The ‘no lifting’ artificial swarm method

queen larva in cup for webAny colonies with more than about six frames of brood will need inspecting weekly. At the first sign of occupied queen cups/cells, the colony should be divided using an artificial swarm method.

Most descriptions of the artificial swarm method start with ‘When occupied queen cells are found, move the colony about a metre away’. If you prefer a method which doesn’t require you to move your heavy colony, an alternative is described in the following table.

What you do

Why you do it

Have ready a beehive on a stand, with floor, brood box, ten frames of foundation and one frame of drawn comb, a crown-board and roof.

Having a spare home for half your swarming colony is an essential feature of preventing the bees flying away.

Having found occupied queen cells, start the splitting process straight away.

Having found occupied queen cells, start the splitting process straight away.

Place the new empty hive at least a metre away. Remove all the frames except one (I put them in a large poly bag). Inspect the first comb of your colony, making sure the queen is not there. Don’t shake the comb. Place it in the empty hive.

The aim is to move the frames, including all the brood, queen cells and nurse bees, one by one, leaving the queen behind. The new box will be where the daughter queen develops and establishes a new colony. Queens in queen cells can be damaged by shaking. You want nurse bees to stay to look after the brood.

Repeat for all the remaining frames. When you come across the frame with the queen on it, leave it behind.

The old queen will now occupy the old box on the old site. The flying bees will join her.

Check that there are no queen cells on the frame you have left behind with the old queen on it. If there are, coax the queen onto a frame without queen cells and leave that behind instead.

You want to separate the old queen from the daughter queen cells to reduce the likelihood of swarming.

Replace the supers onto the new box with the queen cells. Add an entrance block to provide a small entrance.

This colony now has few foragers so they might need to use the nectar in the supers until the number of foragers increases again. With fewer adult bees, a small entrance helps with colony defence.

Fill up the space in the old box on the original site with the new frames of foundation you brought with you, placing the one drawn comb in the centre of the box next to the frame withg the queen on.

This is now the artificial swarm. By putting the one drawn frame next to the frame with the queen on will give her some room to lay in, until the bees have drawn out the frames of foundation.

Add a feeder to the artificial swarm and give 1:1 syrup for a week. Add an entrance block to provide a small entrance.

This will help the bees to draw out the foundation ready for the old queen to lay in. A small entrance will reduce the risk of being robbed.

Leave the new box containing the queen cells alone for three weeks. A daughter queen will be mated and start to establish a new colony.

You do not want to disturb the mating process.

This entry was posted in Information. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.