Swarm Lures

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Imagine the irresistible scent of swarm lures, attracting a group of honey bees to a specific location. This scenario epitomizes the exact outcome hoped for by the beekeeper. The goal is simple: entice the swarm to settle and begin a new hive. In this guide, I explain a bit about how swarm lures work to bring wayward swarms to your boxes, unoccupied hives or traps.

Swarm moving through air to trap with swarm lure.

Any beekeeper can make use of swarm lures. The beauty is that they work even when you are not there. Bees will swarm sometimes regardless of your efforts to prevent it. The proper use of a swarm lure can greatly up your odds of successful swarm traps.

The Science Behind Swarm Lures: How Do They Work?

A swarm lure works by tapping into the world of bee behavior, chemistry and biology – through a slow-release blend of pheromones. This mimics the communication system used by bees to find new homes through scent.

This is done by manipulating behavior through the use of bee pheromones – (or similar substances). These chemical messengers affect many aspects of colony life.

Those of the queen bee are particularly significant in swarm attraction. However, nasonov – a natural pheromone of the worker honey bee is also used.

Display of 4 types of swarm lures.

Types of Swarm Lures

Available in a wide variety of different formulations and blends, understanding the different types of swarm lures may help you choose the best option.

  • pheromone-based
  • essential oil blends
  • beeswax based
  • homemade


Pheromone-based swarm lures harness the power of synthetic versions of queen bee pheromones to attract swarms. They mimic the scent of a functioning hive – this encourages the swarm and previous scout bees to investigate. If they like what they see (smell) maybe they will stay.

Essential Oil Blends

Essential oil blends are a natural alternative to synthetic pheromone-based products. They are made by utilizing aromatic substances from plants to attract honeybee swarms. 

Ingredients such as lemongrass, geranium, and citronella essential oils are commonly used in these blends.

Beeswax Based

Beeswax-based swarm lures use the natural allure of beeswax. They incorporate pure beeswax as a primary ingredient. Some also combine essential oils or other aromatic substances to enhance their attractiveness to swarms.

The most common example of a beeswax-based swarm lure is a simple frame of old, black honeycomb. Many beekeepers (including myself) have attracted a swarm to a trap with no more than a piece of old comb.

Homemade Swarm Lures

Homemade lures are often made by creating customized formulations using ingredients you already have on hand. Common ingredients include beeswax, essential oils, and other natural extracts.

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It is very interesting to create your own swarm lure blends. However, they may require a lot of experimentation to achieve good results.

Two wooden boxes used for honey bee hives.

Tips for Use

By incorporating these tips into your swarm lure strategy, you can significantly enhance your chances of success.

  • strategic placement – lures should be located near areas potential nesting sites
  • protect lures from direct sunlight and adverse weather
  • monitor and replenish the lure throughout the season
  • experiment with different types

If you purchase a swarm lure in a plastic vial, it can be placed inside a trap or box. Follow the manufacturers instructions.

Beekeepers using a spray swarm lure, should spray a couple of pumps near the entrance to the bait hive (and inside on the inner cover). Monitor and repeat weekly. Do not overdo it – too much is not better than just enough.

Homemade Swarm Lure Recipe

If all this talk of ingredients has your creative juices flowing – here is a basic recipe that you can try.

Mix together:

  • 1 tablespoon of beeswax (melted)
  • 5 drops of lemongrass oil (essential oil)
  • 2 drops of geranium essential oil
  • 2 drops of citronella essential oil

Mix the ingredients together with a small spoon and place into a container or sachet to hold the mixture (cotton ball, small cloth bag, etc.).

My Favorite

I have tried and been successful with many varieties of swarm lures over the years. My favorite swarm lure to use is Swarm Commander. I buy the spray bottle and it lasts for several years and is still effective.


What exactly is a swarm lure?

A swarm lure is a substance or device used by beekeepers to attract honeybee swarms to a specific location – a trap or hive.

How do swarm lures work?

Swarm lures work by using scents that mimic those produced by a queen bee or a thriving hive. These scents, often synthetic versions of pheromones, attract honeybee swarms that are in search of a new home.

When is the best time to use swarm lures?

The best time to use swarm lures is during the swarm season, which typically occurs in the spring and early summer months.

How long do swarm lures last?

The shelf life of swarm lures varies greatly with each blend. I have used the same bottle of spray for several years. However, the plastic vials seem to not be as good the second year – only buy what you plan to use this season.

Some beekeepers store unused swarm lures in the freezer and say it is successful.

Is it a good idea to put honey in a swarm trap to serve as a lure?

NO, honey is not a good swarm lure. You will attract bees that will gather the honey and take it home with them. But, all that activity may cause scout bees to stay away.

Where do you put a swarm lure?

In spray form, a few pumps near the hive entrance or on the bottom of the inner cover is sufficient. If you buy the plastic vials, use a small nail and attach the vial inside the bait hive or lay it between an inner cover and outer cover.

Final Thoughts

The use of swarm lures is a blend of science and practicality in apiary management. They allow a beekeeper to maximize swarm trapping efforts – even for the beginner beekeeper. Anyone can profit from establishing new colonies from swarms.

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