With the recent warm weather and with all the new brood in the hives, its just a matter of time until we start to see our first swarms.
Last Saturday the East Central Wisconsin Beekeepers Association held their regular meeting and one of the discussions was that of bait hives, so I thought I would summarize a few things that you need to know about bait hives. I will not go into detail of the how's and why's, except to say that there are many articles written about that on the web
Get your bait hives out in the next couple of weeks!
The bait hive should have a volume of 35-40 Liters, with 40 liters being optimum (40 liters is 2441 cubic inches - H x W x L inside measurement or roughly 1.4 cubic feet)
A ten frame deep is very close to 40 liters.
An eight frame deep will work
Two 5 deep frame nucs mounted together is same as a one ten frame deep (maybe better due to the narrow but deep space provided)
One 5 frame deep and a 5 frame medium joined is also close.
The entrance should be 2.3 square inches, or an opening 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" square. You can use a hole saw that is 1 1/4" to 1 1/2" in diameter. The entrance should be towards the bottom of the bait hive according the Dr. Thomas Seeley.
This year, some of my bait hives will have an upper entrance with bait frames or old comb at the bottom. This is generally what you will find in the natural setting. Place 1/2" hardware screen or a nail across the entrance to keep our feathered friends from inviting themselves in.
Place 4-5 frames in the bait hive, with at least one of them having old brood comb. The other frames can have a sheet of wax or starter strips of wax. Do not put frames of honey into the bait hive as this will invite some unwanted guests into the hive.
A couple of screened 3/4" vent holes towards the back of the hive are a good idea. Cap these over with a board that you can remove when you move the hive to their permanent location. Bees don't like a lot of light, but do need ventilation when they are locked up for transit.
Use a scent that the scout bees will find inviting. This can be a commercial queen pheromone, lemon grass essential oil or a commercial product such as Swarm Commander. The lemon odor emulates the nasonov pheromone or the "come hither" scent that the scout bees find quite enticing. Do not overdo the scent. A spray once a week is more that enough.
Placement should be along a wooded tree line or woods or anywhere the bees can find it. the scout bees normally travel 10-15 feet in the air looking for a home, but will travel at ground level if the home looks good enough. They prefer being up in the air.
A south or east entrance is recommended with the hive located in a partially shaded area, not in full afternoon sunlight.
Just remember that where ever you put the bait hive, you will have to take it down if a swarm comes into the hive. The hive will weigh more coming down than when it went up. Be careful, free bees are not worth a fall.
If you see bees coming and going into the bait hive, don't rush to move them. The bee traffic could be just scout bees looking the new home over and you don't want to interrupt their decision making process (or as Thomas Seeley would say "Honey Bee Democracy") Wait until you see bees bringing in pollen. This will indicate that the queen is happy with the new home and is laying eggs.
When the time has come to move them, go out at night and close off the front entrance with regular screen or use one of the commercial entrance disks. If there are bees hanging out in front, just take a spray water bottle and spray a mist on the bees outside. They will move in just like we would if it started to rain. At this time also remove the board that is covering your vent holes to give them plenty of ventilation. As a general rule, you should move them at least two miles away so they will not go back to the original location.
Have fun, experiment and share your success with the group. These are only some guidelines that have proven to be somewhat successful. Maybe you will be able to add to the list.