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A friend who lives near Mount Shasta recently told me about a “swarm seducer” he uses to attract swarms that escape from his own hives. I can’t wait to try it.
Bait hives and swarm traps are often used to woo swarms that are looking for a permanent home. In contrast, a swarm seducer provides a temporary resting place for a swarm that has just left the parent hive. These swarms usually settle near the hive and stay put until the bees agree on a new place to live. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to many days.
The height of a resting swarm is key
If you are lucky, the swarm lands on a fence post, a mailbox, or a low shrub. Or with my luck, it lands on a branch 50 feet above the nearest ground, usually in a big-leaf maple, hemlock, or Douglas-fir—a place that requires binoculars to see. Not good.
Actually, I’ve had good luck catching these swarms on subsequent days by putting out lots of bait hives laced with Swarm Commander. However, that doesn’t always work, so I’m intrigued by the swarm seducer.
How to make a swarm seducer
My friend’s instructions, which came from his Slovenian ancestors, are simple. He melts old brood combs, the blacker the better, and dips rags or scrap fabrics into the liquid wax. He takes these saturated rags and pins them by one corner onto a branch or clothesline until they harden.
Next, he connects a tossing line (string or twine) onto a rock so he can throw the string over a branch, and then he uses the small line to haul up a rope. (I use this method when I’m hanging a food pack in the trees to keep it from bears. I use nylon fishing line and a lead weight, but anything that is easy to throw can haul up something more substantial.)
Once he has a long rope over a branch, he attaches the swarm seducer, hauls it up the tree, and ties it off. Honey bees adore the scent of old brood comb and can detect it from a distance. When a swarm lands on the seducer, he gently lowers it until he can drop the swarm in a cardboard box. It sounds so simple!
Other popular recommendations
Some people recommend simply hanging an old frame from a branch, but melting the comb has two advantages. First, melting the wax releases volatile compounds that are buried under layers of dried cocoons. Much like roughing up the surface of a cedar board, it rejuvenates the scent. Second, by soaking a rag in the wax, you are increasing the surface area of the wax and enhancing the rate at which the odor disperses into the air.
If you know which trees your swarms always land in, that is a good place to start. If not, trees near the perimeter of the apiary are a good bet. The more seducers you hang near your hives, the better the chance of catching a swarm.
Have a handy supply of boxes nearby
My friend said his great-uncle hung these swarm seducers along the perimeter of his bee yard. Each afternoon during swarm season, he lowered the swarms into boxes and hauled the seducer back up the tree. He said the bees used certain ones repeatedly. And each time the bees used one, it had a better chance of attracting a subsequent swarm.
I like this idea because it gives you another chance to catch a swarm that leaves one of your own hives. Naturally, it’s best to prevent swarms if you can. But if you miss that opportunity, the swarm seducer is your next chance at them. If they don’t choose to land on your seducer, there is still a chance of luring them into a swarm trap or bait hive you placed further away.
Although I haven’t yet tried this, I wanted to share the idea with you while swarm season is still in full swing. I don’t have any really swarmy hives right now, but I think I will make a few of these anyhow. Let me know if you give this a try.
Honey Bee Suite