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Swarm Trap and Swarm Lure Use

Commercial Swarm Trap designed for capturing HoneyBee Swarms

Trapping a swarm is purely luck as many Beekeepers have found that just because you set a swarm box or swarm trap it out does not mean you are going to catch a colony looking for a new home. Even though there are several things you can do to entice a Colony of Bees to enter your Swarm Box don't be discouraged if it does not happen.

Swarm Trap Nuc on Portable Stand    

This swarm trap was placed on out on March 17, 2011 at 5:00 PM. In less than 24 hours of putting the trap out a Colony had moved into our Nucleus Trap Box. While this swarm was not a huge colony by any means it does prove that Swarm Trap/Boxes do work, in fact it rather surprised us as we have never had a swarm move into a Swarm Trap/ Box so quickly.

Warning: Swarms caught in Southern States that Africanized Bees have been detected should be Re-Queened  as soon as possible in the event the colony is AHB (Africanized Honeybee)

Commercially Produced Swarm Traps

One of the most exciting things any Beekeeper can have happen is finding that a new colony of Bees has moved into an empty hive body or piece of equipment that is not being used. It's even more exciting when you find that the Bees that have moved in didn't come from your own Apiary. Bees swarming from unmanaged Honeybee Colonies is a natural survival instinct which is natures way to keep the Feral Honeybee population from becoming extinct. These swarms are usually smaller in size as often times Feral Colonies are located in hollow trees where room for expanding is limited so colony size is a at minimum. The same thing can and does happen in managed Honeybee colonies usually resulting from poor management such as overcrowding, dilapidated hive equipment and even disease. Even well managed colonies can and have been known to swarm often times resulting in huge swarms that can be 5 to 7lbs or more of Bees.

Swarm Trap Misconceptions:

  • A Swarm Trap is not actually a trap as once a Colony of Bees enters, they can leave at will. A Swarm Trap is merely a man made container with or without a swarm lure that makes it more enticing for a Swarm to occupy.

  • Swarm Traps used in an Apiary will not cause managed colonies to swarm.

  • Swarm Traps do not encourage managed colonies to swarm.

  • Setting a Swarm Box or Trap next to a colony that is on the verge of swarming will capture the swarm. (This often times does not happen. Many times when a Colony is preparing to swarm they will travel great distances to locate new nectar, pollen and water sources)


Honey Bee Swarm

Home Made Swarm Trap


Nucleus Box used a a Swarm Trap

Home made swarm traps by far are the most rewarding to use to capture a feral swarm. Home made swarm traps can be made from unused Nuc Boxes, full sized Supers or Deeps or anything that is somewhat weather protected, has an entry hole and some place to staple or place a swarm lure. Some Beekeepers have even made use of wine crates/boxes, waxed cardboard boxes and even the waxed commercial cardboard Nucleus Boxes. Be inventive but make sure you have full access to the interior of whatever you chose to use for your swarm Box/Trap.

Swarm Trap Placement:

Swarm Trap Nuc on Portable Stand

Swarm Trap shown placed near a water source


Location has everything to do with capturing a colony looking for a new home. Placing a swarm trap inside a thick grove of trees is likely to have poor results. When looking for a new home Honeybees often search for a home that allows little flight obstruction and offers excellent foraging. When placing a Swarm Box/Trap, also look for areas that are Bee friendly. Locations such as water sources as seen in the pictures above or around trees that bloom and have a high nectar content or fields that have an abundance of wild flowers or have been planted in sunflowers are ideal locations.

Open Areas:  By far we have had the best luck with trapping swarms by placing our Swarm Box/Traps in open areas just outside a tree line or thick brush on an elevated stand.

Some will argue that studies have shown that placing a Swarm Trap/ Box 8 to 9 feet off the ground produces the best results however, Beekeepers have had swarms move into empty equipment that is just laying on the ground so I would take this info with a grain of salt. Working off a ladder 8 to 9 feet off the ground can be a sobering experience while wearing a Suit and Veil with Gloves and trying to cut or untie a swarm trap from the crotch of a tree and possibly having hundreds of angry Bees bouncing off your veil. Even worse is trying to remove a full size Hive Body or Nucleus Hive while trying not to fall from a ladder.

 Safety First! There is no swarm worth getting injured over. Placing your Swarm Trap or Box no higher than arms reach will work just as good, trust me. Having personally had several colonies move into empty hive equipment sitting at ground level is proof enough that it doesn't need to be 8 or 9 feet off the ground.

Elevated Swarm Trap Stand:

Just recently we designed and had built swarm trap stands that allows us to easily move our swarm traps without having to use ladders or require special equipment to install or move. The stands we designed are adjustable to allow use to use any size Nuc box and sit about 4' off the ground which keeps Raccoons, Skunks and other critters from tearing apart our Swarm Boxes which has happened in the past.

Swarm Trap Box next to water source    Honeybee Swarm Trap Stand for Nucleous Boxes

Swarm Box/ Trap Elevated Stand

Swarm Trap Stand Tie Down Hoops

Tie-Down Hoops Keep the Swarm Box Lid on and in place in inclement weather

   Swarm Trap Stand 2

 Advantages of using an elevated Swarm Trap Stand:

  • Requires no tools, easy to Set-up and remove

  • Allows a Swarm Trap/ Box to be setup anywhere, No Trees Needed!

  • Keeps Skunks, Raccoons and other wildlife from tearing apart the Swarm Box/ Trap

  • Keeps Rats and Mice from nesting inside the empty box.

  • Built in Tie-Down Hoops Keeps Swarm Box in Place even in the roughest weather conditions

  • 4' Height makes it easy to remove when a colony moves in. Simply close entrance remove tie-down strap.

  • Adjust to any size Nucleus Box

Swarm Box/Trap Size: Don't let anyone tell you size does not matter when it comes to building or choosing a Swarm Box/Trap. When a Honeybee Scout goes out to locate a new home the Bee searches for a new home of the proper size that will allow the swarming colony to move in with room to grow. For a smaller swarming colony a Nucleus size Box will do just fine. Often times these swarms are after swarms with young fresh Queens and will build up rapidly. For large swarms an 8 frame or even 10 frame box is just fine. The problem here is if you offer too much space for the Bees to fill and it's rather overwhelming to them and they pass your Swarm Box/Trap up another smaller home.

How many Frames should I place in my Swarm Box/Trap: As mentioned above space is everything. When we set swarm traps most of the time we place no more than three frames in a 5 frame Nucleus Box/Trap. This gives the scout the elusion that there is space to grow and it will also allow larger swarms to enter the Box/Trap. Placing 5 frames in the Box/Trap cuts down on space and a colony that may enter the the Swarm Box/Trap may leave due to crowding.

Swarm Trap Lures:

Anyone that has ever purchased a package of Bees or a replacement Queen knows "the smell". It's somewhat of a Lemony fragrance that is unmistakable as the Queens Pheromone Scent.  This is the scent the Bees come to know as their own Queens scent, and even though humans cannot distinguish one Queens Scent from another, Bees can. Most Lures attempt to copy the Queens natural scent which is a natural attractant to the Honeybee Scout looking for a new home. DO NOT USE LEMON PLEDGE Furniture Polish! It will not work and it contains chemicals that are harmful to honeybees.

Honeybee on Old Swarm Trap Comb

Honey Bee attracted to old comb and Lemon Grass Oil Lure

In the above picture we no more than placed the swarm trap on the trap stand and had a Honeybee land on our Nuc Swarm Box. The use of Lemon Grass Oil combined with Old Dark Comb is an extremely good attractant for bees.  When using Lemon Grass Oil only a small amount is needed. We like using a Q-Tip saturated with Lemon Grass Oil on both ends. The Q-Tip is laid across the top of the frames at the back of the Swarm Trap Box.

Pheromone Scent:  For some time now people have tried to duplicate the Queens Pheromone scent and some have had extremely good success. These Pheromone scents can be purchased from most major Bee Supply Companies and come in a small Plastic tube sealed inside a paper envelope. Always follow the instructions that come with the Pheromone. Some instructions can be rather vague though and in the event you lost your instructions or just can't make heads or tales of what your reading here is how most Pheromone Scents are supposed to be used. Instructions: Do Not Open the Paper Envelope and remove the lure. The scent will penetrate the plastic tube and paper and will work just fine. Opening the tube will cause the scent to evaporate and diminish it's effectiveness. The envelope is used to attach the lure to the trap either by stapling or gluing or whatever means you decide to use. If you are not going to be using the lure right away place the envelope in a plastic baggy or jar and place the lure in the refrigerator. This will keep your lure at it's maximum potential for quit some time. When you get ready to use the lure simply attach it to the traps side wall, top or wherever is convenient. Your Trap is now ready.

Pheromone Viles from MANN LAKE LTD.

Pheromone Scent Lure From MANN LAKE LTD.

( Do Not open your envelope, We opened ours so you don't have to)

Lemon Grass Oil:  Pheromone scents can get expensive when setting out several traps combined with the fact that as time goes on the commercially produced scents start to diminish. Another option that has had good results among Beekeepers including us, is using Lemon Grass Oil which can be purchased at most health food stores. The advantage to this is the scent can be refreshed from time to time by placing a few drops of the Oil on a Q-Tip or Cotton Ball or simply placing it directly inside the trap on top of a frame.

Lemon Grass Oil For Swarm Lure

Lemon Grass Oil

Used Hive Equipment:  Of all the Swarm Trap choices available to Beekeepers some will say and I have to agree the absolute best Trap is a Used Hive Body. Used Equipment absorbs the smell of it's previous tenants therefore making an all natural attractant. Not only do you have the Queens Pheromone scent you also have Wax and other by products of the colony that Bees can sense and are attracted to. Often time Hives that have been recently abandoned by their previous owners are soon inhabited by another colony looking for a new home.

Using Old Comb, Honey and other Products of the hive for a lure:  Every Beekeeper should always be concerned about the Health of their Apiary. Many Beekeepers use old comb for a lure which contains small amounts of honey and pollen and also contains the Queens Pheromone scent as an attractant which can produce extremely good results in a swarm trap. It can also attract unwanted pest such as Wax Moths which can decimate a weak colony, ruin stored drawn comb and foundation and can cause damage to hive bodies and frames that often times cannot be repaired.

We have never been a big fan of using comb due to the possibility of attracting Wax Moths. If you do decide to use the comb in your trap check it often for wax moth larva and wax moths to prevent a major infestation. For more information on wax moths please our Wax Moths Page.

What to do if Honey Comb is not available: If your new to beekeeping and do not have access to old comb, all hope is not lost. Most Beekeeping supply stores as well as some Beekeepers sell bars of Bees wax and it's fairly cheap. The wax bar can be melted and wax can be dripped on the bottom board as well as lightly coating the inside of a couple of frames. Make sure to make the wax coat a little thicker on the under side of the top bar as this is where the Bees will start drawing comb first. When using this method the threat of wax moths is greatly reduced.

Expired Queens (Re-Queening, using old Queens):  Beekeepers often times replace or "Re-Queen" their colonies for any number of reasons including here in the South attempting to control Africanized Honey Bee takeover. When a new Queen is introduced the old Queen must be removed. There is no better scent than an actual Queens scent. When re-queening simply pinch off the head of the old queen and drop her into a jar with just enough alcohol to cover the queen. After you have a few queens soaking in your jar place a few drops of the liquid in your trap. It doesn't get any better than the real thing.

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