Catching swarms is by far and away the best method of acquiring healthy bees; but it is also, given the well document decline in feral bees, a bit of a lottery. In order to try and maximise my chances of catching at least one swarm I have decided to make a few bait hives. A bait hive is simply a box, about 40lts. in volume, that has been 'baited' with wax, propolis and lemon grass oil in order to replicate a suitable place for a new colony to take up residence. They can however, if made from wood, be expensive and time consuming to make, plus be difficult to store and move around. So as an experiment I am recycling eight large cardboard boxes into bait hives. But as cardboard is not the most robust outdoor material, six have been waterproofed using bin liners, and two painted with a wash of linseed oil and wax. I have no idea if they will work but they haven't cost me anything and only took a few minutes each to make. I intend to weigh them down with a board, to act as an extended roof, and a rock or brick. Ideally they should be located two or three metres above ground so any flat roofs might be a possibility, but garden tables, compost bins etc. are more likely. This is very much trial and error, and they certainly aren't the most aesthetic garden ornaments, but as they say of any lottery - "If you haven't got a ticket you won't win a prize!". It would certainly be brilliant to catch a swarm with such 'Heath Robinson' affairs.
Just in case they aren't enticed by my junkyard bait hives I have produced a small card*, for posting to my neighbours, asking them to call me if they see anything swarm like. Let's hope they can tell the difference between wasps and bees! If I should acquire a swarm, via either method, I am more than willing to distribute within DaDBeeP.
* I can send copied of these cards is anyone is interested!