maybe I'll see you at the BCBA meeting in Niwot! Anyway, do folks spray a swarm with syrup before dislodging? I've met swarms before (before beekeeping that is) and they were totally passive, but I've heard of "dry swarms" being very grumpy (long enough on the wing to not have food). Plus it seems liek the wet wings would make 'em easier to dislodge into your box/bucket/cooler.

How important is the smoker for swarms? I'd like to not keep it in my car and mess with it on a swarm catch if possible...
 

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You don't really need a smoker in my experence. At least I have not used one. Maybe other do use one but those that I have caught just didnot need anything but a box of some sort to put them in. I have never used syrup spray on them either but again, maybe others have.
 

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Instead of a smoker, a spray bottle of syrup may come in handy. Just spray them the same way you would do a package before installation. This will cut down on their flying around. There is not much chance of aggressive behavior or stinging from a swarm - if they are then I would leave them ;) .
 

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>So, swarms for beginners? Good, idea or bad?

Swarms are a much better idea than I did to start off. I was doing cutouts and knew nothing about what I was doing except what I'd read in books. Swarms are much easier to handle.


Sooner or later you've got to get your feet wet.

Here's my biggest concern for a beginner and swarms. How calm can you be at the top of a ladder when several hundred bees fall down the back of your neck? And now how calm can you be if they start stinging you? They probably won't if you're gentle enough, but it could and panic at the top of a fourty foot ladder can get you killed.

If you want to go that route, I'd get a Hipps swarm catcher from Brushy Mt. Be careful of power lines. Make sure you've got your equipment with you. I'd have a jacket with a zip on veil. Don't be afraid to walk away from situations that you can't handle like swarms 60 feet up or "swarms" that are actually established colonies.

Make sure you ask good questions before you go. If they say "they're in a hole in the ground" they probably aren't European honey bees. More likely they are Bumble bees or yellow jackets. If they say they've been living in this tree for years, then you're not going to shake a swarm off a limb, you're going to have to do much more work. ASK if they've sprayed them with insecticide. I wouldn't bother with a swarm that's been sprayed. Ask what they look like, where they are, exactly, how big a clump it is (baseball, softball, soccer ball, basketball, etc.) How high up? etc.

They are always wrong, so take the size they say and dvide by 2. Take the height they say and multiply by 2. Now decide if it's worth the trip. If it's not the size of a soccer ball it's probably not worth the trip.
 

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Swarm calls involve both a swarm clustered on a branch that needs little more than knocking them into a box. Swarm calls also involve extractions and removals from buildings/trees/other. I would be very clear on the type you want calls for.

Swarms are a good way to get started. But I think they are better for building numbers. If I had no bees, I would not wait around half the summer for an opportunity for a swarm. If you get one early enough to build them up thats one thing. But getting one after the flow is over or half way through the summer is not good unless you have resources such as drawn comb and honey frames.

Getting a late swarm to start them on foundation and then spending money on feed/sugar in an attempt to get through the first winter may be just as costly as buying a package or nuc.

Of couse if this is the only way to get bees you have to do what you need to do...
 

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Swarms are fun to catch, there is nothing I like better than free bees. All the swarms I’ve caught have been at least fifteen feet plus high. Michael’s suggestion about the Hipps swarm catcher is a good idea. I got one last year and it paid for itself the first time I used it. I did reinforced it because it is a little wobbly on the end of the pole, by using a piece of wood. Also a retractable pole that is used by painters works great. After you shake the swarm into the bucket and close the lid you can drop the bucket down very easy. If the swarm is at a manageable height, lightly spraying them with cool water will calm them down. If they haven’t been hanging around for a couple of days they usually are gentle, and spraying them is not required .
I don’t know if I would have been ready to catch a swarm my first year alone. If you know of an experienced Beekeeper that could help you out I would probably be a better learning experience. Either way good luck.

[ January 25, 2006, 05:51 PM: Message edited by: Brent Bean ]
 

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You know I've wondered about that swarm catcher, since I have a number of buckets and lids laying about. Is it just an anchored conduit, through the bottom, that extends to a couple inches below the bucket rim for pulling on the lid up in the air using a string attached to the lid? Seems cool, but if thats it, easily fabricated. Anyone care to share a pic?
 

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>Swarms are fun to catch, there is nothing I like better than free bees.

One thing better is to be paid to take them away. Next to that is get paid to take them away and then selling them :D Most of us charge for the service, the normal charge starts at around $50 for a simple snip or shake into a box and walk away. I charge business's with liability issues for their clientel a higher rate. I also charge extra for risky situations.

It is real disapointing to drive 25 miles to find that they took off just minutes before you got there, think gas money. :(

However, when you charge, you have to do a clean job. That means that you need to take all of them, and that sometimes means a second trip to pick up any stragglers that were out scouting.

I prefer to usher them into a nuc and return at dusk to pick them up.

I don't recomend spraying the bees with syrup as I have had bad results with them flying off when hit with the spray. Instead I will use the spray syrup on the frames and the interior of the nuc box to intice them in if they are stuck on a wall, on the ground, or on something where they can not be sniped off or shook off of.

It is also rare to need a smoker, but all tools have a time and place. I once used one to chase them out of a low lying juniper on the ground. The smoke chased them out and the syrup attracted them into the box.

Also remember that it is usually the old queen that is headding the prime swarm, and that she is most likely in need of being replaced. As a general rule I don't requeen as I am looking for survivors, but it is likely the bees will superceed her sooner or later.
 

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Bill: after reading your profile,being lazy don't seem to fit? you sound like a very active person.
 

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For some reason I don't get the time to do all the things I like to do. I am starting a new hobby, engraving. It's just like leather tooling, but on metal. Will also be carving wax, bone, and wood, as well as etching glass.

I live in a shoebox right now and don't have a shop to work in, so I needed a hobby I could do in limited space. Cabin fever runs high in the winter. ;)

I have a few hundred boxes to engrave my name on. Especially since the 'BRAND NEW' BRANDING IRON IS JUNK AND DOES NOT WORK!
 
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