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Home > Tip of the month – Attracting Swarms with a Bait Hive

Tip from John Williams, SWHB Apiary manager

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 will send out scout bees to find a new home.

The scouts are looking for somewhere:

  • bees have lived before
  • with a large enough cavity to store enough food for winter
  • easy to defend
  • shaded, not too hot or too cold
  • dry
  • and Roger Patterson says where energy lines cross

I use a poly nuc with two drawn frames and an empty frame between them. As stated earlier somewhere where bees have lived before is reassuring for them so no need to clean the nuc just keep those lovely wax and propolis smells.

If you place the bait hive about 3m off the ground, bearing in mind that you will have to carry it back down, this is a better natural height for the bees. A flat roofed shed or garage in the sunshine is ideal.

Keep an eye on the bait hive as you may see scout bees having a look or even a swarm move in.

If you do ‘catch’ a swarm in it, and when you do want to bring it down to ground level and perhaps locate elsewhere within your apiary, consider moving it to the club apiary for a period before then moving finally back to your own. Remember the ‘3 feet or 3 mile’ rule!