When queen cells are raised in a colony under the swarming
impulse, the actions of the beekeeper will rarely forestall swarming
completely. This method was devised in an attempt to fool the bees
into thinking that they have already swarmed. Whilst it duplicates
some of the situations of swarming, I doubt that the bees are actually
fooled, but merely respond to their changed circumstances.
The principle behind any swarm management system is to
separate the brood from the queen. Also a "true" swarm has
an old queen, a 20,000 or so workforce of bees of all ages and no comb.
We can create a set of situations that mimic the natural
system quite closely.
If you wish to try this... You will require extra equipment
(I am assuming National Hives and UK conditions.)
Stand, Floor, Brood Chamber, and a full complement of brood frames
fitted with foundation, Crown board (inner cover) and Roof (outer
cover). A manipulation cloth or another crown board are also useful.
In the following explanation I will refer to right and left.
There is no significance in this, you should adopt whatever is
convenient to you... Providing that you are consistent you will
achieve the desired result. I make no reference to the use of smoke...
You should use it as and when you judge it necessary.
First place your spare stand 4 or 5 feet to the right of the
hive to be "artificially Swarmed" Remove the roof of the
"parent" hive and place upside down on the ground between
the hive and the stand that has just been positioned.
Insert your hive tool into the joint immediately above the
queen excluder to break the propolis seal and transfer the supers, no
matter how many are already in place, complete with crown board into
the upturned roof thus trapping all the bees that were in the supers
(this keeps them out of our way).
Remove the queen excluder and place out of the way for use
Place the spare crown board on the parent brood box (to calm
the bees) then transfer the floor, brood box and crown board as one unit
from the original site to the "New" stand.
Put the spare floor on the now vacant stand that is still on
the original site, oriented with the entrance in the same direction as
the original... Place the spare brood box with the frames of
foundation on this floor and remove the centre frame leaving a gap.
(all the flying bees that are out foraging will automatically return
to this entrance). If you have a manipulation cloth or further crown
board use it to cover the top of this newly placed box.
Now we must turn our attention to the parent brood box...
Remove the crown board and then run through the box examining each
comb until you find the queen (often easier said than done!).
Temporarily cover the box with the crown board. Transfer the frame of
bees that the queen is on into the gap between the frames of
foundation on the original site (you should destroy any queencells
that exist on this frame), put the queen excluder on this box and
place the original supers on the queen excluder. If they are very
heavy, consider adding another super.
Returning to the box with the frames of brood remove the
crown board, close up the frames and insert the last frame, (the one
with foundation that came out of the gap), to one side then replace
the crown board.
It now remains only to put the original roof back on the
original site and our spare roof on our "New" queenless hive.
Let us take stock of what we have done. We have two colonies
that can be described as "swarm" and "parent" the
one on the original site has an old queen, an abundance of bees and
almost no brood. This is very similar to the circumstances that a
swarm is faced with. It also has stores of nectar and honey and the
small amount of brood forms a focus for the bees activities.
Our small colony has no laying queen, brood of all ages,
queen cells that are about to "hatch" and a recently
depleted number of bees. This is rather like the state of a colony
immediately after a swarm has issued.
Our two hives are both going to be very busy for the next
several weeks, the swarm has to draw much foundation for the impatient
queen to lay in. The flying force of bees will decrease as the older
bees die (it will be three weeks before there are fresh bees emerging).
Our "new" colony will reduce the number of
queencells to that which it's smaller number of bees can properly
support, (usually two), and much of the sealed brood will be emerging
giving an increase in the population of adult bees.
But we cunning beekeepers have a trick up our sleeve!... If
after a week we swap the small hive from the right side of the main
one to a similar position, but on the left of it, then our returning
foragers from the small hive will come across the hive on the original
site first and enter there instead (this balances the numbers).
The reversal can be repeated in another weeks time causing
The procedure outlined above will eliminate swarming in
about 95% of cases without significantly reducing the honey crop.
Once the new unit is queenright it can be used for increase or it can
be united back to the parent colony at the end of the season.
Many variations can be employed... My particular favorite is
to use a frame containing a couple of queencells, a frame of emerging
brood, a frame with brood of all ages and other frames taken from
storage... one with sealed stores and the other with foundation that
has been partially drawn. These combs go in a 5 frame nucleus box with
extra bees shaken in... The nuc is then removed from the site to
another apiary beyond flying range. The "small" hive has
less occupied frames (The spaces are made good with combs from
storage), but the emerging brood will soon bolster the numbers.
This Method gives more flexibility and the extra nuc can be
used for "increase" or "insurance" purposes (or if
bee improvement is your aim it gives a wider choice of stock for
future breeding selection).
The queenless portion may be housed over a
split board with a divided
brood chamber or separate nucs taped together so that
4 x twin frame, 3 x three frame or
2 x 5 frame nuclei may be formed (use at least one queencell
Originated... May 2000, Revised... 03 October 2001
Revised... 05 January 2003