Nowadays, more and more people are trying out beekeeping, either as a hobby or as a new business. If you’re just starting out, however, you’ll find that the necessary equipment and the hive itself can be quite expensive! Fortunately, one way to save money is by attracting bees to an empty hive.
Bees can be lured to an empty hive as long as it meets certain conditions. First, it’s important to know the best time or season to attract bees. Second, their new “home” must be prepared well and placed in just the right location.
To be successful in attracting bees, let’s discuss each of the necessary conditions:
Will an Empty Beehive Attract Bees?
An empty beehive is likely to attract bees through swarming, which happens when an existing colony becomes overpopulated. Worker bees end up “kicking” other bees — even the queen — out. As a result, the queen and other bees would swarm in the air, or head to a nearby branch, as they look for a new place to repopulate.
This “new place,” of course, would be an empty beehive. Notably, the practice of using an empty beehive to lure a swarm of bees is also called “bait hiving.”
When is the Best Time to Attract Bees?
The best time to attract bees to an empty hive would be during the spring season. In spring, the weather is warm, and numerous flowers would be in bloom… Many bees would be swarming, indeed!
In contrast, autumn is not a good time to attract bees to a new hive. This is because the bees would not be able to produce enough honey to survive the winter season.
Still, the exact time is not the same for all locations. Since temperatures rise earlier in the southern part of the United States, for example, beekeepers there must prepare for swarming season earlier than those in the northern part of the country.
If you want to know the best time to attract bees, you can ask other “apiarists” or beekeepers in your area. You could also contact a nearby university that studies bees and other insects, for additional information.
How to Attract Bees to an Empty Beehive?
A few weeks before swarm season, a colony sends out “scout bees” to look for new places to live in. This means that you need to prepare your beehive before swarm season, so it can catch the attention of scout bees.
Here are some tips and tricks for making your empty beehive attractive:
Use an Old Beehive
An old beehive, with its previously-made structures and distinctive smells, is likely to attract bees. If the hive still has some old comb or propolis — a natural mixture produced by bees — it would be very attractive to the scout bees, and eventually lure an entire swarm.
However, if you don’t have an old hive, don’t worry because you can always buy a bee trap or swarm trap. Another option would be to make a homemade bee trap using wood pulp or even cardboard.
Add Wax Frames
Once you have a beehive ready, consider adding some wax frames or applying beeswax to the existing structure. The smell will surely attract the scout bees, which, in turn, would signal to the other bees that they’ve found a new place to call home!
Rub Some Lemon Balm
Rubbing some lemon balm on the outer portion of the hive will make it more attractive to bees. Why? Because generally, a queen bee smells similar to lemon, and the familiar aroma would definitely catch the bees’ attention!
Similarly, you can also use lemongrass oil as an alternative to lemon balm. Take a Q-tip and dab it gently along the hive structure, and the smell is bound to lure some scout bees pretty soon!
Provide Supplemental Food
Bees always seem to be active and on the move. As the old saying goes, you’re truly a hard worker if you’re “busy as a bee.” Still, moving from one place to another takes a lot of time and energy… even for a bee!
When a swarm of bees move into a new hive, they’re going to need a lot of extra energy if you want them to stay. And to gain more energy, they need food!
Provide supplemental food by placing some sugar syrup nearby. Another option would be to plant a flower bed near the hive, so the bees would have all the energy they need to repopulate and start a new colony.
Where to Place the Beehive?
Now that you’ve prepared your beehive, the next step would be to put it in a good location. The ideal place would be somewhere above the ground, about 15 feet high. You can position it on a tree branch or on a platform created just for this purpose. Make sure the location can hold the weight of the entire hive… bees, honey, and all!
In addition, see to it that the beehive is placed in a shaded area. This way, the hive would be protected from direct sunlight, which could be too hot for the bees. If possible, make sure that the area is also dry and protected from heavy rain.
How to Check if Bees Have Arrived?
With the hive in place, all you have to do now is to wait for the bees to arrive. When you see some bees buzzing around your hive, wait and see if these are scout bees or “foragers.” Foragers are worker bees that are hard at work, busy flying from the hive to the source of food, and then back to the hive again.
Once you have determined that the bees buzzing around your hive are foragers, give yourself a pat on the back. Congratulations! You have succeeded in attracting bees to your hive. In a period of about one to three weeks, you can expect the entire swarm to have moved in, and would start building a new colony.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced beekeeper, getting more bees is always a great idea. So it’s a good thing that an empty beehive can attract bees! Provided that you have a well-prepared hive, extra food, and the right location, you can expect to attract more bees and have them start a new colony in no time!
1. Do empty beehives attract bees? (2021, November 30). Bloom & Bumble.
2. How to attract bees to a new hive in 5 easy steps. (2021, n.d.). Eco Peanut.
3. Kenneth. (2022, n.d.). Will an empty beehive attract bees? Back Yard Certified.