July 5, 2014
using a plastic planter as a bait hive for honeybee swarms
Eric made and hung a simple bait hive this spring. The hope is to lure, catch, and transfer a swarm of bees that are looking to relocate anyway from the bait hive into your backyard hive. Often a healthy hive of well established bees will make a second queen and half of the bees will leave with her to build a new hive. Before they leave, the bees will scout out ideal locations (high above the ground, hollow, enclosed spaces) and then vote on where they'd like to resettle. It's a democracy after all.
According to research by Thomas D. Seeley, documented in the excellent book Honeybee Democracy, honeybees most frequently choose cavities with volume around 40 liters (around 10 gallons). Eric thought about buying a 10-gallon plastic planter, but we had a 7-gallon planter laying around, so we used that. Eric covered the top with plywood and attached the bait hive with screws to the tree for smooth removal in case we do need to transfer a swarm some day.
We don't own a ladder taller than 6 ft., so we borrowed a neighbor's ladder to mount the hive. Eric uses a long stick (with a nail on the end) to periodically insert a cotton ball soaked with lemongrass oil into the hive. The lemongrass oil is similar to queen pheromones which is supposed to entice the scouts.