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Bait Hives

Little Giant Ladders: Type 1A (free shipping & work platform)

Bait Hive Instructions

Here are the instructions for putting out bait hives.  Any empty hive is a great bait hive; but we are talking about smaller hives that are easy to put in a tree.

This will work regardless of hive type.  You can use a Langstroth hive body if you are a Langster or a mini hive with the KTBH.  Mine are 12-14 bar mini hives built on the followers I used to build the 4 footers.

Most folks say May and June are swarm season but I put mine up 1 April here in Ohio.  I'm not as busy then and there is a slim chance of catching an early swarm.  For the most excellent book on bees and swarming by Thomas D. Seeley check out Honeybee Democracy.

 Here is the recipe:  The entrance hole is 1 ¼ inches and on the left front for me; or if you use end entrances on the main hive duplicate that on the bait hives.  Top bars should fit snug, use a shim if you need to.  Leave a nice air gap under the lid just like on the KTBH.  Going from the entrance to the back, first 2 bars are wax starter strips (use Organic Beeswax).  The next 3 are top bars with brood comb (1 nice brood comb is better than none); you’ll have some at bait hive season (get some comb from a fellow beekeeper if you have to).  I like the three combs to be still in sequence just as they came out of the hive. Tip: number the bars before you do anything with them in pencil.  Ok, 2 wax starters, 3 combs, and the rest with wax starters.  If you can't get comb from a friend you can always melt or rub Organic Beeswax on the top bars and the inside of the hive.   I like the angled top bars with wax melted and painted on for my spare bars.  Push Pin a vial of Nasonov pheromone just above the entrance on the inside.  You can order pheromone at most beekeeping suppliers; order early.  I am using the same vials from last year; I just put them back in the package, wrapped them up and put them in the freezer.  I may get another year out of them.  I bought a package of 5.  Also 3 or 4 nice drops of Lemongrass Essential Oil in the back of the hive or floor away from the entrance and another couple right in the rim of the entrance where it can soak in the wood and smell pretty.  Staple a piece of  hardware cloth over the entrance from the inside (keeps critters out).  That’s 4 holes per square inch and use good staples.  The inside is done.  Before you put the lid on put three strips of duck tape across the top bars and down the sides of the box far enough to staple but you don’t need to staple yet.  Put the air gap spacers (whatever you have available) on top of the top bars and tape then put the lid on.  Now you want to tape the lid the same as the top bars and the tape can land on top of the first tape you put on.  This will hold the lid in place just like the top bars; you still do not need to staple yet.  Put a trash bag on the lid and it does not need to be unfolded; only enough to overlap the ends and sides (not necessary if you have a telescoping lid like a Langstroth).  You should not be able to see the lid and this will make it water proof.  Now if this was all planned properly the tape will go right on top of the other two layers.  So you have all the tape ending up on top of each other.  The last tape goes all the way around the trash bag maybe a couple of times and it should cove the other 3 layers; maintain the airspace front and rear and end the tape on one of the original 3 layers.  It’s time to staple through the layers of tape all around the hive. The staples go through all 4 layers of tape; that’s at least 6 places.  Use plenty of staples because the tape won’t stick well to the wood if it gets wet, but the staples will take care of that for you.  You are ready for placement.

Lemongrass side note:

Lemongrass proper is used as a bait and rubbed inside hives in India.  We use the lemongrass oil since most of us do not grow the real thing.  If you are interested in actually growing the real thing then here is a link.   Lemon Grass Seeds - Cymbopogon Flexuosus

Here are the basics of placement.

Find a location on a hill.

Hive should be 10 to 15 feet off the ground.  Here is a great ladder for putting up bait hives and it actually fits in the car.  Little Giant Ladder System  

Entrance faces south into an open area (a tree line on the edge of a field is ideal).

The hive should be shaded from hot sun.

Lash the hive to the tree so that it does not move at all.

Got Bees! Now what?

Leave the bees there for 1 week

Remember the 3 foot – 3 mile rule.  If the bees are within 3 miles of the main hive then they have to go for a ride outside the 3 mile radius for a few days, perhaps a week.  If the bees are over 3 miles then just take them home.

Be at the sight just before or right at daylight to screen them for transport. 

Set the bait hive right on top of the KTBH and leave it for a week.

On move in day you will put the bees in the main hive exactly like they were in the bait hive.  You may be able to lift all the bars the bees have built on at once using a couple of empty top bars.  At a minimum I like to lift the brood combs out in unison.  After you get them transferred you can add followers if you like and check in now and then to add bars.  I have had some luck with the leave them the whole hive and hope method.  Either way is fine but if you want the bees to build on the center of every top bar you may want to use the followers.  Even with followers I like to give the bees 3 or 4 empty bars on each end.

If it is prior to July put the bait hive back up if you like.  I take mine down after 4th of July.  If you have comb you want to use next year then put it in the freezer.  Be careful as it will get brittle.  Also save the Nasonov in the freezer.

Happy honeybee baiting! 

Langstroth Hive

The only real difference here is the hive.  You can use as much of a hive as you want for baiting.  For example you can use 2 hive bodies with drawn comb and attract a swarm.  If you put the hive up in the air (i.e. upstairs window of an old house or barn) you will improve your chances.  But we are talking about bait hives that you can go up a ladder with and station in a tree so let’s just use 1 hive body.  Use a solid bottom, lid of choice, and drawn comb if you have it.  You will still use a Nasonov vial just over the entrance inside.  I would reduce the entrance to no more than 3 inches wide and use a critter screen.  Also use the Lemongrass Essential Oil just like the KTBH above.  If you have no comb remember to melt or rub Organic Beeswax on the frames.  

If you are using the permanent hive body as the bait hive then there is no transfer to another hive when you get home.  If you are going to transfer to another hive body then you should let the bait hive sit in place of the new hive for a week.  This waiting will aid in keeping the bees from absconding when they are transferred.   You might ask why transfer from the bait hive to another hive?  In my case my 2 Langstroth bait hives are old and held together with duck tape and propolis.  These nasty old hive bodies are very attractive to scout bees.  Yes, just when you think there is no life left in a hive body, it is time to tape, patch, and wire it back together and use it as a bait hive.

Without getting to philosophical here let’s call bees that swarm out of your hives “Your Bees” and bees that swarm from elsewhere we’ll call “Other Bees”.  What is the difference?  If you capture Your Bees and put them in another hive in your yard then you are involved at least to some degree with inbreeding.  If you catch (Other Bees) a swarm 10 miles from Your Bees then you are supporting genetic diversity.  You can catch Your Bees and move them away from the home yard and avoid inbreeding.  You could also do a swarm swap with a friend.  Or perhaps set bait hives on each other’s perimeter.  This way you are both diversifying you populations.

With that said let’s say your goal is to catch Your Bees or bees at any specific location.  The bait hives should be between ¼ and 1/3 of a mile from the mother hive.  The number one hive location is upwind of the mother hive because there is a good chance of them smelling it.  That may even be over thinking it a bit.  I like to put my bait hives miles apart along a nice route for a Sunday drive and I check them once a week just for fun.  Start scouting now for bait hive locations.  That’s right you are now a scout bee!  Talk with everyone you can about what you are up to.  I always tell the farmers or landowners that I will strap the hive to the tree and will not put nails in their trees.  I also call them before I actually put up the bait hive and they may or may not go along.  I also report if I find bees and notify them when I’m coming to take them down.  So that’s that basic idea; get scouting!            Follow DavesBees on Twitter
Last modified: 09 April 2012
David Wright
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