The Art of BEEing – Experimenting with swarm traps

2016-05-23-0485The problem with one bee colony is that it soon wants to be two – either by the colony swarming, or the beekeeper realizing that adding a second colony is a big gain for little extra effort. I fit into the latter camp. I find that it takes me about 10 minutes to get ready to go work with the bees, about 10 minutes to actually work with them, and about 10 minutes to get things put back away after being with them. Adding a second colony would give me potentially twice the (eventual) output with a very modest increase in time spent working the bees – 40 minutes vs. 30 minutes. With the price of bees and being a new beekeper, however, I didn’t want to start off with 2 packages and then end up killing or losing them via a common mistake.

Last week as I inspected the hive I noticed two things: 1) there were still eggs, larve, and capped brood, but there were also a lot of open and unused cells from the initial batch of brood and 2) there was a queen cup at the bottom of one frame, which looked to be nearly completed. Fearful of losing my bees to an early swarm I decided I needed to do something, so I pinched off the cup and closed the hive.

With an eye toward eventual expansion I had already purchased a second brood box with frames, and my first thought after getting back in the house was to set that box up as another hive in hopes of enticing any eventual swarm to settle nearby. That led to some research and eventually into making 2 swarm traps (mainly) from scraps and supplies on hand. In addition, there are several other types of bees happily enjoying the local blossoms at the moment, and while I suspect that the majority of them are solitary I’m not ruling out that there is a strong feral colony nearby which might be enticed to move I a touch closer.

The research I did to determine the size of the swarm traps I built resulted in mixed outlooks relative to size, structure, and location to mount, so at the end of the day I consolidated what seemed to match most inputs and what I had on hand. What I ended up with were two swarm boxes mainly made of scrap exterior plywood from the house siding (pieces of which appear to have been stored I’m guessing since the house was built in the early 1990’s and which were in my way anyway). I opted to follow the advice that bees may well accept a space which is large than they need but won’t take anything smaller, and set the height of my two boxes based on half the length of the pieces I had decided to use as the trap ends, which basically came out to 15 ½ inches. I used the width as-was, resulting in one box being just wide enough for 6 frames and the other good for 7 but just shy of 8. For an entrance I opted to drill 4 adjacent ½ inch holes a few inches above the floor. I debated simply screwing a top on, but it seemed better to take the slight amount of extra effort and make telescoping tops held on with screw eyes, staples, and twist ties. Since I had 10 unused brood frames on hand, I put 4 in the smaller box and 6 in the larger one.

Will they work? I don’t know. As I don’t have any drawn comb to spare yet I’ve seeded them with brand new (and well waxed) frames, drawn a couple of x’s with squiggles using a swab dipped in lemongrass oil, and I’ve placed them in what seems reasonably strategic places amongst the rocks on the mountainside. I looked in vain for more elevated positions such as the recommended 12 feet high in a tree fork, but at the end of the day in a land with very few trees the bees will likely ignore this recommendation that they look up and away rather than at the rock wall in front of them, so I wandered around until I found 2 relatively level locations that I can get to fairly easily and plopped the traps on them.

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One Response to The Art of BEEing – Experimenting with swarm traps

  1. Robert Sharp' says:

    Do you think they will swarm this year? Is the swarm trap just an empty bee hotel waiting for the guest to arrived?

    Robert in Bloomington

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