Honey bee traps are dead easy to make.
Growing the apiary the easy way in South Africa is done by placing an old-hive up on a suitable roof or tree stump during the swarming season. Provided the trap has been prepared in the correct way, you will catch a colony without fail.
I have already caught two swarms this year.
This natural beekeeping method is much easier than splitting strong colonies, albeit that has its merits too. Our bee, apis mellifera, is an inveterate swarmer. As soon as your hive starts to fill with honey, they will breed new queens; and whoops, half your workers have vanished over the horizon with much of the nectar they have stored.
We will have more discussion later on splitting-hives.
I say up high, perhaps a metre or two above the ground; that is the conventional wisdom of bee-lore. However, nothing beats a pile of old hives and that does not need to be raised up on the roof. Just make sure that your aging, empty boxes have frames in, preferably with some strips of wax; otherwise they will build comb in any and all directions.
This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 17th June, 2023.
How high should you place your honey bee traps? It is a bit of a compromise. In theory it should be about 3 to 5 metres above the ground; but then it is difficult getting a heavy-box down from a roof or up in a tree.
I find 2 to 3 metres above ground is fine. You might need a ladder, and then it gets more tricky. Dropping a hive full of bees would not be fun.
Where should you place the trap? Not on your own roof. It should be at least two kilometres away from your apiary, preferably more, and in an area where they is plentiful pollen and nectar. What you want is full-hives from the wild that are preparing to produce swarming bees; because the capacity of their hole in a tree or the ground is limited.
If you move the hive a short-distance, the bees will simply return the next day to where your box was, and you will lose half the workforce.
How long should you wait before bringing the hive with a new-colony to your home apiary? Beginners often make a mistake here. You see, initially the scouts come and check the trap out. They start cleaning it out, getting all in readiness for the day when the Her Majesty will bring her swarming bees.
Beginners tend to think the swarm has already moved in, and take the box home, only to have a big disappointment the next day. Unless you get it back up quickly, you will lose the colony that was just preparing to make a home in your bee trap.
How do you attract swarming bees? Only use a hive that has been previously occupied by the little beasties. If you have only a new box, then place it on top of an existing colony for a week for the smell of the insects to permeate the frames thoroughly.
Ideally, if you have ten frames in the bee trap, then you need the following.
We have found that swarming bees will choose a trap with this space created by using strips in the centre over one with full foundation throughout the hive. It is a place where the new and often quite small colony can cluster.
Ideally within a week of moving in, you could replace these strip frames with full foundation. Why? Because the workers will build drone cells, and you do not want that. You want a hive full of workers, not lazy males.
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In short prepare a bee trap with a couple old-combs and eight foundation frames; place it on an existing hive for a week, or less if you are in a strong honey flow, until the workers have started drawing out the wax. Now remove the box, and place it on your tree stump, tank or roof; it will not be long before the swarming bees arrive if there is plentiful nectar and pollen available.
caught hundreds of colonies in this way; actually probably thousands over sixty years of
backyard beekeeping. It works, but only if it's during a honey
flow. It is a complete waste of time during a dearth of nectar
and pollen; it is not the swarming season.
Do not delay in moving your honey bee traps to their permanent location. That means within three-weeks of them moving in; that is when the new brood will start hatching.
These bees in this honey bee trap have far exceeded their living quarters and, in that clump under the hive, they've actually started building comb in which the queen has begun to lay eggs.
As a rule of thumb move your catch boxes within three-weeks of the new colony taking up residence; they are much less fierce before the young brood starts hatching.
All serious beekeepers get involved in requeening their honey bee traps; it is the old lady who is driven out of the hive and arrives in your catch-box.
Requeening reduces the strong swarming instinct of some species like our Scutellata; and obviously if she lays an abundance of eggs, the more workers there will be. There will be more honey for you.
I did it for several years but there were several difficulties.
I eventually decided it makes more sense to split a boiling colony that is about to swarm, introducing a queen-cell; or placing a frame of very young brood and eggs.
In the latter case, you lose about six-weeks, though, according to this timeline:
And then unite the two colonies and you will have a very strong colony with a young queen; bee lore has it that the virgin will destroy the old monarch. I suspect that may not always be the case.
Here are a few thoughts on the pollen in honey. Men should assume they will get problems with their prostate glands, because it's very common; and extremely unpleasant.
You can either buy some, or start considering honey bee traps.
Part of the solution is pollen for prostates; that means light filtering that doesn't remove the granules from your honey. But don't forget the tomatoes(1) and avocados(2).
The food industry is frankly totally unscrupulous; they will extract the vitamin E from healthy flour, and then sell it to you at ten times the price in soft gels. Likewise, they will filter out all the pollen from your raw honey and offer it to you for your prostate in capsules.
How to start beekeeping is not just for fruitcakes; it is been the one enduring hobby of my whole life. You could put honey bee traps up too and start enjoying pollen for your prostate. You too could have a PSA of 0.9; not bad at 70.
Pollen has an amazing array of phytonutrients with a wide spectrum of benefits depending on which plants the bees have been visiting; but it has a tough outer shell that is difficult to digest. Scientists have shown that it is best broken down by fermentation.
Brewing honey mead is the perfect way to make full use of that pollen; and the gleanings in the cappings.
There is another small advantage to having pollen in your honey. Why does honey crystallise
is a vexed question for some; it can set with an ugly, irregular texture. The pollen acts as seeds for this natural process,
giving a more uniform feel.
It takes time and energy to grind your own healthy flour for your baking and to produce your own natural comb; but it's fun, lucrative and starts with honey bee traps.
How many hobbies are there that more than pay their way?
The greatest benefit of course is improved health; natural honey has a low GI, unlike that which has been processed.
Honey bee traps should be made from a previously occupied hive; swarms like the smell of an old box. Alternatively daub them, in and out, with crushed black combs that have been boiled up.
Old hives for traps are perfect.
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