Many of our natural beekeepers are using bait hives to catch a swarm, and are using their new Natural Beekeeping Warre bee hives to help them do this.
Here are a few guidelines to help you be successful in catching a swarm with your very own hive / bait hive – (Yes, Scout bees do actually have a shopping list and your ideal home needs to be up to scratch on all points.)
If you’re using your new Warre hive, it should be in the two box format. Do wax the top bars, just add the top box bars only. (When the colony is settled add top bars to the lower box.) This will give you an estimated volume of 36 Litres, approx the average size of cavity the bees are looking for to inhabit.
The box height is important, ideal being between 6 to 10 feet.
Best locations are loan trees (navigation trees for bees) edge of woodland and with a nearby water supply.
The bait hive also needs to be in dappled sunlight at mid afternoon so the hive does not become too hot, the canopy of the tree is excellent for this.
Always ensure the entrance to the hive is clearly visible and not blocked from view by branches for example.
Your hive should also have the correct smell. Use Lemon Grass Oil for example. Smear on the inside of the hive. Additionally use a cloth soaked in Lemon Grass and place in a zip up bag, like a food freezer bag. Leave just a very small gap so the smell is released slowly (and the bees cannot get in). Old comb, previously used hives are also preferred by the scout bees. (Do check the condition of comb; destroy immediately if it becomes damp etc.)
If you are catching a swarm from your own apiary I would suggest using several bait hives, placed 300 meters or more from your hives. After catching your first swarm do replace the bait hive to catch the second (bold) swarm and even a third / fourth swarm.
Do monitor your bait hives visually at least weekly. I would suggest giving your swarm approx a week to settle in the bait hive; during this time they would have started building comb and brood and will be less likely to abscond when you relocate the hive to its desired position. Double check the bees are orientated to their new location and have not returned to the bait hive original location.
Tips for fixing bait hives to trees, use wire strop with plastic protection, if using nails these must be aluminium.
Trust this information helps, any questions as always do call.