‘Adamawa, a paradise of bees’, renowned bee photographer Eric Tourneret calls this place in Cameroon. And then he introduced me to the idea that beekeepers can use bee-loved plants and flowers to attract swarms.
In Adamawa, a beekeeper fastens into a tree a traditional cylindrical hive, made of the veins from raffia leaves, after having coated the sides with beeswax prepared in an infusion of citronella to attract a wild swarm of bees. Here’s a citronella plant. With that ‘citron’ in the name I imagine it smells lemony. I don’t know if it’s ever grown in New Zealand but will check.
And then, through Facebook, I met Melissa Blodgett Vanek, who also uses bee-loved plant products to attract swarms (and has a lovely blog). Melissa studies at the College of the Melissae, the Center for Sacred Beekeeping, in Ashland Oregon, one of six United States bee cities. What a great idea bee cities are.
I saw a video of Melissa’s goats, with two hives in the background, and asked her about the hives. She responded–
These two are baited boxes waiting for spring to finally take hold and swarm season to start! …I am working here on the bee-centric gardening as well and have my eyes open to find possible log hives in my woods. Lemongrass oil has worked for me in terms of baiting. Thyme and lemon balm are favorites of my bees.
And then Melissa added a bonus, not knowing yet that I don’t have bees, partly because I live in an area where the city council uses Roundup regularly–
To keep mites at bay, have you tried putting stinging nettles in the hive?
Have any of you tried this?
And then Jonathan Powell, of beeswing.net, set up this log hive ‘with new roof made from biodynamic rye, hand cut by my good friend Brock’. This is what he wrote–
This is set-up as a ‘bait hive’, which I hope a passing swarm will find irresistible. The key to a good bait hive is a couple of drops of lemon grass oil just inside the entrance (topped up every few weeks).
And he added–
…and most importantly, old starter comb 8cm x 8cm squares pinned the ceiling with oak pegs. There is nothing better in beekeeping than to have the experts, the bees, choose your hive and settle in. You know that when they do that over 80% of the scout bees have voted that your hive is the best.
So, citronella in Cameroon, lemongrass oil in the United States and in England. I know I can grow lemongrass. On the hunt for citronella now. And any more suggestions are, as always, very welcome.
PS Jonathan’s lemongrass oil worked!