Build a Honey Bee Bait Hive




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If you're a beekeeper, or an aspiring beekeeper, you can catch your own honeybees using a bait hive.

Learn how to build a simple swarm trap from inexpensive plywood. Once built, the swarm trap can be hung from a tree to catch wild honeybees. The traps are based off of Langstroth Nucleus hives and are 40 liters in volume.

According to an experiment done by Cornell the 40 liter size was optimal for attracting swarms of honeybees.

A single 4x8 sheet of plywood is enough material to make 3 traps. To complete this project, you will need the following:


  • 15/32" x 4' x 8' plywood CDX or sheathing
  • Weatherproof wood glue
  • A 10d finishing nail
  • Finishing nails for assembly
  • Glue
  • (3) 4x4 chunks of nylon screen for creating the entrance covers
  • Masking tape
  • (3) 4"x24" pieces of wood for hanging traps (optional)
  • Drywall screws


  • Circular saw or track saw for ripping the plywood and cutting to length
  • Finishing nailer
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • 1 1/4" spade bit
  • 1 1/2" spade bit or hole saw

Step 1: Cut Pieces to Size

Use a circular saw or track saw to rip down the sheet of plywood into the appropriate sizes. The attached cut list and diagram show how I used a sheet of plywood to create three traps.

Step 2: Assemble Sides

Start by nailing a bottom piece to a side piece. Run a thin bead of glue on each mating surface then nail together. Assemble the remaining side.

Step 3: Assemble Front and Back

Attach the front and back pieces of the box with glue and nails the same way as the side pieces.

Step 4: Attach Side Rails

Attach the side rails with glue and nails. Be careful not to get any glue on the top of the side pieces as this is where the frames will rest.

Step 5: Create Entrance

Drill a 1 1/2" hole for the entrance using a spade bit or hole saw. The center of the hole should be in the center of the box and 2 5/8" from the bottom From the inside of the box, nail a 10d finishing nail through the hole in the center.

Step 6: Assemble Lid

Glue and nail the 2" strips of wood to the lid.

Step 7: Assemble Entrance Cover

Using a hole saw, drill a 2" hole in the center of the 4"x4" piece of plywood. Cut a 4"x4" sheet of screen to fit. Apply glue to the entrance cover, and carefully fit screen on top. Tape each side of entrance cover to prevent bubbling.

Once the glue has dried, remove the masking tape. Use a single drywall screw to fasten over the entrance such that the entrance cover can be rotated so that the screened portion of the cover is on top of the hole.

Step 8: Add Trap Mounts

To hang your traps from a tree, you can attach a strip of wood to the back of the traps using wood screws or bolts. I used a piece of 4" wide strip of 1/2" plywood left over for another project. I used my 1 1/4" spade bit to drill two holes about 1" apart. From here, I cut out the area between the two holes with a jig saw. I secured the strip with 6 1" drywall screws, though a couple of 1/4" or 5/16" nuts and bolts would have probably been better.

Step 9: Bait Hives and Deploy!

To bait your hive, you can use a commercial queen lure or a few drops of lemongrass oil on a cotton ball. The previously mentioned paper from Cornell has some suggestions on how to setup and deploy your traps.

Happy swarm catching!



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    14 Discussions


    Reply 1 year ago

    There should be enough material in the sheet to get 6 "front" rails out of it to the left of the rails on top or the bottom left corner of the sheet. The drawing is to scale.


    1 year ago

    great post, thank you. Would the queen bee come with them do I need to find it elsewhere?


    2 years ago

    One more thing....Don't count on getting honey right away. That way you aren't disappointed. Leave plenty for winter. I had a load of it, last summer. Then, it rained, and rained, and rained. Then it got dry, for weeks. In the end, I got 0 honey. But my bees survived. They made enough for winter.
    This year looks to be pretty good. I may actually get some.
    If you plan on being a millionare beekeeper, it's pretty easy. Start with $2,000,000 and hang on as long as you can.

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    No plans to making a fortune here. Just hoping to eventually get a bit of honey for eating and brewing mead.


    Reply 2 years ago

    I tried making some mead. Check out what yeast to use. I just used some bread yeast, and had some uncapped honey, I needed to do something with. I forget which yeast is for mead. I think it was D47, but check. There is also a book, "How to Make Mead Like a Viking", that is informative and entertaining.
    We have a honey festival nearby, and tried some of their mead. Yup! Tastes just like my gasoline. If you back sweeten it, it's much better. Get with a bee club in your area, you can get some good ideas from other beeks.
    I don't know what state you are in, but I found out, my second year, that I was supposed to register my hives with the state. It's normally $5.00, per apiary, where I am, in Ohio. The inspector comes out once a year, and sends you an inspection certificate. They are trying to keep an eye on varroa, and other diseases. It's also supposed to be in a database, for crop sprayers, to be careful too. The goofball around here, evidently can't read, or has been drinking the roundup.


    2 years ago

    I built a similar one of these 3 or 4 years ago, when I decided to try beekeeping. My design is basically an 8 frame, with a little extra room underneath. I caught my first swarm within a week. I still have my original hive, plus a few more. The next summer, I got 2, from the same tree. My trap has been pretty reliable, even though it's cheap plywood. The dancing girls don't seem to mind.
    Glad to see an Instructable, on these. New beekeepers have been brainwashed into thinking that you have to buy bees. The local feral bees are usually healthier, used to the climate, and seem to be pretty docile. Did I mention, free? Several of my friends have had $300.00 fly away in a day or two. One guy no longer does bees, after two years of buying disappearing bees. Another, lost his hives to a flood, last year, and is planning to buy more next year. I have an order in for some of those free ones, for him. If that fails, I'll just have to give him some splits.
    This is a fascinating pasttime. So much to learn. If you get a book that says the bees will do something, remember, they don't read. If you do something wrong, rest assured, the girls will let you know. Enjoy!

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing, sounds like your traps have served you well. I am looking forward to catching some bees!


    2 years ago

    Can you please explain why someone would want to catch swarms of bees?

    3 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    For beekeepers, a swarm has a monetary value and it represents a new honeybee colony. A nucleus or starter hive costs in the neighbourhood of $150, so a swarm is a welcome catch for a beekeeper. I currently have one hive and would gladly increase by catching a swarm.


    Reply 2 years ago

    This is my reason. I've been wanting to get into be keeping, but we've had some pretty brutal winters around here recently. I'd hate to spend a few hundred bucks getting a hive going only to have the colony die off after the first year.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Well, for myself: I recently moved to the country and am establishing an orchard and rather large garden. Having a swarm (or two) of honey bees will help with pollination and get me some sweet, sweet honey. :)