Originally Posted by GregV
Normally they would live an a moldy tree hole and do great in it.
That's a convenient 'hook' onto which I can hang this report ...
A couple of weeks ago a swarm arrived and set up home in a 12" deep 6-frame nuc box which I'd condemned and which was waiting to be put on the bonfire. The reasons I'd condemned this box were twofold: partly because I'm phasing out all of my 6-frame boxes, but mainly because the cheap and nasty plywood sides were beginning to badly delaminate.
It was a very strange choice of box: at 23 litres it was around half the 'recommended' swarm box volume; it was located behind the North side of a building and so would be permanently in the shade; and the entrance faced West. There were (and still are) several other empty boxes spread around the apiary which ought to have been more attractive.
A few days later, having re-housed them, I decided to give that box a reprieve in view of it's 'attractiveness' to the swarm, and so set about replacing just the delaminated sides. But as I removed them, the box - quite literally - fell apart ! It seems that it was being held together by a layer of paint and not much else. In particular, the rear panel disintegrated almost into dust and there was a strong smell of mushrooms. This smell, together with what is described as 'cuboidal cracking' are, of course, indicative of dry rot.
So what ? Well, it occurs to me that - from the bees' point-of-view - there must have been something 'special' about that box, as it fails all the other desirable swarm box traits. Could this something possibly be the smell of rotting wood ? After all, it's the rotting-out of heart-wood which creates the archetypal tree cavity.
I wonder ... could a piece of rotten wood - or even a handful of mushrooms - act as a swarm attractant ? Might be something worth trying ...
PS - I took some photos, both of the swarm arriving and of the disintegrated box - if anyone's halfway interested. But I won't post them unless asked to, as I don't want to highjack this guy's thread.