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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 17th year of beekeeping in April 2022. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a
Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Thursday, March 02, 2017

It's Swarm Trap Time - Time for Traps and Swarm Lure

We are having a much warmer time earlier this year than normal and bees are considering swarming. I want to be ready so last weekend I set up three swarm traps.

My nuc which was a thriving hive, died in early winter because I didn't feed it. I had started feeding it but then I fell in October and didn't do anything for the hives after that. This huge nuc died and it made me ill to see all the dead bees. And to see the two empty bottles of food inside the top nuc box.

The last little bit of honey was consumed by the bees. They are head down in the cells as bees are when they starve. The rest of the bees lay dead in the bottom of the nuc box.
I was a neglectful beekeeper - injury is a decent excuse, but I could have gotten someone else to feed them.

So I took that nuc box, smelling of bee (which is often seductive to a swarm looking for a home), cleaned it out (dumped out the dead bees) and set the nuc up as a swarm trap.

At our GBA spring meeting on the 18th, I heard a really good talk by GBA member Paul Berry about the tons of swarms he caught last year (I think the number was 48!). He prefers nuc boxes as swarm traps. Since this is a medium nuc box, I put two boxes on the bottom board to intrigue the scout bees.

My house is built into a hill and my backyard is considerably lower than the street. So I arranged two other nuc boxes as swarm traps on my deck to attract either my own bees swarming or some from the many neighborhood beekeepers.

As you can see, I have jammed the entry of the nuc box up against the slats of the deck rails. I'm feeling a bit like Winnie the Pooh and am hoping that the bees will think these boxes are in a tree.

I did several things to make these swarm traps attractive. I put frames in the hive that were old frames and smelled nice and bee-ie. In the deep nuc boxes I put medium frames because I use all medium boxes. If I catch a swarm I wanted to move it to a medium box as easily as possible and the medium frames will facilitate that. 

Finally I mixed up swarm lure. I don't think it's easy to find the recipe on my blog anymore since Google disabled Picasa web albums so I took photos the other day as I made more and here they are:

One square inch of beeswax in 1/4 cup olive oil, poured into a jelly jar and heated in a hot water bath on the stove.
Melting happens faster if you stir - I use a tongue depressor.
When it has cooled slightly, add 15 - 20 drops of lemongrass essential oil (the bees love it and the olive oil/beeswax mix makes it last longer in the hive).
Pour it into some kind of container. It will solidify into a sort of lotion/ointment. Take it to the swarm traps and smear it. I smeared lure under the top edge of the entry and on the tops of the frames in the box. I also smeared some swarm lure around the hole in the inner cover.

Now I get to watch for a swarm to arrive!


  1. Replies
    1. Glad to be back to share things! Paul Berry said my swarm lure (above) is the only one he's ever used that really worked...so give it a try.

  2. Thanks for the timely reminder Linda! I like to set up swarm bobs in the apiary too, hoping that any swarm that does go off will settle on the bob, hung where it is easy to collect the girls. Last time I had a swarm they went 50' up a big cedar tree...might as well have been the moon. It was very frustrating, watching them finally fly away.

  3. I have never heard of such a thing as swarm lure! That is just so cool! Thank you so much for the recipe. Though we only have two top bar hives, we plan to build another one and maybe I can use your recipe for a free colony. You know, you learn something new every day, and you just taught me my lesson today - thanks!

  4. Cyndi Banks11:39 AM

    Linda, so are you going to use nucs for swarm traps now over your fiber flower pot method? I was going to try those this year. I also hate seeing mine 50' up in a tree. Thanks for reposting the swarm lure. You're right I wasn't able to find it a while back.
    Hope to get you back to Pickens SC club one day.
    Thanks for the blogs, Cyndi Banks, Pickens Co Beekeepers

  5. I am using the nucs vs. the flower pot method because I have an injured right shoulder. I can't reach up to take them out of the tree. If you use the flower pots, you pretty much have to take down the swarm and hive it as soon as it moves in or they build comb inside the pot and it's hard to see all that wax and effort wasted. Since I would need help to get them out of a tree, it's more in my control and schedule to use the nuc boxes that are on my level and won't injure my shoulder. I enjoyed Pickens, SC when I came. Hope I can again some time!


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