I am interested in setting up a couple of bait hives to catch swarms this spring. what size box should I use? How high should I place it and should I use anything inside it to attract them? Also does anyone know when they usually swarm in Kansas?
Flewster this is a good thing for beginners to prevent bees from swarming. It is much easier than claiming up the trees or let them go forever.
There is a picture and maybe you can build a cage like this for your hive.
I've put several single deeps with old comb in them around my house and bee yard to capture swarms. I put a solid bottom (no sbb's) and a small entrace reducer. I hear that old comb really brings them in (swarm lure not really required). Also, I put mine about 10 feet high in a tree (but I've heard as low as 6 feet will work, 10 feet being optimal). And finally, I put mine about 50 yards away from other hives, which I hear is better than right near them.
Ideally it should be more than 8 feet off the ground and about the size of a 10 frame deep box with an opening of a resoanable size. All of these things help. An old box that's been lived in by the bees helps. A piece of old comb can help but also brings wax moths. An old dried piece that's pretty clean probably won't support a wax moth but even tiny amounts of pollen or honey will support a lot of wax moths.
All that said and I usually use a box about the size of a 5 frame deep nuc because it's easier to tie up in a tree.
If you use an old box the swarm lure may not matter much, but I like plain Lemongrass Essential oil for lure. You can also buy the swarm lure. I think that's what it is. I certainly can't smell the difference. Also when you requeen drop the old queens in a bottle of alcohol and you'll get some nice QMP (Queen Madibular Pheremone) swarm lure. Sometimes I put a quarter of a piece of "Bee Boost" in with the lemongrass or the swarm lure.
Really it all seems to be about location. And I don't know how to predict that. If you put out a lot of boxes and then next year put them somewhere else unless you got a swarm there, after a while you'll have some that get you a swarm every year.
The swarm lure is especially important if you are using new boxes or eqiupment.
Also, I put 1/4" hardware cloth over the entrance to keep out the birds. They seem to love to nest in them. You need to check them periodically because the wasps and hornets and mud daubers also love to nest in them.
[This message has been edited by Michael Bush (edited April 01, 2004).]
Does anyone have experience with the swarm cage that Axtmann is talking about? I assume the cage is made out of queen excluder and fitted to the hive entrance. Sometimes a hive wants to swarm no matter what so if it works I might make one.
You can buy similar things from Brushy Mt that they call an "entrance gaurd". I bought one 30 years ago and I've used them just to see how they work. I don't use them most of the time. Clipping the queen is an easier less difficult to implement variation on the concept and I don't do that either.
The entrance gaurd serves a similar purpose to using an excluder in "includer" position. In other words if you put an excluder on the bottom of the brood box the queen can't get out the bottom. If there isn't a top entrance or there is an excluder between the brood nest and the top entrance then the queen can't get out. But neither can the drones. If you don't let the drones out from time to time they will die and (in the case of the includer) they will plug up the includer until the bees can't get out.
The big advantage to the entrance version is you can let the drones out without having to lift the bottom box. The drones will be trying to get out already. If you check everyday you may get to see the bees TRYING to swarm but the queen can't get out. From my experience, once they are trying to swarm it is awfully hard to discourgage them.
If you clip the queen (or buy her clipped) she can't fly. The drones can get in and out (unlike with the gaurd) but if they try to swarm the queen ends up on the ground in front of the hive. Again, you have to pay attention or you will miss what's going on in the hive. If you find a cluster on the ground you'll know, but they will eventally try to climb back in the hive. If this happens you won't know what's happening and eventually they swarm will leave with one of the virgins from the swarm cells.
My swarm defenses are:
An upper entrance so the brood nest doesn't get too congested with field bees.
A slatted rack so the field bees have somewhere to cluster and to help with ventilation.
NO queen excluder (and all the same size frames so I don't care if the queen decides to lay up another box)
Lots of supers available for honey processing.
Keep the brood nest from getting too honey bound.
If a hive is really booming, I will sometimes split them because those are exactly the kind that are hard to keep from swarming. A "cut down split" will stop the swarming impulse without hurting production from that booming hive. You can always combine after swarm season if you don't want another hive.