&   SEARCH
David A. Cushman logo
Colony Increase (Method 8)

An unusual method of increase

This is a method I have used on many occasions. Why it isn't popular, I don't know. It is suitable for all beekeepers, but you need to understand what is happening, rather than simply following instructions.

This method works well for me because I use a number of brood boxes full of foundation, that I use as supers for drawing out brood combs.

Ideally you need a number of colonies that can provide brood, one strong colony that has a brood box being used as a super, some drawn comb and a queen or queen cell. You can use this system without all of these, in fact you could do it using just one colony if you wish. If you follow the method you can modify it to suit your situation. If you are planning on doing any queen rearing you can work out the timing to suit.

This is what you do:-

  1. Place one good drawn comb in the middle of the brood nest of as many colonies as you wish, but I favour 2-3. These could be full colonies or nucs, but the combs should be well covered with bees. What you are trying to do is to get brood of roughly the same age in all of the combs. If the colonies are too weak, the queens won't lay up the combs very well.
  2. About 6-7 days later, or when the eggs have largely hatched, prepare the hive that will provide the bees. This should have a queen excluder with a brood box above, that is being used as a super and being worked on, preferably about half full or more. Remove as many frames as you have inserted combs at stage 1. above. These should be those that have been worked on the least and may be foundation. Leave a gap in the middle of the box.
  3. Shake all the bees off the frames with young brood you placed in the colonies in stage 1. and place them in the gap. Close up all colonies.
  4. 7-10 days later remove the combs of now largely sealed brood from the top box complete with bees and place in a nuc box. Add combs of food to the nuc box, either from other colonies or the top box. The nuc can stay in the same apiary.
  5. Fill the top box up with frames of foundation.
  6. The following day give a queen or queen cell to the nuc.

I don't advise using this method early in the season when the colony that is donating the bees may be short of nurse bees.

This method is particularly suited to the beekeeper with a home apiary, as the bees on the combs are quite young, many of them having never flown, so they shouldn't deplete the nuc. The combs of brood that are put above the queen excluder should have advanced enough, so there should be no emergency cells built. There is little brood, so there is less for the young colony to feed and the brood will have emerged by the time the new queen is laying, so she has plenty of space to lay in.

Roger Patterson.