Episode-1217- Jason Bruns on Capturing Wild Swarms

Jason Bruns of LetMBee.com

Jason Bruns of LetMBee.com

Jason Burns lives near Liberty, IN. His primary profession is in hospital pharmacy. He began keeping bees in 2010 because he was interested in pollination for his garden and obtaining a honey for his family. Initially he had planned on keeping two hives.

Things got interesting when he figured out how easy it was to catch feral bees that were local to his area. Currently he keeps about 30 hives of untreated/unfed bees amongst endless fields of soybeans and corn (mono-crop hell).

Jason joins us to discuss sourcing honeybees by Swarm trapping for sustainability and self sufficiency for the backyard or even the sideline beekeeper. Including how catching local bees can simplify your beekeeping life and make beekeeping more affordable.

Join Jason and I Today as we Discuss…

  •  How can catching local bees can simply a beekeeper’s life
  • What if you live in an area that has both Africanized and European honey bees
  • Why wild bees are more resilient then pacified bees
  • The advantages of locally sourced feral bees
  • What is a swarm trap and how do they work
  • How to construct a swarm trap
  • How do bees find the trap
  • How do you pick trap locations
  • When do you deploy swarm traps
  • After you have caught a swarm then what do you do
  • If you have to buy your bees what is the best way to go

Resources for today’s show…

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22 Responses to Episode-1217- Jason Bruns on Capturing Wild Swarms

  1. Haven’t listened to the show yet but I’m looking forward to it. I have a top bar hive and bought a swarm lure for this next spring. Any idea how successful those are in suburbs, specifically the Minneapolis area? Or should I still plan on purchasing a package? I’m thinking Carni’s

    BTW I’ve only helped a friend add a package to her hive but I’ve been researching this to death for the last year and a half. It’s time to just do it :-)

    • I know that bees are living in the suburbs around Richmond, IN. Do you ever see honey bees where you live? If you have evidence that there are bees in the area try to catch them. If you’re planning on 2 hives order 1 package and build 3-5 swarm traps. Put them up in several different locations and see what happens. At least that way you have one hive of bees.

      All that reading ahead will come in handy. Good luck.

      • Thanks! Yeah I have a lavender plant right outside my back step. I’ve seen Italian bees all over it early in the summer and mostly black fuzzy bee’s on it now. They seem to love that, even more than the borage I’ve planted around.

  2. Wow very interesting. What Jason is saying is some of the same things we here over and over from Jack. Find what grows and is established in your area. Give it a helping hand and your payback in productivity will come very quickly. Nice. Well done.

  3. Jason, I live in NE Indiana. Are you anywhere close to Fort Wayne?

  4. Very interesting show! I have tried this method of swarm catching three times, and caught one. I had a problem with the other two hives getting wax moths, which are really nasty. I ended up having to throw away some brood frames because they destroyed them.

    I think Jason is definitely on to something with finding the right placement for the trap, I’m going to try a few more this year in different places.

    Does anyone know what time of year is best for catching swarms? I assume it peaks in the heat of the summer, but is it worth the effort to try in early spring?

    • Wax moths will sometimes get into the traps. It has been my experience that by the end of summer there will be at least some wax moth damage in most bait combs. Even if chewed up I will reuse the frames. I don’t use foundation so if wax moths are found the frame goes to the chickens for a morning. I then put it in the wax melter and re-use it the following year. It has been my experience that the really old hard black combs are less appealing to the moths than lighter colored ones, but will get damaged.

      I put a post up today on letmbee.com that covers some of the finer points we just didn’t get to. Some site selection observations are on there, but your area may be slightly different.

      The time of year that is BEST is Spring (late March/early April), but traps are left out until August 1st or until I run out of hive equipment. Swarming normally peak here right around the blooming of the Black Locust give or take a couple weeks. BeeSource.com has a thread every year where forum members report observed swarm dates. It is a useful tracking mechanism. I use it every year to make sure I have traps up early enough. There is a link to it on today’s post. Good Luck

  5. Jason should write a book called the hands off beekeeper.

  6. Are you surrounded by GMO crops? Would that taint the honey?

    • Surrounded is probably the best word for it. Would it taint the honey….. I don’t know is the honest answer, but here is how I think about it. Corn does not produce nectar for the bees so there’s half of the cultivated acres. The bees do probably get some nectar from the soybeans and I don’t know of anyone around here raising non-GMO beans. There may be some risk. I will still take my chances with my honey vs. the stuff at Wal-Mart.

      The show was about trapping. Hive placement is management. I try to place hives where they have the best chances of thriving. Good locations have a variety of blooms through the entire season. It isn’t just good for the bees, it’s more profitable for me. There may be beans planted close enough for bees to hit them when they bloom, but they aren’t there because of the beans.

  7. Cranberryrose55

    Just saying, specifically to Silicon Valley, CA, the Santa Clara County Beekeepers teaches swarm catching for free. Nominal fee under $20 to join Guild. Go out with a mentor a specific number of times apprenticing. Learn until as a beekeeper you are proficient. Then, you can be on the list to be called up by the Guild to go on a swarm catching, you go get your own swarm. Swarm catcher asks for a donation for swarm removal from the homeowner that goes to the Guild. Win-win, bees aren’t snuffed by a pest control; homeowner feels good saving pollinators; beekeepers get free swarms; and the Guild is supported. No trapping taught; however, hands-on training so if you want to learn, you can.

    Really thought-provoking beekeeping, Jason, thank you for your observations.

    • I believe that trapping is done in several areas of California. I follow some forums with threads on trapping. They always have a lot of vocal characters from out there discussing trapping. Some of them catch huge a BUNCH every year.

      Sounds like a good program.

  8. This is exactly the information I needed! I have plenty of wild bees and wondered if they’d move into hives if I set some out. Now I know how to go about it, thanks!

  9. My neighbor about half a mile away got bees last year. I’m seeing them in my yard for the first time in years. I really would like to get some bees in the spring. Can I count on his bees sending out new queens ? Should the trap be in my yard or his? At what point in the spring should I just order some bees?

    • It depends. I know of people who target other’s hives for swarm trapping. I target feral stock because I don’t want swarms that have been feed and treated. The beekeepers that live around here primarily do both. They may be survivors so see if you can catch them. Bottom line is you can put a trap out, but don’t be surprised if they don’t overwinter. Who knows you might get lucky. Experiment because I do know one thing… you won’t know unless you try… You may just be surprised to find out that you have feral bees around you. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there. I had no idea feral bees were around here 5 years ago.

      Today much of the bee literature leads beekeepers to attempt to prevent swarming by destroying queen cells among other measures. If the hives are weak or said measures are taken they may not swarm.

  10. Jack, my two cents: You should have him back on to talk about mead. I enjoyed this interview a lot and would love to hear more from him.

  11. Thanks for the podcast y’all. While I do like what Jason had to say I do have alittle different opinion. Locally sourced bees are your best option hands down. For some folks that is not an option. If you are dealing with some like myself, I am an instant gratification person, I want it and I want it now. So waiting for the chance to catch a swarm was not an choice for me. That said I do perform honey bee removals from folks barns, sheds, and where ever else the bees have taken up residence, and yes yes yes they do seem to do better than the packages I purchased years ago.
    On feeding bees though we do differ. Where I live in Texas our weather is pretty unpredictable and I see feeding as a necessity. Not all the time and not every time, but on occasion I have to feed them.
    Up north y’all typical have much better and bigger honey flow than we do in Texas. Some years we make honey, some years we do not. I have found that bees kept in the suburbs do seem to produce honey more often than my bees kept out i the boonies. Most of the crops around me are coastal bermuda for horse and cattle operations, so the flow just is not there.
    I am not here to be argumentative just wanted to share my different thoughts on it. Thank you so much for your time.
    I would like to suggest on swarm catching “Honeybee Democracy” by Thomas Seeley. Good book and a great read

    • Jason: I welcome differing opinions and I don’t claim the only way to manage bees. I used to think that I needed to feed too, but I don’t know what kind of climate / ecosystem you live in. You do what you need to do as an animal husbandry decision. I am not judging anyone or saying that what I do is the only way.

      I have been able to observe that in my area bees are able to make it on their own without management and I am doing it…. (HERE). It is my hypothesis that this can work in other regions. Do what you need to do. Experiment, the things that work, duplicate, when you have consistent failures, quit those practices. If beekeepers quit worrying about “who is right” and worry about keeping bees alive everybody wins. Proper ways of keeping bees will gain favour and less profitable methods will be abandoned. We need many people employing MANY different methods….

      Where I live it is all location, just as where you live. Those are management decisions. One of my management decisions is to take bees from hard to live in locations and place them in profitable ones. It has been working for me because roughneck bees make it when put in good locations. I still have failures, but it is to be expected. This year was a failure for me. We had a bad dearth in July and as a result I didn’t have as much honey as expected. I learned a lot and will be applying those lessons to next year.

      I welcome discussion so don’t think you must agree with me… Show me something better and I will adopt the practice. All I want is to make it easier to keep bees for everyone. So disagree…. Let’s talk about it.. I will order Honeybee Democracy… Thanks for the recommendation.

  12. Yes sir, I agree that it takes all kinds of methods to figure it out. Please do not take this discussion as argumentative. That is not my point or purpose.

    We have a lot of similarities in our beekeeping ideas. I capture swarms, I also am crazy enough to remove colonies from unwanted places, places where they have been doing fantastically with out folks messing with them.
    I then take those bees home, get them settled in and have been raising queens from those that make it.

    Our only difference is that I feed my gals. I feel I have to as our summers are rough and our options for good forage areas are less than stellar. Being close to soybeans, if irrigated should produce you an excellent crop of honey most years. I also understand y’alls winters are brutal and that is when you can suffer heavy losses. But your springs are rumored to be amazing with the amount of “flow” that happens.

    I do not treat em with medications, I have a problem with putting an insecticide in a box full of insects.

    Defiantly get the book, I have read it several times and it has helped increase my luck with catching swarms. If I am using a new hive body, I will toss in a piece of old dark brood comb to help entice the ladies in moving in. The lemon grass oil is suppose to imitate the bees location pheromone, at least that is what I was told.
    But again to agree with you, beekeeping is very regional. What works for one will not work for another. It is good to exchange ideas and what works, so that others can try it, see if it does work or what they may need to change up just a little and make it work for them. The bees always have lessons to teach those that pay attention. The lessons they have taught me have been rough ones but ones that will not be forgotten.
    Good luck and take care.

    • Where are the swarms you are catching coming form? Kept hives or ferals? If they are ferals no one is feeding them and they are overwintering and swarming. If they aren’t feral then they are probably fed.

      Where I live there is no irrigation. Sometimes you get bean honey sometimes not… depends on weather. Also Springs here could be great if the weather would always be mild. It can be unpredictable. Between late frosts and storms that destroy blooms bad things happen frequently. I promise the grass isn’t all that green here. Two of the last four years the black locust flowers were all destroyed by storms in May at the peak of bloom.

      Even though I live in a part of the country that should be great for bees conditions are not as easy as you might think. Weed killer, mowing, and miles of corn and soy put a huge damper on available forage. I don’t live there and if you have to feed you have to feed. It still might be worth experimenting with a couple of hives to see what happens if you don’t feed them. You will ultimately need to develop your own management for your area.

      I have read all of the theory about LGO and I still don’t know what to make of it for sure. I didn’t want to get into it during the interview because science junk can get boring pretty quick. I know is that it is attractive to honeybees. I have tested it and consistently traps baited with old comb and LGO produce more often that the traps with no LGO.

  13. The swarms I get? Who knows where they come from. Beekeeping is booming in our area right now, so they could be coming from new beekeepers who are not managing properly.
    Not that I am complaining, I will happily take them home and do my best to get them ready for our “winter”
    Definitely ready Seelys book, it is worth the ready. I will be getting more swarm boxes ready for spring as that is as close to free honey bees as you can get.