Keeping Honey Bees

In the spring of 2019, I decided to try keeping bees.

Catching a swarm with a bait box

I tried catching a swarm by building a few bait boxes and hanging them in trees. The bait box is just an empty box that is made attractive to a swarm of bees by:

  • being dry
  • having the right volume
  • having the scent of lemongrass oil

A honeybee bait box with a few empty frames inside and an opened lid leaning on the side

I saw a few scout bees investigate my bait boxes, but no swarms moved in.

Capturing a swarm (first attempt)

Later, someone in the local beekeper’s guild got a call about a swarm in a residential neighborhood and offered to help me collect it.

A swarm of honeybees clumped together on a brick wall.

We brushed the bulk of the bees into my bait box, waited about 30 minutes, then closed the entrance. I took the box home and set it in my garden. The next day, the bees all absconded.

It’s not clear exactly why they absconded, but some factors might be:

  • the bees had no drawn comb, honey stores, or brood to make them regret leaving
  • the box may have been too hot
  • the box may have been too small for the large swarm
  • I handled them roughly during transport to my garden, which may have caused too much stress on the swarm.

Capturing a swarm (second attempt)

A few weeks later, another friendly local beekeeper caught a swarm, put it in a box, and let me take it home. This time, I was better prepared and immediately fed the bees a jar of sugar syrup. They quickly started drawing comb.

The comb is white, and almost transparent. You can see the yellow larva on both sides of the comb.

A cross section of newly drawn comb showing larva in cells.

A small piece of newly drawn comb with fat larva falling out of the cells.

The bees also started filling cells with nectar and pollen.

A small section of newly drawn comb filled with nectar and pollen.

After a few weeks, capped honey and capped brood was visible.

A frame of honeybee brood with capped honey in the corner, and both uncapped and capped brood in the middle.