Swarm Capture Hive

What is a swarm capture hive?

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A swarm capture hive is an empty beehive built to specific internal dimensions such that it is maximally appealing to swarms of honey bees. Swarm capture hives are being installed around Davis this coming spring (2020) as a public benefit, to protect people and bees from each other in city space.

Examples of swarm capture hives can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lg_hxN9i-P4

Are swarm capture hives safe?

The purpose of swarm capture hives is public safety. The city-wide swarm capture network being installed by Circle of Bees Inc will improve safety for humans and honey bees in city space by preventing encounters between people and swarms and reducing instances of infestations in walls and ceilings.

How gentle are spring swarms? See here: https://youtu.be/jLoaU_xvmRw

Swarm capture hives prevent unsafe infestations:

Wall infestation: https://youtu.be/MEUb8WB86r8

Wall infestation: https://youtu.be/CMzTjXq_sZM

How do swarm capture hives work as a public benefit?

In Davis (our prototype city) approximately 50 swarms emerge in spring. A good percentage of these end up in walls, ceilings, and chimneys where they are costly and messy to remove, and are often exterminated. The rest settle on a tree, bush, fence, car, house or some other place where they are likely to be encountered by humans. There they are either captured by a local beekeeper (who are very happy to do it) or sadly exterminated by scared humans. Swarm capture hives reduce incidence of encounters with humans.

Are swarm capture hives a good idea on schools?

Swarm capture hives improve safety of students. If a swarm moves into a swarm capture hive, then it has served its purpose to prevent that swarm from settling on a bush or playground where it's more likely to encounter students. As well the swarm capture hive prevents bees from interesting walls and ceilings in schools. Once a swarm has colonized a wall, it is expensive to remove and increases likelihood of bee stings.

Most importantly swarm capture hives engages students in the project of pollinator stewardship in sub/urban space. Education around natural stewardship and ecological conservation are a critical yet neglected component of civic safety in the modern age.

A swarm extermination: https://youtu.be/v2bbE3m46us

Important to note: the toxic poison used to kill insects and honeybees are many times more dangerous to our health than are honey bees in civic space

Are swarms aggressive?

Swarms are extremely gentle. They are baby honey-bee colonies. Much like a human baby they lack the strength and will to hurt anyone. They are simply looking for a warm dry cavity with specific dimensions to call home.

While swarms are not aggressive, older colonies of bees can be a little bit defensive at times. The purpose of the city-wide swarm capture network being installed by Circle of Bees Inc is prevent defensive honeybee colonies in positions that might result in conflict between bees and humans.

What about ‘Africanized’ honeybees? Does the swarm capture network attract them, and does it do anything to prevent them?

Our swarm capture network does not attract aggressive bees, however it does provide the safest solution for managing existing aggressive honeybee colonies.

Aggressive behavior can develop in bees when returned to wild habitat with many aggressive predators. Very much like aggressive behavior in dogs, aggression in bees is partly a genetic predisposition and partly a learned behavior. ‘Africanized’ bees are bees that have had to protect themselves against aggressive predators for a few generations.

While aggressive honey bees do exist, the danger they present to the public is mostly the result of a lack of awareness and no good management policy.

Our swarm capture and host network provide both awareness and a practical management strategy. By providing a safe, out-of-the way place for swarms to colonize, we prevent aggressive colonies from moving into walls or ceilings where they can build strength and potentially cause a serious incident.

Because our captured swarms are installed in beehives that we manage, we are able to discover aggressive colonies and re-queen, thereby preventing aggressive honeybee genes from spreading their aggressive genetic behavior by breeding with gentle bees in the region.

The best defense against aggressive bees is a strong culture of organic beekeepers. Afterall, the reason that most honeybee colonies are gentle in the first place is that beekeepers have been carefully cultivating gentle bees for thousands of years.

While developing and maintaining gentle bees requires ongoing effort we believe that exterminating bees is much more dangerous to humans than any bees will ever be. Not only do bees pollinate our fruits and veggies, the poisons that are used to exterminate them are more toxic than bee stings.

Do swarm capture hives attract bees?

Swarm capture hives are more intended to intercept bees rather than attract them.

A swarm will not travel a great distance to find a new home (less than a half a mile on average). So if a swarm colonizes a swarm capture hive, it is already in the general neighborhood, looking for a place to live. While hunting for a home bees settle wherever is most convenient for them, like a fence or hedge. Swarm capture hives are designed to redirect swarming bees away from such spaces where they are likely to scare people

What about students? Can a swarm capture hive on campus put students in danger?

This is an important question which gets at the heart of Circle of Bees mission as a non-profit educational project.

Our organization is founded on the idea that engagement with natural ecology is not only a safe form of educational experience, but that neglecting natural education is extremely dangerous.

We believe it makes students safer to have awareness and preparedness for encounters with the natural world, and that we ought to allow students the opportunity to develop talent and appreciation for managing even our most dangerous wild creatures.

Therefore any occasion to engage students with honey bee swarms is an excellent educational opportunity.

We also find it is an important opportunity for parents, administrators, teachers, and staff who often are not aware of the importance of natural engagement in education.

A painful fact that is nevertheless important to point out is that deaths resulting from automobile accidents in the USA are in the approximately 30,000 per year. Yet we strap our children into cars every day. We provide driving instructions to young drivers to best prepare them for the dangers of cars and roads.

Yet cars are a relatively recent invention that provide convenience in exchange for safetly. Honey bees and the natural web they are part of are critical to our survival as a species. We neglect to teach children about them at our peril.

Beekeeping education is one step towards engaging children in an educational experience around stewardship of the wild natural world which sustains us. That engagement is a fundamental imperative for the safety of future generations.

We are most willing to come speak with administrative staff and PTA and anyone interested about the project and how it improves safety for citizens, especially young people.

Circle of Bees is a CA non-profit and federal 501(c)(3) with a mission to improve safety for everyone, including our pollinators. We have developed the idea of a Student Swarm Capture Adventure taught by our Bee Charmers for developing natural stewardship of honeybees and in our students and young people.

What about allergic people/students?

Allergic students are most vulnerable to bee stings and therefore special precautions should be taken to ensure their safety. We believe that the presence of a swarm capture hive on school grounds is an opportunity to ensure that provisions are made and precautions are in place to protect them. Especially in the case of a specific allergy, it is important that not only the allergic person, but the community around them know how to act to prevent and react to an incident. For that reason we advocate that honey bee safety education be offered in coordination with placement of swarms on school property, including a component that specifically addresses allergic reactions.

What do we do if bees move into a swarm capture hive?

In the case that a hive is occupied you will be asked to notify us as soon as you are aware and we will come empty it. We can be reached at swarm@circleofbees.org. We will also provide a phone number at which we can be reached at the time of installation. In Davis that is: (530) 771-6890

How often will bees colonize a swarm capture hive?

In any one year we get approximately 50 swarms in Davis. We do not yet know how many of those will end up in swarm capture hives, but we expect that most will, meaning that in any year about one to three-quarters of our swarm capture hives will be occupied. We intend to tally each year so that we have a scientifically accurate estimate. By hosting a swarm capture hive you can help us with that science project!

How high must swarm capture hives be placed?

Swarm capture hives can be placed at any height from zero to 20 feet - bees prefer higher but beekeepers prefer lower, so they are easier to access. On schools we think higher is better (over 12 feet) so that students do not play with them.

Are swarm capture hives installed permanently?

Yes, they will be installed permanently. The point of the swarm capture hives is that it is available during spring months. However swarms have been known to occur later in the summer. Technically swarm capture hives can come down in winter, however they look cool where they are and handle weather well, so why not leave them?

What maintenance is required on a swarm capture hive?

Little to none. If a swarm capture hive is occupied it needs to be emptied by a beekeeper. We provide contact information for beekeepers so that one can be contacted. Swarm capture hives can also be “baited” with lemongrass oil, to make them extra attractive in spring. Lemongrass oil mimics queen pheromone. We encourage but do not require that swarm capture hives be baited with lemongrass oil.

How many swarm capture hives are there in Davis?

Approximately 100. We intend to place 77 swarm capture hives, plus any number of empty ‘sanctuary’ beehives in backyards around town (estimated at 33) to act as swarm capture hives during any given year.

How many schools are participating in Circle of Bees’ swarm capture project?

This is our first year! We can tell you next year!

Are there any programs or people with standing in our community who will vouch for your project.

Yes. We are developing a list of references for you. Stay tuned.