What do you put in a bait hive?

Handing over my last precious jars of honey of the season to an eager customer I stand inside the door of a pub for the first time since March 2020.  It had been shut to business due to Covid for 16 full months. I can hardly believe it’s been that long. Many a good foot-stomping, rip-roaring traditional Irish music session I had experienced in this pub. Yet here it was, no spirt physical or virtual. No pub-smell. Books instead of pints lined the counter. Framed photos removed from the wall leaned like lost punters against a table. The bicycle languishing against a lonely barstool did not look out of place.

Who would have ever believed that Irish pubs would close and closed for so long?  Ah trad sessions, I felt a pang of sadness. When will we see and hear you again? The whoop and hupya, the jig and the reel, the dizzy spin of dancers spontaneously stepping out a set, the flute, the pipes, fiddle, banjo and box.…

“What do you put in a bait hive?” Woke me from my reverie.

“You need an old bee box that smells of bees.” I started off, feeling like I was listing mystical items for a potion.

“The box has to be the right size – bees are fussy.” – I use Langstroth but that’s too must detail for my casual enquirer.

“I find a wooden box is best.” – Most of my colonies reside more permanently in a cosy insulated poly hives.

“You need old brood frame, it doesn’t matter if it’s black, black just means it’s been polished by the bees.” – Getting your hand’s on that as a new beekeeper is like finding gold dust.

I didn’t get to part where I don’t put them high up as others recommend. I am afraid I’d fall ….with a box full of bees. Bees seem to like my bait hives just fine a few feet off the ground on simple hive stands.

“What’s a brood frame?”  I keep answering as long as there are questions and the subject changes.  A face to face meeting is so treasured these days and thankfully they are getting more frequent.

I’ve plenty of mentions of swarms and bait hives in my blog, just put in “bait” or “bait hive” or “swarm” in the search box you can see on this blog page.

But if you want less of a story and more facts, then you’d do well to check out

Dave A Cushman Bait Hives for attracting swarms

Beekeeping like a girl How to lure a swarm of bees

And in this video you will see what is actually in a bait box All You Need to Know – Bait Hive / Swarm trap / Swarm Lure



  1. Dear Rebel Bee, I would advise you not to use old comb which always runs the risk of carrying disease, then you have to change it to keep the swarm healthy . The reason for using old comb is the odour attracting a swarm but lemon grass essential oil (a few drops on cotton ball will do the trick). Also, you want to have the box as empty as possible because the scout bees are looking for the ideal home of around 40 litres capacity which they assess by carefully walking round the interior of the cavity (see Tom Seeley’s work, The Lives of Bees). I use only a couple of frames of foundation and the rest of the frames have strips of foundation. You can give the bees guidelines by adding wooden BBQ skewers to the frame. Tom Seeley wrote a guest blog on bait hives for http://www.beelistener.co.uk that might be helpful for you. Swarms are a blessing or a curse depending upon the disease status and they are likely to have infestations of varroa and carry viruses so it is important to assess carefully before placing these swarms in apiaries of healthy bees. last year, I was caught out with a swarm late in the day that I took back to my home apiary rather than the quarantine one further away. 2 months later they collapsed from Chronic Bee Paralysis caused by CBPV. All the very best for your season and swarm catching from Ann.

    1. Dear Ann, thank you for your detailed comment. Will definitely try the lemon grass essential oil and advice on hive being as empty as possible. Best wishes, Rebel Bee

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