Linton, Jane Geddes and I put up the bait hive on the 9th to hopefully catch a swarm from the wild colony which is very strong and highly likely to swarm. We placed it in an oak tree around 100 metres from the bee tree, and at a suitable height for removing safely. Inside the lightweight polystyrene nucleus box are 3 frames of clean drawn foundation and 2 frames with wax foundation for the bees to draw out. Swarms are programmed to produce wax when they reach their new home and so I wanted to give the bees some work to do on arrival, but also provide a place for the new queen to lay right away.
It was important to choose clean frames that were disease free. The smell of the wax and pheromones from the combs will be attractive to any swarm but, to enhance the desirability of this new home, I added the scent of lemon grass by putting some drops of essential oil on cotton wool balls inside a plastic sandwich bag pierced with pin holes. I also rubbed some oil around the entrance. Lemon grass mimics the natural pheromone released from the nasonov glands of worker bees that functions as an orientation chemical to guide other bees back to the hive for example. This pheromone comprises several chemicals including geraniol, farnesol and other acids. It smells like geraniums and when you are close to a hive with bees releasing this pheromone it is quite noticeable.
Tom Seeley’s, Bee Culture April 2012, article “Using Bait Hives; The Right Box, in The Right Place at The Right Time” was useful reading for preparing our bait hive.
Today, on 20th April after several really warm days of temperatures between 13-20 ˚C I walked up to visit the bees and check on the bait hive that it is fortunately still in situ.
The traffic to and from the tree was heavier than on previous visits with masses of yellow and orange pollen coming in. I sat on the wall for a while listening to flight sounds and watching the activity in seclusion partly hidden behind a curtain of trailing larch branches full of blooming flowers and new growth.
On checking the roadside for foraging bees, I found some working the broom, Cytisus scoparius, which accounted for the orangey pollen coming into the nest whilst the yellow pollen was from the whins or gorse, Ulex europaeus.
Spring has really arrived and, since my last visit, so has a new foal. The swallows returned yesterday five days earlier than last year.