Using old hives for traps is the simplest way to increase the apiary. But I would far rather have five strong colonies than twenty weak ones.
Honeybees by their very instinct have a powerful swarming drive; it is nature's way of reproduction and simultaneously strengthens the old colony with a new, young virgin queen; one that is able to lay more eggs.
Strong hives will send off multiple small colonies to start anew in someone's roof; or your trap.
In many ways this not helpful. Neither for the homeowner who has to deal with a pest, nor the beekeeper who loses much of his workforce.
The only place I can think of to get an old hive is a local
beekeeper. Join the local association before making a
start; one of those you meet will surely sell you an old hive. It
doesn't really matter if it has got holes and looks a bit decrepit; in fact that may be a plus.
It must just have the smell of bees. A week or two after a feral swarm moves in, you can move them into a new hive. Then use full foundation; it speeds up the growth of the colony and reduces the tendency to build drone cells.
The trap hive shown below is in fact the normal Langstroth box; but beekeepers often use small trap hives for catching feral colonies. Usually they would have five frames instead of ten; they are easier to move.
Place two frames with old combs at the edges; with three in the centre that have only strips of wax a few centimetres wide. The new swarm needs an area in which they can clump.
Many novices get caught out; they see bees buzzing around the trap
hive and think a swarm has moved in, but it's only the initial scouts
checking it out.
This old hive trap has been sorely neglected. It was hung up in a tree to entice a feral swarm and then forgotten. It is now so heavy and cumbersome that moving it to a permanent location has become hugely problematic. There are combs filled with brood in that clump below the box; it could be a second queen.
The rule of thumb is that the trap hive should be moved within three weeks; before new brood starts to hatch. Thereafter the bees start to become aggressive and during a honey-flow may become very heavy in a short period.
You could move the trap hive the very same
evening that they moved in; in fact if you want to move them a short
distance, that's best. After three weeks the new bees will be hatching
and it will become increasingly difficult; and heavier as they collect
A week would be a good average time to move the trap hive to its permanent site.
Feral swarms come in varying sizes; they may be little bigger than a fist or as large as a football. Tiny colonies will not be interested in a trap hive consisting of a brood-chamber as in the photo above.
Old hives for traps may be easy but requeening and splitting colonies would achieve other important goals.
For the more experienced "beek" requeening is a far better way to increase the size of the apiary. Every hive then will have a new young virgin that can lay far more eggs; an increased workerforce will deliver far more bottles of honey.
In addition the swarming instinct is greatly reduced; it is unlikely the hive will send off small feral colonies taking away a large part of the workforce.
During the growth of new queen cells it has been noted that hives forage much less; for a three week period less nectar is brought into the hive. That is another significant loss for the beekeeper that would be averted by splitting colonies.
In short swarming bees are a mixed blessing. They are one way to increase the size of the apiary but there are many good reasons to discourage hives from sending off feral swarms that can be a menace to society.
Before starting an apiary in the garden just make sure no one in the family is very allergic to beestings; or immediate neighbours. Local pain and swelling at the site is normal but any reaction at a distant part, especially the face and throat must be taken very seriously.
Starches in general and especially simple carbs have come under the hammer in an increasingly obese society; and rightly so. But natural honey from a local "Beek" has a low GI; it's not fattening.
In fact natural honey astonishingly is being used for diabetic patients to lower their blood glucose; and together with freshly-grated turmeric in a salve for treating bedsores at home.
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