queen bees

Tincture of queen: how to make the best swarm lure

If you need to kill a queen for any reason, consider making her into a swarm lure by soaking her body in alcohol.

Got freshly dead queens? You can make a superb swarm lure by soaking dead queens in alcohol and making tincture of queen for your swarm trap.

Inside: You can spend lots of money on commercial swarm lures, but there are better alternatives. Try using a dead queen’s pheromones to attract your next swarm.

Tincture of queen is made of queen bees soaked in alcohol

To make queen liqueur or tincture of queen, beekeepers soak recently dead or pinched queens in a small vial of rubbing alcohol. The alcohol preserves the queen and, supposedly, her pheromones as well.

Come swarm season, a beekeeper can wet a cotton ball with the juice, place the cotton in a baggie with a few small holes punched through, and put the homemade swarm lure in a swarm trap or bait hive.

Use tincture of queen like any other swarm lure

The alcohol dissolves the queen’s pheromones from the dead bee. Placed in a swarm trap, it draws swarms in much the same way as any other swarm lure. Some references recommend that you re-wet the cotton every few days, and some say to put an entire preserved queen in the plastic bag instead of just a few drops of tincture.

I have never tried this. Alcohol evaporates quickly, so I can’t imagine it would stay effective for long. And, if you’re like me, you seldom have a lot of extra queens lying about. Still, it is an exciting idea, and I would rather use dead queens for a good purpose than toss them to the birds. Reports from other beekeepers say it works like magic.

Everclear doesn’t have the poisons contained in rubbing alcohol

Speaking of alcohol, if you can find it in your area, use Everclear instead of rubbing alcohol. It doesn’t have the chemicals added that make alcohol undrinkable, chemicals that are probably not good for bees. You can usually buy it in liquor stores at either 120 or 151 proof. Everclear also comes in 190 proof, but it’s illegal in some states.

If you have ever used this method of making a swarm lure, I’d love to hear about it. Thanks!

Honey Bee Suite


  • I’ve kept every queen from my deadouts, each in a contact lens bottle filled with alcohol. Funny, though, I didn’t know what kind of alcohol to use. I’d previously made a propolis tincture, with 100 proof vodka, so that’s what I used. At any rate, I used my “tincture of queen” to lure a swarm but can’t say for sure if it worked. One swarm trap had been lived in by bees, and the other swarm trap was a newly constructed hive. Both were outfitted with comb for the swarm to cluster on, and both had tincture-soaked cotton pads. The scout bees chose the already lived-in trap and not one entered the new hive.

    • HB,

      I should have guessed you tried this; I think you’ve tried everything! Very cool. The vodka was a good idea because rubbing alcohol is toxic. Maybe you could try Everclear. It comes in both 151 and 190 proof and the rest is water. We can’t buy the 190 here in Washington, but I think you can. The 151 would be fine too, I think.

      • You were right, of course. Picked up some Everclear today. It was a behind-the-counter item, I guess because it’s 190 proof. The store only carried the 750ml size, so I’ll have to tincture many things other than queens. My little sister says calendula tincture is amazing.

        • HB,

          That’s so funny! Today I picked up some Everclear too! Of course, I had to buy the watered-down 151 proof stuff, also in a 750 ml bottle.

    • Hafiz,

      I’m sure the plan will work fine, but it emphasizes upper insulation, rather than moisture control. From what I’ve heard, this type of cover keeps the water from dripping on the bees, but the water still runs down on the inside walls of the hive and sometimes promotes mold growth. I like the moisture quilt for moisture control and will stick with that. If you want more upper insulation, you could add Styrofoam above the quilt, although the wood chips are good insulators as well. Also, the quilt prevents the bees from getting to the Styrofoam.

  • Hi Rusty, something seems to have happened to my connection to HoneyBeeSuite. I haven’t had any post since October 31st so I thought you must have gone on a trip or something. Can you re-enter me please? I have bought some Honey-B-Healthy, some brewer’s yeast and some pollen from a bee stuff supplier in France because I want to be able to make provisions for my bees in case we have the same kind of very long, wet and cold winter and spring like this 2012-2013. It lasted from mid November to end May!! I have a list of ingredients from Randy Oliver’s site. What I would like to know more about is … Must feeding the bees anything with pollen and proteins not something to do before there are more daylight hours like in January? I don’t want to get the queen laying eggs too early but I do want my winter bees to be in as good a condition as I can help them to be. Do you have any ideas on this to guide me please? Thanks and regards, Lindy

    • Lindy,

      There was only one post between October 31 and today. I’ve had nothing but problems with my site lately, so I’ve been working on it and no telling what all I screwed up. It will probably get worse before it gets better. I hate the technology part of blogging.

      Anyway, I think today’s post should answer your pollen supplement questions.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I use a few drops of lemongrass oil, but most importantly is to use previously-occupied supers and empty frames, no combs but wax and propolis build up, and set up as a foundationless frame. The wax and propolis is the best attractant and is the red carpet for swarms. I eliminate combs to make sure wax moths have nothing to eat, as they don’t seem to bother with wax and propolis buildup on the frames and inside the used supers.

  • Does it matter how the queen died? Just pulled a dead queen from a queen cage and the bees in the hive were still trying to sting her.

  • I have intentions of requeening a colony, I pinched the head off my queen & stuck her body in the body of vodka….I thought pinching her head off would be more humane? then just drawing her in alcohol….but I forgot to put her head back in the bottle of alcohol with the rest of her body….have I now made a pointless tincture? [Since I didn’t place her head (glands) in the bottle]……i sure hope i didn’t waste her.

    • Elaine,

      Some of the most important pheromones are produced in the queen’s head, like QMP (queen mandibular pheromone). I’m guessing here, but I think the head is an important part of the tincture. You can try it anyway, and see if it works.

  • It’s sad but true I have a queen that has just give up she isn’t old but they were drove out by shb and stayed in a tree for 1 week and I was able to recover them but most workers have died and so I would like to kill the queen and preserve her for swarm lure. I hear vodka and Everclear are great choices for this process, so please help me out.

    • Tony,

      1. kill the queen
      2. pour some vodka or Everclear in a small jar
      3. drop the dead queen in the jar
      4. add the lid
      5. wait

    • Kelly,

      You can subscribe on any page in the upper right-hand corner where it says, “Sting here to Subscribe.”

  • Rusty,

    Good evening.

    Was reading through some of your earlier posts and came across this one pertaining to putting dead queens into alcohol and making a swarm lure out of it. Since I first saw a mention of this, I have been saving my dead queens but I do not use alcohol to preserve them. Instead, I use glycerin. Plain glycerin that one can buy in a small bottle at the health and beauty section of many supermarkets or Wal-Mart-type stores. I am a retired Wildlife Specialist from a government entity and in order to save the taxpayers’ monies, we would make our own lure for attracting problem animals, and glycerin was the preferred medium for preservation. I also have in my toolkit a couple of bottles of Swarm Commander which I purchased early on and use that primarily in my swarm traps. I have about a half dozen dead queens soaking in a small prescription medication bottle that I plan on using this spring in some of my swarm traps. Hope to find out if they will work as well, or better, than the Swarm Commander product. The nice thing about the glycerin is that it doesn’t evaporate like the alcohol does, and can be made into a gel-type lure by mixing a small amount of powdered xanthan gum along with it. Be careful not to use too much of the powder as it will make a very thick gel if you do. Also, xanthan gum does not mix with water. It must be mixed with the glycerin.

    Lastly, a question for you regarding the swarm traps. I know that using a frame or two of old foundation in your trap is a good idea due to the used hive smell. My question is if one could use some material like the slum gum that is left over after one extracts the wax from a pile of old wax. I occasionally use a solar melter I made to extract the wax and have a bit of “slum gum” left over that I usually end up tossing. It has a strong smell, and I was wondering if anyone has tried using that instead of old frames which have a tendency here in SC of attracting wax moths. Thanks for your advice through the years. Best regards to all.

    • Don,

      I’ve written a post about this, and the method even has a unique name, but try as I might, I can’t find it, nor can I think of the name. Basically, you put your slumgum in a net bag, tie it onto a long rope and throw the rope over a tree limb in swarm season. Then pull up the bait and tie off the rope in some convenient place. Swarms are hugely attracted to the slumgum and will often settle on it. Once they settle, you take your rope and lower the swarm into an awaiting box. Simple and it works really well.

      I’ve heard of beekeepers getting several swarms per season using just one bag of slumgum. The more it’s used, the more attractive it becomes because fresh bee scent is added to it.

      Also, some people do the same thing using just a frame of darkened comb. They just raise the whole thing into a tree.

  • Rusty,

    Thanks for the reply. Hadn’t thought about doing it that way, or simply running a dark frame of comb up the tree. Regarding the slum gum method, I was just thinking about putting some into a zip lock, or fabric bag, and dropping it into a corner in the swarm trap.

    Thanks again,

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