Swarm Season Kit (for Opportunistic Beekeepers)

April and the first half of May are prime swarm time in East Tennessee. A swarm is the honeybee’s natural means of reproduction. After leaving the old hive, the swarm usually regroups on the branch of a tree near the old hive and scout bees go look for a new home.

The “stop and scout” period is when beekeepers are able to make their move, either preemptively or by acting quickly. By preemptively I mean you hopefully already have an empty hive body sprayed with lure or lemongrass oil that is perched in a tree nearby so that the scouts decide to take up new housing there and then direct their colony to our new beehive (and save us from having to buy a package from Coley).

If that doesn’t work out. The second fast moving beekeeper, must have all the equipment ready and be able to go shake the colony out of the tree before the scouts find a place for them to move.

There are basically two types of swarms. One is a primary swarm, which means the queen has left with over half the hive. The other is a secondary swarm, which means the queen left with a smaller portion of the hive. Secondary swarm scan happen several times a season within the same hive.

A more important consideration for a beekeeper who is answering a “swarm call” is whether it is a wet swarm or a dry swarm. A wet swarm means it hasn’t been there long, usually it left 45 minutes to 12 hours earlier. This swarm will be docile because it hasn’t built comb and so isn’t protective. However, a dry swarm maybe defensive. A dry swarm is one that has been there for a while and has drawn out some comb. With this type swarm, you will need protective gear: a veil and gloves.

To get ready put these items in your trunk:


Large box (or empty, complete hive body with entrance reducer)

Spray bottle with sugar water (1:1)

Branch cutting saw


Veil and gloves

Swarms vary so if you receive the coveted call to come collect your free bees, here are the important questions you’ll need to ask the caller in order to be ready to retrieve the swarm…

  1. How long has the swarm been there?
  2. How high up is it?
  3. Are you the property owner? Do I have permission to cut a limb off this tree?
  4. Are you afraid of bees? Would you be willing to mix up sugar water in a clean spray bottle and spray sugar mist of them so they’ll stay put until I get there?
  5. Also, ask their name, number, address of swarm.
  6. Tell them to please NOT spray any insecticides or pesticides on the bees.

This will give you information you need to know what to take, ie: if you are going to need a ladder. Also, it will hopefully keep the bees there and safe to give you time to find them.