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Swarm Control of
Honey Bee Colonies

Swarm control is a part of good management

To manage an apiary well it should be assumed that all colonies of honey bees are likely to swarm on a regular basis. Regular inspections will give the beekeeper the opportunity to check for the signs that a colony is preparing to swarm.

In my view, it is irresponsible to allow colonies to swarm where there are close neighbours. Some non-beekeepers are genuinely interested when they see a swarm, but many are frightened. The responsible beekeeper will care for their bees properly and will try to keep swarming to a minimum, but even the most skilled and careful beekeeper will occasionally lose a swarm. Quite why some people abdicate responsibility and simply let their bees swarm is beyond me.

Swarm prevention measures should be part of any management system and it is assumed that beekeepers understand these and put them into place if appropriate.

For most beekeepers, the first real signs a colony is preparing to swarm will be eggs or larvae in queen cells. The swarming procedure in a colony will tell the beekeeper what should happen and when, although bees often modify their plans. All swarm control methods are designed to disrupt the swarming procedure in some way. In simple terms, there are three elements - queen, brood and flying bees and we are trying to separate any one of these from the other two.

The buttons on the left lead you to a few swarm control methods. There are many more and when time permits others will be added. Before attempting to use any of these methods you should understand the swarming process and what each method is trying to achieve. They will all sound confusing initially, but there is often a mental block that needs removing. I often suggest making a PowerPoint presentation for yourself as this will help you understand it better.

The artificial swarm is probably the most commonly recommended method in the U.K and Ireland, but it's not without its faults. Many beekeepers still have swarms, but that may be more the fault of the beekeeper than the method. I have usually used the Wakeford method, as it is simple, reliable and there are several modifications that can be used.

As with other things in beekeeping, everyone has their own favourite and it doesn't matter which is used, providing it is understood and it works.

Roger Patterson.

Page created 19/12/2001

Page updated 28/12/2022