A detailed DIY guide on how make a swarm trap

You may have heard about swarm trapping and thought you may like to give it a go. 

This guide will explain how to make a swarm trap from basic equipment and tools. Most of this will be from gear you already have laying around anyway, so a swarm trap can be made quite cheaply.

If you’re new to swarm trapping or would like a greater understanding of what is involved, you can checkout our article on how to catch bees in a swarm trap, Spring 2020

How to make a swarm trap from an old beehive

First, gather your equipment. 

For a basic swarm trap we use the following materials:

  • 8 frame hive box
  • 8 frame migratory lid
  • 8 frame marine plywood flat lid
  • 60cm length of 35mm x 120mm treated pine
  • 2x 70mm M8 galvanised bolts with washers
  • 50mm coach screw
  • 60mm 8G screw
  • 5mm spacers
  • 6x 25mm brad nails

img_9415-300x200-9781236 The raw ingredients for a swarm trap.

There are no hard and fast rules as to the above equipment list. Just use whatever is available to you.

If you have 10 frame hive gear, then use that. If you have certain sized timber or screws laying around, then go with what you have.

The above is just a guide as to what we use, however, we do recommend using good quality weather-resistant bolts and timber. Swarm traps can get very heavy especially when full of bees and honey, so it is important to ensure your boxes and mounting hardware are solid and durable.

As for the required tools, the following works fine for us as novice woodworkers.

img_9416-300x200-1670596 The tools we use to make our swarm traps

You could probably get by just fine with a hammer, drill and something to tighten the bolts. 

Drill out entrance hole

For this we use a 32mm diameter holesaw and make the entrance close to the bottom of the box. This hole can be on the broadside or the front of the box. We choose to use the front as this is more convenient for us if we decide to reuse the box on a hive again.

img_9419-300x200-2977145 Entrances holes can be made by simply drilling a hole through the hive box.


Align and install mounting hardware

For this we align our mounting post to the box, assuring that the timber is central to the box. If this piece is misaligned, it can become difficult to hang the swarm trap level as an unbalanced trap will flop to one side.

img_9421-300x200-8448067 Measure out the centre of the hive box img_9422-300x200-1269121 Measure and mark the centre line of the mounting post. img_9424-300x200-7446099 Align the two centre marks to ensure the mounting post will be in the middle of the box. img_9426-300x200-1383520 Check alignment with a tri-square and secure the timber with a clamp prior to drilling. img_9427-300x200-3516979 Mark the holes prior to drilling to ensure accuracy.

For the timber we used, the mounting holes were pre-drilled 20mm from the top of the hive box, and 20mm in from the edges of the mounting post. This works fine for us, but adjust the mounting bolt positions according to your timber and bolt sizes.

We find that mounting the bolts as close to the top as possible works best to counter the weight of the box, however, we are mindful of not mounting the bolts too close to the top of the hive box, particularly with old worn boxes (as the timber of the box itself may fail).

img_9428-300x200-1272383 Holes drilled out and cup-head bolts inserted through.

We insert a spacer between the mounting post and the hive box. This is done to prevent moisture building up between the post and the box, as well as it gives the lid a bit more room to sit flush with the box (our lids are generally a millimetre or two wider than our boxes).

img_9430-300x200-9177919 Bolts and spacer ready to go (spacer gets pushed down below the box level) img_9437-300x200-2236349 Washers in place and bolts done up tight.

Use the largest diameter washers possible as this prevents the pine of the box from distorting. 

Choosing bolts of the appropriate length will ensure that the bolts do not protrude too far into the box.

To calculate this simply add up the thickness of the mounting post, the spacer, the hive box thickness and then leave about 10mm for the nut and washer.

For us: 35mm + 5mm + 21mm = 61mm
So with a 70mm bolt that leaves 9mm spare for the nut and washer

Once the bolts are secure, we like to add a small screw to the bottom of the mounting post. We use a 60mm screw as this secures the hive box well, but does not protrude into the box (millimetre perfect in fact!)

The two larger bolts do the bulk of the weight-bearing, this screw just helps keep the post and the box in shape when being moved around. 

Add in another spacer near this screw as well to keep everything in alignment. 

img_9435-200x300-7103718 The main bolts take the bulk of the weight, while the screw at the bottom helps maintain alignment.


Secure a base to the hive

We use a piece of marine plywood that has been cut to size. This does not need to be of any particular thickness, it just needs to cover the base of the box.

To affix the base we used some small brad nails from a nail gun. We did this just as it was quick and easy, as well it is simple to remove the base later on if wanting to put the hive box back into service on another hive.

A few dabs of wood glue would provide a more secure and long term solution, as would screwing it down. Alternatively, you could just tape the base to the hive box. Do whatever works for you.

img_9441-200x300-4190289 The hive base can be whatever material or thickness you choose, just so long as it is fairly durable and creates a secure/flush fit. img_9450-200x300-5366137 A nail gun makes quick work of securing the base to the hive box.


Add the swarm trap lid

With the base secured you can then sit your lid on top of the box.

Depending what type of lid you use, it should just sit flush on top. 

If your lid has vents then it can pay to block them up, as bees prefer a space that is more airtight and with less light.

This can be achieved with some tape over the vents. In our lid the bees have previously propolised the vents, so there was no need to block them. Thanks bees.

img_9447-e1601202297650-200x300-4174834 These vents had already been propolised by bees, so no tape was needed to block them. img_9444-200x300-5418150 Any kind of lid can be used

Lids can be secured in a number of ways. We just use a couple pieces of tape to keep them in place and this does the job fine.


Install mounting points

In order to assist with securing the swarm trap in position, we affix a coach screw into the mounting post. This allows you to secure the mounting post to a tree and prevents a ratchet strap or rope sliding down off the post.

We also drill a couple of holes in the mounting post so that the traps can be hung from bolts or long nails.

img_9448-200x300-2042524 Holes pre-drilled to allow for quick and easy mounting in the field img_9449-200x300-4738930 This small coach screw helps stop a ratchet strap or rope from sliding off the mounting post


You’re done!

That’s pretty much the swarm trap complete and ready to go. 

Simply add some frames, some scented lure and then get out there and mount your swarm trap! 

img_9457-200x300-3989444 The completed swarm trap, ready to be loaded up and put to work

We hope this guide has helped to give you an idea on how to make a swarm trap. 

If you’d like to learn more about the application of swarm traps head to our article on How to catch bees in a swarm trap.

Cheers and good luck!

120333249_754643485358063_7579441161913263356_o-300x300-1826026 A swarm trap mounted gracefully and awaiting new occupants!

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