Bait hives

As some people like to run around answering calls regarding swarms only to find that the majority are for bumble bees, wasps or the swarm has disappeared before they arrive. So I like to set bait hives and try to lure a swarm to me. It’s hit and miss and you have to treat it as fishing, sometimes you get something and others not so lucky, but what you do get are plenty of nibbles. It’s particularly interesting if you can position your bait hive close to where you can keep an eye on it to see if you have any scout bees checking it out. The excitement builds over a few days as you first see one, then two, six, ten and up to a couple of dozen scouts checking out your hive. You hope to see it go quiet and then anticipate the swarm arriving and does sometimes, but unfortunately not always. The beekeeper has inspected their hive and found it on the verge of swarming or someone has collected the swarm from the tree or god forbid the bees somehow have made a mistake and chosen something else over your hive.

So you have to set up your bait hive to make it as attractive to the bees as possible. It is considered the bees prefer a space of 40 Liters, this is an odd way of calculating a volume to me, but I guess covers all shapes and sizes. For us in the UK  a standard national brood box is ideal and ideally an old one with the inside gone over with a blow torch.

Next is a solid floor with a small entrance say 2 cm square. A mesh floor may let light in and the bees don’t like that, you could block off the mesh floor, but also a simple solid floor is easy to make.

One old comb, but no stores what so ever as this will only encourage robbing and you will get all excited over nothing. The rest of the box is filled with foundationless frames and I think the bees prefer the foundationless frames over foundation.

Crown board with holes covered by a mesh of sorts leave any holes open and you may find your swarm, making comb in the roof cavity first, finally the roof.

Ideally you want the hive approx 2 m off the ground and facing south or at least in plenty of sun through the day.  I have fitted them up trees, on garage rooves and my current one sitting on two brackets fixed to a wall. As this may involve a ladder or steps I screw my floor and crown board to the brood box so when getting the now heavier box down, full of bees there is no danger of the whole lot coming apart. I also remove the roof first and as by now you have sealed the bees into the hive the mesh over any feed hole comes into its own as ventilation, small but some nevertheless.

The final bit is to put a couple of drops of lemongrass oil onto a piece of foundation roll it up and slip it into the hive entrance as an extra attractant but the old brood box and old comb is perhaps enough.

I prefer to set up brood boxes with full compliment of frames and this way if a swarm moves in I don’t have to worry straight away in moving it and can give it plenty of time to settle, build comb and start to raise brood. Last year I picked up a cast swarm and left them in situ most of the season and they built up to a wonderful colony by the end of the season, although the hive was rather heavy by the time I came to move them off the roof.

One year I made a number of simple plywood boxes with the intention of sighting them in places that I would not visit that often and also it would be no great problem if someone decided to take them. One picked up a tiny cast swarm, but so small they never came to anything and why a cast could be that small was unusual, perhaps a tea cup of bees and could have been from an absconding mating nuc??

I recommend that if you have the space and spare kit you should give it ago as its great fun, especially if you can keep a close watch on the entrance. I have considered putting one on my boat this year, perhaps just a nuc box to see what happens.

My first bait hive this year and 20 feet from my workshop door.

My first bait hive this year and 20 feet from my workshop door.

 

A few passing bees have shown interest in the past two days but I think just passing interest but if it grows tomorrow things could get interesting.

A few passing bees have shown interest in the past two days but I think just passing interest but if it grows tomorrow things could get interesting.

 

last years success with the first bait hive a lovely cast swarm that built to a large hive in the end.

last years success with the first bait hive a lovely cast swarm that built to a large hive in the end.

 

A previous success of a hive fixed into a tree 2.5m in a tree I watched this hive for five days with lots of activity and what looked like two opposing sets of scout bees fighting over the hive but on the fifth day I managed to catch the swarm arrive and a wonder full sight to.

A previous success of a hive fixed into a tree 2.5 m off the ground, I watched this hive for five days with lots of activity and what looked like two opposing sets of scout bees fighting over the hive but on the fifth day I managed to catch the swarm arrive and a wonder sight to.

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7 Responses to Bait hives

  1. solarbeez says:

    Two years ago I built 9 bait boxes. I hung a bait hive on a myrtle tree that had feral bees. Ten days later I returned to see bees flying into it packing pollen. That swarm went into my new log hive and has wintered over two years now. I believe in ‘mongrel’ bees…ones that have adapted to the area and acclimated to the conditions. No package bees for me!
    http://solarbeez.com/2012/06/06/bee-beard-log-hive-comes-alive/

  2. thomas73640 says:

    Yes, I agree solarbeez local adapted bees are the best bees to have and nothing better when they come to you. Unfortunately, we only have very few wild bees in the London suburbs and the majority of the swarms are from managed hives some do find cavities in buildings and the rare tree. I know of one colony in a tree on a nature reserve that has been occupied for a number of years and that’s lovely to go and see from time to time. I know about your log hive and have looked at it a number of times and one day as I have promised myself I will make one.

    Thanks happy beekeeping and how’s the rug making going.

  3. solarbeez says:

    Rug making has been in the ‘almost finished limbo’ for a couple of months now while the garden takes center stage. Planting seeds, transplanting into bigger pots, spading beds etc.
    Great pictures by the way. I was wondering about that hive up 2.5m in a tree. How do you work it? I imagine you need to lift it carefully down to the ground?

  4. thomas73640 says:

    The hive in the tree was taken down and moved to an apiary over three miles away two weeks after the bees moved in so I had no awkward inspections to perform, thankfully. So the rugs are ongoing projects I have a few ongoing projects and one ongoing for rather a long time . but one day it will be finished.

  5. The Apiarist says:

    It must be the season … I’ve just written about these as well (http://theapiarist.org/bait-hives/) but your pictures are better.

  6. Pingback: Bait hives | The Apiarist

  7. thomas73640 says:

    Yes defiantly entering the swarming season and as with most things early this year. Good luck with your bait hives particularly like the one balanced on the greenhouse.

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