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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Long before chemical attractants, people used use some home-made potion that included sour milk and some other additives.
It smelt as if rotten wood and was used in the swarm traps.
I read this recently in one of swarm trapping video comments (some old beekeeper grandma taught someone about trapping).

So - bees apparently are attracted by rotten wood smell.

Today I refreshed one of my log hives.
Last year I put them out kind of late and made few mistakes as I now feel.
Done:
- removed solid plastic frames - the black ones on the pic (in case they are negative factors);
- just stapled in top bars in place of the removed (there is a burlap inner cover over the bars)
- taped in black combs into the white plastic cut-outs
- plugged in the screen bottom with folded and well propolised burlap (I think the open mesh bottom was a mistake; unsure what was I thinking last summer).
- stuffed some slum gum into unintended holes

This trap, while still solid, has some promising wood rot and fungus setting in there and here.
Ants and spiders are crawling all over too.
The trap is on a smaller side - ~30 liters.
Fingers crossed.
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Move to here ? Good idea Greg ...

For the benefit of anyone who's not been following the plot thus far, GregV has suggested that I transfer a recent reply I made (where I was trying to demonstrate that bees are 'quite at home' with both mould and rotten wood) to here:

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 ...
LJ

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.

So - photos in the next post ...

... to be continued.
LJ
 

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I was working on the computer when the sky turned dark and I became aware of 'something happening just outside the window'. So I went outside, saw this - took a quick photograph - and went back inside the house, assuming that I'd have to find that swarm a new box asap as conditions inside that one must be pretty dire (as it had been abandoned for around 12 months as not being worth repairing, and no doubt had a wax-moth nest inside it. I had intended to salvage the frames (maybe?) just prior to putting the rest of the box on a bonfire)



But - just half an hour later and the whole swarm had completely moved in ! So I left them to their own devices for the next seven days. (more about this in the next post) During this time, it occurred to me that maybe I was being a little hasty in binning the box, and maybe it could be salvaged by simply replacing the two side panels which were showing very obvious signs of delamination.

Perhaps I should explain here that this plywood was never intended to be used externally, nor even for internal construction purposes. I'd sourced several hundred sheets of this stuff from my local pallet yard, apparently it had been used as 'separators' between layers of palletised product such as tins of paint - so it had only ever been intended for one single-use before being destroyed. In short - it's rubbish plywood, but it was all that I had back then (which was maybe 6-8 years ago).

But when I came to remove one side, the back wall promptly collapsed:



You can see the 'quality' of the plywood side, where I've placed a few strips of the outermost painted layer which came away in the process. Absolute rubbish.

But - it's the collapsed back wall which is of more interest - here's a close-up:



This stuff now has the consistency of dried-out and very fragile papyrus paper - which crumbles into dust if held between the fingers - it has no structural strength whatsoever - not even that of newspaper. How that box was being held together is anyone's guess.

Ok - so with two sides and a back-panel completely u/s - nothing was worth saving ... except for the floor vents and the plywood surrounding them - which have been made into a 5-frame nuc-box floor:




... to be continued.
LJ
 

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Neat post guys. While I have nothing of substance to offer in reply, I enjoyed the read and figure you all might be on to something.
 

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I only caught one swarm in a trap today. I should be kicking butt due to my hives being out side all year for the last four or five years and for sure rotting in a few.

So far, I do not think I have caught a two swarms in the same box. I have caught about 9 or ten swarms in traps over the years and have not found a perfect box, bait process or spot yet. I also am lazy and consider my second year of trapping as probably my best cause I went to the effort to get some black comb in all the traps. Lately, I am just throwing q-tips though the entrances and not even cleaning out the mouse nest. So I do deserve some of what I receive.

My view is being where bees are doing well enough that they want to swarm is the biggest thing. They do not even look at my traps till they swarm and then seem to check them all out if there are more then one trap in the area.
Cheers
gww
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
.......not even cleaning out the mouse nest.....
gww
This one will likely render the trap use-less for unspecified amount of time.

If anything, persistent smell of mice urine, will not help (especially if done over the winter and well cured into the trap walls - like with me).
I decided to bring the peed all over trap home and try my best to power wash/bleach/burn/try what-ever-google-says to eradicate that mouse pee odor.
What a nasty sh****t (worst I have ever experienced, after shoveling horse, cow, sheep manure for many years; well, save for the pigs - nasty too).

Smart move - I try to do my beekeeping runs with a external luggage carrier attached at all times (just to have it around, even if unused).
This time it paid off hugely - no way I was putting that funky wood into the van.
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Rotten wood, to compare, really has a nice smell to it.
I'd take it any day.
Earthy or whatever fancy word they have now days.
 

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Greg
Last year, the last swarm I caught had a mouse nest in the bottom. This year the swarm moved into a hive with a wasp nest on one of the frames (don't know if the nest was old or new). The year before last the bees moved into a trap that had about a trillion ants on the feed bag inter cover.


I do agree with you but on the other hand, I still only averaged two swarms a year when I did a good job or when I did a bad job. This, two a year, is based on 16 traps in a 30 mile radius. But, I do agree with it not being the best way to handle stuff. My ambition on trapping is lower now that I have enough bees to be able to split if needed.
Cheers
gww
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Greg
Last year, the last swarm I caught had a mouse nest in the bottom. This year the swarm moved into a hive with a wasp nest on one of the frames (don't know if the nest was old or new). The year before last the bees moved into a trap that had about a trillion ants on the feed bag inter cover.


I do agree with you but on the other hand, I still only averaged two swarms a year when I did a good job or when I did a bad job. This, two a year, is based on 16 traps in a 30 mile radius. But, I do agree with it not being the best way to handle stuff. My ambition on trapping is lower now that I have enough bees to be able to split if needed.
Cheers
gww
Not sure the wasps/ants/short-lived mice nest present much nuisance to the bees if all other parameters are favorable.
Ants co-exist with bees in my hives just fine and in some balance (have to post recent pics).
So maybe your mouse nest was not much nuisance after all.

It is when the trap smells as a pigsty due to the mice infestation - we have an obvious problem.
Kinda hard to imagine moving into a pigsty.
I still can not believe how funky my trap was.
 

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Greg
If you leave stuff out for multiple years like I do, the trap will get mice, wasp and ants. I once saw a snake in one that I had earlier emptied a mouse nest out of. Even if you have a 3/8th entrance, give enough time not messed with, mice will find a weak spot and make a hole big enough to get into the nice dry spot.

I also do not worry about ants in my hives. I was still surprised with the amount of ants that the new swarm moved in with.

I am surprised pretty often by bees.

My system relies on having little head high platforms for the traps to sit on and when I catch a swarm, I put a new box where the one I am removing is. I only bait in march and then rely on others to call if they see bees. You can spend a lot of time and gas if you try and do everything right with trapping. I am always happy for anything I get.
Cheers
gww

Ps the bees usually clean out or propolize things they don't like in a hive, eventually.
 

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I'd just like to expand a little upon what was written in my two previous posts ...

The reason I decided to post about this event - although on the face of it: one swarm, arriving in one box, during one day in the life - is that there were two very odd things about it.

The first is somewhat weather-related. We've had a most appalling June thus far, rain on nearly every day. At the beginning of June I put out around a dozen empty boxes prior to starting queen-rearing, which were spread around the apiary - some of which are nuc-boxes and some full-sized boxes into which existing nucs would be xfered, thus releasing those nuc boxes for use. But - then the 'monsoons' hit, and queen-rearing was put on hold.

Most (if not all) of those boxes contain one or more old, drawn combs - and so the subject swarm had plenty of boxes from which to choose - but instead it chose to inhabit a derelict. Why ?

To recap, this derelict box had nothing going for it in terms of conventional wisdom: 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 so that direct sunlight would only reach the box towards the end of the day - and the box had a partially vented floor. Each of these criteria is a 'negative' in it's own right. Put all of these together, and there's no way that this box ought to have been selected in preference to any of the numerous other empty boxes on offer.

The second very odd thing about this event was the extreme enthusiasm shown by the colony. Over the years I've seen what I thought was the full range of enthusiasm displayed by bees, ranging from totally dispirited behaviour right through to the excitement shown when OSR (Canola) is in bloom - but I've never witnessed anything quite like this. These bees were - quite literally - 'falling over themselves' to get into and out of that box. It was actually quite humourous to watch them as they collided with each other and knocked each other over in their mad dash to establish their new home. This crazy behaviour lasted for some 3 days, after which they calmed down and became more methodical in their movements - although still very active indeed.

I wouldn't normally bother my ass to report at length something as trivial as a swarm arriving - but this was something quite exceptional - and it was only after discovering the rotten wood factor that I began to suspect that these might possibly be connected.

Consider: there are two types of natural tree nest - those which have been previously occupied by bees and thus will smell of them - and those which have never been occupied before. In a decent-sized forest there are hundreds of thousands of trees, but in all likelihood there will only be a handful with cavities suitable for habitation by bees. Are we to believe that scout bees search up and down every individual tree trunk meticulously in the hope of discovering by chance a likely-looking entrance ? Or are they more likely to be attracted from a modest distance by a familiar smell ? Who knows for sure - but I think this could be a possibility worth examining more carefully.

With the singular exception of what Greg has written at the head of this thread - I've never once heard of rotten wood (or something resembling it's smell) being used as a swarm attractant.
LJ
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
.......

With the singular exception of what Greg has written at the head of this thread - I've never once heard of rotten wood (or something resembling it's smell) being used as a swarm attractant.
LJ
I just spent honest 15-20 minutes looking for the original "rotten wood attractant" comment (was long too).
No luck.
Well, just trust me I guess.

All in all, people were appending to that original comment (about the heritage sour milk based attractant).
There was one practical idea of tossing few chunks of rotting wood/bark/wood chips into the trap.
I figure now, the more moldy and fungus covered, the better.
I may just do that on the back porch trapping operation - easy enough.
So here it is.

PS: for those who knew of my "eco floor" talk in the horizontal forum..
I just was in that "trashy floor" hive last Sunday again - the trash was still there - I ended up scooping some of it out where I could and while the bees were patient with me
so the bees did like the wooden trash just fine OR they did not care of it to be trashy enough to pull out
(of course, the frames are tall and the hive is deep too and that is a different subject there)
the walls of the hive are now like caves with chunks of wood and bark held in place by the wires and slum gum;
I can attest the bees are crawling all over the maze - fun to watch;
I need to take a better picture when I can - not soon now
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... the walls of the hive are now like caves with chunks of wood and bark held in place by the wires and slum gum;
I can attest the bees are crawling all over the maze - fun to watch;
I need to take a better picture when I can - not soon now
View attachment 49563
This is really interesting, GregV. I would surmise that this is certainly is more representative of the inside of a tree hollow than the spartan walls of a 3/4" piece of pine. Thanks for posting the photo.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
This is really interesting, GregV. I would surmise that this is certainly is more representative of the inside of a tree hollow than the spartan walls of a 3/4" piece of pine. Thanks for posting the photo.
Thinking now - I should have left all the wooden shavings on the floor untouched.

While I can see as reasonable - cleaning out a pile of dead bees post-winter - cleaning now it is not really necessary.
Bees have plenty of energy and numbers to clean whatever they see needs cleaning.

It is this human nature jerked me into the "cleaning" action so that the bee floor resembles the floor in my house.
I should not touch it anymore, whatever else left still in the "trashy" hive - stays put and up to the bees.
 

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I should not touch it anymore, whatever else left still in the "trashy" hive - stays put and up to the bees.
Makes sense to me, particularly if you assume that the colony is strong enough to remove the debris if they want to.
 
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