When we first read about the Russian Scion on Sassafras Bee Farm‘s blog it was a little known tool in the USA. Now, years later, instructions and references and even videos are quite easy to find online.

As a quick reminder, after leaving its hive a swarm will collect nearby at a bivouac location until, based on scout reports, it decides on a new home. Then it flies off to occupy it. Just as a bait hive or swarm trap is a lure for such occupation, the scion is a lure for bivouacking. In each case the lure is installed where it should be attractive to a swarm and convenient for the beekeeper.

The common form of a scion consists of two pieces of wood, a flat roof piece and a centrally located, narrow, descending piece, and some sort of mounting hardware. The descender is covered in cloth that is impregnated with propolis, wax, and whatever smells welcoming to bees. The roof keeps rain from washing away the smells. And the mounting hardware is for hanging and removal of the scion.

A recent innovation is to use the lid of a five gallon bucket as a layer atop the roof piece. This allows the captured swarm to be easily contained in the bucket and transported to the awaiting hive. For our bucket we used one with a screw-on rather than snap-on lid with the notion that it would be gentler on any swarm we sealed within.

We began by cutting a disc of half-inch plywood of radius to cover as much of the lid bottom as possible while allowing us to close the lid.

We used a zipsaw with a plywood bit because ours had a circle-cutting jig. Such jigs are also available for sabersaw and router but the roof need not be a perfect circle or even a circle at all. The bees should not mind some plastic showing around the edges so even sawing a square is fine for the jigless.

Centering the disc on the underside of the bucket lid we drilled through both at the mark left by our jig using a large enough drill bit to accommodate the largish eye screw that would be our mounting hardware.

The descending part of our scion is some inch square cedar scrap. We cut its length to a bit less than bucket depth. At the center of one end face we drilled a hole for the just mentioned eye screw.

A thick dowel could also serve. We considered cutting an old broomstick handle but drilling the central hole would have been more challenging. Maybe not that much more since this does not need to be perfect either.

A long descender is better for catching larger swarms but if too long will either keep the lid from closing the bucket or crush bees on the bucket bottom. Our overcomplicated way to maximize length was to first assemble the scion by screwing the eye screw through the holes in the bucket lid, plywood disc, and descender, in that order. Next we laid a tiny scrap of 3/4 inch plywood in the bottom of the bucket and dusted the top of the scrap with powdered chalk. Then we screwed our lid onto the bucket as far as we could. If it bottomed out against the plywood scrap, which we could tell by the dust on the end, then we trimmed a tiny bit off the descender and repeated the process until the end came up clean. At that point we, of course, returned the chalky scrap to our collection of little bits that would be thrown away if not for uses like these.

Once the descender was the right size we applied a little wood glue to the end that would touch our plywood disc and reassembled the scion for the last time.

The disc did not sit quite flat against the bucket lid and wobbled a bit so we added four small screws to hold it more securely. In hindsight they would hold better had we placed them further from center but they seem to be adequate for the job.

Any swarms we catch will not have far to go to be re-housed but we felt uncomfortable at the thought of sealing bees in a non-ventilated container and decided to provide some airholes somewhere around the bucket rim. An inch square of number eight hardware cloth seemed as if it would be adequate ventilation but we did not know how to easily and reliably attach it. So we decided that sixty-four holes of one-eighth inch diameter would be a rough equivalent. Then we ran out of patience after drilling thirty-two. It seemed somehow even more tedious by our drilling from the inside of the bucket outwards in order to put the roughest sharpest edges where bees will not be in danger of cutting themselves.

We then stapled some burlap around the descender and rubbed it heavily with the swarm lure we recently made. And finally we installed the scion outdoors, which will be covered in a future post.