LETTER to BfDJ 103
I am a beekeeper in Nigeria with 38 top-bar hives and two frame hives. My challenge is that the bees often abscond from some of my hives. Three weeks ago I placed 15 hives in the forest but so far these have not been colonised by bees. Kindly advise.
Kujore Oludotun, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State
BfD replies: It can be sometimes difficult to get new hives occupied. Hives that have previously been used by bees are more attractive because they will contain the residual scents of previous occupants. Bees are attracted by beeswax so rub some inside new hives, and fresh starter strips of beeswax on the underside of top-bars in top-bar hives will serve as an attractant.
Herbs can be used to bait hives, in particular those with a citrus scent such as bee balm, lemon grass and verbena. Among other attractants, people have used urine (not very appealing, but attractive to bees because of the salts it contains), palm wine, fermented banana skins (both sweet and sticky), paste made from peanuts, or cassava powder (a protein source). Substances that bees need such as sugar syrup will attract them but be careful that you do not also attract unwanted pests.
When hives are scorched using flames to disinfect them, the scorched wood has been shown to be of interest to bees, possibly because of the minerals that have been made available by the scorching. However some types of wood have a strong smell which is repellent to bees.
Bees show preferences concerning the orientation of the hive entrance to the sun, and in a tropical environment a shady position for hives is essential.