beekeeping equipment

A beer box for bees

This is just a little thing—a Girl Scout “be prepared” kind of thing—but it makes life easier. Every year just before swarm season, I make sure I have a cardboard box big enough to hold a swarm. I usually use a beer box because they’re sturdy and easy to come by. I seal all the extra openings with duct tape, including the handles on the ends and the slit on the bottom. Then I just stick the box in the shed.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run for the box over the years. I’ve scarfed up swarms in trees and bushes, swarms on fence posts, swarms under hives, and even one on the ground. Often I just clip off a branch and place the whole thing in there. Once I get it in the box, I just fold over the lid and take it to wherever I want to hive it. I’ve even left bees in the box overnight with no problem.

Having it ready in advance makes all the difference because I don’t end up scrambling around looking for something I just took to the recycle center. Before I started doing this I had a swarm leave a low branch and disappear while I was routing around looking for a container. How annoying.

I like a cardboard box because it is light, easy to carry around, and holds the bees in confinement (if well taped). It is small enough that I can climb a tree or hang off the edge of a building and not lose control of it. Besides that, I get to drink the beer, which is also fun.


Be sure to tape the handles and the bottom.

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  • Great Story Rusty… And great use of the box. But the real question is which do you like more? A box full of beer or a box full of bees… Decisions decisions. 🙂

  • Jeff, you big silly – the whole point of the post is that Rusty never has to choose between beer and bees!
    The friends who kindly parked 7 hives at my farm say my next learning experience will be catching a swarm. Sounds like I better go buy some beer!

  • It might not be a bad idea to use some window screen or hardware cloth to close off the handle holes rather than duct taping them closed for some ventilation. If the bees start to get too warm, they’ll begin fanning, which generates more heat and you could end up with a box of “expired” bees, believe me, been there, done that. 🙁 Not a pretty sight.

    But I completely agree in having a catching device ready at all times, along with a place for them to end up in, a NUC or a full size box. I usually try to get them right into the box they’ll be staying in, and put them in a cool dark place for a day or so before they are placed in their final location. I’ve caught a few swarms only to go back to find an empty box where there once was a nicely filled hive.

    Placing a frame of eggs and brood is also a great aid in anchoring them in a box, plus if they start drawing out queen cells, you know instantly you didn’t get the queen.

    Just my 2 cents.


  • Wow, somehow I didn’t make myself clear. I use a beer box to collect swarms before I put them into a hive. Usually they don’t spend more than ten to fifteen minutes in there. I have hives set-up and ready to accept any swarms I catch. The whole point of an empty, lightweight box is that I can climb a tree, a ladder, or scramble up the side of a hill with it—something I can’t do with a wooden box or box filled with frames.

    The subject of this post is how a simple cardboard box can help catch a swarm. The subject is not how to start that swarm in a new hive or how to keep the bees from absconding once they’re in there.

    And, yes, on the rare occasion when I’ve left bees in a temporary box overnight they were given ventilation and a cool environment. I may have just fallen off the turnip truck, but I’m an ace on ventilation and air flow.

  • Just like yourself, but I’ve used those handy sized boxes that printers come in these days. Here in England the rain has been constant since I collected my swarms, so I’m ashamed to say that my last swarm has been happily occupying one of these boxes – with appropriate rain protection – for about four weeks awaiting my urgent attention.

  • As you can see from one of my previous posts, I am a great believer in the cardboard box. There must be a web business in there someplace….

  • “I like a cardboard box because it is light, easy to carry around, and holds the bees in confinement (if well taped). It is small enough that I can climb a tree or hang off the edge of a building and not lose control of it.”

    I like this idea, and thanks for all the discussion that has clarified everything nicely. I have actually tried to carry a box of frames up a ladder, so I can appreciate the idea of having something lighter just to catch them in. 🙂

  • You have a great idea of using cardboard boxes to catch a swarm of bees. And I totally agree with you that these are more portable and easy to come by. I’ve got to try this out with my son as a recreational experiment.

    I’ll bookmark this page for more information that might be useful.

  • I have a styrofoam cooler with windows cut out and screened over for my swarm catching. It is very light weight and easy to move around. In addition, it is pretty obvious what it is for so no one has thrown it out or tossed ice in it yet.

    Now if I can only find a few swarms.