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We Caught a Swarm of Bees... Now What?- Blog & Video

June 26, 2020 Amanda W

With our interest in sustainability, one project we have always been interested in taking on is Honey. I have bought Raw Texas Honey for years and have recently started buying ORGANIC RAW TEXAS HONEY by the gallon for my various farm projects such as my homemade wheat bread and other baking needs, Elderberry Syrup, and just for general eating. It has a delicious flavor and many health benefits as well (although those benefits are inactivated with baking but I still use it in my bread). Honey is nature's sugar!

I have purchased a couple of books and multiple magazines with articles on raising bees and the more I learn, the more concerned I become about controlling the process myself. Why? Well in short, there is a lot of deceptive marketing in the honey industry by large companies selling Honey as "Raw" when it has actually been heat treated, selling it as "Natural Honey" when it has been chemically fumigated to get rid of Varroa Mites (huge parasite problem for beekeepers btw), and companies touting the health benefits of their honey while heavily supplementing the bees with sugar water because they don't want to leave them enough honey to survive on.

As you might imagine, when you are feeding your bees lots of sugar water the product they are creating is not as quality as when they are surviving off their own honey and natural forage. When the medical benefits directly come from what the bees are fed, than you really don't want to cut corners if you want the best product. Unfortunately many companies do. So now enters our interest in providing our family with this product ourselves and overseeing the project from start to finish.

Most people that decide to get into bees go and buy one or several Nuclear Colonies of bees aka Nucs and set them up. These can be ordered online or through local beekeeping vendors (yes thats a thing). We initially planned to do this as well until my husband got tuned into Dr. Leo Sharashkin, who is a natural beekeeper and scientist. He runs HorizontalHives.com and advocates for catching your own bees and keeping them in Horizontal Hives rather than the standard stacked vertical hives. 

Dr. Leo educates on his website and on YouTube through interviews, that if you catch a local swarm, the bees will already be adapted to your local environment which will increase the likelihood of survival and decrease the risk of poor colony health and parasite problems. Parasite problems are where the chemical need comes in for most American beekeepers. The method of beginning beekeeping by catching a swarm and later splitting them after they replicate, is common in other countries that are less consumerism based. I am not saying we would never buy bees but Dr. Leo's rationale makes sense to us and we thought it was worth a shot before shelling out over $250 for our first Nuc, which may or may not survive the first year. Incidentally, there is a large number of colonies that fail the first year with a new beekeeper for obvious "learning-curve" reasons.

The reasoning for utilizing the horizontal hive versus the vertical stacked hives, is that they more closely simulate the natural hive construction that bees form in the wild, in hollow trees etc. By making the artificial environment or hive closer to the ones (naturally formed hives) observed in wild, it is also more likely that the bees will be well adjusted and healthy in their new home.

When my husband approached me about the horizontal hive idea, I was initially put off by it. I have been reading bee articles for years with the intention of eventually doing this and I had never heard more than a 1-2 sentence reference to horizontal hives. The American bee companies pretty much base all their product offerings and educational materials on the Langstroth Hive design, which is the vertical style. Since that is what I had seen referenced hundreds of times before as the obvious choice, this new Horizontal Hive idea had me perplexed. But after watching more information and understanding the rationale, I was game to try it. 

So a few weeks back and a small stack of lumbar ago, my husband set out with some swarm box plans and got to work. After completing the swarm trap, a small hive, some frames, ordering wax foundation, and stealing his wife's Doterra Lemongrass Essential Oil as a scent lure, this man hung his trap 20 feet up in a tree and crossed his fingers. A few weeks later, he had caught his first swarm of bees...watch the video to see what we did next!