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Swarm Control by
Removing a Nucleus

A simple method of swarm control

The taking of a nucleus from a colony that is preparing to swarm is a common method of swarm control. There are various versions, but the principle is the same. You are separating the queen from the other elements, plus easing congestion in the parent colony.

As with all swarm control methods you must do the preparation first - understand the swarming process, understand what the method is trying to achieve and assemble all the equipment you need.

On finding charged queen cells in a colony do the following:-

What have we done?

We have made a nucleus with the queen, mainly young bees, brood and food. The sealed brood will create it's own heat and will emerge soon, to give an influx of young bees and somewhere for the queen to lay. This nucleus should be in a position to build up in the coming weeks.

The parent colony is queenless, but has queen cells that should emerge in around 9 days time. As the queen has been removed there may be emergency cells built, especially if some swarm cells are removed. There are empty frames for the bees to work on.

The nucleus.

Eight days later (seven if this is more convenient, but will depend on the age of the queen cells) in the parent colony.

Be patient:-

With the current queen problems, I would check the parent colony to see if the queen has emerged. In a full colony like this, it would be difficult to find a virgin queen, but it would be useful to see if she has complete wings. A quick inspection will do no harm if it is within around 3 days of the queen emerging. If you don't make this initial inspection, then don't open up the parent colony for at least 14 days.

If the young queen is on her mating flight, she may be confused when she returns to find the hive open and may fly into an adjacent colony or get lost. Vital inspections that cannot be avoided should take place before 10 am or after 5 pm, when the young queen is likely to be inside the hive.

When you do inspect to check if your new queen is laying, try to do so quickly.

Look for a patch of eggs or very young larvae. If there are none, then check for an area of cells that have been highly polished by the workers ready for the queen to lay in, or fairly large quantities of pollen being brought in. These usually indicate the bees are expecting a queen to lay. Close up the hive, be patient, and check again in a few days.

A young queen will generally start laying 10-14 days after she emerges, longer in poor weather or in a larger colony. If your new queen has not started laying after three weeks then put a test comb in from another hive.

The Benefits of this method:-

Some further thoughts:-

If the colony is good and you would normally be happy to raise queens from it, the queen cells can be used.

If the colony is not one you wish to breed from, there are ways of dealing with this, e.g. You could use queen cells from other colonies or use the colony as a queenless cell raiser. See Bee Improvement for more ideas.

Roger Patterson.