Bait hives can be used in two basic ways, firstly and probably most commonly as a means of capturing swarms for populating your own hives. The second use is to capture swarms that might be from undesirable strains of bee, so that they can be eliminated from the environment. These bees may be undesirable by virtue of being 'Africanised' or it maybe that bees are alright in themselves, but of an unsuitable race to be compatible with breeding being conducted in the area.
Captured honey bee swarms may simply be used by a hobby beekeeper for increasing colony numbers, but usually there are other reasons...
Plumping up colonies that may not be large enough for the job in hand. However weak colonies should be investigated in order to establish why they are actually weak.
I have put such captured or collected swarms to work drawing wax foundation, which is a task that they readily perform. (Particularly if fed sugar syrup.)
They can be utilised to populate mating nucs, but I prefer to do this myself using bees that have been selected to contain a high percentage of nurse bees.
They can be used to bolster numbers in queen raising and cell finishing colonies, but I personally like to do this with bees of known race as I have some suspicions that workers of different race to the larvae will not feed them as well as bees that are more closely related to the larvae concerned.
From a simple practical sense that no beekeeper can control all swarming, it makes sense to have a few swarm attracting hives in any apiary. All that is needed is an empty box or an empty hive with 3 or 4 old drawn combs in it. This makes transfer of any captured swarms simple and the old comb can be worked to the side and eventually out completely. The old comb attracts attention because of a build up of pheromones. This method extends the life of old decaying equipment that is 'too far gone' for normal use.
Information Bulletin No. 187 written by Tom Seeley and Roger Morse is available from Cornell University and has details on bait hives and capturing swarms.
In USA bait hives are available commercially. They are available from Scentry Inc., PO Box 426, Buckeye, AZ 95326-0090. It is a flower pot shaped paper pulp container of 380 mm in diameter x 395 mm tall that can be suspended by wires or ties. It uses a pheromone lure of their own manufacture to attract honey bee swarms.
Pheromone lures can be used as the attractant in bait hives that may be in position over a time scale that would see old honeycomb destroyed by waxmoth, however the pheromone lures themselves will need replacement from time to time.
Various other aromatic substances have been used to render bait hives attractive to bees. Orange, lemon or lime peel can be rubbed on interior surfaces whereby the oil from the skin becomes impregnated in the wood. The molten wax from a burning beeswax candle can be dripped along top-bars or on the interior surfaces. Slum gum is also a useful attractant.