Bait hive, now is the time! A few days in the back garden.
Last year I collected several swarms of honey bees, plus advised on a few bumble bee nests, but this year I decided to cut out the middle man and make a bait hive.
I used a rather broken old brood box, drilled a hole in the side and put it on top of a pile of slabs, the highest spot in the garden. For bait I started out trying to make my own by infusing oil with some real lemon grass from the garden. However, I couldn’t smell anything, but put it on the box anyway.
I also added a lump of old empty drawn comb rubber banded onto a frame. Following the usual advice this frame was put against a wall. When I did get to the shops I bought a pot of lemon grass oil so added a couple of drops to the frame inside the box.
After a week or so of fine weather I noticed some bees flying round the box. They went in and out and in and out on seemingly random flights. The second morning I peeped inside before they were about and found not a swarm but about 20 bees on the comb. How disappointing!
However, much later that day I heard a lot of buzzing and went to look at the part of the garden where the box is. The air was filled with a cloud of bees flying in all directions up to about 15 ft hgh. It was not something you would walk through. When I approached from the side with the entrance hole in I could see there were bees going in and clinging on to the outside walls.
After several hours I returned to find the frenzy had subsided with just a few on the outside.
Next morning I dashed out for an early peek inside and saw there were not many bees in the box. Then, looked down to see them clustered on the side of a compost bin. After much scooping up with flower pots I got most into the box and removed most of the bits they had settled on. I did add some more frames with just a starter strip to help them.
It was interesting to see that the side of the compost bin had a lot of blobs of comb attached, so house bees definitely fly off with swarms.
Now, there are a few bees flying around and coming in and out. Will they stay? Who knows? I am leaving them alone as advised until I see pollen coming in meaning they have got some larvae coming.
Exciting times! However what would I do next time? Firstly make sure the box is properly repaired so there are no little holes that I have to stuff earth into. Also, fix a proper floor to the bottom to just seal it off, so picking it up will be easy and have brood frames with short starter strip in ready.
It has been very interesting especially finding out just how much recce the scout bees do before bringing the rest of the swarm. I might get a colony of bees out of this and they might not sting as much as one of my other colonies. Definitely worth a go. My garden is not very big and although the arriving swarm did spill over into a neighbours garden they didn’t stay long and I was able to say that they weren’t my bees escaping. They will be taken up to the farm in due course and the trap reset! Remember always check for disease once the bees have been rehoused, a good time to treat for Varroa as there is no brood. You can feed after 3 day when they have used up the store they have brought with them.