April 17, 2016

Bait Hive

I've been mulling over the idea of a swarm bait hive for awhile now. I hadn't seen many honeybees around our place until we got ours, but I know they're out there. With Honeysuckle Hive now vacant, I seem to have no excuse not to try. After all, if I do nothing I can expect nothing. It's my old "something is better than nothing," and who knows? I may be successful.

Honeysuckle Bait Hive

It's not the perfect set-up, but it does meet quite a few honeybee qualifications. Studies have been done on this subject, plus almost every beekeeper who sets out bait hives has valuable experience from which to learn. Bees do have preferences about potential homes. Scout bees will go out, preview the options, and choose the one best suited for the swarm.

There are no hard and fast rules about this, but in general they are said to prefer:
  • Height of 8 to 12 feet. (Some say as low as 6 feet or as high as 15 feet). Set on the stump mine is only 5 feet off the ground, but I don't see how I can get it any higher at present. I can't see me carrying it up a ladder or hoisting up a tree; and then bringing it back down again after dark! Then I read Pioneer Preppy's "Swarm Traps" post and learned that he's been able to catch swarms without the height, so that was the green light for me to give this a go. 
  • Visibility. If the scout bees can't see it, they won't know to consider it. Some say this is the reason for the height placement, since bees don't fly along the ground but rather up in the air. I would say mine is highly visible as it rather stands out in the yard.
  • Volume of approximately 40 liters, which is roughly 9 point something US dry gallons. One Warré box is roughly the size of one of those square cardboard boxes that are used to ship four gallon jugs of milk, although a little shorter. For a Warré bait hive, two boxes are recommended as being close enough. Also recommended is placing top bars in the top box only. Top bars in both boxes will give the impression of smaller volume, and apparently, scout bees actually do measure the space.
  • South or east facing. Got that.
  • Near a water source. This is near our outdoor faucet which is used several times a day for watering critters. I've seen bees collecting water dripped on plants and in the mouth of the faucet.
  • Some shade. Besides height, this is my other concern. Sun hits the hive at about 8:30 in the morning and shade returns about 5 p.m. That means the hive is in full sun during the heat of the day, which I hope is not a deterrent. 
  • Correct scent. For this, lemongrass essential oil is recommended because it is similar to the pheromones the queen emits. I use this in my homemade honey-b-healthy, so I was good to go there. 
  • Previous occupation by honeybees. This probably contributes to correct scent. I read that apparently they like to find the dark, used comb, also propolis. This is where my old comb from Honeysuckle came in. Because there was evidence of wax moths in that comb, I stuck in in my deep freezer for 24 hours. This is said to kill any eggs, or larvae, or whatever.
  • 300 meters from parent hive. My apiary is only on the other side of the house, but I'm not expecting my new colonies to swarm this year. So I think I'm okay on this requirement as well. 

Of course there are exceptions to each of these "rules," so maybe my points of noncompliance won't matter to a swarm of honeybees in need of a new home. According to our cooperative extension service, swarm season in my neck of the woods is May and June. I'm ready.

Lastly, a few links of interest:

32 comments:

  1. I have never noticed height being all that important but I guess I don't see the swarms that don't come to the traps wither. I think the volume and scent is the most important things and I have noticed some swarms will go for smaller traps or larger depending on it's size too.

    The lemon grass oil will pull bees in from half a mile away or more I think, the old comb keeps em interested. That lemon grass oil is some powerful stuff I have seen it literally make drones explode thinking they have mated with a queen and it will cause our terminal ram to begin curling his lip from 15 feet away.

    As for being a good distance away from the parent hive I have also found that this matters most when you have more than two or three hives. I consistently caught swarms in a trap less than 20 feet from a bank of hives until I got four together then no more swarms would occupy that trap.

    I also find I catch the most swarms in towns and cities for what that's worth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I think experience is the best teacher. And for some weird reason, I usually trust the experience of others more than the theories of so-called experts. :)

      Delete
  2. We had a new colony of bees swarm a few months after getting them and we were not prepared in way, we were dashing round trying to do a makeshift hive to put them in, is best to be prepared I must get mine sorted for this year :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting! Any idea why they swarmed? Having observation windows in my new hives gives me an idea of their progress and potential overcrowding, but we're nowhere near that. But then, critters rarely follow human plans and rules!

      Delete
  3. Oh exciting! I must try this too...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I probably wouldn't have if readers hadn't given me the nudge! I'm not especially hopeful, but who knows? I might get lucky.

      Delete
  4. Looks like you have covered all the bases here. Good Luck Leigh

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Gill! At least I hope I have the bases covered. Now it's just wait and see.

      Delete
  5. I like your "something is better than nothing" attitude! Also, nothing ventured, nothing gained. You could also try a "For Rent" sign. Or "Free Housing for Share of Crop." ;o}

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Share cropping with bees; I like that!

      Delete
  6. I could never take care of bees. For one thing, I am afraid of them. Glad for people like you. We need the bees. It amazes me though all that is involved in keeping bees, and how smart the bees are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would never keeping any critter I was afraid of, although I always have a healthy respect for honeybees at all times. Yes, some people are absolutely fascinated with them, myself included. :)

      Delete
  7. One of my friends found a swarm in her tree. She posted about it on Facebook and my friend who keeps bees rushed over and collected it. The bees moved into the new hive quite happily. I would love to set a hive out by my garden in hopes that my apple tree would help attract them, but I worry that the yellow jackets would try to move in, the yellow jackets were happy to move into a butterfly house box we put out. :p and then there is the "hubby is allergic to bee stings" thing. I'm pretty sure that the bees would leave him alone though, but I can't convince him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. and cute picture of Meowey on the banner. :D

      Delete
    2. I can see how folks with bee venom allergy would definitely be afraid of them. Is he truly allergic or just sensitive? I find honeybee stings to be less painful than wasp, ground bee, or yellow jacket stings.

      Meowey is a hoot, isn't she? Really got her balancing act down. :)

      Delete
  8. Leigh - i think you have all of the bases covered and i think you will attract a beautiful swarm of bees. one thing i have noticed around here is that honey bees, solitary, bees and mason bees loooooove lupins and comfrey flowers. would you like me to send you some seeds?

    the comfrey can be cut down three times during our growing season and i use the comfrey leaves and flowers to make salve. once cut, the comfrey comes right back and bigger each time. comfrey is second only to seaweed as being an excellent source for compost. when i cut our comfrey, i take the big giant leaves and just lay them on our beds of various veg - they decompose really quickly and add a ton of nutrients to the soil. the stalks go in our big compost pile and they help add nutrients to the compost that we then use to replenish the beds the next year.

    so if you would like comfrey seeds or lupin seeds, just send an email to kymberzmail@gmail.com

    sending love. and i just know you are going to attract a full swarm with your set-up. your friend,
    kymber

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sweet Kymber! Thank you so much for the offer but I already have both. :) I use our comfrey for salves too (love the stuff) also to feed the goats. The lupines are for bees and beauty!

      Delete
    2. Sorry to hijack your post, but any thoughts on how to germinate the comfrey seeds? I order some online and have been unsuccessful in getting them to sprout.

      Delete
  9. Delighted to see your effort on this front. That stump looks like a good sturdy hive stand. Now we sit back and wait for new renters to move in. Good homes like that are hard to come by you know.

    I find the comment by Pioneer Preppy interesting about catching more swarms in towns and cities interesting. I was kind of thinking along the same lines when I place my swarm traps this Spring. Beekeeping is not legal in our city limits and lots of people have flower gardens so it makes sense for it to be a bee friendly environment.

    Looks like you have another hive stand in the making after you cut up the firewood for the winter after next.

    RonC

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ron! Here's hoping. I thought PP's comments were interesting too. I love hearing the experiences of others because I learn right with them.

      Delete
  10. I didn't know there were so many things about attracting bees. I can give you no help in this area but good luck wishes! Nancy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Nancy. It would be great to snag another colony of bees.

      Delete
  11. So interesting!! I'm not getting a hive probably EVER but I do like reading about the process and living vicariously through you!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's terribly fascinating, so be careful, you may find yourself with a beehive someday!

      Delete
  12. Fingers crossed for you. Do you have bee forage right by? Like zins or salvias or catmint? They really cover mine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have tons of bee forage and more on the way. Clover is currently blooming and soon my herb garden will be blooming too. :)

      Delete
  13. I remember my parents trying bait hives early on in their beekeeping career but never having any luck. The only thing on your list that they probably never met was the height requirement. It will be interesting to see if you can catch one. As they became known for desiring swarms and word got out, they had access to more swarms than they had supplies for. I'm guessing we would capture 6 to 8 swarms a year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a lot of swarms. Not sure I'd know what to do with that many but I'd like a few more hives!

      Delete
  14. Leigh,

    You've followed all the guidelines to attracting a wild bee's.....here's hoping your Honeysuckle bait hive will attract a complete swarm.
    Hugs,
    Sandy

    ReplyDelete
  15. Good luck! I hope it works for you. I've tried multiple times but never caught anything. But I am probably one of the worst beekeepers on the planet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm starting to hear that success in beekeeping is not the harvest, but simply keeping them alive. My stats aren't all that great so far, but I'm hoping for better!

      Delete

Welcome! Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. I try to reply to all comments and return blog visits if I can.