A manipulation method of honey bee colonies
The Demaree method is one of a number of well known beekeeping methods that have been used for a long time. Very often they are modified to suit different conditions, therefore may vary from the original. What Dave Cushman wrote below may vary from other versions, so don't try to mix methods.
At the bottom of this page I have made comment based on my own and other's experience. R.P.
The Demaree method is not just a method of manipulating bees, but is a system that can be used for swarm reduction, queen replacement or producing nuclei. Any or all of these options are available at the same time.
Wedmore was a big proponent of this system, which was first described by George Demaree in an article in the American Bee Journal in 1884. I had long been aware of the ideas, but had not tried them when a friend of mine, Bob Boone, (a fellow bee equipment manufacturer) enthused over all of the possibilities and I resolved to try it for myself.
The method and Wedmore's variations on it have been the basis of my beekeeping up until I no longer had the physical strength to do the lifting involved.
The principle behind the Demaree method is the rearrangement of a colony, on one site, in such a way as to separate the queen and foraging force from the brood and nurse bees. That is about the simplest way of stating it, but the permutations of different ways of doing it are enormous
My way of doing it...
If I found queen cells during a routine inspection I would shift the open brood box to one side and cover it with a cloth.
In my experience the bees often build emergency cells in the top box. I would remove these 7-8 days after adding the top box, otherwise the bees may swarm. I would always clip the queen too as this makes management much easier. R.P.
The original Demaree method actually allowed the bees to swarm, which required that they be collected (a great deal of un-necessary work and a risk of losing the bees completely). After some trials it was decided to treat the colonies as if they had swarmed even if they were making no swarm preparations.
This regimental treatment of all colonies was aimed at suppressing swarming. and was totally successful for a period of 14 to 21 days. To further extend the non swarming period, the queen excluders could be removed allowing the original queen full use of the combs. This gave another 14 to 21 days with about 90% chance of swarm suppression.
Requeening a honey production hive.
This is probably the most common usage of the method and to be true to the originators ideas you should do this upon finding queen cells. In practice I used to carry out the manoeuvre on all colonies in an apiary if I found queen cells, that I had not anticipated, in any hive in that apiary.
A young queen can be raised and get mated from the top box by introducing a split board instead of the uppermost queen excluder. She will fly from the top entrance and can replace the queen in the bottom box when she has proved herself.
I have never done this, but I see no reason why a two queen colony can't be created in this way. R.P.
Producing several nucs is quite possible, whilst still producing some honey. The upper box is replaced by several nucs or a brood box that is fitted with divisions inside it..
Originally written by Dave Cushman. Edited to improve clarity by Roger Patterson.
I believe the Demaree principle, whether following the original or a modification of it needs a reasonable amount of knowledge, skill and discipline by the beekeeper. I have added some advantages and disadvantages below in the hope it will help beekeepers be more successful in using it. These have been gained by my own experience and speaking to other beekeepers who have use the Demaree method.
Many things in beekeeping are done as afterthoughts or firefighting. I think Demareeing should be used as a management system, not something you try when you are in panic mode, so planning is useful. As with many other things, you need to understand what is happening and what the bees reaction will be to your actions, otherwise failure, which could be spectacular could be the result.
We must remember that Demareeing was an American idea, so is probably more suited to the more prolific bees used there, than the less prolific bees used in the U.K and Ireland. With prolific bees huge colonies can result.