Several bees are showing signs of ‘house hunting’ in a couple of swarm traps I’ve put on trees hoping to catch some bees soon. I’ve painted the boxes inside and out with melted wax and put a few drops f lemongrass oil inside on a q-tip. The bees buzz back and forth in front of the entrance, all around the boxes as if measuring up, walk in and out, sometimes with a high pitched whining noise inside for up to minutes at a time. Occasionally one bee will have an argument with other bees in the box. It looks territorial. This has been going on for days. It started with one bee apparently chewing wax off the sides of the box along with the other behaviours, then progressed to several bees doing the same thing. The bees transfer the wax pieces to their leg baskets and fly in the direction of wild hives high up in some old gum trees nearby. Why are they doing this? Are they cleaning the boxes before the swarm moves in? Is wax a useful resource? I read somewhere that it’s less efficient by far for a bee to reuse wax, so why would they be removing it?
Wow, Hannah - I just found your post and am so intrigued! I too was under the impression that bees generally don’t collect wax from existing deposits. Were they taking it back to the lab for further testing?
I’d love to hear any update you have on this!
I dont know what kind of labs bees have or what experiments they are doing. Maybe they are trying to solve climate change issues or are analyzing it to create an antidote to Monsanto’s chemical stupidity. I’m not a bee, so I dont know. It does appear to be a wild bee hive thing. The wild beehives around here are usually in big old stringies which are pretty leaky and drafty. I think their enthusiasm for the wax is because it probably makes excellent ‘no more gaps’ caulking sealant. They’ve taken every skerrick and blob of it that I daubed around the entrances of the traps and and chew off the wax strips too. It’ isnt moth, I checked. And they keep coming back for more if I replace it. They even took some paint off one trap. Nice green wallpaper? I dunno??? One thought I had was that the wax has some honey in it, and they are just carrying it all back because its like finding diamonds in that rusty old putty tin down at the dump … double the resource in one trip, right there on the doorstep and a bonzer sheila keeps bunging it there for free. That’s gotta be more efficient than making wax and honey from nectar, especially in a nectar dearth, which happens a lot here because it’s pretty arid. I’ve had those traps up for months since spring sprung, frequent occasions when bees were showing interest buzzing about them in parties of 12…twenty… lots… but they havent moved in yet! Such a bummer! (I’m doing great with trapouts though). The swarms must like someone else’s Air bee 'n’bee better than mine. Maybe they have fluffier towels and bigger jars of honey in the gift basket. I’ll keep studying the phenomenon. All good.
Bees rip into propolis from unused bee boxes. You will often see that, especially after the longest day of the year. The bees seem to know when the days are lengthening or decreasing, fairly quickly after the shortest or longest day.
However this was during spring. Maybe the bees were cashing in on an easy to harvest supply of free wax. A bit like me removing unwanted good timber out of a skip.
This is late January, did the traps lure any colonies for you since starting this thread?
Yes, that’s certainly what it looks like. It’s been happening fairly continuously since late winter when I put the traps out. We’ve had two nectar flows, with plenty of hive expansion, but a recent long dearth during the dry, hot summer meant the colonies didnt expand for about three months. We are entering a honey flow at present. During the dearth I would see bees at the traps, gathering the wax, but not behaving like they were looking for a place to live, as expected. Today was like a warm autumn day and I was out walking anticipating seeing a swarm or at least some activity that indicated they were thinking of swarming. Well goodness gracious, right in front of me a wild hive, in a small stringy of narrow girth, began to swirl and coalesce high up in a nearby callitris. It was a very large primary swarm. I have just had a total thyroidectomy a few days ago and I am definitely very delicate, with rather less capacity for movement and I’m not supposed to lift anything, so I couldnt do much more than grab a cardboard box and a brood hive to put near them, rubbed with some lemongrass and old wax inside. I knew there was only a remote chance that the makeshift traps would capture them, but scout bees checking out the potential were certainly promising. I have several traps set up in strategic places near congregation swarming areas and wild beehives, all somewhat rough and tumble from the scrap heap, but well made so they dont leak or have too many drafts. One of them is on a beeline of about 200m north of the site of this swarm, so I went to have a look at it and found a couple of bees investigating it in that characteristic way of bees looking for a new home. A few minutes later there were 10 or 12 bees buzzing enthusiastically at the entrance, then twenty or more, so I thought they might be from the swarm I’d just left and decided I couldnt do much more than wait and see. About 4 hours later I was waiting near the swarm and heard it suddenly fly off loudly in the direction of the trap. Alas, I am once again unlucky. The swarm has decided on other quarters. I am too incapacitated at the moment having been surgically sliced more or less in half at the neck, to go bee chasing in pretty rugged country as I would normally. I have to be rather less breakneck, so to speak. Even if I can’t have them in one of my hives, I still like to know where they have gone, so in a couple of weeks when I am back in one piece, I’ll go looking for them. I have a pretty good idea of the numbers of wild hives and unhived hollows or failed hives within about a 3 sq. km area. There were still quite a few bees investigating the trap so perhaps another hive in one of the big old stringys is about to swarm. That all tells me it’s time to set a trapout box on a strong hive that is living in a big stump and split some off that way, then I’ll combine them by the brushed swarm method
with some brood boxes I have established just to give them a good start in this honey flow. The bees in that stump are lovely calm ladies and have long been established there. Good stock.
Hi Hanna, I’m really sorry to hear of your recent procedure. I hope you have a speedy & positive recovery. When you’re feeling better, trap-outs are a good way of extracting bees out of trees, provided they are low enough to reach.
Another point to make in relation to swarm lures would be to securely position them as high up a tree as possible. In the natural world, bees like a nest that is out of reach of predators, such as bears for example.
Therefore if we think like scout bees, it’s easy to see how if scout bees find two identical cavities, one high & one low, one would imagine they’d choose the high one in preference to the low one.
Other factors to consider would be the wall thickness of the lure & the volume of the cavity. When you think about it, we have to be competitive. We’re competing against every other possible nest site within the range of the scout bees.