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Artificial Swarm - Method 2

A variation on the "standard" method

This page should be read in conjunction with the "Artificial Swarm" page that can be accessed by the button top left.

It is often assumed there is only one version of the artificial swarm, but there are several, all based on the same principle, but with slight variations. All that happens in an artificial swarm is the parent colony is moved, allowing flying bees to be diverted from the parent colony to another colony placed on the original site. Most, or all of the brood stays with the parent colony.

In the "standard" artificial swarm the queen is removed from the parent colony and placed in the new colony. The method described here leaves the queen in the parent colony, so it is a useful alternative if you are unable to find the queen.

As with all things in beekeeping, I advise understanding what is happening in the operation before attempting it. To just do something "by numbers", without understanding what you are trying to achieve will probably end in failure.

On finding swarm Q/Cs in a colony......

  1. Move parent hive to one side. Distance doesn't matter. If you have heavy supers on, then remove those first.
  2. Replace with a floor facing the same direction and an empty brood box.
  3. Remove frame of brood with one good Q/C on from parent colony. It is important that you only leave one Q/C, otherwise the first queen to emerge may take off with a swarm. If you leave an unsealed Q/C, then remove any emergency cells 5 days later.
  4. Brush off bees into parent box and place frame with Q/C on into new box. If you know your queen is not on this frame, there is no need to bother removing the bees.
  5. Fill up new box with drawn comb or foundation. Comb is preferable, as very often the colony will swarm again if foundation is used.
  6. Cut out all Q/Cs from parent colony. This is best done after shaking bees off to make sure that no Q/Cs are left, otherwise they may swarm.
  7. Fill the gap created by the removed frame in the parent colony by closing the existing frames up, then fill the gap with drawn comb or foundation.
  8. If the parent colony had supers, you need to distribute them to suit the situation. If the parent colony is short of food in the brood box it won't be able to collect nectar for several days, because it has lost the foragers, so give it a super with honey in. If it has plenty of food, then give the supers to the new colony.
  9. After satisfying yourself both colonies have enough food, then close them down.
  10. Check both colonies for emergency/swarm cells after a few days. The timing will depend on the state of the Q/Cs at the last operation.

If you remove the bees from the frame that is put in the new colony, then you are relying on the flying bees and those in the supers to be sufficient to cover the frame of brood and make a reasonable sized colony. It would be better if it is done on a good flying day before the evening. If you don't remove the bees from the frame, this is not a problem.

If there is a heavy nectar flow, the new colony may store nectar very quickly, because it has no brood to feed until 4 days after the queen comes into lay, perhaps 10-15 days after creating the artificial swarm.

This method is a huge time saver. I have never used it myself for swarm control, but I have helped other beekeepers on many occasions. I have used it for making increase, when I have found it to be a very useful alternative to the "standard" method.

Roger Patterson.