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Bait Hives

For attracting swarms

A bait hive is a hive, usually with some drawn comb that is set up to attract a swarm during the swarming season.

Often for about a week before a colony swarms, it sends out scout bees to find a new home. Although we shouldn't try to humanise bees, there are several criteria that seem attractive to them, some being:-

Most beekeepers have seen bees inspecting an empty hive or a pile of supers during the summer. At first, there is just the odd bee or two, then there are more, often becoming quite agitated. This normally happens for up to a week, then either ceases or a swarm appears. If activity ceases, the swarm could have found another home, the beekeeper has dealt with the colony or the swarm has been collected when it settled.

I have always put bait hives out and been successful at attracting swarms. I set them up as follows:-

If bees become interested in a bait hive, the first thing I suggest doing is to check your own colonies. Even though you may think they are alright, there is a possibility there may be supersedure cells or queen cells you have missed. If they are not your bees, they could come from another beekeeper or an unmamaged colony, so take the usual precautions to avoid the possibility of them being infected with foul brood.

If the bait hive is at home where I can see what is going on, I only use one old comb. When the swarm arrives I can shake the bees off, clip the queen and fill up the brood box with foundation. If the bees have put honey/nectar in the comb it can be burnt. If I use one comb away from home, where I don't see what is happening, I am likely to get a box full of wild comb, so I fill the box with comb and take a risk on the possibility of getting foul brood.

There is a suggestion that bait hives should be placed at head height or above, but In my opinion this doesn't matter.

I have always had quite good success at attracting swarms into bait hives, but this has improved since I started putting them in positions where at least four energy lines cross, the more the better.

Some beekeepers use swarm lures, but I think that is cheating and prefer to rely on my own skills.

Roger Patterson.

Page created 09/09/2015

Page updated 17/17/2022