Today (May 4th), just as I was thinking about leaving work and heading to the gym I get this frantic text from Rob (and my panicked reply):


Apparently, he had just happened to look out the back window and noticed a dark mass hanging off a branch about 30-40 feet up in a tree in the back yard.


Look up, up, waaayyy up! It is about football size, 30-40 feet up in one of those trees.

Another, closer view of the swarm.

Another, closer view of the swarm. The queen will be in the very center of that bee cluster.

So I raced home, sure that it was one of our hives that had swarmed! When we had done our inspection on the weekend, hive 2 was boiling with bees, however, their 4th box (which we had added about 3 weeks prior) seemed to still have room for more egg laying. A quick peek inside Hive 1, which has it’s own problems (more on that in another post), showed a similar amount of bees as on the weekend. And both hives appeared to still have normal activity (lots of foragers coming and going, some orientation flights occuring at the hive entrances). It was beginning to appear possible that this swarm was one passing through, from some other location!?!?

If we could capture this swarm, we would either: a. be reclaiming our own bees “back”, or b. getting free bees!  We quickly decided (well, actually, I vetoed the idea), that attempting to climb a ladder 30 feet in the air to cut off the branch that held the suspended swarm would not be a good idea (sorry Rob!).

The other option was to try and entice the girls to leave the branch using a bait hive or swarm trap. Basically, we set out a hive box with frames of foundation (unfortunately we do not have any extra frames of already drawn comb available), about 4 feet off the ground under the tree with the swarm. I took a cotton ball and put several drops of lemongrass essential oil on it, and put it in the box. This scent apparently mimics a pheromone that signals “come here, this is home!”. Our hope is that the scout bees will encounter our bait hive, decide that it looks like a cozy new home, and convince their sisters to move in.

"I like the house, Marge, but the place below it is a bit of a dump"

“I like the house, Marge, but the place below it is a bit of a dump”

Update: As of 8 pm, the swarm looks like it will settle in for the night up high in the tree. There were a couple of scout bees buzzing around our bait hive, hopefully they will check it more tomorrow!

Will let you all know if they’re still there in the morning!

Goodnight bees!

UPDATE: For part 2 of this swarm saga, see this post.



  • Rosemarie Wisniewski


    We know the feeling of seeing a swarm high up in the tree and want to capture it. It happened to us …We watched as the swarm developed. We used our tractor with a bucket and placed a hive with honey frames in it , We put this at the tip of the bucket teeth and placed it just inches below the hive.. We watched it for 24 hours and sadly watched them take off, never landing in our hive.. We felt we could of cut that tree down or luckily we live in a farming community and could of used a grain auger to reach the hive and either shake the bees into the box or cut the branch down. Since then we have been lucky to catch swarms all with in our reach..Last summer one hive swarmed three times in 5 days. We caught them all as we watched them swarm each time. We were surprised as we didn’t know that they could swarm more then once in a short time but if there are more queens they will.. BTW we know your friend Tera from our dentists office.

    • Erika

      Hi Rosemarie! Yes, Terra has talked about you and your husband and how you keep bees! Thanks so much for reading the blog, and we appreciate your interest. Isn’t funny how the bees will end up doing whatever they want, with no concern for what is “easy” for the beekeeper!?!

  • Bob Gotwals

    I’m a newbie fresh-meat beekeeper in Durham, installed a nuc several weeks ago, I have one hive. Mine swarmed on Sunday, it was an amazing sight, but they landed 40 feet up in a tree, were there for a couple hours, and are now gone. I’ve been advised to leave my hive alone for a week or so and then check for queen cells, preferably capped ones. There are still bees at the entrance, so I’m hoping that I still have some viability in the hive.

    I live on the west edge of Durham County (off Sparger Road), would LOVE someone who knows what they are doing to help me inspect my hive!

    • Erika

      Hi Bob! Great you found our blog! By no means are we experts though! 😉 I have found that the Orange County Beekeepers Association to be an excellent source of info and there is an active email listserv where you can find mentors and ask questions. You can find them at http://www.theocba.org

      The advice you got to be patient and wait a week and then look for queen cells sounds about right. In theory they wouldn’t have swarmed if they hadn’t prepared for backup queens in the original hive.

      Welcome to the wonderful (and frustrating at times) world of beekeeping!


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