How To Attract Bees To A Hive

Did you know that by planting bee-friendly plants in your garden, you’re not just creating a beautiful space, but also nurturing an environment that supports biodiversity? When I first embarked on my journey as a beekeeper, or as I prefer to call it, a “bee guardian,” I was oblivious to this fact! Bees play a crucial role in maintaining the diversity of our ecosystems.

Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned beekeeper, you might often wonder how to attract bees to your hive. There are several strategies and methods you can incorporate into your daily routine to make your hive a bee magnet. From planting the right plants to providing new food sources, you’re sure to create a hive that’s buzzing with activity!

Bees are some of the most vital pollinators, significantly enhancing our crops and blooms. Struggling to attract bees to your hive? Worry not! Keep reading to discover all the tips and tricks to attract these buzzing buddies to your beehive!

Why Is It Important To Attract Bees To Your Hive?

As a bee colony owner, you’re naturally invested in their health and well-being. It can be disheartening to find your buzzing buddies distressed or in poor health during a routine hive inspection. Bees are fascinating creatures, and their needs and care requirements are unique. Understanding when and how to attract them to your hive is crucial.

Attracting bees to your hive can significantly enhance your crop growth and harvest. They not only keep your plants healthy but also transform your garden into a thriving ecosystem.

Swarming typically occurs during springtime, continuing throughout summer and even into fall in some regions. You can expect to see a higher occurrence of swarming bees when the weather is hot, and there is a significant nectar flow.

It’s important to note that bees are unlikely to be attracted to a brand-new, pristine beehive. As a beekeeper, you’ll need to invest time and effort to make your new hive a place that any swarm of bees would want to call home.

The first thing to consider is the placement of your new beehive. It’s not advisable to place a beehive in direct sunlight due to potential overheating issues.

Position your beehive in a shaded area, and if you have other active beehives, place your empty hive away from them. This is because your active bees might explore the empty hive without moving into it, reducing the chances of a new swarm settling in the hive.

There are several things you can do to make a beehive more appealing to a swarm of bees. For instance, a larger hive is always more attractive than a smaller one, and adding wax frames to the new hive can trick the swarm into thinking that bees have already inhabited it.

Ensure that the opening of your hive is always small, as bees prefer this due to the fact that they will have a smaller area to defend against attackers and potential robbers.

Effective Strategies To Attract Bees To Your Hive

Now that you understand the importance of attracting bees to a hive, it’s time to learn how to do it! Why purchase bees when you can attract them for free?

Many beekeepers have successfully done it, and with a few tools and materials, and by following the steps diligently, you’ll have bees flocking to your hive in no time!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A swarm trap or a bait hive
  • Wire mesh
  • Old frames with drawn comb
  • Lemongrass oil
  • Nails
  • A ladder
  • A hammer

Once you’ve gathered your materials, get ready to follow five simple and easy steps to attract honey bees to a hive:

Identify The Swarming Season

Bees don’t randomly choose their new home. Like us humans, they too go on house hunting sprees. Several weeks before a colony starts to swarm, they send out scout bees to explore potential new homes. This is why you want your bait hives to be as attractive and irresistible as possible.

When the swarming season begins, you’ll have a better chance of outshining the competition and winning the swarm over. Not sure when the swarming season is? Refer back to the first paragraph for the answer!

Purchasing Or Building A Bait Hive

If you want to convince your buzzing buddies to move into your beehive permanently, you’ll need to understand their expectations from their landlord, which is you, the beekeeper!

Just as there are various types, shapes, and sizes of beehives, there are different kinds of bait hives. All these bait hives serve one purpose: to attract honeybees. If you’re a DIY enthusiast, you can even build your own bait hive.

Building Your Own Bait Hive

If you don’t have an old hive, don’t worry! You can create your own DIY bee trap. There are many swarm trap plans you can follow, but if you want to increase your chances of attracting bees, stick to the standard accommodation of a 40-liter cavity volume with a south-facing 1.5″ – 2″ square inches entrance area.

As mentioned earlier, bees prefer a smaller hive entrance! The recommended size is about the same measurements as a standard ten-frame hive body.

Give your beehive a coat or two of paint to protect it from the elements. While bees don’t have a color preference, it’s best to paint it a darker color to camouflage it from humans who might disturb the trap you’ve worked hard to create.

Using An Old Beehive As Bait

If you’re an experienced beekeeper, you might have the luxury of an old hive. You can use this old hive with a drawn comb and convert it into a bait hive.

The scent of the drawn-out comb in an old beehive can be a powerful lure for bees! But how do you convert an old beehive into an irresistible bee trap? It’s quite simple.

Using plywood pieces, close off the top and the bottom of your old hive box. Add another layer of plywood at the top to prevent rainwater from seeping in. Now is also a good time to check for any seal cracks.

Next, drill a one-inch hole at the bottom of your box. This hole will serve as the hive entrance for your bees. Remember to cover the hole with mesh or a nail to keep birds and other disturbances out.

If you have old frames, place three to five of them in your hive box, leaving some space to attract the bees. Be cautious when using old frames as they could carry the risk of wax moth infestations.

Purchasing Swarm Traps

You also have the option of purchasing swarm traps. These traps are similar to biodegradable plant pots, usually 15″ high with a 15″ diameter, and can be made from wood pulp or cardboard.

The top is closed, with a hole at the bottom for the bees to enter. This is a great option as they are easy to install and lightweight. The weight is an important factor when deciding where to place your hive, as strong wind conditions may pose a challenge.

Apply The Lure

Now it’s time to make your bees’ new home smell irresistible. There are several ways to make your bait hive appealing to your buzzing buddies.

If you used an old hive, you can skip this step, as the bees will be attracted to the frames due to their affinity for the smell of beeswax. If you don’t have an old comb, there are other effective options like commercial pheromones lures.

These lures usually have a lemongrass scent, which is similar to the scent scout bees leave after visiting a potential new home. Pheromone lures are considered one of the most successful lures on the market.

Another popular option among beekeepers is using lemongrass essential oil. You can dab it on your hive with a Q-tip or a piece of cotton wool, or place it in a plastic vial designed to slowly dispense the scent over time. Once your hive smells inviting, you’re ready for the next step.

Position Your Bait Box Appropriately

The success of your hive largely depends on its location, among other factors. It’s best to place your bait hive at least 15 feet above the ground for the scout bees to spot it quickly.

You can hang your bait hive on a tree or build a platform for it. Just ensure that it’s secure enough to hold the weight of a box full of honey and bees.

The ideal location for your bait hive should be somewhere that’s both well shaded and easily accessible. Don’t forget to make it highly visible for the scout bees to spot it. This is especially important when you place your bait hive in a tree among the branches.

If you decide to use a swarm trap instead of a hive box, you can nail it to a strong board and attach it to a tree or platform. This should also be done in a shaded area because if it’s in direct sunlight, the bees will flee due to the heat.

Remember that scout bees start house hunting before the swarming season. So, it’s best to have the trap or bait in place and ready for action several weeks before the swarming season begins.

Once you’ve securely and correctly placed your hive, there’s only one thing left to do…

Wait For Your Bees To Move In!

Patience is a virtue in beekeeping. No matter how perfect your bait or trap hive is, there’s no guarantee that the bees will find it appealing. However, you can increase your chances of capturing a swarm by placing multiple swarm traps and bait hives.

If you see bees buzzing around your hive, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve moved in. It could just be scout bees checking out the place. By carefully observing their flight patterns, you can distinguish between foragers and scout bees!

Planting Plants, Perennials, Annuals, Shrubs, And Trees To Attract Bees

Besides setting up bait hives and swarm traps, there’s another effective way to attract bees to your hive that also enhances your garden’s aesthetics. How? By planting specific plants!

Bees use scents to locate flowers, so it’s recommended to choose nectar-rich and sweetly scented plants. Bees only notice the color of flowers when they fly closer. They are attracted to violet, purple, yellow, blue, and white flowers, but they’re not opposed to other colors.

Some flowers have nectar guides that are only visible in ultraviolet light. Since bees can see ultraviolet light, these guides act as a beacon of a sure food source, and bees will choose these flowers over others in a field.

It’s beneficial to plant a variety of flowers in larger groups of similar flowers. Along with planting plants, there are three main things your bees will need to feel at home.

Firstly, your bees will need nectar, as its high sugar content provides them with the energy they need to fly around, forage, and pollinate.

Next up, your bees will crave pollen, their primary source of fats and proteins.

Finally, don’t forget to supply your bees with ample sources of freshwater. You can do this by providing an external source like a flat dish birdbath or a shallow pond.

Remember to steer clear of harmful pesticides that contain chemicals.

Plants That Attract Bees

  1. Margaret Roberts Lavender (Lavandula intermedia ‘Margaret Roberts’)
  • Location: Sun
  • Water Needs: Medium
  • Resilience: Yes
  • Bloom Color: Violet
  • Blooming Season: Year-round
  • Dimensions:  150cm x 150cm
  • Plant Category: Perennial shrub
  • Leaves:  Evergreen
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Location: Full sun
  • Water Needs: Low
  • Resilience: Yes
  • Bloom Color: Blue
  • Blooming Season: Spring to summer
  • Dimensions:  100cm x 100cm
  • Plant Category: Perennial Shrub
  • Leaves:  Evergreen
  • Garden Mint (Mentha spicata)
  • Location: Full sun to Semi-shade
  • Water Needs: High
  • Resilience: Yes
  • Bloom Color: White
  • Blooming Season: Summer
  • Dimensions:  40cm x 15cm
  • Plant Category: Perennial Groundcover
  • Leaves:  Evergreen
  • Borage (Borago officinalis)
  • Location: Full sun to Semi-Shade
  • Water Needs: Medium
  • Resilience:  No
  • Bloom Color: Blue
  • Blooming Season: Mid-spring to summer
  • Dimensions:  90cm x 60cm
  • Plant Category:  Annual

Other Herb Options:  Thyme, Lemon Balm, Sage, Citrus, Fennel, Dill, Tansy, Catnip, Coriander, Strawberries, Granadillas, Rocket

Perennials That Bees Love

  1. Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
  • Location: Full sun
  • Water Needs: Medium
  • Resilience: Yes
  • Bloom Color: Purple
  • Blooming Season: Mid-summer to late autumn
  • Dimensions:  75cm x 30cm
  • Plant Category: Perennial
  • Leaves:  Deciduous
  • Blue Mealy Sage (Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria’)
  • Location: Full sun/Afternoon shade
  • Water Needs: Medium
  • Bloom Color: Blue
  • Blooming Season: Summer to autumn
  • Dimensions:  70cm x 30cm
  • Plant Category: Annual
  • Cape Marguerite (Osteospermum ecklonis)
  • Location: Full sun
  • Water Needs: Low
  • Resilience: Yes
  • Bloom Color: Violet / White
  • Blooming Season: Early spring to later summer
  • Dimensions:  75cm x 100cm
  • Plant Category: Perennial Groundcover
  • Leaves:  Evergreen
  • Blue Lily (Agapanthus praecox)
  • Location: Full sun
  • Water Needs: Medium
  • Resilience: Yes
  • Bloom Color: Violet / White
  • Blooming Season: Summer
  • Dimensions:  1m x 1m
  • Plant Category: Perennial
  • Leaves:  Evergreen
  • Ribbon Bush (Hypoestes aristata)
  • Location: Full sun / Semi-shade
  • Water Needs: Medium
  • Resilience: Semi-hardy
  • Bloom Color: Purple / Pink
  • Blooming Season: Late autumn to winter
  • Dimensions:  1m x 1m
  • Plant Category: Perennial shrub
  • Leaves:  Evergreen

Other Perennial Options: Rudbeckia, Scabiosa, Felicia, Euryops, Arctotis, Barleria, Diascia, Geranium incanum, Bulbine, Watsonia, Arums, Mesembryanthemum

Annuals That Bees Adore

  1. Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
  • Location: Full sun
  • Water Needs: Low
  • Resilience: No
  • Bloom Color: White/Pink
  • Blooming Season: Summer
  • Dimensions:  100cm x 30cm
  • Plant Category: Annual
  • Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis)
  • Location: Full sun
  • Water Needs: Medium
  • Resilience: Yes
  • Bloom Color: Yellow / Orange
  • Blooming Season: Winter to early spring
  • Dimensions:  35cm x 35cm
  • Plant Category: Annual herb
  • Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
  • Location: Full sun
  • Water Needs: Medium
  • Resilience: No
  • Bloom Color: Yellow
  • Blooming Season: Summer
  • Dimensions:  250cm x 30cm
  • Plant Category: Annual
  • Fairy Primula (Primula malacoides)
  • Location: Semi-shade
  • Water Needs: Medium
  • Resilience: Yes
  • Bloom Color: White/Pink/Lavender
  • Blooming Season: late winter to spring
  • Dimensions:  20cm x 25cm
  • Plant Category: Annual
  • Cape Forget-me-not (Anchusa capensis)
  • Location: Sun / Semi-shade
  • Water Needs: Medium
  • Resilience: No
  • Bloom Color: Blue / White
  • Blooming Season: Spring to summer
  • Dimensions:  40cm x 25cm
  • Plant Category:  Annual

Other Annual Options include: Sweet Williams, Marigolds, Nemesia, Hollyhock, Lobularia maritima, Poppies, Portulaca, Nasturtium

Shrubs That Bees Can’t Resist

  1. September Bush (Polygala myrtifolia)
  • Location: Full sun
  • Water Needs: Medium
  • Resilience: Yes
  • Bloom Color: Purple
  • Blooming Season: Spring to summer
  • Dimensions:  3m x 2m
  • Plant Category: Shrub
  • Leaves:  Evergreen
  • Heather (Erica spp)
  • Location: Full sun
  • Water Needs: Medium
  • Resilience: Yes
  • Bloom Color: Pink/Purple/White/Red
  • Blooming Season: Year-round depending on species
  • Dimensions:  Varies according to species
  • Plant Category: Shrub
  • Leaves:  Evergreen
  • Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-Sinensis)
Flower Color: A delightful mix of Pink, Yellow, White, Purple, and Red
  • Flowering Season: From the vibrant spring to the warm summer
  • Size:  A substantial 4m x 3m
  • Plant type: A robust shrub
  • Foliage:  Evergreen, providing year-round beauty
  • Aloes (Aloe spp) ***
    • Position: Thrives in full sun
    • Water Requirements: Low, perfect for water-conscious gardeners
    • Hardy: Yes, a resilient addition to your garden
    • Flower Color: Varies according to species, with a stunning palette of orange, yellow and red hues
    • Flowering Season: Varies according to species, but mostly in the cozy winter months.
    • Size:  Varies according to species, offering a range of sizes for different garden spaces.
    • Plant Type: A succulent shrub, adding a unique texture to your garden
    • Foliage:  Evergreen, for year-round greenery

    Other Shrub Options: Consider Hebe, Portulacaria Afra, Buddleia saligna, Leonotis leonurus, Hellebores, Plectranthus spp, Buchu, and Proteas for a diverse and bee-friendly garden.

    Trees That Bees Love

    1. Wild Pear (Dombeya rotundifolia)
    • Position: Flourishes in full sun
    • Water Requirements: Medium, a balance between hydration and conservation
    • Hardy: Yes, a sturdy and reliable tree
    • Flower Color: Pure white, a classic beauty
    • Flowering Season: From late winter to early spring, a sign of the changing seasons
    • Size:  A grand 6m x 4m
    • Plant type: A majestic tree
    • Foliage:  Deciduous, providing seasonal interest
    • Wild Laburnum (Calpurnia aurea)
    • Position: Adaptable to full sun or semi-shade
    • Water Requirements: Medium, not too thirsty
    • Hardy: Yes, a resilient tree
    • Flower Color: Sunny yellow, a cheerful addition
    • Flowering Season: From late summer to autumn, a burst of color in the cooler months
    • Size:  A compact 3m x 2m
    • Plant type: A charming small tree
    • Foliage:  Evergreen, for constant greenery
    • Forest Elder (Nuxia floribunda)
    • Position: Flexible to full sun or semi-shade
    • Water Requirements: Medium, a balance of hydration
    • Hardy: Yes, a hardy tree
    • Flower Color: Crisp white, a timeless beauty
    • Flowering Season: Winter to early spring, a welcome sight in the colder months
    • Size:  A substantial 5m x 3m
    • Plant type: A stately tree
    • Foliage:  Evergreen, providing year-round color

    Armed with this knowledge of bee-friendly plants, you’re ready to create a buzzing haven in your garden. The choice is yours, so explore what’s available in your local area and get planting!

    Remember, Timing is Key

    Depending on where you live, the bee swarming season can span from spring to fall. But remember, bees don’t follow a calendar. They decide when to swarm based on certain conditions typically found in spring and summer.

    Bees are more likely to swarm when warm weather coincides with a bit of wind, as this often signals a nectar flow, their favorite time to venture out. 

    Success! Now What?

    If your patience pays off and you successfully attract a swarm, it’s crucial to avoid disturbing them for the first week. Upon arrival, the bees will immediately get to work building comb. The queen will lay her eggs in the comb, but this isn’t enough to guarantee they’ll stay in their new home.

    Any disturbance could cause the new bees to abandon their nest in favor of another one. If you wait a week before checking on them, their eggs will have hatched into larvae, ensuring that your bees will stay, even if you conduct a hive inspection.

    It’s important to check on your new bees after a week because not all swarms are the same. Some may be queenless or come with a virgin queen. Therefore, when a week has passed and you conduct your first hive inspection, look for eggs to confirm that your colony has a queen and she is actively laying.

    Remember, all bee swarms will initially be docile, but their behavior can change once they settle in. As their beekeeper, always wear appropriate protective gear to ensure your safety.

    Wrapping Up

    Inviting bees into your backyard or farm is a rewarding experience that benefits not only you but our planet as well. As a beekeeper, you’re a superhero for our world’s primary pollinators, making their important work a little bit easier.

    Now that you understand the importance of patience and effort in attracting these buzzing friends to your hive, you’re well on your way to success. Remember, all good things come to those who wait!

    Title: How to Attract Bees to a Hive: A Comprehensive Guide


    Bees play an essential role in our ecosystem by pollinating plants which facilitates the production of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Moreover, they produce honey, a natural sweetener that is a preferred choice for many individuals due to its multifarious health benefits. Therefore, attracting bees to a hive forms a significant aspect for beekeepers, gardeners, and anyone interested in fostering healthy ecosystems.

    Creating a Suitable Environment

    The first step in attracting bees to a hive is to create a hospitable environment that fulfils the bees’ requirements for survival and reproduction. This could be as simple as planting a garden rich in nectar and pollen-bearing plants that bloom throughout the different seasons. Bees are partial to flowers with bright colors, such as yellow, blue and violet, and they also prefer flowers shaped for bee comfort and ease of pollen collection.

    For individuals without access to a garden, placing pots with flowering plants on balconies or near windows can also suffice. Care should be taken to choose varieties that are native to the local area, as bees are more likely to be attracted to them.

    Water Availability

    Bees need water to cool their hive, feed their young and digest food. Therefore, ensuring a constant supply of freshwater can significantly help attract bees. However, they require shallow water sources as deeper ones run the risk of drowning the bees. Birdbath-like containers with rocks placed around the edge for bees to land on are ideal.

    Honey Bee Hive

    Building or buying a proper bee hive is crucial for attracting and sustaining a bee colony. The hive should mimic the bees’ natural environment and must offer a safe sanctuary for colonies to build, rear young and store food resources.

    One of the effective ways to entice bees to a new hive is by applying a bee attractant spray, usually available at beekeeping supply shops. This spray typically contains a natural bee pheromone which entices scout bees to investigate the new hive. Once a scout bee discovers the hive and communicates it to the hive, the colony may decide to move in.

    Alternative Methods

    Purchasing a bee swarm or nuclei from a trusted local beekeeper can be an effective alternative method of introducing bees to a hive. This method ensures that the bees are already adapted to local conditions and are ready to start producing honey. However, care should be taken to ensure that the bees are disease-free, and this route is typically recommended for individuals with some experience in beekeeping.


    Attracting bees to a hives involves more than just setting up a hive and waiting. It requires creating an environment that offers food, water, and shelter for the bees while ensuring their safety. Despite the initial effort, the sweet reward of honey coupled with the enhanced flora due to the bees’ invaluable pollination services makes it all worthwhile. It is important, however, to consult with local beekeepers and organisations to ensure correct and safe practices are being followed. After all, beekeeping is about forming a symbiotic bond with these important insects, one where both parties mutually benefit.

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