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Swarm Control

© Michael Vesty 2010 all rights reserved.

Home.
Design Features.
Plans.
Management.
Two Queen System.
Queen-rearing .
FAQ.
 Contact & About.

Sooner or later, you will wish to carry out some form of manipulation to prevent loss of a swarm. Standard methods will sometimes fail, leaving the beekeeper wondering why a lot of bees have disappeared. Some information given here is rarely found elsewhere.

 

Methods of swarm control are found in many places, so what is covered will be particular to the Drawhive or to issues not often discussed properly.

 

Following are the manipulations required to make an artificial swarm, from a Drawhive. The practicalities can then be easily modified for other methods. All the usual methods, which don’t require the hive to be moved, can be used and there is no need to dismantle the hive. Because it is so easy to access a bottom brood chamber, splits into a top brood box, over supers, are very useful as they save on equipment.

 

Assuming you want the queen to stay on site, you need the usual spare hive and frames, plus another container to take the frame with the queen on it, such as a nucleus box. Having put the frame with the queen safely to one side, arrange the frames between the Drawhive and spare brood box, as required and then return the frame with the queen. This is just the same as normal practice except that you don't dismantle the hive and switch brood boxes.

 

If the queen can't be found, she could have been on the excluder, so close up and leave a while for her to move back on the frames. You could remove any food combs and separate the remaining frames into pairs. She will then likely be found between a pair of frames. Open up again with the minimum smoke.

It is likely you have lost a swarm if there are sealed queen cells, no eggs and fewer bees.

If she still can’t be found, and you are sure they haven't swarmed, then a shook swarm can be made with a Taranov board. The queen will now be moved and it will be as if the colony had swarmed. One queen cell should be left and a check made after two or thee days, to make sure the bees haven’t raised any more.

 

Another way, if the queen can’t be found, would be to destroy all queen cells, leave one frame with eggs and young brood in the Drawhive and move the rest of the brood. If after  three or four days, there are no new queen cells and eggs are present in the Drawhive the queen is still in there.  If there are queen cells then she is likely in the moved lot. There should be eggs here and the queen should be a lot easier to find if you wish to destroy any queen cells and return her to the Drawhive.

The moved lot will now raise more queen cells.

If there are queen cells in both lots, the queen is probably  lost.

Be aware that if swarm cells have been raised, then the swarming urge may sometimes be retained after your swarm preventative measure. This seems strongest if they have mature sealed queen cells.

 

If a standard artificial swarm is created and the queen is left on the original site, check after three or four days for queen cells. Should any cells be raised then more drastic treatment is needed to break the swarming urge.

 

When sealed queen cells are found in a colony, it may be wise to break the swarming urge at the outset, by a method more certain than a straight artificial swarm.

 

For this, the queen and brood is moved away, either to a new hive, or a spare body above a split board, with entrance, on top of another colony. When making this up shake in extra bees, in addition to those adhering to the frames, as there will be a strong drift back to the parent hive. If put on top of the original hive the older bees may join the queen and defeat the objective.

A frame of sealed and mature brood is placed in the parent hive. This must be carefully checked to ensure there are no eggs or young larvae on it. If not from the original colony, shake any bees off this frame.

 

Within a week, the bees with the queen should tear down any queen cells , the swarming urge will be broken and the queen and brood can be returned to the original hive. They would need more room and monitoring for further Queen cells.

 

Unless a honey flow is imminent, it is probably best to just return the queen and allow the bees with the brood to raise a new one.

It is usually ok to just put the queen onto the brood frames, or even run her into the entrance, as the bees in the parent hive will be desperate for one. A safer course would be to introduce her in a butler cage.

 

Of the methods which involve splitting the brood into a second top brood chamber, the two queen system is a particularly practical and potentially rewarding plan.

 

For those with few hives, the Snelgrove board is also worth considering.

These methods come into their own because with the Drawhive it is very easy to monitor the bottom brood chamber.