Friends of the Bees
Natural Beekeeping International Forum
low-cost, low-impact, balanced beekeeping for everyone

 Forum FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileYour Profile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 

Please Read The Rules before posting.

Please support Friends of the Bees to keep this forum free to use.

Attracting a swarm hive entrance size etc

Post new topic   Reply to topic    beekeeping forum -> Beginners start here
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Foraging Bee

Joined: 26 May 2012
Posts: 126
Location: Central France - Charente

PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2015 12:06 pm    Post subject: Attracting a swarm hive entrance size etc Reply with quote

This is a follow up to previous posts /questions on hive building and swarms but I will 'start again' to avoid confusion. I don't know much about swarming behaviour etc.

About 3 yrs ago a swarm took up residence in a bird roosting box (about the size of 2 shoe boxes) with 32mm entry hole at the bottom. Not ideal and it was suggested they will struggle/fail in this scenario. They keep coming back, or a new swarm tries so I would prefer they moved to their new accomodation.

Two years ago I built two Top Bar hives, rough dimensions are 80cm long 40cm wide at the top with w 10cm wide opening at the bottom. Interior height about 30cm. The lower opening is covered with tough small size pvc mesh. The entry point is a 14cm wide and 1cm high slot with a 2cm deep piece of wood underneath as a landing area.
As I want wild hives the hives are sealed with insulated roof with tiles on top. If you picture the end V shape at the bottom is a 10cm opening. At the top are lots of bars in the standard format, above them 4cm polystyrene insulation (on the basis that insulation keeps heat in or out but doesn'e generate it) then about 3cm of space before the plywood roof.
Small 5mm holes were drilled along the top just below the bars so if they don't want ventilation they can close them.

So with these available they have stoically ignored them for 2 years.
Beautifully positioned under some trees sheltered from sun and wind and about 1m apart.

I have orders some beeswax, due any minute, to put on the bars and around the entrance to see if I can encourage them. When that arrives I will dismantle the hives to apply beeswax and cover the lower mesh with (as I have some) pieces of pampas grass leaf, very tough but should allow air flow.
As I am doing this now would be a good time to make any modifications.

Also what can I do to move the current hive and when ? I did consider waiting until they were asleep, sealing them in and putting the hive on top of one of the new ones as a hint. Probably not a good idea.
I want to remove the 'bad' hive when the time is right, but when is that. Assuming they all sleep in the winter should I just wait until just before they wake up and move it, I want to make sure it is abandoned before moving/dismantling it. I have a car stethoscope and a 'snake camera' which could see inside but there are shelves in there so hard to manouvre.

Any help or comments appreciated, a lot to take in I know but advice on any or all points would be welcome.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Scout Bee

Joined: 12 Jul 2010
Posts: 358
Location: UK Cornwall, Falmouth

PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2015 7:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1) Seal the bottom. Swarms prefer that. Bees find the mesh confusing and difficult to find the entrance.

The entrance sounds OK, but have you got 2? One 14 x 1cm and one 10cm? You only want one. Ventilation is not a problem for bees.

Having used comb in the hive helps, or rubbing the inside with used comb. Find another beekeeper who can let you have a small piece.

Rub the inside and the entrance with lemon grass.

We have had lots of swarms move in using old comb and lemon grass.

2) If the bird box is occupied year after year, it obviously suits them. Are you sure bees keep coming back, and are not remaining there from year to year? A swarm may issue from it and settle in one of your baited hives. You can leave well alone, if it is not causing you any problems. Just observe them. You will see in the spring if it has failed, and then dismantle the box if you wish.

How far from the bird box are the hives? Quite often bees prefer to swarm some distance. You could leave one hive where it is and the other 500m away? In someone else's garden perhaps.

Putting the bird box on top of one of the hives will be of no use, bees will not move out of their home willingly.

It may be too late for you to catch a swarm now after your modifications - but you never know! Best of luck.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Golden Bee

Joined: 31 May 2010
Posts: 1550
Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2015 8:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The bible as far as what a swarm likes is Tom Seeley's "Honey Bee Democracy." Even if you don't get the book, look it up on youtube.

Ideal volume is around 40 litres, hight around 15-20 ft off the ground (from memory) and an entrance, small enough to be easily defended.

Of course, your bees may not have read the book, perhaps because there isn't a waggle version

Not available via Google Translate!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Silver Bee

Joined: 24 Jun 2008
Posts: 962
Location: UK Cornwall Snozzle

PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2015 8:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tom Seeley. Bait hives for honey bees PDF (the bible).
Don't worry
Bee happy.
Member of Cornwall Natural Beekeepers
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Foraging Bee

Joined: 26 May 2012
Posts: 126
Location: Central France - Charente

PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2015 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, all valuable stuff.
Starting in order of the responses........
I was thinking that covering the mesh with clippings or wood shavings would seal it, or would covering it be better. I could just fit a piece of wood over it and if it makes no difference then remove it again.
Only one entrance low down 14x1cm.
My beeswax just arrived today so will use that when rechecking hives.
They could be remaining year to year, is there an easy way to tell if they are there in winter ?
Hives are well away from the birdbox, about 300m ?

Don't think 15-20' is a possibility with top bar hives, the birdbox is about 12' from the ground so the idea is right. The hives are mode from 3/4" industrial ply, pretty much indestructible (I have tried) but very heavy. Takes 2 people to move one of these even without the tiles.
I have Honeybee democracy but like the bees I haven't read it yet Very Happy

I have looked at the Bait hives pdf but will read it properly tomorrow. Strangely these look just like my bird box so ironically I have sort of done the bit I wanted by accident, but can't follow up with move to a real hive....

Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Golden Bee

Joined: 30 Nov 2009
Posts: 1137
Location: UK, North Yorkshire, Bentham

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2015 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A piece of wood under the floor will be more draught proof and better.
14x1cm entrance should be OK
Use a cheap stethoscope in winter to listen for their hum if they are not flying (they will fly on milder days).
According to Tom Seeley, swarms move between 100 yards and 1 mile. I've baited swarms less than 6 ft from the parent hive.
15-20 ft high is the ideal. I've baited at ground level. Most of my bait hives are around 8 feet up.
Make the time to read Honeybee Democracy! You won't regret it! Very Happy

Everything about baiting in Tom Seeley's work is the "preferred" option from observation. Bees will look for the best they can find. If you provide something nearer to their ideal than they can find within range, you win!

Good luck!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Foraging Bee

Joined: 26 May 2012
Posts: 126
Location: Central France - Charente

PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2015 9:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, just sealed the hive base. Dismantled the roof and cleared the interior of spiders, much to their disgust. Removed the mesh and covered with a piece of ply, left some small gaps <1mm here and there so they can fill them if they want.

Read comments that an open base means they can't regulate the temperature which made a lot of sense. Like trying to heat a garage with the door wide open.
I left a gap of about 3-4mm in the top bars, just strips of rough pine from pallets as never being removed, so they can seal it if they want. Polystyrene insulation on top of this at either end as a heat barrier so should help them keep whatever temp they want.

I put some pieces of beeswax on the floor and smeared some on the entrance to see if it gets any interest, hopefully they will investigate and approve of the changes. I also removed the 'landing strip' I had as this wasn't really needed.

This site was interesting
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
House Bee

Joined: 29 Jun 2015
Posts: 19
Location: Cambridge

PostPosted: Thu Jul 30, 2015 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds good but don't be disheartened if it doesn't work now. Swarm season is more or less over for this year. Plenty of time to get making more bait hives though!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    beekeeping forum -> Beginners start here All times are GMT
Page 1 of 1

Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

SPECIAL OFFER FOR UK FORUM MEMBERS - Buy your protective clothing here and get a special 15% discount! (use the code BAREFOOTBEEKEEPER at checkout and be sure to 'update basket')

Are the big energy companies bleeding you dry?

Is way too much of your hard-earned family income going up in smoke?

Are you worried about what could happen if the ageing grid system fails?

You need to watch this short video NOW to find out how YOU can cut your energy bills TO THE BONE within 30 days!


(country selected automatically - UK/USA/CA/AU)

Conserving wild bees

Research suggests that bumble bee boxes have a very low success rate in actually attracting bees into them. We find that if you create an environment where first of all you can attract mice inside, such as a pile of stones, a drystone wall, paving slabs with intentionally made cavities underneath, this will increase the success rate.

Most bumble bee species need a dry space about the size a football, with a narrow entrance tunnel approximately 2cm in diameter and 20 cm long. Most species nest underground along the base of a linear feature such as a hedge or wall. Sites need to be sheltered and out of direct sunlight.

There is a spectacular display of wild bee hotels here

More about bumblebees and solitary bees here

Information about the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum)

Barefoot Beekeeper Podcast

Now available from

Now available from

Now available from

4th Edition paperback now available from

See beekeeping books for details and links to ebook versions.
site map
php. BB © 2001, 2005 php. BB Group

View topic - Attracting a swarm hive entrance size etc - Natural Beekeeping Network Forum