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Use of the Marburg Swarm Box

The Marburg swarm box is a useful addition to any beekeeper's kit... It can be used in several ways and no doubt other ways that I have not detailed are also possible.

It is a device for separating young nurse bees from older foraging bees. You may require extra nurse bees in various breeding activities, including populating mating nucs and filling queen traveling cages with attendant worker bees.

By using mainly young bees for filling mating nucs we eliminate the possibility of the older bees flying away and depleting the numbers.

Have available a pressure bottle type sprayer either full of water or water with about a teaspoon of sugar per pint added. (I personally use "Fox's Glacier Mints" for this purpose as the peppermint scent helps to form the bees from different hives into a unified group).

The box will hold 5 or perhaps 6 frames, but for this purpose it is used without any frames inside. All openings and flaps are closed and the hinged funnel is set open with about a 100 mm gap at the mouth. Frames of bees from the donor colony are first very lightly shaken so that the older flying bees take to the air. Then the frames are held within the funnel and shaken sharply downwards to dislodge almost all bees. The bees that end up in a heap at the bottom of the funnel still contain both young and old bees, but a high proportion of young bees will migrate through the queen excluder into the dark interior of the box, whereas the older bees tend to walk upwards and take off into the air.

This separation method is not perfect, but after a dozen or so frames of bees have been shaken into the funnel a high proportion of the bees in the box will be "young".

Close the funnel and jolt the box sharply on the ground, then quickly open the box and spray the liquid liberally on the bees.

The wet, slightly sticky bees can then be portioned out into the mating nucs using a ladle or a plastic drinks machine cup (which holds about 1,000 bees). Shut the bees in the nuc and leave in a cool place overnight. The grooming and cleaning knits the bees into a colony during this calm period.

Add you queencell and let the bees fly on the following day or if your mating nuc is in the same apiary as the original source of bees... Make your preparations a day earlier and confine the bees for one and a half days instead of overnight.

There is a demonstration of this technique on the BIBBA video that was originally titled "Locko Park 88", this has been renamed recently and now carries the title "BIBBA - Queen Rearing", I can personally recommend this video as a sensible approach to queen rearing.

The Marburg box can also be used for filling queen cages with attendants. A different lid is used that holds a row of inverted cages for the bees to walk into and the spraying operation is omitted.) (This special lid will be detailed later on the page that deals with alternative lids.

The Marburg box will carry... Swarms, loose bees, frames of bees, packages of bees or complete nuclei. The small hinged panel can be opened to expose the ventilating screen and the small, closable entrance can be used to allow bees to fly if they are to be kept in one place for any particular day. I have used such a swarm box as a safe place to store a few frames containing honey or even to carry honey frames away from an apiary.

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Written... 19 November 2002