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
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
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
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.
Written... 19 November 2002