A swarm for the records

Beekeeper Tom Allen of the Wannabee Hobby Beekeepers in South Dakota sent me photos of a mind-bending swarm that he helped capture in the prairie. His friend Jerry Owens found the swarm and provided the photos. Tom writes:

The attached pictures are of a swarm captured by a friend here in Rapid City that is unbelievably large. In the one picture it shows that their weight was enough to break off a new, small apple tree. In two others, they are completely filling a large box. We ended up trying to stuff them into two brood boxes because the cluster was too big for just one. His name is Jerry Owens and is responsible for starting the very active local bee club. He’s known locally as the “Bee Guy”!

I was so excited to have a part in putting this giant swarm into a hive.  We have no idea where they came from originally as the location where they were captured is out in the prairie, northeast of Rapid City. Jerry said he knew of no managed hives in the area around.

Because of the size of the swarm, Jerry put two deeps with frames together and an empty deep on top.  We got the swarm into the hive by cutting a hole in the bottom of the box and then physically scraping the largest clump out of the inside of the box and as many as possible from the outside of the box into the empty deep.  The many thousand still remaining slowly began going through the hole in the bottom of the box inside.  It took a couple of days to get all of the bees to finally go inside. At least they are bringing in pollen now, so maybe they are going to stay.

Thank you Tom and Jerry (?) for sharing your story.



The swam breaks off a small apple tree. © Jerry Owens.


Swarm in a box. © Jerry Owens.


Two brood boxes were needed to house the swarm. © Jerry Owens.


  • No kidding, “WOW!!!”.
    Makes you wonder what the hive looked like that they swarmed from.
    Or if a passing truckload of migrant bees fell off a truck and combined?
    Which makes me wonder if a swarm that lost its queen would combine with another swarm?
    In any case, that’s a big one. Wonder where that one is on the, ‘Grapefruit, cantelope, watermelon….’, swarm size chart??

    Kent, WA

  • Why do you have to capture these swarms? It sounded like this was “out on the prairie” away from human habitation. Why not just let them make their own home in the wild and repopulate the wild bee population? I am not a beekeeper, just an interested bystander, so am ignorant of the reasoning.

    • Ellen,

      Remember that honey bees are not native to North America. They were brought here by the colonists to provide honey and candle wax. Today, we use them for pollination as well. But no native prairie in North American would have included honey bees; to the other creatures in that environment, the honey bee would be considered an invasive species. To be honest, the native wild bees will most likely do better with the honey bees hogging the floral resources.

  • It could be an absconding hive as well, which would explain its enormous size. Goodness, I hope they stay for him!

  • Holy SMOKES!!!!! That is HUGE! I am amazed that there were enough to snap the top of that apple tree.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.