I’ve heard for a long time that lemongrass oil is an excellent swarm lure. A few drops inside a swarm box full of old drone comb and the bees will be all over it.So I went ahead and got myself some lemongrass oil ($5 at my local Bulk Barn), sprinkled five or six drops of it on some old comb (drone comb, comb with patches of honey, etc.) and set up a few swarm boxes. And within hours the bees were all over them.
I’ve seen pre-swarming scout bees before. They poke their little heads into every nook and cranny they can find. The bees coming and going from the swarm traps aren’t whipping around like scout bees. But if they were, judging from this single experiment, I’d say there’s a good chance they’d find the lemongrass-scented swarm traps pretty quick. I’m impressed.
I realize the bees might also be attracted by the honey on some of the frames. But I have an open shed full of exposed honey frames and the bees, while attracted to the honey, aren’t nearly as numerous on the honey frames as they are on the swarm traps. I’m convinced it’s the scent of the lemongrass oil that’s attracted them.
What I like most about lemongrass oil is the cost: $5. Assuming it actually works as a swarm lure and considering that most commercially available swarm lures cost about ten times as much, I’d say $5 qualifies as an awesome deal. It’s the way to go for beekeepers on a budget. For beekeepers not on a budget who don’t mind dropping even more money on top of the thousands of dollars they’ve already spent, Rusty Burlew at Honey Bee Suite, who I trust more than most people about this sort of thing, says she’s had excellent results using a swarm lure called Swarm Commander, now available through Amazon.ca. After taxes and shipping it’ll cost me (in Canada) about $50 for a tiny little bottle of the stuff. I’m not quite ready to spend $50 on it yet, but I might if I ever manage to rebuild my beeyard to a point where I don’t want to lose any colonies to swarms. I’m at the point now, to be honest, but none of my colonies are strong enough to even think about swarming any time soon.
AUGUST 23, 2016: Forget about lemongrass oil. The next time I set up a swarm trap, I may use concentrated anise oil instead. I’ve never seen the bees so attracted to anything in my life.