queen bees

Tincture of queen: a homemade swarm lure

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 whole thing in a swarm trap or bait hive.

This is reputed to draw 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.

I have never tried this. Alcohol evaporates in a flash, 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 laying about. Still, it is an interesting idea, and I would rather use dead queens than toss them to the birds.

If you have ever used this method, I’d love to hear about it. Thanks!



  • 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.”

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