Bait hive practicalities

Bait hive in position. Above head height, south facing, and when the Wisteria above it is in leaf it will appear to be in foliage, rather than exposed to the midday sun. But this can be a very windy location...

Bait hive in position: above head height, south facing, and when the Wisteria above it is in leaf it will appear to be in foliage, rather than exposed to the midday sun.

I’ve been building a bait hive to mount on the side of our house. It is basically 2 Warré boxes with a temporary roof and floor. But, when I began thinking through the practical aspects of building it, I realised there were some aspects we don’t normally mention – like how to ensure the whole thing stays locked together when you move it.

An extra problem here is that when we have storms, the wind gets funnelled along this wall, so I need to ensure the sections don’t  slide off each other, or the roof  blow off, so instead of a simple piece of plywood, my roof is a really heavy piece of MDF – like putting a brick on top of the roof. The roof has a slight tilt so rain runs off, and roofing felt to ensure it is rain-proof: I want it to last a few years.

Under the roof is the cloth

Under the roof is the cloth

Cloth and bars

Cloth and bars

Here’s a series of pictures showing the construction features. In the left picture, the roof is resting against the hive. The roof has a lip, this ensures it does not blow off easily, and rain does not wick into the boxes. Yacht varnish waterproofs the MDF slab and the lip. Behind the roof you can see a Warré cloth: don’t forget this, or you could end up with comb stuck to the roof.

In the right hand picture you can see the underside of the cloth, and some bars. You can see that this is an old, used cloth from another hive – it has long lines of propolis. This helps to scent (bait) the hive and attract bees. Some old undiseased brood comb, and a couple of drops of lemongrass oil will also help. I’ve added spacers between the bars, to ensure that if I tilt the boxes when moving the boxes, the bars cannot move so far that they, and any comb on them, fall down.

Box_clipOne thing you do not see in this bait hive is a quilt box.The bees should only be in the hive for a few hours before you move them to a proper hive – or they will memorise the location of the bait hive as “home”. So a basic roof is fine.

The next picture shows  how the two Warré boxes themselves are held together. It is simply two screws with stiff wire wrapped round them. (Garden wire, stiff enough that I had to use pliers.)

base1The floor is a precise 338 x 338 mm, which is just smaller than the boxes above. This is the dimensions specified by Warré to prevent rain wicking in.

If you look near the corners of the floor you will see four protruding screw heads. These act as locking pegs to stop the box above slipping in wind, or when you move the whole bait hive full of bees.

Lacking one large piece of wood for the base, I used two lengths of plank, screwed to runners below, and added several layers of yacht varnish to areas likely to get wet. I left the floor inside of the hive free of varnish to make the cavity seem more natural and attractive to scout bees.

The entrance consists of an angled slot 120mm wide; and I’ve added a landing board in front, which is probably unnecessary.

Now let’s look ahead to the day this attracts a swarm of bees. You check your bait hive and find they have moved in. You need to move the boxes to their new hive quickly, before the colony imprints the new home location in its memory.

I will just be moving these boxes a few feet but if you are taking them somewhere in a car, you probably want to –

  • Block the entrance! You will need some method to do this.
  • Tie the boxes together securely, for example a ratchet strap round the whole lot.
  • Ventilation. Bees swarm on really hot days. The obvious thing is a ventilation mesh in the floor, but that could be blocked if you put the floor on something soft like a car seat.

strappedPost script

As an extra precaution against wind blowing the hive down, I have a stretchy cord securing it to sturdy eye hooks in the wall.

This entry was posted in Hives, Swarms, Warré and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bait hive practicalities

  1. Lindylou says:

    I would suggest a mesh wire top the size of your cloth and with reserve to fold down like a lid with folded corners. If it is really hot you leave the proper wooden roof off your bait hive and just let them be under the carefully locked down mesh lid. Swarmed bees can easily boil in a confined space and they may roll their queen.


  2. Paul says:

    I like that idea, it is very elegant. And does not require further woodwork. Thank you.


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