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Category: Pest Control Tips | 29.12.2013
By Eric 5 CommentsI built some honey bee swarm traps, or bait hives, to try to capture any bee swarms that came out of the beehives in our beeyard.
I have found the best results using one or two old but clean brood comb frames, no honey as that could start a robbing frenzy, and a few drops of lemon grass oil at the entrance of the swarm trap. These old farts mean well but I think you owe it to yourself to bait your traps as efficiently and effectively as you can. If I could just find a glass eye dropper, I'd just drop four drops somewhere in the bait hive. The number of colonies in the area have to affect the success rate of your trap, and my home area is not very well-saturated with honeybee colonies. Seeley's experiments show what bees find optimum -- when they have options where all else is equal. Just because people catch swarms in 5 frame nucs or mailboxes doesn't mean that bees like those the best - but it does prove that they will happily move into those spaces when they can't find a better solution fast enough. But Seeley's work does suggest that if Odfrank has his 5 frame nuc box out on his picnic table, and his neighbor has a 10 frame out on his picnic table, the bees will choose the neighbors box.
The mass of bees (often tens of thousands of them) that emerge from their old home is called a swarm. The commercially available wood pulp swarm traps, which look like flowerpots, require frequent checking (or the bees will build comb right in the trap). Easy transfer of swarms into permanent hives — which means the trap has to have frames. Accepts standard frames — for the same reason of compatibility and ease of transfer into the hive. My father, who helped me build a batch of my first-generation traps, told me I should patent the design, or at least sell the plans. A swarm trap building party is a great way to build enough boxes for the entire community, in a single day. Whenever possible I just drive my minivan up to the tree, climb on the roof, and hang the trap from there (I have a wide board strapped to the roof rack to serve as standing platform).
High visibility — if you cannot see the trap from 100 feet, the bees will have trouble discovering it. The bees proved totally indifferent towards the swarm trap attached right to their bee tree.
Proximity to swarming colonies — it surely helps to know the location of bee trees and bee yards. Places bees visit — the scout bees that look for a new nest site are the same bees that were previously foraging for nectar and pollen. Entrance orientation — some studies have shown slight preference for south facing entrance exposure, but in practice I have not yet met a beekeeper who diligently orients swarm traps with compass in the hand.
After hanging the traps early in the season, you go about puffing dandelions and reciting your favorite swarm-catching charms, all the while experiencing the high of playing at a high-stake lottery.
If you see a large mass of bees covering the box or adjacent trunk like a beard, this is a swarm that has just arrived; they will move inside within an hour or so.
If you see some bees arriving with pollen (small balls of yellow, white, gray, or pink pollen on their hind legs), the swarm is surely in the box — scouts never carry pollen. If the swarm trap tree is from 30 feet to 3 miles to where the permanent hive will be located, I first take the trap 6 miles away and leave it there for a week (with open entrance!), then bring and set it by the permanent hive.

If the swarm you are transferring has not been in the swarm trap long enough to have brood, there is a small chance that it may abscond (fly off) after the transfer. Swarm Traps, or Bait Hives are basically boxes you place around near your bees, offering them as convenient homes for new bee swarms. When you create a swarm trap, you're stacking the odds in favor of the bees finding and choosing your box. If you catch feral swarms, please help preserve and increase local honey bee populations by following natural principles: giving them the freedom to swarm, not subjecting them to any treatments, and preferably using foundationless comb so they can raise sufficient number of drones and pass on their valuable genetics to other colonies in your area. Every aspiring beekeeper wants to start out right with the bees that are healthy, productive, and resilient.
But if you rely on swarms for starting and increasing your apiary and use them as a natural alternative to splits and requeening, the conventional swarm traps have their shortcomings.
Besides, you need ten frames to fully equip each deep box, so if you hang dozens of traps, that’s a lot of equipment tied up in the swarm-catching adventure. Numerous researchers demonstrated this is the size preferred by scout bees and most often occupied by swarms. I use electric tools to speed things up (1 hr per trap), but this model can also be built with a handsaw, a hammer, and a screwdriver (2 hr per trap). This is especially important when the traps are spread over a large area and require a bit of driving to get to.
But I’d rather see more people build these traps, enjoy them, and increase the genetic diversity of local bees by catching resilient feral swarms.
If you use foundationless frames (or just top bars), set the trap as level as possible, so the bees build straight comb.
As much depends on the presence of honey bee populations, proper baiting, and trap placement.
It is possible to catch swarms in traps positioned lower, but scout bees seek sites offering good protection from predators and damp ground, so they first look higher up. Bees see fork shapes particularly well, and I had lots of luck with trees that have a clear trunk with large boughs coming from it. I am finding that 100% of the swarms I catch occupy traps hung within several hundred feet of a creek or pond. If you hang traps close by, scouts from the same swarm may discover two or more of them — and, the traps being identical, will have a hard time deciding which one to choose!
It can be scout bees (usually dozens, but sometimes hundreds of them) that discovered the box.
If there is a bunch of bees chilling out on the front wall by the entrance, I take a gulp of water and spray them from my mouth. Without this procedure many bees leaving the hive will be flying to the original swarm trap location and congregating there; moving them away for a week resets their orientation system.
Leo Sharashkin’s articles that previously appeared in the American Bee Journal (March 2015 issue) and Acres USA (December 2014). The bait hives – swarm traps I show you how to buildĀ  here are made from old bee frames and boxes.
Looking around at what's online, one gets the sense that some areas are both warm enough and saturated enough with bee populations, that you could pretty much line a few shoe boxes up on your doorstep with a drop of lemongrass oil in each and get swarms.
For an in-depth discussion of sustainable natural beekeeping methods, please see Keeping Bees With a Smile.

Each spring the colony becomes congested because of the new generations of young bees being born. So if you place on a tree a box that will look to the bees as a suitable new dwelling, the scouts will signal their sisters (all worker bees are female) to come and occupy the box. Tie your end of the rope, climb up and strap the trap to the trunk with two ratchet straps.
The guidelines are widely known: see, for example, Bait Hives for Honey Bees by Thomas Seeley, Roger Morse, and Richard Nowogrodzki (Cornell University extension publication no.
Then apply a few drops of lemongrass essential oil — right into the trap or, for slower release, on a cotton ball in a Ziploc bag, of fill a micro centrifuge lab tube and put inside the trap. Together with baiting (scenting) the box, the height is reported to be especially important. If swarm trap theft or vandalism is a potential issue where you live, you can paint it in a light camouflage pattern that blends in. Winston (The Biology of the Honey Bee) cites studies suggesting the good range from several hundred feet to 1 mile from the hive.
If you see lots of bees at the trap entrance (congratulations!) come back to collect the trap at nightfall, after all foragers returned from the field. Whatever bees remain in the trap dump on a piece of plywood propped up against the hive’s entrance. When my neighbor called me to say there were bees flying around one of our Swarm Traps, I left work and drove over, excited to video our first swarm!
I wonder if bees in harder wintering areas require larger cavities to store in, and will favor those. Judge for yourself: most of the bees sold in the commerce are mass-produced under highly unnatural conditions. So they raise a new queen, and when she matures, the old mother queen with half of all the bees departs from the nest, leaving the remaining half as well as the home with comb and honey and goods and chattel as a dowry for the young queen. For me it fills the bill for an ideal swarm trap and I’ve had similar feedback from others who use it.
The valley is a major fruit-growing area and there's a much higher concentration of bees down that way. But swarm traps positioned as little as 50 or 100 ft from the known colonies were repeatedly occupied. It had been the coldest winter in decades, with temperatures staying around zero for several weeks. If the box is silent or you can hear a few bees but it sounds hollow, what you have seen during the day were the scouts that discovered the box, and the swarm is likely to arrive within the next day or two. Besides, you do not even need to know where the bee trees (or the swarming hives) are located: a swarm can travel ten miles or more in search of a nice new home.
But I prefer to keep them in the swarm trap and let them build comb and forage until the first hard frost.

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Comments to Bee traps bait

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