A bait hive is an empty hive that is set up to attract a swarm during the swarming season.
For about a week before a colony swarms it sends out scout bees to find a new home. Although we shouldn’t try to humanise bees there are several criteria that seem attractive to them, these being:-
Where bees have lived before.
Sufficiently large cavity to store enough food to survive through a winter and perhaps a bad summer.
In the shade to aid ventillation.
Where ley lines cross.
Most beekeepers have seen bees inspecting an empty hive or a pile of supers during the summer. At first there is just the odd bee or two, then there are more, often becoming quite agitated. This normally happens for about a week then either ceases or a swarm appears. If activity ceases, the swarm could have found another home, the beekeeper has dealt with the colony or collected the swarm when it settled.
I have always put bait hives out and been successful at attracting swarms. I set them up as follows:-
Use a solid floor. I have never had success with an OMF, presumably because the bees don’t think they can defend it.
An old brood box and crown board that haven’t been cleaned, so they still have wax and propolis on them. This seems to attract swarms better.
One old comb inside if the bait hive is at home, a full box of old comb if it is away from home.
A small entrance about the area of the end or side of a matchbox. Too big and you will reduce your chances of success.
In the shade.
If bees become interested in a bait hive the first thing to do is to check your own colonies. Even though you may think they are alright, there is a possibility there may be supersedure cells or queen cells you have missed. If they are not your bees they could come from another beekeeper or a feral colony, so take the usual precautions to avoid the possibility of them being infected with foul brood.
If the bait hive is at home where I can see what is going on, I only use one old comb. When the swarm arrives I can shake the bees off, clip the queen and fill up the brood box with foundation. If the bees have put honey/nectar in the comb it can be burnt. If I use one comb away from home where I don’t see what is happening I am likely to get a box full of wild comb, so I fill the box with comb and take a risk on the possibility of getting foul brood.
There is a suggestion that bait hives should be placed at head height or above, but In my opinion this doesn’t matter.
I have always had quite good success at attracting swarms into bait hives, but this has improved since I started putting them in places where ley lines cross.
Some beekeepers use purchased swarm lures, I make my own. I take all the queens that die or are replaced and put them in a jar or alcohol. The higher the proof the better. Take a wooden dowel and crush up the queens. This will release the pheromones from the queen carcasses. When used the alcohol will evaporate leaving behind the pheromones.
As usual if you have any questions please email me and I will get back to you ASAP.