What is more frustrating than getting a swarm call but the bees are just out of reach? As an avid swarm chaser, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a variety of tools to aid in your swarm catching! One of my favorite tools that I have used a LOT this season is my bee pole. It is fashioned from a lightweight aluminum rod that extends to 15 feet (you can purchase a similar one here on Amazon), and a water cooler jug with the bottom cut off that is attached to the pole with a bolt, and duct tape.
Using the pole takes some finesse, and I strongly recommend practicing going through the motions before taking it out for a real catch. In a perfect scenario, you can simply bring the bucket up under the bees and give a strong jolt upwards to knock them off of the branch they are on and into your bee pole bucket. In the swarm catch pictured below, the bees were wrapped tightly around the fork of 2 thick branches, tangled in foliage, and were not hanging loosely. I had to carefully run the bucket up along side of the branches and gather the bees clump by clump.
I had my swarm transport bucket (a modified Home Depot bucket) ready on the ground, with a sheet laid out underneath. Having a sheet helps for 2 reasons: It provides a smooth surface for the bees to walk on, and it gives the beekeeper better visual on the bees. The first few clumps of bees were poured into the bucket and once I felt there were enough bees in there I closed the lid and kept it closed for the remainder of the process. I then began pouring bees onto the sheet in front of the transport bucket. After their initial shock of being scooped up and poured out, they ran towards the bucket entrance.
After about half of the bees were collected, I had bees orienting to the transport bucket which is an indication that the queen was there and they were accepting their temporary home. However, there were still a lot of bees in the tree that I could not get because they were wrapped in tightly around the branch. I had already spent nearly 2 hours moving them from tree to transport bucket (typical swarm catch takes under an hour) so I decided to give the bees and myself a break to sort things out.
Just a few hours later the homeowner texted me the good news that ALL of the bees were in the bucket! By allowing the bees to let their pheromones guide them, they completed the process without any more of my help. Knowing when to back off is something I am still learning, but lessons like this are encouraging.
Happy swarm catching!