>Ok, I've just spent the last hour searching the archives for info on this. How do I make my own swarm traps?
First let's define a swarm trap. The are often more accurately called a bait hive. The object is simply to provide a home that is irresistable to a swarm. A bait hive will NOT induce a hive to swarm. What it will do is hopefully be available and interesting as a potential home to an impending or existing swarm.
> Can I just use a bucket with a lid and a hole in it?
Anything that would make an enticing home for bees will work. Plastic isn't the easiest thing to attach wax to and doesn't seem appealing to bees based on their actions with plastic foundation, but obviously bees sometimes move into such things. So it could work. The best is an old bee home. A used nuc or a used box that smells like bees. If you want to use the bucket I'd rough up the inside with some 40 grit sandpaper so they can cling to it as a cluster better.
> Does it have to have drawn comb in it?
No, but drawn comb is one of those things that makes it more enticing. The studies I've seen say that swarm lure is much more important, but drawn comb by itself often works, so it's bound to help.
> Does it matter what color it is?
Only if it's in the sun and the color makes it too hot.
>I'd rather not use a hive body, if I can help it. I'm trying to keep my costs down.
I bought a bunch of the wax coated MDA boxes from Dadant and uses those with frames with starter strips. I also bought plastic MDA boxes from MDA. The plastic were harder to handle, but they held up in the weather better.
>Please help as soon as possible. I got a call today from a guy who has bees in an old tree trunk in his back yard and I'd like to try and lure them out.
You cannot lure bees out of a home. Nothing will lure them out.
You can sometimes "trap" them out by making a one way exit with screen wire by making a cone. This is a complex system that never has worked as well for me as the simplistic descriptions in ABC XYZ of Beeculture or Dadant's The Hive and the Honey Bee. But if you do it right you can extract a lot of bees when the foragers can't get back into the hive.
If the hive is about to swarm and you put the cone on, you could catch the swarm either by getting it manually into a box, or by having a bait hive 300 yards or so away as an inviting new home for the swarm, and then, if the cone is on, a few days later when the virgin queen goes to mate, you might get her also. Once the existing colony is hopelessly queenless (because you have the new queen and she hasn't started laying so there are no eggs to make a new queen) you have the potential to lure/trap them out to a hive with their queen in it using the cone and some brood and bees and the queen.
"Trapping swarms" is like fishing. It's all about location and bait.
Speaking of bait. There is commercial swarm lure, which works fine or Lemongrass essential oil, which is cheaper and works just as well, if not better. Then there is "queen juice" where you keep putting all your old queens in a jar of alcohol to kill them and eventually use the alcohol as swarm lure. You can also make your own swarm lure from equal parts of citral, geranoil, nerolic acid. But it will smell just like Lemongrass essential oil and it will cost you more money.