It sounds great, right? Become a beekeeper and gets loads of free honey for your friends and family (or to sell and be a honey mogul!). If only it were that simple! As many new beekeepers will tell you, beekeeping ain’t cheap! You need to pay for a lot of things at the start, including packages of bees! Some people will go to any length to not have to pay for bees. That’s why some people will try to get bees the less expensive way by using an empty beehive. But will an empty beehive really attract bees?
An empty beehive can attract new bees. However, the chances of bees nesting in an already existing beehive can be quite low. That is why it is on you to come up with different ways to try to attract the bees to enter the new beehive and build their colony there so that you don’t have to spend money on buying a colony.
It can be pretty expensive to start out as a beekeeper due to the simple fact that you will have to spend on a lot of equipment and initial investments. That’s why there are those who try to save money by attracting bee colonies to an empty hive. However, this can be something that can be pretty difficult to do if you don’t know how to do it right. As such, we are here to find out what you can do to attract bees to an empty beehive. Hopefully, we can save new beekeepers some hard earned cash along the way!
Can you start a beehive without buying bees?
Nowadays, beekeeping has become a very popular endeavor, hobby, or side job for a lot of different people because of how they realized how relaxing and rewarding of an experience being a beekeeper is. And because honey and beeswax are becoming quite popular as well, beekeeping can be very lucrative as long as you do it right.
But, let’s face it, we live in a capitalist world where almost everything will cost you money. Beekeeping is no exception to that rule because you will surely have to spend money to become a beekeeper. Of course, you will have to outlay quite a few bucks for your initial investments as a beekeeper, especially when you factor in how expensive bees and beekeeping equipment can be (especially the good stuff!!).
However, while it may be nearly impossible for you to find free beekeeping equipment unless you know a veteran beekeeper willing to give his old equipment to you for some loose change, could you actually also get your bees for free? Can you even start a beehive without buying the bees?
So, before we get to answer that question, you have to know that the easiest way for you to become a beekeeper and to start a beehive is to buy the bee colony, which already includes the queen herself. From there, all you have to do is to give them a place where they could build a hive so that you can begin your new life as a beekeeper. There are many places where you can buy bee colonies including beekeeping organisations and businesses that package the bees up and sell for a good price. Or, if you know a veteran beekeeper, you can simply buy one of his beehives (bees and all) and take it home to start your journey as a beekeeper.
As you can see, the quickest and easiest way for you to become a beekeeper is to buy the bee colony. However, bees can be pretty expensive, especially if you are buying larger and more established colonies. In that case, beekeeping might have a barrier to entry if you don’t have the financial capacity to buy the bees. But the good news here is that, yes, you can start a beehive absolutely for free and without buying the bees themselves.
So, moving on, one of the ways you can get your bees for free and without buying them from conventions or from established beekeepers is to catch or collect a wild swarm that you might have found in the wild on tree branches. This is by far the easiest free method for you to start your own beehive in your own little apiary but it might not be as readily available as you might think it is because, let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of wild bee colonies just waiting around to get caught.
But if you do happen to see a swarm in a tree branch nearby, here are the things you should do:
- Wear protective gear before you try to attempt to catch the bees. To be fair, no one enjoys getting stung by bees. Protect yourself first unless you want to end up with hundreds of bee stings.
- Cut the tree branch off of the tree carefully without letting the branch fall to the ground. Make sure that you hold on to the branch so that it won’t end up falling. When it does fall, the bees may try to attack you in an attempt to defend themselves.
- Grab a container where you can safely house the bees temporarily. Make sure that the container can be closed because you don’t want the bees escaping from it.
- Gently shake the bees into the container using the tree branch. Close the container tightly and bring it back home to transfer them over to their new hive.
- To transfer the bees to the hive, open the container and place it over to the hive. Give the container a gentle shake so that the bees will transfer to the hive.
In the alternative, if you do find a swarm on a post or on something that you can’t easily cut down, you can use a smoker to gently guide the bees into a container. You can also use a water and sugar solution to attract the bees into the container. From there, do the same process that you did when transferring the bees from the container to the new beehive.
Some established beekeepers make themselves known to the local community as someone that is willing to come and remove beehives hidden in barn roofs and on people’s property (after all, free bees!!). You could even charge a small fee for removal to get a double whammy!
Back to the topic at hand; if you don’t know where to spot a swarm of honey bees, you can still get your very own bee colony without trying so hard to look for a wild swarm. The best way of doing so is to have your very own empty hive, which you may be able to purchase from an established beekeeper at a good price. You can even find an empty hive in the wild because it isn’t unusual for bee colonies to abandon an old hive once the colony becomes big enough. And it certainly is quite normal for bee colonies to end up dying, which leaves the hive empty.
This leads us to our next topic.
Will an empty beehive attract bees?
Another way that you can have a beehive without actually buying the bees themselves and without having to find wild bee swarms is to try to attract bees to nest in an empty hive. Empty hives are pretty common because of how there are some hives that may end up getting abandoned by their previous tenants due to overpopulation. In some cases, you can buy empty hives that came from experienced bee owners. Whatever the case may be, having an empty have can be a great way for you to attract bees.
So, the reason why bees will end up building up their colony inside an empty hive is that it is basically already there and is free for the taking. Bees are creatures that may be hardworking but will nevertheless take the first chance they could take to decrease their workload. As such, if there is an empty hive that they can occupy without having to put a lot of effort into building another home, bees may enter and call that hive their new home instead. Path of least resistance and all that!
Another reason why empty beehives can attract other colonies is due to swarming. Bees will form swarms whenever they have already outgrown their previous hive. From there, the old queen will be prompted to leave the old hive along with about two-thirds of the entire hive population whilst leaving a third of the old population to elect a new queen and to start their new colony.
So, after that, the queen and most of the population will form a swarm and will try to search for a new place they can call home. And if there is a nearby empty hive that they can easily settle into without much trouble, the bees may re-establish their colony inside that hive.
However, what you have to know here is that there is a low chance that bees will end up nesting in an empty beehive even if it is already available and ripe for the taking. For whatever reason, bees won’t always try to settle into that abandoned and empty hive, especially if we are talking about a wild swarm here and not some of the bees that came from one of your nearby beehives.
As such, it is up to you to make that beehive more attractive for the swarm so that they will actually try to build a new home inside that empty hive. In short, you need to lure them into that hive so that they will get attracted to it and want to live there. Think of yourself as a bee real estate agent 🙂
How do you attract bees to an empty hive?
Now that you know that bees may enter and establish a new colony inside an empty hive, what you need to do next is to make the hive more attractive to them. After all, there is no assurance that the bees will immediately try to settle into an empty hive even when it is available. You have to make sure that the hive is attractive enough for the bees so that they would want to live there and create their new nest there after swarming and leaving their old hive.
So, if you want to know how to attract bees to an empty hive, here are some of the best ways you can do so:
Make sure that you choose a good position for the hive
First of all, if you are an established beekeeper and you have an empty hive that you want your other bees to feel attracted to occupy and form a new colony in, you have to make sure that you position your hive well enough to make it attractive for the bees.
The key here is to make sure that the hive is positioned a decent distance away from your other hives. Maybe a distance of about 500 feet will do the trick because bees are more likely to migrate to a new hive that is further away from their old hive. The reason why the hive needs to be wel distanced is that the worker bees will probably just explore the new hive but will not try to occupy it if it is too close to their current home.
As such, make sure that you are putting it somewhere that is quite far from your other beehives so that there is a bigger chance of migration. If you can extend the distance to up to maybe a thousand feet, then you should do so. However, this can be problematic for people who may not have a big enough property. In that case, you should try to do this only when you are an established beekeeper with a big enough apiary.
Check the beehive entrance regularly
After you have positioned your beehive in a pretty good spot, the next thing to do is to monitor it closely so that you can see whether or not bees are actually looking to migrate in it and build a new nest in that empty hive.
One of the things you can do is to look at the entrance or the opening of the beehive so that you would know whether or not the bees have moved in. There will be instances where you would think that the bees have started to move in just because there are some bees that are entering the hive. However, these could just be worker bees that are exploring the hive.
So, what you need to do is to check the opening to see if there is some pollen there. The pollen is the best indicator of whether or not the bees have already migrated into that hive. When there is pollen, there is a chance that the worker bees are constantly moving in and out of it while carrying pollen. This means that they have established the hive as their new base of operations.
Bait them into the hive
Honestly speaking, the abovementioned ways of making the hive more attractive do not always work. The realstic chance of your bees occupying an empty hive that does not have anything to lure them there tends to be slim. That’s why the best way for you to lure the swarm into a new hive is to actually use bait. Here are some of the best types of bait that you can use to make your hive more attractive:
You probably already know what beeswax is. This is a type of wax that is naturally produced by bees and can be used for a wide variety of natural products such as soaps, candles, lotions, and other similar things. And beeswax is also one of the best ways for you to lure a swarm into an empty hive because of how it will make the bees feel like the new hive is similar to their old one.
Some people actually make beeswax more noticeable to the bees by mixing it with lemongrass. The reason why lemongrass works is that it is similar to how a queen bee smells, which is quite attractive to any kind of bee. However, you should only use a small amount of lemongrass because overdoing it will not work to your advantage and may even make the bees ignore the empty hive.
Use a feeding system
Another option you can use is a feeding system that you can install a few hundred feet away from the empty hive. So, what you are doing here is to actually luring the bees into the feeding system so that the chances of them noticing the empty hive increases. This method works best if there are other active hives a reasonable distance away.
What happens here is that the feeding system will seem like a new discovery for the bees! As such, they will be excited enough to want to go to that feeding system and establish a hive there. And if there already exists an old empty hive, the bees might make that hive their new home to take advantage of the feeding system that is only a few hundred feet away.
A good feeding system to use is a good bed of flowering plants that are rich in nectar and pollen. Once the bees discover the existence of that flower bed, the chances of them going over to that area and establishing a hive there will increase.
Use lemon balm plant on the hive
Similar to lemongrass, the lemon balm plant also has the kind of scent that may be similar to how a queen bee smells. As such, worker bees will be more enticed to go to an empty hive that smells like a queen bee. You can use the lemon balm plant by rubbing it all over the hive so that the bees can smell it and become attracted to it.
Don’t give up too early
The last thing you need to know here is that it can take time for bees to occupy an empty hive. In some cases, there are beekeepers who give up too early and will end up moving their empty hive often to try to find the best spot where they can attract bees. But that won’t always work.
So, what you need to do here is simply have patience and leave the hive alone. As mentioned, there will be cases where some of the worker bees will try to explore the old hive but will not settle there. Don’t give up when they won’t settle because it can take a while for an entire colony to move into the empty hive. As such, when you move the hive to a different spot, the other bees won’t be able to locate it. Just remember that the entire colony won’t move to the hive all at the same time.
However, if you have noticed that the hive is beginning to get populated steadily but slowly and you still feel the need to move it to attract more, you can move it by a small distance every day. You can also move the bait you used such as a feeding system steadily as well. Moving the entire hive by too much may disrupt the migration. And the best time to move the hive is at night because, at this point, bees won’t be looking for shelter or a new place to stay anymore.
What is the best bee attractant?
If you are looking for the best way to attract bees into a new hive, then you should look no further than a good combination of beeswax and lemongrass. The reason why beeswax is a good way to attract bees to an empty hive is that the smell is similar to that of their home, and they would want to settle in a place that gives them the same home-like feeling. Meanwhile, lemongrass has the same scent as a queen bee, which becomes irresistible for any kind of bee once it has been mixed with beeswax.
The combination of these scents will give the bees an idea that the empty hive is similar to their old home because it smells like an established hive and comes with a scent that is also similar to their queen.
How long does it take to establish a beehive?
In most cases, once the bees have begun to settle into the empty hive, it may take up to a week or so for the migration to be complete. It might even take a while longer. You may wonder how you can get this freshly inhabited hive back to your apiary? Especially if you have had to separate it from your other hives to attract ‘fresh’ bees. Firstly, be patient enough to wait until the bees have completely migrated before you move the hive to a new location. Moving the hive soon may end up making some of the other bees lose their way while trying to find the new hive.
As such, it is important for you to steadily and slowly move the hive little by little so that the bees won’t end up getting confused whenever they go out during the day to forage. They have to know that the hive is still close to where they left it or else they will end up losing their way if you moved the hive by a good distance.