Listen too the 3rd part of reverence for beespodcast and wanting to go out to the shop and whip up a bee bait box or two. Trying to get a good visual. I'm doing some google reading - but curious if any permies here have a good bee bait box visual walkthrough for those who are tool challenged and not very experienced at carpentry.
If you get a chance to read Dr. Thomas Seeley's book "Honey Bee Democracy" it will give you an incredible amount of information about honey bee swarming. I have yet to find a more knowledgeable source for building and placing bait boxes then this book. My personal library of honey bee books and DVDs that is larger then my local library and if I had to keep only one book, it would be this one.
I like to build bait hives that easily transfer a new colony to a permanent hive. that means building the bait hive with the permanent hive in mind. for colonies destined for Perone hives, I build top bars into the bait hives that can be moved as a unit into the permanent hive. for Warré hives, I use two Warré boxes with bottom board, top cloth, quilt, and roof and just move it to a permanent location once occupied.
the great advantage is that I don't have to constantly check on bait hives. if a colony moves in and builds for a while before I discover it, it's really not a big deal.
Is there any reason I couldn't let the bees live in the bait hives and wait and set up a real hive or two with hopes of catching a swarm that the bait hive would throw off the following year? I mean if I cared more about providing a home for pollinators than getting honey, at least initially.
No reason at all you can't let bees live in a 'bait' hive, provided it is up to the job. Most bait hives are light weight and get collected in over winter for safe storage - if you beefed up your design and materials you could build a bait hive to last a few seasons.
Have you looked at the thread about log hives? I think these would make excellent permenant features in the landscape for bait hives or longer term colonies. My medium term aim is to have half a dozen low intervention colonies around the place for pollination and occasional honey harvest - logs fit the bill nicely now I'm getting better at hollowing them out.
Moderator, Treatment Free Beekeepers group on Facebook.