An African beehive can swarm up to 10 times in one year. Your goal is to prepare hive boxes and bait those hives to attract the swarms to reside there. This means that your hives should be baited just before the high fly time and placed directly in the forest at the very beginning of this time. It is counterproductive to put your hives out at any other time.
Since there could be several swarming seasons each year (depending on the climate and vegetation where you are located) African bees may occupy hives at different times of the year. The area you do beekeeping in will be different from others. One thing that characterizes the swarming season is that there will be an abundance of flowers blooming at once and not isolated species by themselves. During this time, crowded bees realize that they must make room for honey and pollen stores to be brought in. A new queen is produced by the hive and this triggers a swarming impulse in the hive.
A portion of the workers from this hive will swarm with the old queen. It can be a very large amount of bees, up to half of the colony. Sometimes 20,000-30,000 bees will swarm. This first swarm is called a primary swarm. This primary swarm is the most desirable swarm to occupy your hive. It is also the most numerous of the swarms that will issue forth from that hive in the year. Secondary or tertiary swarms will not have near the amount of bees that the first swarm has. If you do not get primary swarms you will be at a distinct disadvantage in your beekeeping.
A well baited hive like this one, put out at the proper time, will attract primary swarms. This primary swarm is even now entering the hive. It will slowly enter the hive, taking its time until all members of the colony are inside. This is a 25-bar Top Bar hive. Most hives should be 20-25 bars long to start. Once the colony grows these bars can be transferred into a 30 or even 40-bar hive, if your colony should grow that big. This is an exceptionally large occupation.
To bait a hive is simply to melt wax by itself or mixed with bee glue (propolis) and to paint this wax mixture with a brush or rag onto the inside and at the entryway of your hive. Each type of hive should be treated slightly different:
A Log Hive needs wax smeared on the inside top of the hive.
If a Top Bar, the wax should be brushed sparingly on the inner sides and then starter strips of wax placed in the grooves of the bars. Note: A thin veneer of plywood can be inserted in the groove of the top bar instead of wax starter strips. These strips of plywood can then be dipped in liquid wax for the same effect.
If a Langstroth, the wax should be brushed sparingly on the inner sides of your hives and starter strips should be attached to the top of the frames (see picture below). Most beekeepers in Africa have no availability of wax foundation and therefore have to make due with starter strips, which work just fine for African bees. These wax starter strips are easy to make and fix to your hives with minimal equipment.