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Preventing your bees from swarming - the 'Artificial Swarm'

Are your bees at risk of swarming?  See the "Swarm Flow Chart" to make sure.

If queen cells are seen when an inspection is made, if the cells are still open then the hive is ready to swarm and to help prevent this an artificial swarm can perhaps fool the bees into believing they have already swarmed.

There are many methods of doing this, see http://website.lineone.net/~dave.cushman/swarmcontrol.html 

One standard and commonly used method and the one taught at Chesterfield Beekeepers is "The Pagden Method".

The "Pagden" method of creating an artificial swarm is done when a hive is manufacturing queen cells and is done as follows:-

1] Move the hive from which you intend to make the artificial swarm approx a yard /metre to one side of its current position and turn the entrance through 90° to the original orientation.

2] On the now empty site place a new hive of stand, floor, brood box with one frame removed, a crown/cover board and roof,

3] Check through the re-sited old hive to find the queen, it much easier if she is a marked queen. If the queen is on a frame of brood with queen cells on it, shake her off and remove the frame and lay it carefully aside. Check through the hive and remove any frames with queen cells on them and also lay them aside. Allow the queen time to move onto another frame and then carefully locate her. Very carefully transfer her and the frame of brood with its cover of accompanying nurse bees into the space left in the brood box in the new hive on the old home site. If the queen is not on a frame containing sealed brood, she must be shaken with her sisters into the new box via the space created by the missing frame. Find another frame with a good quantity of brood on it and transfer it and its nurse bees into the space in the new box.

4] Replace the required number of frames containing queen cells to provide the old hive with one or two unsealed queen cells. Replace the rest of the earlier removed frames after making sure they are free of all queen cells by knocking down any found.

5] Take the queen excluder and all the supers from the old hive and place them on top of the new brood box. This is now the "Parent Colony".

6] The old hive is now on a new site and becomes "The Swarm" hive.

7] It is imperative that you feed the new "Swarm" hive after two days with about a gallon or 4-5 litres of sugar syrup. The foraging bees which were out while the moves were being made will return back to the original site they left which is now the "swarm" hive and this will help build up the new colony, alongside their old queen.

8] After 5 or 6 days, never as long as 7 days so that a newly hatched queens cannot have already left the hive on a mating flight, carefully move the old "Parent" hive approx yard/metre to the other side of the new "Swarm" hive. Set the hive down with its entrance 180 Degrees to the "Swarm" hive. The bees that were out foraging again while the hive move was being performed will return to the old site and find it gone,  these will then drift laterally into the "Swarm" hive. This will build up numbers in this new hive and in so doing will leave the old "Parent" hive on its new site depleted of bees and now most unlikely to swarm.

9] Leave the new "Parent" hive alone for three weeks, but feeding if the weather is not very good and when you see pollen is being taken in inspect for brood. Check the "Swarm" for brood too, to check if the old queen has started her duties.

If everything has gone well, you now have an increase of one colony !

Article by Graham Robinson ©