Lemongrass Oil as a Swarm Lure

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.

Food grade lemongrass oil and other essential oils are used for mixing with pollen patties and syrup. NOTE: The lemongrass oil pictured here is not food grade, but the bees aren't eating it, so that's not a problem.

The lemongrass oil pictured here is not food grade quality, but that’s not a problem because the bees aren’t eating 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.

Honey bees attracted by lemon grass oil. (June 15, 2016.)

Honey bees attracted by lemon grass oil. (June 15, 2016.)

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.

Honey bees attracted to a swarm box with lemon grass oil. (June 15, 2016.)

Honey bees attracted to a swarm box with lemon grass oil. (June 15, 2016.)

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.

5 thoughts on “Lemongrass Oil as a Swarm Lure

  1. The frames of honey are from colonies that I’ve lost or reduced down to single deeps. I had the honey frames sealed inside a stack of deeps, but noticed moisture building up inside and on the honey frames. So I decided to crack open the deeps to air them out, to dry them out. It eventually attracted some bees but no wasps. I think it’s been too cold for the past few weeks to attract much of anything. The wasps may be less inclined to fly in cold weather, or perhaps their numbers haven’t built up yet. Either way, I haven’t seen any wasps so far this year. I’ll probably cover up the honey frames as soon as the temperatures return to something that resembles warmth.

  2. Perhaps the wasps are still in their mainly carnivorous stage. I’ve heard that they are more attracted to sweet things in the autumn, as before then their larvae produce a sugary secretion.

  3. Excellent ideas. I will have to give it a try. I tried to attract swarms in the past, by setting up a decoy box with frames of set comb, etc., put the hive box in ideal locations, but the swarms would never attract.

    Thanks for the advice…this site is always opening my eyes up to new, established and different strategies of beekeeping on the island.

  4. I always rub the inside of one of my newly built hives with lemongrass oil, hopefully to make it smell more “homey”. Based on my limited sample of 3 packages and one swarm, not have absconded yet! And like you say, you can’t beat the cost.

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