Archives for posts with tag: how-to

If you have stumbled upon this post because you have a swarm of honeybees on your property that you would like someone to remove, please contact me directly. However, if you are a beekeeper and you want to know how you can attract and trap your own swarm of bees, read on.

Last year, I wrote a blog post on honeybee swarms. If you want some basic information on swarming, please read that first. In general, a honeybee colony will swarm when they are looking for a new place to live. A clever beekeeper, armed with this knowledge, can create an ideal location for those swarming honeybees to call home. The majority of this information was taken from a Cornell Cooperative Extension publication called “Bait Hives for Honey Bees”. This entire publication is available for download by clicking on this image:

Bait Hives For Honeybees Title

In general, a “bait hive” is simply a box or container that looks like an ideal home to a honeybee. If you prepare the bait hive while keeping a few important things in mind, you stand a good chance of having an entire colony of bees move in and making themselves at home. For the beekeeper, this means free bees!

Size

The size of the bait hive container should be approximately 40 litres (1.4 cubic feet). The shape of the container does not matter. It can be round, square or rectangular. Some people have used big biodegradable planting pots as bait hives. Others have used a standard deep Langstroth boxes.

Entrance

The entire box should be sealed up tightly to protect it from the elements, but there should be an entrance, placed near the bottom of the container, with a diameter of roughly 1¼ inches. I suggest using a round entrance so that it can be plugged up later if necessary, with a cork.

Positioning

The swarm trap should be placed in a partially-shaded area, preferably on a tree or side of house. It should be placed approximately 15 feet (5 metres) off the ground and with an entrance that is facing South, if at all possible. If you have a second floor balcony, this would likely be a great spot for a bait hive.

Odours

Honeybees can be coaxed by the smells of a potential new home (similar to how real estate agents bake cookies during open houses I guess). The smells that are most important to them are:

  1. Queen pheromone
  2. Lemongrass Oil
  3. Beeswax

You can buy commercial swarm lure scents, which are not very expensive. If you happen to have lemongrass oil on hand, this is said to be very similar to the smell of Queen pheromone. A few drops of either inside your bait hive will be plenty. Beeswax rubbed inside the container will also be enticing for scout bees whose job it is to find a new home for the colony. I bought my lemongrass oil from well.ca.

Timing

Lastly, it’s a good idea to have your bait hive set up and in place before the swarming season begins. For your area, this means that it’s a good idea to have it in position and baited with scents by the time the first spring flowers start blooming. Once the first nectar flow happens, the bees will start swarming. Around my neck of the woods, this happens in early May.

Pros and cons

There are obvious advantages to catching a swarm of bees. The first advantage is definitely cost. In Ontario, it costs nearly $200 for a nuc of bees. Aside from the bait hive material, catching a swarm is absolutely free.

If you happen to catch a colony that has swarmed from a feral colony, then there’s a good chance that they are more resistant to pests and diseases than some commercially bred lineages. You may also be lucky enough to capture a strong colony that has never been chemically treated.

As for downsides: you’re not guaranteed to catch a swarm. This is obviously a gamble if you’re relying on bees from a bait hive. It really comes down to whether swarming bees find your swarm trap and consider it an ideal living location. Lastly, one other negative aspect is that you do not know whether the colony is both disease and pest free. Just because they swarmed does not mean that they are free from very serious diseases like American Foul Brood. Be on the look out for diseases and pests in newly captured colonies. Do your best to quarantine them from other colonies in your apiary until you know they are healthy.

One last note: there is a chance that captured colonies are more agressive than colonies purchased from a breeder. This can happen because a lot of bees are bred commercially for docile characteristics. Wild colonies may be lacking this trait. I do not consider this a real problem and you always have the option of re-queening your colony. Your new queen will start laying and your bees’ temperament will begin to change in 3 weeks when the first new workers are born.

Good luck and please share your experiences below. I would love to hear about your swarm trap ideas and successes!

I recently made some lip balm based on several different recipes I found on the Internet and combining that knowledge with flavours that I enjoy. It turns out that lip balm is ridiculously easy to make. You can make it in your microwave in under 5 minutes by simply estimating measurements.

 

Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of beeswax
  • 1/2 teaspoon of mint/peppermint extract

Heat up the oil in a pyrex measuring cup until it’s hot enough to melt beeswax. Then add in your beeswax and put it back in the microwave, stirring frequently until everything is melted. Finally, stir in your mint/peppermint extract and pour into a container of your choosing.

Lip balm in Altoids container

Character leaning against question markSo you’d like to keep bees. You’ve read, or perhaps experienced how awesome beekeeping is and you’d like to give it a shot. However, you have a small property or you’re worried about having bees in a residential area. Fair enough. I was in the same boat. So, how can you find somewhere to put a beehive?

Start with friends and family

If you don’t personally own a chunk of land that would be suitable for beekeeping, perhaps you already know someone who does. Check with your friends, and friends of friends. Maybe you have a coworker with a piece of land just outside the city? The best thing to do is to talk to people, get them excited about bees (in my experience, that’s not very hard), and then ask if they know anyone that would like to have a beehive on their property.

Ask a farmer

Most people – especially here in Canada – only live a short drive away from a rural area, filled with fertile land and plants that are just begging to be pollinated by honeybees. If this sounds like your area, then I have a suggestion that is almost certain to help you find a place. This plan comes with a 90-day money back guarantee, given you follow my directions precisely:

  1. This Friday night (put it in your calendar), sit down and draft a friendly letter to a farmer. Introduce yourself, and explain that you are beyond excited to keep bees, and you’re currently looking for somewhere to put a hive or two. Ask if they would be interested in having bees on their property and let them know that you will take care of the bees completely on your own, and require nothing of the farmer other than their land. Keep it short and sweet. Just about any farmer will understand the pollination benefits of having honeybees nearby, and many farmers actually pay people like you to come and install hives. The fact that you’re offering to do it for free should be enough.
  2. Don’t forget to include your contact information (Name, phone number, email address) on the letter.
  3. Print off about 20-30 of these letters. Stuff them in envelopes.
  4. On the weekend, get into your car and start driving out into the country. Whenever you see a farm, a property, or rural area that has good potential for your apiary, pull over and drop a letter into the mailbox on the side of the road. For an added touch, write the farm address on the outside of the envelope so that it has a personal feel for the recipient.
  5. Do not go any further than you would be willing to drive every time that you would inspect your bees. Remember you’ll have to drive there and back for every inspection.
  6. Come home and wait by the phone.

I must be honest… I haven’t personally used this tactic for finding a home for my bees, but this is only a small variation for how I found a home for my own family – dropping off letters in mailboxes. The hardest part is getting up and doing it, but once you’ve done it, you stand a very good chance of finding somewhere to put a beehive. Possibly even multiple locations.

In closing

One other point that I would like to make is that you should not be fooled into thinking that keeping your bees in a rural area is better for the bees. It’s often the case that urban areas are in fact better. Why is this?

Rural areas are often farm land, and farms are often mono-crops. In other words, only one type of plant would be available to your bees. If you surround your bees with a few kilometres of corn, they are not going to do so well, especially if those crops contain harmful pesticides. In the city, avid gardeners make it their mission to provide a variety of flowers that bloom from the first thaw in the spring to the first frost in the winter. This is perfect for bees, so don’t be afraid to consider the possibility of setting up a rooftop or backyard hive. As Luke Dixon puts it, “If you have room for a composter or water barrel, you have room for a beehive.”

Good luck, and please share your own stories about how you found a location for your apiary in the comments below.

Last night I tried rendering some beeswax for the first time. During my hive inspections, I always brought a jar with me, and I used it to collect any stray beeswax or burr comb that I found in the hive.

Beeswax in a pot

I put all this wax, along with whatever was stuck to it (honey, dead bees and other impurities) into a pot. Be sure that you’re never going to use this pot for cooking ever again. It will forever be your wax pot.

Beeswax in a pot

I then added a tiny bit of water to the mixture to help dissolve some of the honey and cook the wax more evenly. I used about 1/2 cup of water, but it shouldn’t really matter because the wax will float on top of the water and you can separate it in the end.

I then gently heated the entire mixture. Emphasis on “gently” because wax is flammable and if you heat it too fast and hot, it could start on fire. You can see in the photo above that as you do this, a lot of the impurities will float to the top.

Beeswax and cheesecloth

After heating the entire mixture to a liquified state, you can then strain it through a cheesecloth. I secured a chunk of cheesecloth over the pot and then poured it into an aluminum pan. It’s also worth noting that you should use a pan that you don’t mind destroying as well. All the impurities will stay behind in the pot, and you can throw them out.

Beeswax cooling

At this point, I just let the wax sit and cool. You can see from the photo above, that it’s already starting to solidify. Once the wax is solid again, it’s very easy to drain out the “honey water” from the bottom and keep the wax on top. Note: Just to be safe, I discarded the water/honey mixture outside rather than pouring down my drain. I didn’t want any chance that there was still liquid wax in the mixture, which could then solidify in my drain.

Raw beeswax

From a single mason jar of discarded comb, I filled a small container with pure, filtered beeswax. I’m not sure what I am going to do with it yet. Perhaps I’ll make some lip balm or use it for coating pans while cooking.

In the future, I’m likely going to do this on a cheap hotplate burner rather than on our fancy gas range. I can see how this might get pretty messy doing larger batches.

As a relatively new beekeeper, I have not yet developed a great way to light a smoker consistently and keep it lit during my inspections. The FatBeeMan provides a great video showing how he lights a smoker and keeps it puffing nice white, cool smoke in this video: